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SURVEY: No-fault warranties: good value or good marketing?

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Old Tuesday 11th October 2005, 06:54   #1
Chris C
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SURVEY: No-fault warranties: good value or good marketing?

Hello All,

Are no-fault warranties worth it?

I just replaced my bins after a trusty pair of Swift Audubon 8.5x44’s were stolen, prompting me to ask this question:

No-fault warranties give great comfort, but are not free (witness the recent jump in Leica prices corresponding to the shift to lifetime passport warranty). And they are worth nothing if, as happened to me, your bins are stolen or lost completely.

I’m doing a semi-formal survey as a first-cut answer to this question. I’ve posted this on the four major brand forums (Leica, Nikon, Swarovski, and Zeiss). Please respond to this post, I’ll tally the answers, and post a summary. Please respond only once per event to avoid double counting:

How many times have you (or someone you known)

1) Lost binoculars
2) Had binoculars stolen
3) Damaged binoculars to the point requiring service
4) Damaged binoculars to the point of complete loss of function

Thanks!

Cheers,
Chris C.
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Old Tuesday 11th October 2005, 08:03   #2
Don Hoey
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Answers to 1 to 4 - Never

I feel if you are asking the question you should also consider.

For how long after you have bought the bins do you think you will subject them to very regular use, before advances in optics lead you to buy a new pair. So relegating the older bins to less frequent use thus limiting the probability of needing to call on that warranty.
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Old Tuesday 11th October 2005, 16:42   #3
Mike Penfold
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Answer for #3 : 1 Zeiss 10x42 FL (another birder)

Have you thought about including spotting scopes, which seem more prone to being damaged when tripods fall over for one reason or another?

Mike
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Old Tuesday 11th October 2005, 17:02   #4
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1 through 4: never. However, when one spends $1700 on a pair of binoculars, some sort of insurance is welcome.
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Old Tuesday 11th October 2005, 17:29   #5
Pinewood
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1,2 and 3-never
4-yes. I dropped an old Porro binocular on something unforgiving. It was put truly out of collimation. This is less of a risk with today's binoculars.

I once used the lifetime guarantee to cover a manufacturing fault. If I had bought the binocular at a local shop, there would have been no problem. I bought it mail order; noticed the fault and waited too long to use the vendor's return guarantee.

Happy bird watching,
Arthur Pinewood
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Old Tuesday 11th October 2005, 19:38   #6
birdman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Hoey
I feel if you are asking the question you should also consider.

For how long after you have bought the bins do you think you will subject them to very regular use, before advances in optics lead you to buy a new pair. So relegating the older bins to less frequent use thus limiting the probability of needing to call on that warranty.
Spot on, Don.

Cost of warranty per month, say 10 quid a month.

Cost of bins, say 600 quid.

So after 600/10 months = 5 years... you're effectively buying them again.

Of course, you need to substitute the real numbers and currency but once you've taken that into consideration you are better placed to make your own choice, but here's my take on warranties for everything - not just bins.


Why are they offered?
Is it because you friendly neighbourhood [insert commodity here] supplier wants to do you a good turn?
Of course not.
It's because they want to make even more money.
They have decided that by offering these warranties, the number of times they have to shell out is (far?) outweighed by the cash they rake in.
That's business!
So... you are bound to be better off not taking the warranty out - SO LONG AS YOUR GEAR DOESN'T NEED REPLACING.
Therefore, the key is don't take out a warranty on your bins OR your scope OR your iPod OR your washer/drier OR your TV etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

Occasionally, you'll have to replace an item or two, but in the long run you win.


(By the way... over here in the UK, it is being drummed into us that warranties in general - until and unless they are significantly reduced in cost - are just a moneymaking scam.)

Last edited by birdman : Tuesday 11th October 2005 at 19:42.
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Old Tuesday 11th October 2005, 19:52   #7
Curtis Croulet
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1 and 2 have happened to me.

3 has happened with a $200 porro, and it needs service again. Minor tumbles knock out the collimation, and the latest tumble bent the bridge between eyepieces. I've often wondered if those Nikon and Swarovski porros people always tout here would do better.

