They Used To Last 50 Years

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Pile of scrap appliances.

Now refrigerators last 8–10 years, if you are fortunate. How in the world have our appliances regressed so much in the past few decades?  I’ve bought and sold refrigerators and freezers from the 1950’s that still work perfectly fine. I’ve come across washers and dryers from the 1960’s and 1970’s that were still working like the day they were made. Now, many appliances break and need servicing within 2-3 years and, overall, new appliances last 1/3 to 1/4 as long as appliances built decades ago. They break more frequently, and sooner, than ever before. They rust and deteriorate much quicker than in the past. Why is this happening, and what’s really going on? I’ve been wrestling over these questions for years while selling thousands of appliances, and more recently, working with used appliance sellers and repair techs all across the country. The following is what I’ve discovered.

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A 1950’s Hotpoint Refrigerator I purchased a few years back, worked perfect and had the original paint job. Almost 60 years old.

1. Not enough competition. There are basically only four major appliance manufacturers in the world, down from a dozen or more.  With competition between companies, the net result was appliances that would last for decades before needing service or replacement. Then over time, Whirlpool and Electrolux slowly bought them all. Here is the latest breakdown of who owns what.

Whirlpool (United States) now owns and makes Admiral, Jenn Air, Magic Chef, Maytag, Amana, Estate, Inglis, KitchenAid, Kirkland, Roper and among many others that are lesser known.  Whirlpool is the world’s leading manufacturer of appliances. Whirlpool also makes appliances for other brands such as Ikea, Crosley, Kenmore etc.

Electrolux (Sweden) owned GE until June 2016 (now owned by Haier), Electrolux, Frigidaire, Gallery, Gibson, Adora, Americana, Eterna, Hotpoint, Profile, RCA, Tappan and White Westinghouse among many others that are lesser known. Electrolux is the second largest manufacturer of appliances in the world.

Haier (China) GE and Haier

Recently LG and Samsung have gotten into the appliance industry – they are the other two major appliance manufacturers. They sell under their own name and both manufacture and sell smaller home appliances like air conditioners and microwaves for other companies.

Less competition is bad for consumers in almost every respect. It’s easier for them to keep appliance prices high, parts prices high and standards equally poor. Since they own all the brands, they can have several cranking out very poor quality machines and have it not affect their overall brand. If any of those sub brands ever starts to do poorly, they can make the brand disappear and start pushing another one of their brands.

A vertical modular washer. Note that they have led lights under the timer.
A vertical modular washer. Note that they have led lights under the timer.

2. More parts are being designed to fail. The quality, or longevity of parts has been in steady decline over the past 10-15 years. Let me start with an example: for top loading washers and dryers two of the most expensive parts on the machines are the timer and motor. For decades there were rarely issues with these two parts, but over the past 10 years there has been a plague of washer and dryer timers and motors that fail and have to be replaced. This has been a huge step backward for the appliance industry. On the off chance a person pays someone to come out and diagnose the issue, they find out the part will be over $100 and the repair total often comes to a few hundred at the minimum. When people find this out, they usually replace the machine. The quicker a part breaks, the quicker the consumer buys a new appliance. Motors last about 1/3 to 1/4 as long as they used to. Lid switches are glued together and eventually split and break. (solution is wrapping a zip tie around the lid switch to reinforce it, but though the problem has been known for probably 20 years, nothing has been done). Refrigerator door seals are glued on now instead of screwed on, and because of this they eventually start to pull away from the fridge, warp and ultimately fail, which, you guessed it, leads to replacement. These are issues that were figured out decades ago and there is absolutely no excuse for them to be happening today unless these companies are purposely regressing. There is no other way to explain it.

It’s not just the parts, but the entire design of the machines. For example, one of, if not the best selling washing machines of all time was the direct drive Whirlpool washing machine. They made those splendid washers for a little over 30 years. Then a few years ago they replaced the direct drive with the “Vertical Modular Washer”. These new washers can be recognized by the led lights under the timer as you see in this picture, and can often be seen in large quantities at your local scrap metal yard. They are one of the worst designed washing machines ever produced and you will encounter serious problems within 1-3 years of purchasing one. They replaced the most reliable washer with the least reliable washer.

Another example is the Frigidaire dishwashers. They can often be found for $300 at big box retailers, but they usually break within 2-3 years. I’ve talked with appliance repair techs that have been called to hundreds of homes that have these broken dishwashers in them and joked to me that they called them disposable dishwashers. Dishwashers have been found in almost every home since the 1970’s, how could we be creating them over 40 years later to only last a couple years before breaking? It’s either incompetence or more likely, planned obsolescence.

