A warranty on a product or service is a guarantee of replacement, repair, or refund in the case of damage or dissatisfaction. A limited warranty is any warranty that is not complete or has various restrictions placed upon it. Truly unlimited warranties are extremely rare as most products do tend to wear out after a long enough time. An unlimited warranty would actually only be limited by the life of the company that offered the warranty in the first place; that company would probably end up losing money if it replaced each and every product that ceased to work properly. Limited versions, then, are far more popular, though the precise limitations placed on a warranty can differ significantly.
The cost of a limited warranty is often included in the price of a product. Many companies promise to replace products if they are damaged or unusable when purchased. This warranty, however, usually only lasts for a short period of time depending on the product. For many more expensive products, one can pay extra to extend the warranty. Many computers, for example, come with a one-year limited warranty that can be extended for another year or two if one pays for the extended warranty.
Some companies place a lifetime limited warranty on their products. The term lifetime warranty implies to many that the warranty is limited only to the lifespan of the consumer or for the length of time the consumer owns the product. This term can be misleading and confusing; most lifetime warranties actually refer to the life of the product in the market rather than the life of the buyer of the product. Occasionally, the warranty will last for some finite period of time after the product is taken of the market. To determine the specific nature of a given lifetime warranty, one must check the documentation that came with the product.
There are many ways to invalidate a limited warranty. Intentional damage to a product is almost never covered in the terms of a warranty agreement; damage caused by misuse of the product is also covered only rarely. In some cases, products have certain tags or labels that can not be removed without voiding the limited warranty. There are even some products, such as CDs and DVDs, that cannot be returned or replaced after the plastic packaging is removed. All of these exceptions to warranties are also limitations; any warranty that can be invalidated in such ways must be considered a limited warranty because there are, indeed, limits to it.