We don’t throw cars away because they need new windshield wipers or an oil change. Yet when it’s time for routine maintenance on an electric dryer, most people throw their hands up and purchase a new one. Somehow the electric dryer has become disposable, much like a toaster. Not all dryers are created equal however, and some deserve a chance at a second life
UPDATE for June, 2015 Where should you buy your used appliance?
For a long time I used to recommend people to always get their appliances on Craigslist for as cheap as possible. But over these past years, and buying thousands of low priced appliances to refurbish and then resell, I’ve learned things that have caused me to change my recommendation for people. Here are a few things I’ve learned and where I recommend you buy your next used appliance from.
1. There is something wrong with over 50% of the appliances you will buy from regular people on Craigslist. Some of the time the problem will not be known, as many owners don’t easily recognize when their machines need maintenance. Other times people will be deceptive, and focus on the fact that technically the appliance still works, while failing to mention quirks that they know exist, and that often issues that need to be addressed. My conclusion is that you cannot just take the word of regular appliance owners on the true condition of their appliance.
2. Almost every used dryer that I ever purchased on Craigslist had never been cleaned before, ever. This is not good as dryers need to be cleaned and serviced to make sure that there is not lint build up inside the dryer which becomes a fire hazard. Most people are not aware of the importance of yearly, or even bi-yearly maintenance or their dryer, which includes inspection of parts and a thorough cleaning.
So, for most people, I now recommend buying from a used appliance reseller. The prices you will pay are slightly higher that buying from a private party, but you are paying for a machine that has been inspected, cleaned, often painted and which includes a warranty backing up the machine. The extra value you get, the the time you will save buying from an appliance business is most definitely worth it.
What kind of dryer should you buy?
Whirlpool-made electric or gas dryers, are without a doubt, the best value in dryers for three simple reasons.
1. Initial Cost. They are close to, if not the least expensive dryers on the market, and they dry clothes just as well as the other brands and designs.
2. Ongoing Costs. They require the least amount of maintenance. All dryers are going to need maintenance in proportion to their use, much like cars. Whirlpool-made dryers however, typically require the least amount maintenance, I believe because of superior design factors.
3. Repair Costs. They are the cheapest and easiest dryers to repair. The reason for this is because Whirlpool has been manufacturing these dryers for over 30 years, and the parts are inexpensive and very easy to find. The machines are also easy to work on, allowing them to be repaired quite quickly.
Again, Whirlpool makes the following traditional dryers:
Kenmore (don’t buy the stackable Kenmore dryers, as they are made by Frigidaire)
Whirlpool now owns Maytag and Amana as well, but only models a few years old. Be careful.
Why you shouldn’t buy other brands?
Because many of them are junk. They weren’t designed very well and they break down quicker. When they break down, they are much more expensive to fix and much more difficult to work on. Like I said in the How to Buy a Used Washing Machine post, most used appliance stores and repairmen just scrap the other brands.
Should you purchase a gas or electric dryer?
Right now natural gas is really cheap and if you already have a gas setup in your house, by all means use it. Gas dryers dry your clothes a little quicker than electric dryers as they produce more heat. Also, gas dryers are significantly cheaper than electric dryers on the used market, primarily because of less demand. But if you are already setup for an electric dryer, it will take a while to recover the costs of having a gas line installed where you need it, so you have the benefit.
How much should you pay for a used dryer?
Expect to pay anywhere from $120 to $250 for a used dryer from a used appliance seller. Dryer power cords can cost $20-$30, so save your old one if you are getting rid of it, or try to buy your dryer from someone that can give you the correct power cord for no extra charge.
You may find a dryer cheaper buying from a private party, just know the risks going in before hand.
What to watch out for when buying a used dryer
If you hear a whiny, screechy sound when the dryer is starting up, walk away. It’s the motor going out and that is one part that usually isn’t worth replacing, unless you repair appliances for a living. (even then, most repair places don’t swap motors out).
Don’t buy a dryer if the timer isn’t advancing. Timers, along with motors, usually aren’t worth replacing as they are very expensive.
If you are buying from a private party, you need to see the dryer working before you purchase, if possible. This allows you to hear it operating, which will often reveal to you whether it needs any maintenance or not. Also, it shows that the previous owner was still able to use it themselves. When buying from a used appliance business that provides a warranty, seeing the dryer operate before hand is not needed.
What if you can’t test the dryer out?
Take close notice of the person you are potentially buying from. Do they seem like they took care of it? Why are they selling it? Ask them if there are any issues with it at all and let them talk. In the end, you need to use your discernment and walk away if you don’t get a good feeling about the transaction. I always recommend trying to buy from the type of person you would have wanted to own the item before you.
Frequently Asked Questions (will update)
Where is the best place to buy dryer parts?
If you can wait a few days, then eBay. If you go to your local parts place and pay full retail, it will cost you 3-5 times more than you will find them on eBay.
What about preventative maintenance?
Clean your lint trap before each use. I recommend taking the back panel off your dryer every few years and vacuuming the lint, hair and dust from inside the dryer. You can also use an air compressor to blow everything out, making sure to blow out the heating element last. Also, after turning your dryer on, go check where the air exits the house and make sure the airflow is good and that there isn’t lint buildup at the exit. I’ve seen the exits completely clogged so that no air was able to escape. This will always cause destruction on the dryer as the dryer will overheat if the air is not able to vent properly.
What kind of vent ducting is best?
Solid ducting is better than the coiled ducting as it doesn’t clog up nearly as easily. Keep the distance for the air to make it outside as short as possible. The further the distance, the harder it is on the dryer to get all the moist air out of the dryer. If the distance is more than 12 feet, consider adding an in-line duct fan to assist in the removal of the air.
Where should the exhaust tubing exit the house?
The key here is that the air exits the house. Never exhaust a dryer inside a house as the moisture will only increase the chances of mold. Always vent out the side of the house if possible. Under the house only as a last resort, as it will just trap the moisture below the house, increasing the chance for mold to grow.
What kind of power does a gas/electric dryer use?
Gas dryers use 110 volt, so it will just plug right into a regular wall outlet and run fine. It won’t heat unless you have the gas hooked up (obviously) and turned on, but you can at least hear it spin and blow air.
Electric dryers use 220 volt (except for the very rare, small 110v dryers) You will almost never see these, and I would not recommend buying one. They take forever to dry your clothes. You would be better off using a clothesline.
What about the really old Kenmore dryers?
Don’t buy the model that only has one button. I think they are about 25-30 years old. Anyway, the motors on those things go out at an alarming rate if they are still hanging on. Still, I see them quite a bit and it’s a testament to the build quality of those old things.
The old brown/black panel Kenmore dryers are incredible. They were overbuilt, and I presume they will last until the end of time. If you are fortunate enough to have one of these beauty’s, repair it until the motor itself dies on you. (Which I don’t believe I’ve seen yet for those model’s)
How long should you expect a dryer to last before it will need repairs?
This is impossible to answer. There are too many variables, including how many loads per day, how big the loads are, how well the washing machine is getting water out etc. Then, there is no odometer to know how many loads have been done prior to you getting the dryer. Learn how to do some basic repairs, and expect maintenance to be occasionally needed.
How to transport a dryer?
Dryers weigh about 100 lbs and can be transported upright or on their side. Try not to slide them across concrete or pavement too much as it will just bend the little plastic feet. Also, don’t pick the dryer up by the control panel, it’s just held on by some little plastic clips and a few screws.
(I was being contacted so often by people wanting to learn the appliance business, we built an entire training course and community that teaches people everything about how to start and run your own used appliance business at ApplianceSchool.com)
I’d love to hear your comments and please post any questions you may have below.