3. There is too much confusion over who is making quality appliances. Who makes the best top loading washing machine? That used to be Maytag, then for some reason the quality of their washers went in the tank and Whirlpool top loading washers became the best. (Whirlpool made Kenmore’s washers for over 20 years). Then all of a sudden Whirlpool stopped making those incredible direct drive washers a few years ago. Now LG makes the best top load washing machines. Here’s the confusing part: those great Whirlpool washers made under the above brands all have a good name in consumers minds, but now they are all getting a bad reputation because the new washers being produced are very poor quality. So what was the best is now the worst, and millions of people do not know that.

When I observe how these large appliance manufacturers act I think of the mattress industry. What is a good mattress to buy? How much should it cost? Where you should purchase it? All answers you probably do not know, nor do most people, because the mattress industry has more makes and models of beds than you can shake a stick at.  It seems like each year they come out with 12 models of beds and to top it off they give the same mattresses different names for different stores!  That is absolutely great for manufacturers because it makes it impossible for consumers to hold them accountable and for an accurate review system to be in place. The appliance industry is not too much better. Whirlpool makes the same washers and markets them under different names as do other manufactures of different kinds of appliances. It’s almost like these manufacturers don’t want consumers to focus on one brand over another but rather on creating appliances that need to be replaced as quickly as possible to drive more sales.

4. Appliances are being designed to rust away

One of the most glaring differences between modern appliances and those produced 40 years ago was the quality of paint job. Newer appliances start rusting within even a year or two whereas I’ve seen washers and dryers and other appliances from 40 years ago that are still rust free. How could this be? There are a number major reasons I’ve identified.

Rusty lid in a newer Whirlpool washing machine.
Rusty lid in a newer Whirlpool washing machine.
  • A. Painting techniques have changed. For a long time washing machine lids used to be dipped in paint, so that every surface, nook and cranny could receive an adequate amount of paint to prevent rust. This was very effective and kept rust out, often times for decades. Now washer lids mostly are sprayed. The problem with this is that you physically cannot spray parts of the lid because of angles, so they do not receive any paint. Can you guess where the first part to rust is on a top loading washing machine? The lid! I’ve seen new washer lids begin to rust within a year. Over time the rust builds up and becomes an eyesore and eventually starts dropping rust flakes in the washer.
  • B. Quality and thickness of paint has changed. Appliances used to receive multiple coats of paint so that the paint job would hold up for a long time. Scratches are inevitable, but when there are multiple layers of paint, they are less likely to rust. Many new appliances have the thinnest of paint jobs and appear to have the bare minimum that the manufacturers can get away with. The end result is that appliances have rust issues all over the place. 
  • C. Thickness of metal has changed. Appliances manufacturers used to use much thicker gauges of metal. These naturally gave the paint jobs better structural support to prevent paint chipping and also resisted rusting through for much longer. Now the metal is so thin that once exposed to water, the metal walls of modern appliances often rust all the way through which was unheard of in older appliances. You can also tell by the weight differences in older vs newer appliances. Older appliances would often weigh 20-40 lbs more per machine just because of the extra thickness in metal. Thin metal rusts and deteriorates much quicker, as well as dent much easier.

    Appliances like this 30+ year old freezer used to be smooth and have thicker metal.
    Appliances like this over 30 year old freezer used to be smooth and have thicker metal.
  • D. The surface of metal has changed. Almost all appliances used to incorporate totally flat, smooth surfaces. This made them easier to paint, easier to clean the surface and at the same time would not hold extra dirt and moisture. Newer appliances often have textured or tiny eggshell surfaces, sometimes all over, sometimes just the sides. This is the worst possible surface as it hold dirt and moisture and leads to accelerated rusting. I live in Hawaii, and it would blow your mind how quickly refrigerators rust out here on these textured appliance surfaces. 
  • When appliances rust, it’s only a matter of time before people replace them. A rusty appliance is bad for consumers and the environment, so you would think manufacturers would be still creating appliances that have paint jobs that last for decades. But appliance manufacturers make money only when people buy new appliances, and by making appliances that rust more quickly, they sell more appliances. 
  • What can you do about the rust problem? Buy smooth faced appliances if possible. Clean your appliances to keep them free of dust that can trap moisture on the surfaces that then rusts out the machine. Be careful to not scratch your appliances, especially the tops of washers and dryers by setting laundry baskets on them. Once you scratch them, the rusting process begins. Use a product like Rustoleum’s NeverWet to put a clear coat, rust preventative surface over your appliances paint before rust appears, especially if you live in a humid environment. Once rust appears, you can sand it down to bare metal with sand paper and repaint with an appliance epoxy, I recommend Krylon over Rustoleum because Krylon dries in 10 minutes, and Rustoleum takes at least 4-5 hours to dry. You can buy Krylon appliance epoxy at Sherwin Williams paint stores. 
Pile of scrap appliances.
Pile of scrap appliances.