4 not yet.

I doubt that "lifetime" warranty service has caused an increase in prices in the US. The fall of the dollar against the yen and euro has been more significant. The bins that offer a lifetime warranty haven't been around long enough to make it a significant burden on the manufacturers and importers. Rather, it makes it easier for the importers and manufacturers to justify the price increase. "Yeah, they cost more, but now we offer a lifetime warranty." Also, I think it's used as a marketing tool to enhance the cachet of exclusiveness for expensive bins, making you feel as though you're part of a elite club.
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edited to fix grammar error

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Old Tuesday 11th October 2005, 20:01   #8
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I have done #4, even though they were a very cheap pair.
I was standing by a tree, and when I turned and the binoculars around my neck swung into the tree, the prisms were messed up. Since those binos cost less than $30, I just through them out, and planned on getting new ones.
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Old Tuesday 11th October 2005, 20:16   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris C
Are no-fault warranties worth it?
I believe it is. I opted for the much more comfortable Leica 10x42 BL leather model instead of the rubber armored version. The no-fault warranty earned some serious points in my choice. I'm also not ever afraid of taking them out wherever I go, but of course, I don't ever leave them unattended. The no fault warranty really makes these work binoculars, instead of just fire safe decoration, IMO. Will I ever use the warranty? Probably not, but it's nice to know that accidental damage will be repaired at very little cost.

1-4 never.
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Old Tuesday 11th October 2005, 20:45   #10
Jos Stratford
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris C
Hello All,

Are no-fault warranties worth it?

I just replaced my bins after a trusty pair of Swift Audubon 8.5x44’s were stolen, prompting me to ask this question:

How many times have you (or someone you known)

1) Lost binoculars
2) Had binoculars stolen

Don't know if I understand the reason for these questions - regardless of a no-fault warranty, you can't expect a manufacturer to replace lost or stolen items ...try an insurance company. If no-fault is expected to cover ANYTHING, I'll be the first to chuck mine off the next cross-channel ferry I go on!

PS my answer is
1. Lost - never
2. Stolen -twice (once in bus hijacking in El Salvador, once in machete attack in Kenya!)
3. Til now, never, but with this pair of Leica, needs a bit of a look now (10 years old)
4. never
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Old Wednesday 12th October 2005, 03:38   #11
Rich V
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I tried Nikon's no-fault warranty earlier this year when the collimation of my 22 year old Es became noticeably off. After all those years, I couldn't find the receipt to use the still applicable "free" 25 yr. warranty.

The no-fault warranty is for the lifetime of the glass; the charge is $10. plus $7.50 shipping (now $10.). I received the glass back 2 weeks from my sending them in and the collimation appears dead on again.

Had the old Es been run over by a truck, I would be curious if they would have sent me an E2 as a replacement!! The no-fault warranty claims to fix or replace the glass.

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Old Wednesday 12th October 2005, 05:16   #12
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Quote:
1) Lost binoculars
2) Had binoculars stolen
3) Damaged binoculars to the point requiring service
4) Damaged binoculars to the point of complete loss of function
Seems to me that #3 and #4 are basically the same. In either case they would be sent back under a lifetime or no-fault warranty.

Perhaps 5) should be: Used to the point of needing adjustment or repair.

So, "yes' for 3, 4, or 5:

Swaro 10x25 repaired/refurbished three times over 13 yrs. No charge.
Swaro 8x30 Mk II completely refurbished after 12 yrs. No charge.
Swaro 8x30 Mk II replaced with Mk III after 13 yrs. (my son's) No charge.
Nikon 10x35E collimated twice and cleaned once. Charged $10 once + shipping once.
Bushnell Broadview 8x30 repaired/adjusted once (complementary).

My opinion is that today's top optics are good enough for a lifetime of use, and the extra paid at time of purchase for a lifetime warranty or no-fault is well worth it. The total amount I paid for top binoculars is far less than equivalent items would cost today — they just look like the older models, which I actually enjoy. Considering inflation I came out way ahead.

