When we got married several decades ago I received the usual assortment of small appliances as wedding gifts.  I remember those Harvest Gold appliances fondly, and they lasted a surprisingly long time.  In fact I still own some.

So why is it that the replacements have to be replaced again every couple of years?

Suspiciously, most of these items seemed to last just a hair longer than the manufacturers’ warranty.

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Planned obsolescence

Manufacturers have increasingly adopted a policy of designing products that work more efficiently and have a large range of features, but are short on durability.

We’ve become a throwaway generation because today’s appliances are so much cheaper than they were a few decades ago and consumers have to work fewer hours in order to buy them.

For example, our first VCR cost over $600 and I was earning approximately $7 an hour at the time.  Now you can buy a Blu-ray player for under $100 and even the minimum wage is higher than what I was earning.

Average life spans of major appliances

I recently bought a new washer and dryer set.  When I pulled out my paperwork I discovered that I had originally purchased the old set in December of 1993, so it’s given me a good run for my money.  The washer only needed one small repair in all that time, which my husband was able to fix.

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When our salesman was giving his spiel about the importance of getting an extended warranty, he said that 4 out of 5 machines would need a major repair within 3 years.  I don’t know if that’s a true statement, but if it is, why do consumers put up with that?

Most big-ticket appliances should still be counted on to work for a good 10 to 20 years.  Here’s a list of average life spans:

  • Dishwasher……….13 years
  • Clothes washer……14 years
  • Clothes dryer………18 years
  • Freezer…………….21 years
  • Range……………..18 years
  • Refrigerator……….17 years

I don’t have a list of small appliance life spans.  I always thought that you get what you pay for, and I would pay a little more for something that would have greater use.  This is not always the case.

We always bought a cheap Proctor Silex coffee pot that would last for about a year before breaking down.  After a few years I got fed up with this and got an expensive (for me) Cuisinart coffee maker with a few extra features.

I don’t know if we’re in some life-denying Bermuda Triangle vortex for coffee makers, but our fancy machine gave up after a little more than two years (yes, it had a 2-year warranty).

So now I’m back to my cheap Proctor Silex pots.  When they’re on sale I buy two or three so I always have a replacement in case of a sudden coffee emergency.

EnerGuide ratings and fancy features

People are replacing old energy-guzzling units with more efficient units.  Appliance manufacturers have made tremendous improvements to their products to reduce energy usage.  This can be a huge cost savings for consumers.

For example, refrigerators and freezers manufactured today are at least 50% more energy-efficient than those built in 1982.  Front loading washers are making a comeback in North America and although they can be more expensive than top-loading machines, they also use about 40% less water.

By choosing an appliance with a low EnerGuide number, you’ll save money (especially if electricity rates rise over the years).

Preserving the environment, however, will only occur if we’re not tossing out our appliances every couple of years.

Another major reason for replacing appliances, even if they still work, is the number of impressive features they now have.  The technology is amazing – different coldness temperatures in fridges, double ovens and dishwashers, dryers that steam freshen your clothes.

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A problem for some people is paying excessively for fancy features because they sound good, and then using only one or two.  There’s nothing wrong with upgrading, but don’t over buy.

Final Thoughts

Apparently, back in the day, we liked to buy a new car every couple of years but we expected our appliances to last forever.  Those heavy old workhorses were certainly more reliable and long lasting but they basically had only one function.

Today’s appliances have many more amazing features, and they look good too.

Too bad they don’t last as long.

I like to have the best of both worlds.  What about you?

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