5. We need to start creating long lasting appliances.

There is a funny thing going on right now in the appliance industry. Energy efficiency is being trumpeted by everyone with new stickers and labels and claims. But what about how long the appliance lasts before it ends up in a landfill? If an old refrigerator or freezer would last 40-50 years before being replaced, and the new ones are barely lasting 10-15 years, that means we are making 3–4 times the number of appliances we used to. Being very conservative, we are plowing through 2–3 times as many household appliances as we used to. How can that possibly be better for the environment?

6.How we are working to bring about change

There needs to be change in two primary areas; Quality of new appliances and the experience of buying used appliances. Elon Musk would have already started working on building a better appliance that runs off a battery bank and solar. You can only change the world one step at a time though, and you have to start somewhere. At ApplianceSwap, my co-founder Bobby Henderson and I are starting by creating a better way for people to purchase used appliances. We are doing that by addressing every aspect of the purchase.  We help people view local used appliances inventory, ask questions, schedule delivery, purchase appliances and review the transaction without setting foot in an appliance store.  This allows people to purchase used appliances in a familiar and relaxed environment while buying from sellers they can trust. Buyers also save hours of driving all over town and often appliances can be delivered the same day if ordered early enough.

Great used appliance sellers not only provide an excellent experience, but they are on the front lines of choosing which appliances are worth being refurbished and kept in the system, and which need to go to the scrap yard to be recycled.

We are excited about the future of the appliance industry. Things can and are changing. When new startups like ApplianceSwap begin by asking what is best for buyers, sellers and best for the environment, good things can and will happen.  

Have you seen the quality of your appliances change over the course of your lifetime?

136 COMMENTS

  1. I was just talking about this very same thing with some friends — how old appliances used to last forever and the new ones don’t.

    have learned my lesson with these types of items — I just keep ’em till I need to replace ’em. Including my furnace — every time the furnace guy comes to tune it up, he tells me it’s old (so what) and inefficient (my gas bill is only $38 per month and I live in Wisconsin!) and I should buy a new one. I refuse to until it breaks — I have been burned too many times with all these newfangled things!

    • Hi Jules, that’s very wise of you! If it’s older and only needs occasional repairs (usually just maintenance on wearable parts) then by all means just have it repaired! Thanks for sharing!

        • Exactly! Planned obsolescence is at work here, plain and simple. Companies make more money by providing the consumer with things that break. And it’s absolutely disgusting: It’s a crime against humanity and our planet.

  2. Ryan,
    What struck me as I read this article is the wealth of knowledge you have related to appliances. You are really the go to person about appliances. Thank you so much and much continued success.
    Alena/DallasTX

  3. Ryan… This is exactly what we have just been going through. Our ten year old LG washing machine started leaking. Ended up needing three new parts… all were apparently leaking at the same time! A service call and parts purchase later… $330! Almost enough to warrant buying a new machine instead. And yes, it’s rusting. But our ten year old Maytag refrigerator is another story. Works perfectly… had it service about five or six years ago for a couple minor problems and it’s been good since then. But now the bottom hinge of the refrigerator door is rusting. Actually, it’s the door that’s rusting, not the hinge…Mao eventually the door will fall off its hinges! Problem is… they don’t make that door anymore! And even if they did, what would it cost to buy it, ship it to Hawaii and have it installed? Or possibly I could find a used one somewhere. Still the same scenario tho, Even if I installed it myself, it would probably run more than the refrigerator is worth. So we have a top of the line refrigerator freezer that works fine, but will have to be replaced because the door will eventually fall off! Ridiculous! Great article, BTW. Mahalo. Mick

    • 10 years is pretty good for those front loaders, LG makes the best front loaders hands down, you made a wise purchase.

