This paper investigates the optimal inventory policies over the life cycle of a remanufacturable product. The product is produced through manufacturing or remanufacturing. Benefiting from the long-run optimal policies found through Markov decision analysis, the optimal or near-optimal policy characterizations with practical structure are determined for every life cycle stage under several setup cost configurations. The effects of changes in the demand and return rates on the optimal inventory policies are investigated through these policies. Further, a performance comparison with a PULL strategy is provided. The performance of these long-run policies is evaluated as well in a finite-horizon setting, and the importance of frequent policy revision over the product life cycle is illustrated numerically. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.