Elkcub

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Old Wednesday 12th October 2005, 05:42   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by birdman
... (By the way... over here in the UK, it is being drummed into us that warranties in general - until and unless they are significantly reduced in cost - are just a moneymaking scam.)
Hi Birdman,

But the question on the table is:
Quote:
Are no-fault warranties worth it?
As far as I know, binoculars (at least in the US) are not sold with an option about the warranty. If they were it might be a different story. So, my interpretation of the question is: Should the price be reduced to eliminate the warranty? Being even more cynical than you are, I'd venture that the small savings would be compensated in the next round of inflation, and the company would have no long-term responsibility and make more profit.

Ever meet a car salesman who thought the model he sold you two years ago should not be traded in on this year's dream machine? I'm delighted that high end binoculars are not yet treated that way. Call me old fashioned

Just a thought.
Elkcub

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Old Wednesday 12th October 2005, 08:16   #14
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Hmmmm...... Swarovski don't have a no-fault warranty, so far as I know, but when I broke my scope by having the tripod blow over Swarovski fixed it good as new and didn't charge a penny for it. (I just had to pay the freight to Austria and back.) Entirely my fault. Would I buy Swarovski again? Absolutely.

Notice the difference. If Swarovski dropped the price of an ATS80HD by (say) $300, and had charged me $300 for a no-fault warranty, I would wind up paying the same amount. Well, actually a little more because the warranty scheme would cost a bit to administer (paperwork takes time and costs money), so call it $330. Near enough to the same though. So the price stays the same. And they still would have fixed my scope just the same.

But then I would simply have regarded that as something I'd already paid for and thought no better of the company. I paid for the warranty service already, right?

With their current scheme, where they under-promise and over-deliver, I (and other Swarovski owners I've seen post here too) wind up feeling very good about the company. The pay-off for Swarovski is that when the time comes for me to buy some nice binoculars they will almost certainly be Swarovskis. I'll only look at Leica, Zeiss, etc. if there seems to be a compelling reason to do so.

Seems like a very good long-term business policy to me.
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Old Wednesday 12th October 2005, 13:56   #15
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I'm not sure that I've ever used the NO FAULT warranty on my binos, but I've certainly used the standard warranty depressingly many times, so I'll take this opportunity to share my experiences. Either I've been very unlucky, or there are an awful lot of binos out there, at every price point, that have significant flaws or need service from time to time. Every now and again there will be a post to BirdForum to express joy or complaints regarding a customer service experience. I've found that service is rarely rapid (I consider a ~3 week return time to be quick), but I've always been treated very well otherwise. The biggest issue to me is the quality of service--does the bino come back actually repaired, and looking as good or better than before, or has the repair job been unsuccessful and resulted in cosmetic damage to the armoring or other parts?

I've never had a bino lost or stolen, though I do have a personal articles insurance policy to cover that possibility. I've used this insurance policy to cover Nikon repair charges for damage to an FA camera body that fell over on a tripod, and again to replace that (same unlucky) body when it was damaged irreparably in shipment. I've never used it for binos.

Here are my repair experiences (note: when I say "at my shipping charge", I mean that I had to pay to ship the binos in for repair--this cost adds up, especially if they have to be returned again because the repair was unsuccessful!)

*********************
Bushnell 8x42 Banner roof: developed loose hinge and loose screws holding the objective tubes on after 6 years of hard use; repaired quickly and perfectly by Bushnell for my shipping charge plus $10.

Nikon 8x40 Classic Eagle: A few weeks after I bought them, a fiber appeared in the field of view; repaired quickly and perfectly by Nikon for my shipping charge.

