Lifespan of commodities is essential information for material flow analysis and material stock accounting. Lifespan data is available in the literature; however, it varies in definition and in methodology employed. This article reviews and categorizes different types of lifespan distribution and distribution estimation methodologies, and investigates the relationship and differences between lifespan definitions and estimation methodologies. Lifespan distribution of commodities can be classified into five types from two perspectives: base year for which the distribution is drawn, and vertical axis of the distribution. The methodologies for estimating lifespan distribution were classified into four types and the details of each methodology and the relationship to the definition of lifespan were also clarified. This article also examines differences in actual lifespan data—between the types of distribution, the definitions, and the employed methodologies—by comparing reported data in literature. Any of the four methodologies are theoretically applicable and provide the same value of a lifespan; however unless accurate data such as census statistics are available, lifespan data can vary, and therefore we must be very cautious about the representativeness of sample data.