What Is The Difference Between 30, 40, 50 Year And Lifetime Shingles?

What Is The Difference Between 30, 40, 50 Year And Lifetime Shingles?

One thing seems to be common between all shingle brands—that there are 30-year, 40-year, 50-year, and warranties available. Let's look into the differences.

What Is The Difference Between 30, 40, 50 Year And Lifetime Shingles?

A new roof is one of the biggest investments you might be making this year, especially if you are starting to see the signs that your shingles need replacing. There are many kinds of shingles out there with an array of colors to select. Shingles also come in different sizes and weights. Yet, one thing seems to be common between all shingle brands—that there are 30-year, 40-year, 50-year, and limited lifetime warranties available.

This can make purchasing shingles confused, because you might not know the difference between a 30-year shingle and a 50-year shingle. Is the difference even noticeable? Is one a smarter investment than the other?

In truth, whether one kind of warranty is better than the other comes down to a couple of key factors, which we will be discussing in this article.

What are the different kinds of asphalt shingles?

There are several kinds of asphalt shingles on the market today, and depending on the style, the warranty covering these shingles also changes. You might know the basics, such as 3-tab shingles, which were popular for many years, t-locks, and also dimensional, laminate, and architectural shingles.

Dimensional shingles are the latest wave of shingles and are much more durable than 3-tab shingles. Most of the time, 3-tab shingles are rated as a 20-year shingle, though they usually only last up to 15 years with routine preventative maintenance. Dimensional shingles contain things like fiberglass that is mixed into asphalt layers.

On the other hand, there are architectural shingles. The main difference between dimensional and architectural shingles is that one is more expensive than the other. Placed side-by-side, you will see that dimensional shingles are less fancy in both color and texture. There are also more luxury options of architectural shingles for enhanced durability.

However, whether you choose plain dimensional shingles or luxury architectural laminates that look like slate, you will see that most are rated as a 30-, 40-, or 50-year shingle.

What is the difference between 30, 40, 50 year and lifetime shingles?

This is where shopping for shingles begins to get a bit murky. There is a lot of lingo that you need to first understand. In the past, dimensional shingles were called 30-year, 40-year, 50-year or lifetime shingles, but in 2011, some of the laws changed, and now most shingles have a lifetime warranty regardless of how long they are rated to last.

So, you might be thinking, “Does that mean a 30-year shingle is going to last for a full 30 years? Great!” Sorry to say, but it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Even when a shingle is called a 30-year shingle, that doesn’t mean it is going to withstand weather and damage for a full 30 years. Nor does that mean it is warrantied for 30 years. What this means—and it’s the same for 40-year and 50-year shingles—is that the life expectancy of those shingles is about 30 years when placed in ideal conditions, such as minimal sun exposure, shade, minor fluctuations in temperature, no wind damage, and so on. In reality, no condition is truly ideal for any type of shingles, regardless if they are lifetime or 3-tab.

For instance, in a climate with four distinct seasons, including all the usual precipitation, a 30-year shingle might last up to 20 years if you commit to maintenance and inspections. Otherwise, it might breakdown in under 15 years—and there goes your investment.

Is a 50-year shingle worth it?

In the end, you might end up thinking that a 50-year shingle with a lifetime limited warranty is going to be the smartest choice. But is it?

It depends. If you not planning on keeping your home for at least 30-40 years, then a 50-year roof might not be the wisest choice. After all, you have to consider the cost of the new shingles, the installation and maintenance, as well as the disposal of the old shingles. You also have to decide on the warranty you want.

The main advantage of a shingle rated to last longer means you are purchasing one with better materials, high resistance ratings, and the ability to endure harsher weather conditions.

There is no single answer for which kind of shingle is going to be ideal for your situation. Only you can answer that. And for that, you need to know how life expectancy ratings of shingles affect the lifetime warranty.

What about limited lifetime warranties?

Any brand of shingle you compare, be it Owens Corning, GAF, CertainTeed, IKO, Tamko, or something else, has a warranty as well as a 30, 40, or 50 year rating. Generally, most brands offer a limited lifetime warranty which covers the shingles for the span of their life. During this time, you are protected against any damages caused by manufacturing defects or poor installation. Other features, such as wind resistance protection, algae resistance protection, and so on may be added to the limited lifetime warranty.

However, the features that are added, as well as the length of some additional warranties, will change depending on how long your roof is rated to last. For example, a 30-year dimensional shingle might have a limited warranty with a 10-year algae guarantee, whereas a 50-year luxury shingle might have a 15- or 20-year algae guarantee. Others might require you to make additional accessory shingle purchases or use a certified contractor to get the full benefits of the warranty.

That is why, ultimately, the lifespan of your roof and how well your investment is protected comes down to the coverage of the warranty and your insurance policy.


Hopefully, you now know that the difference between 30, 40, and 50-year shingles is how long they are rated to last in an ideal environment. You should also realize that lifetime warranties are limited to the life expectancy of the shingles and that the coverage of the warranty is based on the quality of the shingle.

Whether you want shingles to last 30 years or 50 years is up to you and your budget. If you need more information or if you have questions, why not reach out? Contact us today by filling out a form, and we’ll get back to you