      Of all the places in the US, Hawaii is probably getting it the worst when it comes to the affects of the poor manufacturing techniques they are using. The rust problem out here on appliances compared to the mainland is probably 5x worse.

      We are going to start working on creating a buying guide resource that combines reviews from people and re-sellers all over the country and see if we can separate the good from the bad when it comes to these machines and manufacturers.

      Email me a picture of the door, I will try to keep an eye out for it at the appliance graveyards here 🙂

  4. What a great value appliances were to the consumer back even 30 years ago. A household could buy a basic white refrigerator for around $500 bucks and it would work for 20+ years. Nothing these days can match it. $2000 for a fridge – crazy!

    Who makes the best top loader washer? I’m thinking of going back to a top loader if / when my front loader wears out.

    Out Kitchenaid dishwashwer has been good. Amazingly, we have made it over ten years with front load Whirlpool washer and dryer, but we have to leave the washer door open to dry out. Our Fridedair dishwasher that came with the house was junk, as was the Frigedair side by side fridge we used to have. We bought a GE branded Bosch side by side stainless steel fridge from a “scratch and dent store” and have had problems with the icemaker. It overflows water that freezes in the bottom of the compartment.

    • Best top load washer right now is Speed Queen. You can view them on Amazon and check to see if you have any distributors locally.

      Looks like you have been making pretty good appliance purchase decisions lately! Well done, just takes a bit of research. Have a great day!

  5. Hi Ryan,

    My wife and I occasionally have to go to a laundromat for her comforter as it’s too big to fit in our washing machine at home.

    We notice that these washing machines and dryers from Dexter seem like really high quality – built to last and built to be used for possibly tens of thousands more cycles than a regular washer since they’re designed for commercial use.

    If money wasn’t an object (as I’m sure they’re way more expensive) would you recommend one of them for their reliability?

    • Commercial laundromat equipment is built to last much, much longer than consumer grade machines. If you can get your hands on a good working set, and have the room, do it! Better yet, if you are able to talk and find the local repairman for the laundromats, ask them what machine they would recommend and that is easiest to maintain.

  6. I purchased a Fisher/Paykel Top Loader Washer and Top Loader Dryer in 2008. I have paid for (supposedly)new barings for the gas dryer and now the washer needs a pump. I am seriously thinking about just letting the both of them go and get a combination that is easily accessible for repairmen. I have been without both units for 6 months…Question: what is your take on the Fisher/Paykel Washers and Dryers?

    • Fisher/Paykel can be good, and operate pretty quietly. However, access to parts is difficult and they are very expensive to repair. So I don’t recommend them. Top loaders new I would go Speed Queen or LG.

  7. Up front- I am a manufacturing/production engineer who has expereience in various industries but not the actual appliance industry. You have a “perfect storm” of value engineered appliances and owners who no longer have the mechanical skills to even attempt to fix the units. Just as you have found that washer/dryers can be fixed with a little knowledge, most owners don’t even have the knowledge of what mechanical tools are because general mechanical shop is no longer taught in most schools.

    So the appliances have been “value engineered” to remove un-seen over- engineering (~engergy inefficent~ motors, thicker metal,switches requiring assembly, etc ) and replace that with more bells/whistles or in this case LED lights, digital read outs, modular switches, etc. Then, for example, in an analog contact switch, there might have been wider tolerances that allowed the switch to keep functioning even with debris and moisture fouling where as the same functioning digital switch has tighter tolerances and no ability to continue to function with debris/moisture problems.

    The solinoid switches for water functions on refrigerators ( refill ice tray/ provide cold water) might have been rebuildable years ago but now are a complete replacement unit. But that is a “cheap and easy” replacement compared to say a newer digital control board which might be easy but not cheap resulting in the scrapping of the appliance.

  8. Ryan

    We’re about to move into a townhome [new construction] and have discovered the builder has put in a dryer vent that runs nearly 60 feet. Our local appliance repair guy as well as our home inspector both say our mid to late 90’s era Whirlpool dryer won’t push the air out that far and we’ll have problems. We’ve been in touch with the city building inspector who confirms the dryer vent is not compliance with building codes. There is talk of using a booster van. What is your take on this? If we purchase a new dryer, which is the best brand in your opinion? Thanks! You do consumers a great service with this blog.

    • Hi Gino, yeah at the very least you will need to get an inline fan, but it will need to be a special one that can handle the lint etc that will be coming down. They are a bit heavier duty than the ones that move exhaust from a bath fan.

