As a general rule with all remodeling, it depends on the quality of the product and what problems you are willing to live with. For typical low-end vinyl windows, you may have to replace them several times over your lifetime, and if you want them to work properly without costly repairs, you may end up replacing them every 5-10 years. If you decide to invest in high-end windows, you’ll only have to do them once in your lifetime, maybe twice if you live longer than most people. While the upfront cost for a high-end window can be more than a low-end window, you’ll end up spending more money over the course of your lifetime on replacing and repairing low-end windows as well as spending more on heating/cooling costs since low-end windows tend to be drafty and inefficient.
A good way to tell how long to expect a window to last, and how costly repairs on the window will be, is to look at the product warranty. Lifetime warranties can be deceiving because it does not mean the product is covered forever or for the home owner’s lifetime, it means the lifetime of the materials which make up the product. Some of these “lifetime” warranties can be as little as 3-5 years or up to 10-15 years whereas a window like the Bristol Window comes with a non-prorated 50 year warranty which is transferable to the next home owner and contains very few exclusions. Warranties that have more exclusions typically signal a lower quality window that will not hold up over time. What you want to look for is that the product warranty specifies an exact time frame for the product to be covered, if the warranty is pro-rated (meaning you will pay a percentage of the repairs which increases over time), if you can transfer the warranty to the next home owner, and what exclusions are listed that aren’t covered under the warranty. You should also ask your contractor if they offer a labor or installation warranty because if the product is installed improperly, the manufacturer will not cover the faulty installation. A lengthy warranty typically means more exclusions and more exclusions means more excuses and loopholes for the manufacturer to save themselves the cost of covering your product if and when it fails. A quality window manufacturer will not be afraid to warranty their product and will stand behind their warranty when problems arise.