Luggage with Lifetime Guarantees

What does "lifetime guarantee" mean? Victorinox
Buy one piece of luggage—and never buy another as long as you live.
That's the illusory promise laid out by the "lifetime guarantee" advertised by some luggage makers. And in some cases, it's actually true: Some bag manufacturers will truly repair or replace your luggage for years even if the airlines wear it out. You could save thousands of dollars over years.
But for other bag makers, that "lifetime guarantee" comes with caveats. Even in those cases, of course, a limited warranty can still save you money compared to bags that come with no warranty whatsoever. 
These luggage manufacturers entice customers with the promise of a "lifetime guarantee"—here's what that actually means in each case.
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Thule Thule
Its type of guarantee is the most typical among "lifetime guarantees" in the bag industry: It will fix its manufacturing or materials mistakes for free, but it will not pay for errors made by you or a baggage handler. Other luggage companies with this warranty type include Samsonite and American Tourister. 
Here's how this type of warranty works: For all of Thule's bags, the company has a "Thule Bring It! Guarantee." Thule will "remedy defects in materials or workmanship by making the necessary repairs within thirty days without charge for parts or labor. In addition, if it is not possible to remedy the defects, Thule will replace the product, the consumer may elect receive a refund equal to the purchase price paid for the product, or, a credit to be used toward the purchase of a new Thule product in the same category."
But if your bag is messed up by an airline, you're out of luck, because the company excludes defects caused by "normal wear and tear, scratches, accidents... misuse or overloading." That makes this type of warranty great for marketing purposes, but it's not really daring for a manufacturer to promise a standard product. After all, even Burger King will fix your Whopper if it assembles it the wrong way.
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Eagle Creek's No Matter What medium ripstop duffel bag, Eagle Creek
Of its warranty types, only the "No Matter What" guarantee will fix or replace luggage "regardless of the cause"—so that includes wear and tear. Included product lines that offer this excellent protection: Exploration Series, EC Lync System, EC Adventure Collection, Flyte Collection, Deviate Travel Packs, No Matter What Duffels.
Otherwise, its Lifetime Warranty, which covers its own mistakes but excludes that all-important wear and tear, is its standard promise.

What, in general terms, is "wear and tear" and what's a manufacturer's defect? Getting this determination correct is the lynchpin of a warranty: The more a bag company tries to exclude, the less useful a warranty is. Generally, damage is deemed a manufacturer's defect if things come apart thanks to weak materials or craftsmanship (like some bag edges, seams, joints, and where plastic elements are sealed together). A gash caused by a cruise line, a strap torn off by a baggage handler, and overall shabbiness resulting from heavy use, however, would be clear "wear and tear."
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Travelpro Travelpro
Its Platinum lines (and only those lines) are covered by a "Worry-Free" warranty that will repair airline damage that affects the bag's functionality. For every other line it produces, wear and tear is excluded.

Otherwise, its Limited Lifetime Warranty only covers manufacturing defects. So get a Platinum if you want this protection.
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Victorinox/ Swiss Army Victorinox
Its five types of guarantees can be confusing, but pay attention to which one applies to the bag you buy, because some aren't bad, and some are unspecial. The best one is its Global Lifetime Limited Plus warranty, which covers any damages (including airline damages) for five years, and after that, only covers manufacturer defects. So if an airline trashes your bag after Year Five, you're out of luck. This comes standard with its Werks Traveler 5.0, Lexicon, and Architecture Urban luggage lines.
There are a few more warranty schemes to navigate, each one applying to various products: Its Carry With Confidence covers damage caused by a carrier, but does not cover scratches caused by abuse. Meanwhile, the Lifetime warranty offers protection from manufacturer defects forever, while the Global 10 Year Limited warranty only covers manufacturer defects, albeit for 10 years. The Travel Select Limited Warranty is the worst, covering manufacturing defects for only two years.
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Osprey backpack Osprey
Its All Mighty Guarantee is one of the best promises in the business: "Osprey will repair any damage or defect for any reason free of charge—whether it was purchased in 1974 or yesterday."

Can't get much clearer than that. The main exception is the water reservoirs that are built into some of its specialty packs—those aren't covered.
Like all of the luggage manufacturers in this slideshow, it will accept damaged luggage by mail (with some brands, you can charge postage back to them—depending where you live, there may be a store where you can drop it off), and if it can't be fixed, a new piece will be shipped to you at no cost. If your bag style has been retired, which happens often in the ever-changing luggage universe, you will receive the closest analog from its current line.
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Briggs & Riley Briggs & Riley
Another fantastic coverage package: All of the Briggs & Riley collections are covered for all functional aspects—no exclusions, not even for airports. That's good stuff. If the damage is merely cosmetic, though, it won't be fixed.

As more luggage makers edit once-universal warranties to only cover manufacturing defects, Briggs & Riley's promise still stands apart, and earns it top marks on our survey.
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