      Either that, or move the washer/dryer to another location in the house/garage if it’s at all possible.

      The architects that designed homes to have the washer and dryer smack in the middle of the home where it’s impossible to vent them are foolish.

  9. If I wrote a blog post about newer appliances it would probably be much more scathing than this article. I think you’ve been generous in your assessment of how good newer appliances are. I see currently manufactured new appliances as 2-5 year machines, before they’re ready for the recycler sadly. Who knows, maybe there will be someone who comes along and champions a new consumer oriented line of appliances that will save the industry from it’s trend of utter worthlessness 😉

  10. Hi Ryan,

    What is your opinion on the new Samsung Front loader washer and dryers? I know they have been around overseas for a while but only about 10 years in the states.

  11. Same holds true for lawnmowers and snowblowers. The older tors will outlast the new ones any day. And dont even get me started on the new Briggs and Stratton motors with the plastic carburetors and cheap Chinese fuel line that disintegrates and plugs up the carbs.

    Look at the gearbox on a john Deere snowblower from 1986 and compare it to the ones now, its a joke.

    • It’s sad. Especially because most people have no idea how to work on the machines nor what to look for when desiring to buy quality ones.

  12. Hi Ryan, I can get a Whirlpool washer and dryer that has been a garage for 20 years. It was about 1 year old when it was stored. Do think it is still good and if so what should I check before bringing it home. Thanks for any info.

    • Hi Janet, it should be fine. On the washer, look under the washer after the load to see if there were any leaks from a possible seal that failed etc, but I don’t think you will find any. Dryer should be just fine.

  13. Excuse my bad english, Not only appliance is bad i been hvac & comm-refrigeration contractor for around 30yr, most common problem with today hvac & ref is leaking issue, especially in evaporator coil, it got worst sense intro of R410 new refrigerant,seen many new installed units leaks in 2 too 4yrs lucky maybe 10yr, It’s all piece crap now days.sometime i feel like don’t want a do install new a/c anymore because customer thing is my fault.
    a/c units
    30 year ago= last 15-30yr
    15 year ago= last 10-15yr
    today= 2-10 yr

  14. I have a front load Kenmore washer from 2006. It runs still with mild noise. Repair
    man says needs replacement of bearings will
    cost 600 or so.Should we buy new? Also do
    you discuss pros /cons of side
    load elsewhere?

    • I wouldn’t fix that machine. Replace with a top loading Whirlpool made machine or if you really want another front loader, buy a used one for 1/2 the price that the repairman is quoting. Hope that helps.

  15. Great article and I learned a lot and was reminded of even more. I curbed buying new stuff quite a few years ago because of this very thing.

    Image or ignorance over substance.

    It is such a joke on people that want to save the planets or at least LOOK like they ARE by buying NEW efficient stuff instead of refurbishing, repairing and buying great used products that in the long run will save them and the planet much more.

    Maybe the APPLIANCE INDUSTRY NEEDS TO LEARN WHAT THE USA CAR MANUFACTURERS LEARNED WHEN EVERYONE STARTED BUYING JAPANESE BECAUSE OF PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE IN THE INDUSTRY?

    One this its kind of ironic we would want to buy used (2 to 5 years old) equipment knowing that its crap after 3 to 5 years? I still get my moneys worth but maybe its time to start an retro-appliance business if there are still good part for repair.

      • I’m sure its coming. Kickstarter and indiegogo revolutionize these things.

        If your really into parts, you could probably source this project yourself with some clever friends.

        I’d buy a fridge that would last 30 years. At a premium any day.
        People are buying shitty fridges that tell you what your missing, but expire in 5 years anyway.

        • That would be very cool. It’s all about timing, right place, right amount of help etc and I think it could be pulled off. I’ve got another project or two in the pipeline but have definitely been thinking about it and totally agree with you!

  16. Please be aware that many of the facts in your article are inaccurate and you completely ignore the impact that government regulation and consumer behavior have on how these machines are made.

    Your lists of the brands Whirlpool and Electrolux own are completely inaccurate. Some of them are true, but Whirlpool does not own Sub-Zero, Viking, Crosley, etc. Electrolux does not own GE, Haier does. While it is true that only one US manufacturer remains (Whirlpool), there are many, many brands that sell in the US.

    The government provides the energy consumption guidelines, and they have made efficient machines costly to produce. These regulations are similar to what the auto industry experienced in that the mandate is to produce these machines, but consumers do not want to pay for the upgrade that comes with the new technology.

