Maintenance contracts & extended warranties. What are they, what do they cover and should I have one?
Firstly one must remember every brand new stairlift comes with a full 12 month warranty, some even come with 24 or 36 month warranty so it's worth checking each quotation carefully to establish the exact warranty period you're being offered as this will affect the purchase price of your new stairlift.
The majority of UK stairlift suppliers will also offer to extend your initial warranty, normally up to 5 years. However, it’s worth remembering that you only need to pay for the additional years up to the 5th year as you may have already paid for the first, second or third year when you purchased your stairlift.
It's also worth noting that extended stairlift warranties can be very expensive with some manufacturers charging almost £1,500 for 3 years extended warranty.
When your warranty runs out it does not mean you're unable to get your stairlift repaired should it break down.
You have two choices:
- Find a stairlift company to fix your stairlift if/when it breaks down
- Purchase an extended warranty, so you're covered in the event of a break down
Extended stairlift warranties can be purchased annually or, like your existing warranty (that's probably due to expire soon), can be purchased in multi-year blocks – say a further 4 years cover - at a discounted rate. If the supplier offer's this facility you would be expected to pay for the extended years in advance, just like your initial warranty offer.
Please note; an extended stairlift warranty IS NOT a stairlift maintenance/annual service contract.
Like stairlift warranties, most stairlift companies will offer stairlift maintenance agreements when you purchase the stairlift. These maintenance agreements can vary greatly, so it's worth checking exactly what service you're paying for.
So let's take a deeper look into what warranties and maintenance agreements are; what do they cover and whether you need one or both.
A Stairlift Warranty is;
Cover of protection supplied by the manufacturer to guarantee it's manufactured product/s along with its constituent parts that have been manufactured to an agreed standard (normally the machinery directive) and should they fail or prove not to be fit for purpose they will be replaced or new parts supplied free of charge to the reseller- 'which is your supplier', to enable them to repair your equipment so it operates correctly.
Parts usually mean parts that are proved to be at fault against the manufacturer's specifications but can often exclude normal wear and tear or consumable items.
It is worth asking the question before you purchase to see a 'true example copy' of a warranty certificate. Certainly check whether refitting costs are included free of charge as this can vary. In the main, most parts that are proved to be faulty are replaced by the supplier who sold you the stairlift.
It is definitely worth asking how long the main rechargeable batteries and motor-gearbox are covered for under the manufacturers guarantee terms and conditions. These items are expensive to replace and do vary in manufacturers guarantee periods.
Even though you may consider purchasing an extended warranty for a full 5 years it is also worth checking what items (if any) are not covered in the price.
Normally 'throw away' batteries that fit into the 'call and send' remote control handsets are paid for by the user to be replaced. Some suppliers do include these within their warranty terms so again it's worth checking. It is worth noting these small batteries are normally very simple to change. They are similar to changing batteries like you have within a TV remote control, although you may need a small screwdriver to remove the cover. Capable family members or friends may assist if you are unable, but check first with the supplier to ensure you are not invalidating your warranty cover.
Some suppliers include an 'annual routine service' within their warranty cost, but some do not, so worth asking the question as the warranty may be invalid if not serviced regularly.
An annual service is all that's needed.
Call out cover can also vary; some suppliers will state within 24 hours so definitely qualify this.
Hopefully bad practices have long gone but check the meaning of 24 hour cover. Qualify this is not spread over so many working hours a day, e.g. engineer works 8 hours a day therefore it could mean 3 days overall cover.
Some may say 'same day' again qualify the exact meaning, i.e. how many hours will this be? Some suppliers will guarantee to be out within 'XX' hours within the same day. Some suppliers do not work after a certain time in the evening. Some do not work weekends even though they may provide 24 hour cover 365 days a year. A 24 hour cover may mean an answer-phone service or an 'on-call engineer service' may purely be a telephone call back service and not an attendance visit, so the basic rule of thumb is Qualify! Qualify! Qualify!
A Stairlift Maintenance Agreement is;
A guarantee that the stairlift will be looked at and repaired by an engineer.
Some stairlift suppliers include a maintenance agreement as an extension of the warranty.
However, there are many differences and terms, as these are specific to the supplier's terms and conditions, not the manufacturer, as was the case with a warranty.
Most suppliers offer different levels of maintenance cover. There are too many variations to name but we have provided some examples you may come across.
These can sometimes be classed as maintenance levels 1, 2 or 3. Basic level Standard level, Premium level, or alternatively Bronze, Silver or Gold cover.
The lower levels are usually the supplier's entry level of cover. Here, some suppliers only provide an annual service visit and would charge for any parts that may be required.
Suppliers usually ensure maintenance cover or call outs will be attended within a given time period, but, additional charges for call out, travelling time, parts, fuel, on site per hour or part thereof, can all be added extras, even out of hours may be charged as an extra fee.
The middle levels offer a higher level of cover over the entry level. Here, some suppliers may provide an annual service visit and may also include parts. They may also provide a guaranteed response time to attend a break down. However, even though they offer the other services mention in the lower level they may well make a charge for those services.
The highest levels are the most comprehensive levels of maintenance cover. Here, some suppliers provide an annual service visit but also include for all parts, call out fees, fuel, time spent on site and out of hours all within their annual maintenance fee.
With all maintenance covers it's imperative to check whether any additional charges are made (as mention in the warranty section above).
The big decision is whether you think it's cost effective to buy an extended warranty or maintenance agreement after the initial cover has expired.
In our experience, products are more reliable today than previous years. However, with advancements in technology come highly complex parts and components, which may mean higher charges, should they go wrong?
This poses each individual with the burning question should I or shouldn't I extend my cover?
If you are a person that is prepared to take risks then you may decide not to bother and only pay as and when the lift breaks down, or perhaps level one or two is a fair consideration.
If however, you are the type of person that needs 'peace of mind' or further still, your family would prefer reassurance in the knowledge their loved ones will be looked after should the stairlift fail then full cover is a serious consideration.
It could simply boil down to distance which sways your decision. For instance, the user may be too far away for you to help out, making the highest level of cover a favourable option.