Have you ever tried to write a custom error class in JavaScript? Well, it does work to a certain extend. But if you want to add custom methods or call instanceof to determine the error type it will not work properly.

Here is a little example of a custom error class:

class MyError extends Error {
  constructor(foo = 'bar', ...params) {
    if (Error.captureStackTrace) {
      Error.captureStackTrace(this, MyError)
    this.foo = foo
  getFoo() {
    return this.foo

try {
  throw new MyError('myBar')
} catch(e) {
  console.log(e instanceof MyError) // -> false
  console.log(e.getFoo()) // -> Uncaught TypeError: e.getFoo is not a function

Works fine in any browser with ES6/ES2015 support, but if you transpile the example with Babel to ES5 and execute the code, you will get the results shown in the comments.


Due to limitations of ES5 it’s not possible to inherit from built-in classes like Error, see the Babel docs.

Possible solution

The docs mention a plug-in called babel-plugin-transform-builtin-extend to resolve this issue, but if you have to support older browsers it may not help. In order to work the plug-in needs support for __proto__. Take a guess which browser does not support __proto__ … and of course, it’s the web developers best friend aka Internet Explorer. Thankfully it affects only version 10 and below.


If it’s not feasable to use the plug-in, you can at least access properties set in the constructor. A call to e.foo in the example is possible, but e instanceof MyError will return false, since you will always get an instance of Error.


Nothing of this ideal. We have to wait until it’s possible to use ES6/ES2015 directly. Yes, we all could set our transpile targets to ES6/ES2015 today, but our clients usually won’t allow it. Some customer is always browsing the web with an ancient device/browser.