    The biggest problem with the industry, however, is that appliances don’t cost much more now than they did back in the 1950s. A washer then cost around $199, and that same starter model is in every Sunday ad in 2016 for $299. Top mount refrigerators, coil top ranges, etc.

    You should do a bit more research before pushing a narrative that manufacturers just make them to be of poor quality so you have to buy them more often to take advantage of an imaginary lack of competition.

    • Hi Melissa, in the article I stated that Whirlpool “owns or makes”, I should have made that more clear. Whirlpool does not own Kenmore obviously, but they made their washers and dryers for over 20 years. Whirlpool owns Amana and Amana was making Viking refrigerators in America, for example.

      The government provides the guidelines, but it’s the manufacturers responsibility to put out a good product. If they put out a garbage product, they cannot blame the government, only themselves. If they need to raise their prices, so be it. They should be ashamed at the quality of their machines and if they have a problem with the regulations put on them, they certainly aren’t saying anything to the public about it!

      I agree costs haven’t gone up over the past 60 years for the prices of these machines. But you failed to mention the improvements in the manufacturing process that has made it much cheaper to produce machines than it used to be, so they have partially balanced themselves out. Also you didn’t mention the outsourcing of manufacturing to cheap labor around the world. If they need to make more money, then they need to raise their prices, not lower their quality. Or if they are going to lower the quality, they should be required to put a label telling consumers the dishwasher they are about to buy will be broken in less than 3 years and that it’s a disposable dishwasher.

      Also, and I’m not questioning your knowledge of appliances, but some of the corners they have cut fall into only saving a few dollars per machine, yet shave off several years off the life of the machine. Refrigerator seals are a perfect example. Do you blame consumers for the manufacturer saving a few dollars on the junk seals that fail several years before other components?

      Imaginary lack of competition? Go to HomeDepot’s website and look up sub $300 dishwashers. Who owns all those brands? Lots of brands, but only a couple of manufacturers. There used to be competition before the mass consolidation of appliances makers.

      Lastly, I don’t apologize for calling out the appliance manufacturers. They alone are responsible for their products. What you are saying would be like Apple computer making excuses for a crappy product. What do they do when they make a crappy product? They apologize! http://fortune.com/2016/02/18/apple-apologizes-releases-update-to-fix-broken-iphones/

    • Now that we have a REAL President a lot of those wasteful govt regulations will go away.
      But i guarantee you Melissa it will have no impact on how well appliances are made.
      Most American factories have no pride now they only care about money.
      When Haundai 1st came to America they were a cute car with lots of standard features the other cheap cars didnt have. People soon found out they were crap built cars all show no go. It took Haundai many years to improve their reputation.

      Appliance co’s have regressed to purposely being all show no go so they can sell lots of parts and more units.
      Theres no excuse except greed. Also I believe they are trying to kill the used appliance business but it will backfire as they will go out of business before we will. And they have wildly raised the value of the used machines i sell.

  17. Don’t the regulators get a big share of the blame for requiring energy efficiency that drives up prices and makes the machines less reliable?

    If everybody is building junk, why doesn’t one of the manufacturers decide to build high quality machines, and blow the competition away?

    • Look at Speed Queen. They make the best top loading machines on the market right now and you can’t find them anywhere. That’s what making a high quality machine gets you! haha I agree the regulations are bad, but it’s not just the compressors related to freon type that are failing. All sorts of parts are failing that used to not fail. Everything has been reengineered more poorly to not last as long. You can go down the list of every component in a refrigerator and see obvious ways that quality has been purposely reduced.

  18. I have no doubt that the reason why more players don’t enter the appliance industry is the phone book of federal regulations you must comply with in order to mass produce a home appliance.

    Though there’s no doubt the older ones are better. I just picked up a whirlpool fridge from 1995, it’s near mint in appearance, and runs perfectly.

    And I just got a roper dryer that’s maybe 5 years old, it has a bad timer, and I’ve noticed other newer Whirlpools with weird problems I can’t track down, that I chalk up to a control panel problem, and end up parting out the machine, so you’re not wrong on the reliability problem, I’m just not seeing any blame pointed at the regulators, and they deserve some. It must be all that time you’re spending in socialist Hawaii.:)

    • Regulators to get a lot of the blame, but who do you think gets the regulators in their positions in the first place? There are only a few major appliance manufacturers that must have significant lobbying powers. I dont think the big manufacturers make very much money when their appliances last a really long time. They want them to die at a certain age so they can sell more appliances. If they all do the same thing, then the brands will seem indistinguishable. Right now, if you ask 100 people, everyone will have different opinions as to which appliance company makes the best machines. That’s exactly what they want. That way they can get away what they are doing with little reprecussions.