Bausch&Lomb 8x42 Elite: A few months after I bought them, a fiber appeared in the field of view and the center hinge was loose. Also, the optical performance had always seemed very poor with regard to both contrast and resolution. In repair, the fiber was removed, but the hinge had not been tightened, the rubber armor was not replaced perfectly, I could see finger prints on the lenses inside the bino, and the optical performance was just as poor. Immediately took back to B&L (personally, since I lived near the corporate headquarters) and talked to repair lab director. The hinge was tightened and the bino was put through some kind of optical testing and deemed on the low end of the acceptable range. At the B&L lab, I was given the choice of my repaired unit, a new replacement unit of the same, or the (then newly released) 8x50 Elite model. I tried the new 8x42 unit they offered me and it was optically outstanding (difference between it and my older unit of same model was like night and day)! I kept that one. None of the above cost me anything except time and trouble. Incidently, a very small fiber appeared in fuzzy focus (only noticeable against sky) a few months after I got the new unit, but I never sent them back for repair, fearing they would come back damaged!

Bausch&Lomb 7x26 Custom Compact (new version): Diopter eventually had to be set to extreme end of range, hinge became loose, one objective retainer ring had metal burrs that caused problems when cleaning. Were returned quickly, but only the replacement of the retaining ring was successful. The hinge was just as loose as before, the diopter adjustment had been recalibrated only marginally, the rubber armor on one side was a bit wonky, the close-focus was compromised by several feet, and the center focus control felt "spongey" at the close-focus limit. I was/am so frustrated with B&L repair at that point that I put the binos on the shelf and have not returned them. That was about 6 years ago. Having written this, I'm thinking of sending them back in again to resolve these issues. Since I brought them to the lab myself, none of this cost anything except time, trouble, and unresolved irritation.

Leica 8x32 BA Ultra/Trinovid: A few weeks after purchase a fiber appeared in the view; repaired by Leica quickly and perfectly for my shipping cost.

Zeiss 7x42 Classic: Focus became stiff at high (yes, high!) temps, and diopter adjustment had to be set differently according to temperature. I had to send these to Zeiss three times before they were actually fixed (at least I think they were fixed--don't use them much anymore). Each time they came back fairly quickly, looking perfect and very clean. No cost except my shipping charges.

Eagle Optics 8x32 Platinum Ranger: Poor resolution, collimation not so great, close focus not as good as advertised; replaced immediately at no cost (other than my shipping) with a different unit which has much better resolution, excellent collimation, and close focus as good as advertised.

Swarovski 8.5x42 EL: First unit I ordered had a defect in the armor and the right side focus became uncoupled at close distances (focused down to about 10 feet while the left side continued focusing down to 7)--returned to vendor. Second unit I ordered had a problem with the synchronization between the left and right side focus at distances around 20 feet--returned to vendor. Third pair I ordered was perfect. After several years, rubber cover of focus knob came loose and focus was stiff. Knowing that Swarovski was/is in the practice of completely overhauling binos sent in for repair (including replacing armoring), I sent them in with a request that only the focus problem be fixed. Were returned quickly, repaired perfectly (focus smoother than when they were new!) with a nice note acknowledging my request and an offer to overhaul them completely at any time I wish in the future. No cost for any of this except my shipping charges.

Leica 8x42 Ultravid: One of the objectives had a flaw in the coating--a person's palm print in the outermost coating (only visible when fogging the lens during cleaning); were repaired (lens replaced) by Leica quickly, but rubber armor a bit askew and loose. Returned to Leica after unsuccessfully trying to fix the armour myself (and messing it up further). Second round of repair took 2 months because of a parts availability issue, but they came back looking perfect when I finally got them. No cost except shipping.

I've also had some experience with friend's low-end binos that I helped send/take in for repair. The ones I can recall are as follows:

Meade 8x42 Safari Pro: After one year's heavy use, eyecups cracked, ocular assembly developed see-saw action. Replaced immediately by Meade at no cost except shipping. As a bonus, the new unit seems better optically.

