A guide to stairlift warranties

By Chris Clayton

One of the biggest complaints which people have about having a stairlifts is when things go wrong. This is not only because of the inconvenience an out of action stairlift can cause, but because how much it can end up costing to get it repaired.

Although you would expect to be charged to have a stairlift repaired when it is out of warranty, you wouldn't if the stairlift is new or still under warranty.

Most people assume that if a problem happens and their stairlift is still under warranty that the cost of fixing it would be covered by the company they bought it from. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. And if it doesn't, it can lead to a very unpleasant (and costly) surprise if you want to get the stairlift working again.

The warranty you get when buying a stairlift

Most new and reconditioned stairlifts come with a minimum of a one year (some companies even offer two years) comprehensive warranty which is included in the price. A comprehensive warranty in theory covers all the parts of the stairlift. In addition to this, certain parts of the stairlift (e.g. the motor etc...) will be covered by the warranty for a longer period (e.g. five years) or even for life.

Extending the warranty

Once this period of comprehensive warranty is over, you can extend the warranty with the stairlift company you bought it from (which if it is new is often the manufacturer).

Often this extension is for a minimum of 2 years (although for some companies it could be a minimum of 4 years). To extend the warranty is not cheap (you are looking at paying at least £250 ($350) minimum per year).

This wouldn't be a problem if the comprehensive warranty covered the cost of any repair, but it often doesn't. And there are situations where some stairlift companies can invalidate the warranty, so they are not liable to both repair the stairlift or replace parts for free. Which means you’ll probably have to pay.

Having a warranty doesn't cover all repairs

It obvious that if you do something to the stairlift that causes damage (like hitting it with a large heavy object) or if there is a flood or fire in your house that the repair of the stairlift won't be covered by the warranty. But what you may be surprised by is that some things which you would have thought would be covered, might not be.

More often than not, the warranty from most stairlift companies only covers parts which have failed or are faulty due to some manufacturing fault. The warranty will not cover repairing and/or replacing a part which has been damaged or failed due normal wear and tear (i.e. use) of the stairlift. If the engineer who comes to visit finds this is the case, you will find yourself liable for paying for the cost of having to repair it (both labour and parts).

This may not be a problem you'll have to worry about with a newly bought stairlift. But trust me, it will become one the longer you have it.

Also, if you don't service the stairlift through the company you bought the stairlift from, it can mean that you end up paying for the machine to be repaired. As a stairlift is a mechanical machine, it needs to be regularly serviced. If the company sees that you haven't had a service done from them or it's been a long time since you have, they can use this to show that the stairlift has been neglected. Which means they can invalidate your warranty and not be responsible for paying for it to be repaired.

Even if you have had serviced regularly through another company (which is often cheaper), if the company or person who did it is not authourised to do so by the company you bought it from, they can use this to invalidate your warranty.

In addition, if the stairlift is damaged during installation, unless the damage is reported to the stairlift company very soon after it is installed (for some companies within 24 hours), this damage will probably not be covered by the warranty either. The stairlift company can argue that this damage was caused by you and not the person or people who installed it.

Depends on the company you buy it from

What is covered in the warranty agreement and how a warranty can be invalidated really depends on the company you buy the stairlift from. Although what's covered and what isn't is pretty similar between most companies, some are better than others (some will repair for free parts that have failed because of normal wear and tear, while others won't).

I would strongly recommend that you read the terms and conditions related to the warranty before you buy a stairlift or think about extending the warranty agreement you currently have. Don't trust what a representative of the company tells you about the agreement, make sure that you see it in writing.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to find the exact terms and conditions for warranty agreements from any stairlift company published on the web (which says a lot in itself). The only way you can find out is to contact the company yourself and ask them to send you a copy of the agreement. If they refuse to do so, you'll know that they have something to hide.

Once you have copies from several companies, you can compare them to see which is best for you.

In addition, although a company may not be legally responsible for repairing something on your stairlift for free, some will just do it and not charge you. Whether they do this or not depends on the integrity of the company and/or the engineer. Apart from looking at complaint forums, it is difficult to find out which do and which don't this.

The alternatives to extending a warranty

Taking into consideration what isn't covered by the warranty, you may consider the amount charged to extend it excessive (and for some companies it definitely is). So what can you do?

If you decide to not extend the warranty, you need to be aware of how much it will cost you to have it repaired once its warranty has expired. If you do it through the company you bought it from, it can be excessive. You will be facing hundreds of pounds or dollars just to get somebody to look at the stairlift. And to actually get it repaired, will probably be hundreds more.

From an engineering perspective, stairlifts are not very complicated things. So they are relatively easy things to repair. This being the situation, you have other options than just the company you bought it from to get it repaired if there is a problem.

You will be able to find many small businesses in your local area who will be able to repair it. The advantage of using these small companies is that they will normally charge substantially less to repair it than the company you bought it from will. The problem (and this is something you need to be aware of) is that by using them to do so, it will invalidate the warranty (because they have not been authorised by the company you bought it from) you have on all parts of the stairlift (e.g. the motor, gear box etc...) and there is more risk.

The advantage of using the company you bought the stairlift from to repair it (especially if it is a manufacturer), is that you know that it will be properly repaired. With using a person or independent business from your local area, you don't know it will be. You also don't know if they are qualified to repair stairlifts or are sure they are using the right or best part when repairing it.

In addition, there have been unfortunately many cases where these independent repairmen or businesses have ripped off people (overcharging, replacing parts which weren't necessary etc...). So if you decide to use these, you must get recommendations from people where you live on who to use.

In conclusion

One of the worst thing about buying a stairlift is the warranty that comes with it. Not only do most stairlift companies charge a lot of money to extend it after the original warranty has expired, but it often doesn't cover things (like replacing parts which have failed due to wear and tear) you'd expect it to and the companies can invalidate it for variety of reasons (e.g. neglect, being serviced by somebody not authorised etc...).

As repairing a stairlift can be expensive, before you buy a stairlift you must look at and compare what the terms and conditions are of the warranty agreements from the different companies you have contacted. This will show you what is covered in it and on what grounds the warranty can be invalidated.

If you are thinking of extending the warranty on your current stairlift, consider if it is in your best interest to pay the money to do it or go without it. If you decide to not renew it, be aware that you are running a risk. If nothing or only minor things go wrong with the stairlift, you will end up saving a lot of money. But if something major does go wrong, it might (and only might!) well be the opposite.