What is a warranty vs. guarantee? A warranty is a promise or vow regarding the integrity of a product. A maker takes responsibility for the quality of the product or service and agrees to repair or replace the product or the parts if they are defective. With a warranty, one party is promising another party that conditions like the expected lifespan and quality of the product will be met. If the product doesn't meet these conditions, it can be returned or replaced under the warranty. Warranties are typically written and come with a product when it is purchased.

A warranty is also a contractual term. If a warranty is breached, the aggrieved party can claim damages but can't cancel the entire contract. An example of this would be if Company A sells a computer to a customer that it says can run 100 programs an hour. In reality, the computer only runs 95 programs an hour. The buyer can either take legal action against Company A for one of the following:

  • The cost of fixing the computer so it actually runs 100 programs an hour.
  • The loss of profit that came from the computer only running 95 programs an hour.

However, the customer can't return the computer for a full refund under the warranty.

A guarantee is the promise included in the legal warranty. It is an agreement that one party assumes responsibility to perform or complete something and offer security for that agreement. A guarantee is a promise, typically given in writing, that swears the quality of a product or that a service will be performed to a certain standard.

A guarantee can also be a verb to pledge a party's confidence in their product or service. It is common to hear “I guarantee you'll have a great experience, or we'll give your money back!” A guarantee can legally be a promise of responsibility for another party's debt or obligations. A warranty can't legally hold that same promise.

A common example of this is a parent who guarantees their child's car loan. If their child can't make a payment, the parent will be held responsible to pay the lender for the missed payment. The parent is the guarantor for the loan, but it is conditional on the child having to miss a payment before the parent is held responsible.

What Is the Difference Between a Warranty and a Guarantee?

The difference between a warranty and guarantee typically comes down to word choice. The nuance between a warranty and guarantee doesn't affect the legality of the agreement. The phrasing doesn't matter, but the promise does.

Every state has some iteration of the Uniform Commercial Code, which says a warranty can be created by affirming a fact, making a promise from the seller, or describing the goods. A binding guarantee can even be created by a representation or model of the final product and not the actual product itself.

Warranties and guarantees aren't created by comments made by the seller that are obvious exaggerations or personal opinions. This includes a merchant saying their shoes are the “best in the world” or that their oven is a “miracle appliance.” Courts consider these phrases as advertising known as puffery, and it is assumed that typical consumers won't take those claims seriously.

A warranty has a time limit, such as 12 or 24 months, but it may be extended to a longer period like 36 or 48 months. Conversely, a guarantee isn't time-bound and can't be extended. One way to think of it is that a guarantee is more general and a warranty is a more specific and legal term.

However, the two words actually come from the same root and were originally the same word. The root is the Old French word garantie, which means a promise that is the payment for a debt. In other words, it means to protect or to guarantee. The original word, guaranty, is now only used in legal or financial documents.

A warranty or a guarantee is created with any promise from a seller regarding the condition or quality of a product.

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