Bushnell 8x40 Birder: Out of allignment when new out of the box. Replaced immediately by Bushnell at no cost.
*********************

With the exception of the repair of my Bushnell/B&L Custom Compacts (which I didn't follow up on), I'm satisfied with the service that I have ultimately received in each case (Perhaps having several binos allows me to be patient with how long the turn-around time for repairs can be)--I only wish that my experiences with repair/replacement were fewer in number!
--AP
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Old Wednesday 12th October 2005, 19:34   #16
Curtis Croulet
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I answered the wrong question, talking about "lifetime" rather than "no-fault" warranties. But my answer would have been essentially the same. Some of the other comments illustrate that some manufacturers are already very generous with their current policies. Surely a no-fault provision wouldn't add much more of a burden to their repair facilities. Swarovski continues to get high marks for service.
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Old Wednesday 12th October 2005, 22:16   #17
Chris C
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Survey rationale

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jos Stratford
Don't know if I understand the reason for these questions - regardless of a no-fault warranty, you can't expect a manufacturer to replace lost or stolen items ...try an insurance company. If no-fault is expected to cover ANYTHING, I'll be the first to chuck mine off the next cross-channel ferry I go on!
Hello all,

Thanks for the experiences with service!

My original rationale in asking the question had more to do with buying new vs. buying used (or demos).

I am curious about the relative risk of lossing binoculars (clearly not covered by a warranty) vs. the need for repairs. In my case, I saved $400 (33%) by buying a demo pair with a one-year warranty compared to paying retail and getting a lifetime no-fault warranty. My choice indicates that I thought this was a good value. Nonetheless, the experience got me thinking generally about warranties and the fates of binoculars.

Cheers,
Chris C.
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Old Wednesday 12th October 2005, 22:57   #18
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Thanks for asking the question, Chris, it's been an interesting thread.
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Old Thursday 13th October 2005, 00:34   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris C
In my case, I saved $400 (33%) by buying a demo pair with a one-year warranty compared to paying retail and getting a lifetime no-fault warranty.
My understanding of the no-fault warranty was that it was transferrable, and you could therefore buy an already damaged pair from, say, eBay and simply send them to the manufactureer to be repaired. IOW, any no-fault covered model would cover *any* binocular of that model, demo or not. Of course it may be differenbt for your brand as you did not mention what brand it was. lso, the policy I stated was for USA coverage. Though again, if you bought them in Germany, brought them to the US and dropped them, they would be covered.

Regardless, it was definitely one of several deciding factors for me to go with the Nikon Monarchs, though the Celestron Nobles also had the same coverage, I think.

Some problems you just don't notice during the standard warranty period. Or like my old Bushnells' peeling internal black paint, don't happen immediately. And then no matter how careful you are there is a good chance you are going to drop them or bang them into a fence post or boulder.

If I had to pay extra, it would certainly depend on how much and for how long. I just refused a $24 2/year no-fault warranty on a Canon inkjet printer. In retrospect, that would have paid for one refill of two of the ink cartridges. I proabably should have done it since my last printer died of it own shoddy Epson construction. But in one or two years I'm going to want the latest features on the cheapo inkjets. The one I just got prints both sides of a page and cost $99. Next year the all-in-one scanner/fax/copier/printer may only cost $99 instead of the $250 it costs now. But I digress.

Considering Nikon has offered the no-fault warranty on ALL of its binoculars down to the $59 Action 7x35 you have to wonder how much of a hit they expect to take with it. That may explain why there is virtually no mention of the warranty on their website.

And to get the longest post in this topic, here is a list of all binocular manufacturers warranties, copy and pasted from Eagle Optics website:

Alpen: Limited lifetime warranty

Audubon: Limited lifetime warranty

Bogen Tripods and Heads: 1 Year Limited Warranty

Bushnell: Limited lifetime warranty with the following exceptions
Bushnell NextView Binoculars One Year Warranty
Bushnell Night Vision Two Year Warranty
Bushnell Yardage Pro Laser Rangefinders Two Year Warranty
Bushnell Speedster Speed Gun Two Year Warranty
Bushnell ImageView Two Year Warranty

Canon IS binoculars: 3 years coverage on materials and workmanship.

Celestron: No Fault Lifetime Warranty (Ultima, Noble, and Regal LS) $25 handling fee, Lifetime limited warranty on all spotting scopes.

