What Is an Express Warranty?

An express warranty is an agreement between the contract seller (dealer, manufacturer, or independent company) and the buyer of a product to provide repair or replacement for covered components of the product for some specified time period. An express warranty is a seller's promise or guarantee that a buyer relies on when they purchase an item. Under the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, a company must provide a written express warranty if a product is sold for more than $15.

Express Warranties Explained

The warranty is an assurance that the item will live up to the promises of the seller. For example, the warranty can say something like, "We guarantee all furniture against defects in construction for one year. When a structural defect is brought to our attention, we will repair or replace it." Most express warranties come from the manufacturer or are included in the seller’s contract. It can also be created by a simple statement on an advertisement or a sign in the store.

How Coverage Is Outlined by an Express Warranty

The details about a product or service that are outlined in an advertisement can set the precedent for an express warranty. Claims made in advertisements about the quality, functionality, lifespan, and efficacy of a product can constitute an express warranty. If the product does not meet the standards set forth in the advertising or suffers a breakdown within a set timeframe, the customer may be entitled to free repair service or a full replacement where possible.

E-commerce companies typically include express warranties on the goods they sell in part because of the nature of how online shopping is conducted. The customer cannot try on or physically examine merchandise they are about to purchase. How the product functions and looks when it is received can dramatically differ from what the customer envisioned while browsing online. The inclusion of an express warranty gives them some sense of surety that issues with the purchase will be rectified in some manner.

So if a consumer buys a business jacket online, but when it arrives the item is the wrong size, wrong color, or is missing buttons, an express warranty might entitle the consumer to a refund or replacement.

Auto dealers tend to advertise express warranty terms for repairs on the vehicles they sell. This can include stipulations on mileage and length of ownership that limit the extent of that coverage. After the vehicle is owned a certain amount of time or driven beyond the mileage limit, the express warranty would no longer be applicable.