  19. My 5-year old Sears Kenmore (built by Whirlpool) toploader just died because the transmission broke through the plastic basket that supports it. I luve alone and probably only wash about 5 or 6 loads a month. It’s ridiculous that a nachine would only last for approx 300 loads of washing. I bought a used analog Whirlpool for $160 and it’s working fine. As someone that worked in the environmental field for 40 years I am appalled that we have regressed so far. People used to have appliances repaired – even down to small appliances like toasters. We have become a consumption driven society as evidenced by having to have the newest iPhone on the market. With today’s technology we should be able to build appliances that last 50 years – not 5.

  20. Your blog is spot on and very helpful. I came upon it while Googling “failed drum bearings” — the hidden problem with a sparkling LG front loader I stupidly bought on Craigslist (the only bad experience I’ve had with CL). LG has an carve-out in its warranty for that known problem, which totals the machine. Prior to that I had a 1991 Whirlpool that finally gave up the ghost. Back to old-fashioned for me. My question is about the 2011-2012 Whirlpool washers (the ones with a silvery panel, but no LED). Some reviews I scraped up weren’t positive. Should I go with the prior model, the Whirlpool Estate? Any other tips for IDing the age of a washer and dryer?

    • The silver control panel Whirlpools are great machines. If you have a link to a pair that you are looking at in particular, send it to me and I will let you know what I think. Another way to id the good machines is to get their model number and make sure it has a big metal clutch, plastic coupler, agitator dogs etc. Those are parts from the older direct drive washers that I recommend. Hope that helps!

  21. Great article. I’ve been repairing appliances a few years myself. I still swear by the direct drive washers. When I recommend new though I use speed queen, since they now make top load washers for in home use and I’ve only read great reviews about them

  22. I’m happy to have a Kelvinator with the original 25 anniversary model paper label still on the inside of the door. One of the electrical parts is stenciled with a date of 1943 on it. I use it everyday and wouldn’t trade it for anything new.

  23. Ryan! I read your post about the worthless modern appliances and I am totally with you! I am a appliance repairman and I will have no part in modern appliances for my own use. I see these poor people being fooled into believing that they are buying a quality product almost every day. I collect vintage maytag washers and dryers. I am also collecting all the none working old appliances I can get and putting them away so I will have enough parts to keep mine going through my life time. Because in a few more years they are all going to be gone! I want to have enough so that I will never have to worry about being left with the junk only available today. I currently have a original 1958 matching maytag set in my house I use every day. I am educating my family and friends to not buy new appliances and to purchase used none computerized ones if they know what’s best for them.

    • Thanks Jason, and you are very wise to save those parts. You should be able to keep a good washer and dryer going for your lifetime with about a pallet full of replacement parts that you could probably collect for free!

  24. Hey Ryan, first of all; continued Good Luck to you!
    Some random musing on my part;
    I’ve been servicing appliances for 50 yrs, full time, everyday, year in year out, so I fixed a lot of ‘Old Betsy’ in that span. They did break-a lot, but we were mostly able to repair them at a reasonable price. The appliances were more sturdy, more simply engineered, and the ‘paint jobs’ were certainly-a lot better! One was always satisfied with a good repair and confident that the appliance would keep up the good work:). The *many* manf and off label parts replacement Co’s at that time worked with us. It was a symbiotic relationship-they cared about their product and kept replacement parts prices at a reasonable rate. No great engineering debacles-for the most part- year to year. Other than Sears and a few others it was mostly Mom n Pop stores selling appl. All the involved party’s cared that consumers were getting good value for their money. No More!!!
    You’re correct, imo, there’s only a few players left and all scrambling for margins on the over engineered, constant wave of engineering OPPS!, albeit esthetically pleasing, quieter, lower energy used= junk! With the exception of Speed Queen [for now anyway]. Calls to the manf consumer lines for you’re broken 2-5 yr old appl is now met with, “…geez! first we heard of that! but you’re over our warranty, you should have purchased a service contract-[essentially calling you a boob] but feel free to buy another one of our fine appliances-HuH! So now we have a ’round robin’, all the disgruntled consumers of manf A buy Manf B and so on. Meanwhile the MBA’ who replaced all the old timers who cared about their Co’s reputation are smiling. It’s no wonder you’re doing well as a reseller. Our economy is so big it takes a while, but there’s a growing ground swell of consumer anger over this. Lets see what Haier does- joins the club? or breaks new ground with better quality appliances?

