By: Olivia A. Clark, Georgia State University College of Law
C.F. Martin & Co., more commonly known among musicians as “Martin,” offers a lifetime limited warranty to purchasers of their fine acoustic guitars. But the key word here is limited. Precisely how limited is this lifetime warranty? I recently delved into the text of the Martin Care & Feeding Guide to find out just how limited is the limited warranty on a Martin guitar.
Because the Martin Care & Feeding Guide expresses what guarantees Martin is providing, this warranty qualifies as an “express” warranty. In contrast to an “implied” warranty, an express warranty provides oral or written communication on what the manufacturer guarantees. In this instance, Martin guarantees the quality of the wood and materials with which the guitar is made, as well as the workmanship quality of the guitar. Tone is not covered by the warranty because Martin considers it a subjective trait.
First, you should know that the warranty only extends to registered first-time owners who purchased the guitar from an authorized Martin dealer. While you may be able to get a better price buying from an individual, pawnshop, or smaller distributor, if the limited lifetime warranty is important to you, then it could be more valuable to you in the long run to purchase from an authorized dealer.
Second, it is important to actually register your guitar. Martin asks that you register within 30 days of purchasing the instrument, although their website explains that they will not refuse a registration attempt that has all the relevant information after the 30-day period. Registration is also important because it can help you in the event that your guitar is lost or stolen. In fact, while we’re on the subject of stolen instruments, you should make an effort to record all of the serial numbers of your instruments and gear.
Third, you might want to consider using an authorized repair technician to repair your guitar. The Care & Feeding Guide contains detailed instructions from maintaining proper humidity conditions to properly stringing, cleaning, adjusting the action, and inserting bridge pins. While many musicians prefer to make their own adjustments to their instruments, certain consumer repairs are not covered by the warranty, and in fact may void it. For example, the booklet specifically notes that adjustments to the head and neck should be performed by a Martin authorized distributor.
Finally, the Care & Feeding Guide also cautions against cleaning the guitar with products that contain silicone. A bolded cautionary section explains that any vinyl or synthetic material with which the guitar may come in contact (e.g. straps, capos, furniture) could damage the guitar after prolonged contact. Of course, any such damage would not be covered by the limited lifetime warranty.
So, to qualify for the Martin guitar lifetime limited warranty, you must be the guitar’s original owner, who purchased from an authorized distributor, without having subsequently made any repairs that might have voided the warranty. You must also register the guitar, preferably within 30 days of its purchase. As with any of your valuable property, you might want to consider insuring your Martin guitar. An insurance broker can provide you with a quote, and the prices are generally very reasonable.