Eagle Optics: All products carry limited lifetime transferable warranty in addition to:
Platinum Protection Warranty transferrable lifetime repair or replace for $20 plus S&H. Valid on Ranger Platinum Class binoculars only.
Eagle Advantage allows transferrable one time repair per product or replacement for any reason for $20 plus S&H.

Fujinon: Limited Lifetime Warranty

Gitzo: Limited Lifetime Warranty

Kahles: Limited Lifetime Warranty

Kowa: Limited Lifetime Warranty

Leupold: Gold Ring series: No fault, lifetime, transferable (no cost) -
Wind River series: Limited Lifetime Warranty

Leica: Binoculars, Scopes, Eyepieces: Lifetime Passport Warranty no charge no-fault warranty ($35 shipping charge after three years of ownership), Rangefinders and Geovids: 5 year Limited Warranty

Meade Captureview Binos: 1 year Limited Warranty

Meopta: 10 Year Limited Warranty

Minox: 30 Year Limited Warranty

Nikon: 25 year Limited Warranty plus lifetime No Fault warranty (fixes anything for $10) on scopes and binoculars.,
Rangefinders and IS binoculars: 1 Year Limited Warranty

Pentax: Digibino has one year limited warranty. Binoculars and scopes: Limited Lifetime Warranty

Radian Tripods: 1 Year Limited Warranty on all tripods except Pro GT which carries a 3 Year Limited Warranty.

Sportoculars: Lifetime Limited Warranty

Steiner: 10 year limited warranty on: Predator 8x30, 12x40, 8x22, 10x26, Military/Marine, Safari, BigHorn, Observer, Rocky, Marine, Navigator, Merlin, “and similar models”.
30 year limited warranty on: Predator 8x32, 8x42, 10x42, 10x50, 12x50, Nighthunter, Senator, Hunting Series, Military/tactical, Commander, Wildlife Pro, Admiral, Peregrine, Harrier, “and similar models”

Swarovski: Limited Lifetime Warranty, Rangefinder: 2 Year Limited Warranty

Swift: All Swift Instruments except those listed below are warranted against defects in material and workmanship for the natural life of the instrument. The following exceptions are listed:
Aerolite Instruments 5 years, Tripods and Accessories 5 years, Weather Instruments 1 year, Marine Instruments 1 year

Vortex:
5 Star Warranty: Lifetime, Transferable, No-Fault. Fixes anything for $10. Also Lifetime Limited.
VIP Warranty: Lifetime, Transferable, No-Fault. Fixes anything for free.

Zeiss: Lifetime Limited Transferable Warranty.

Zhumell: 25 year Limited Warranty.

But to answer your question, no on all four, though I may send my Monarchs back for collimation issues, and I think that would be covered by the 25-year Limited Warranty, which I think would mean I don't pay return shipping or the $10 warranty fee.
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Old Friday 14th October 2005, 22:53   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris C
How many times have you (or someone you known)

1) Lost binoculars
2) Had binoculars stolen
3) Damaged binoculars to the point requiring service
4) Damaged binoculars to the point of complete loss of function
1: 0
2: 1
3: 4
4: 0

Only one of the above happened to me, but the rest concerns people whom I know, and of whom I'm sure they have not answered themselves.

And that one case that happened to myself concerns my Leica 8x32BA Trinovid. It got its focussing system full of dirt/dust/sand or whatever, and Leica did NOT fix it for free.This in spite of warranties and their claim of waterproof binoculars (which in my understanding would have seemed to include the focus mechanism). And if water can't get in, one would think dust etc can't either.
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What's your species on the avatar? I often have no clue
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Last edited by Swissboy : Friday 14th October 2005 at 23:04.
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Old Friday 14th October 2005, 23:12   #21
Tinca
2 kids max please
 
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Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: north bucks
Posts: 130
1.No
2.No
3.Yes,Once
4.Yes,Once

Last edited by Tinca : Friday 14th October 2005 at 23:13. Reason: Addition
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