    • Thanks for sharing! Excellent perspective and I think you are exactly right. People don’t know which manufacturer to trust, and Whirlpool didn’t help by going from the best top loading washer manufacturer to the worst when the changed their design a few years ago. Also, completely agree on the Speed Queen recommendation!

  25. Hi Ryan,

    thanks for the informative article. What about Bosch / Siemens? I am from Germany, almost everyone has these brands. Though Wirpool and Electrolux are common too. Seems like there is plenty of competition. But reviews etc are Def the way to go.

    Erik

    • I’ve heard good things about Bosch, Siemens and Miele, but we definitely don’t see them as often in the US. Someone in the used appliance industry in Germany could speak on the subject much better than I could.

  26. You mentioned that lack of competition is a key reason for the decreasing quality. Somehow, I feel that competition itself is the reason. Because consumers want the cheapest item, and so companies compete to supply that. They cut corners by using thinner metals, faster paint application techniques, and cheaper parts that fail more quickly. In the stores, there is no way for the consumers to know how long a product will last – and all they care is that little number on the price tag. This leads to inferior goods.

    • I agree, until they make them so poorly that the repairs almost equal the purchase price. At that point they are forcing replacement upon consumers. So I guess I’m trying to say that they probably took it too far and the very least needed to show some restraint and compete with each other on quality and brand recognition rather than only on price. They aren’t making these appliances with the good will of consumers in mind, only profits, in my opinion for I cannot fathom them encouraging their own family to purchase some of these appliances with their known issues.

  27. I bought a Miele dishwasher it lasted 16 years without a single problem, that is until my son fell on the open door and messed up the hinge mounting point. Replaced it with a top of the line Bosch, it didn’t clean the dishes and it started having problems within 2 years, I got tired of dirty dishes and repair bills and went back to Miele, a family owned company that actually cares about their products.

  28. Fine article, Ryan. I collect books on early domestic refrigeration, as there is an amazing history of the early refrigerators. Although it took some time to develop a reliable unit and to make it affordable to the few American who had electricity, by the forties and into the fifties, manufacturers were cranking out rugged and durable machines that weren’t the energy hogs many people now believe them to be. I agree with all of your points about lack of competition, but I would like to add that the manufacturers hit a snag in the sixties when the refrigerator market pretty much hit saturation, not unlike what has happened with automobiles and other consumer durables. The industrial designers were set to work in the 30s to pull in more sales for refrigerator companies, and through the next few decades, these firms create desires in the consumer mind to drive more sales, with “new looks”, and silly features. That’s that scary intrinsic obsolescence.

    I hold the manufacturers largely responsible for the garbage they churn out, yes, and of course there is the new high efficiency stuff that is pushed- regardless of how long the sub-standard garbage lasts, but I gather that the rabbit hole goes even deeper. The economy at large does best when it is converting resources to waste at break-neck speed.

    There is a great book called “Emotionally Durable Design” by Jonathan Chapman, I recommend. Much of the book is about the notion of our emotional relationship with the objects around us, and how the objects that we do not hold a strong bond with are not cared for as well and are replaced more easily. It argues that durable construction is not enough if people do not have a desire to keep it. That’s a rough overview- you should check it out. One point made about the change in product quality of the years, is that manufacturers know how long people tend to keep an appliance for instance, so they see no point in making it durable enough to outlive this expectancy. This is just another way of looking at the problem, and doesn’t relieve them of their responsibility of making junk, just an interesting point. These manufacturers aren’t improving the the durability of their goods based on known defects when they are so focused on the things that seem too drive consumers- like LEDs and a Twitter feed on the door. :/ Next years model is being planned before this years has rolled out of the warehouse.

    I agree, we need to make better appliances that are durable, long-lasting, and easy to repair. I am trying to build such a machine in the form of a simple refrigerator with the goal of lasting 100 years.

    Again, great article. Thanks

    • Excellent comment, thanks for sharing! You are totally right about the many different forces at work regarding the whims of consumers desires and how manufacturers are reacting to those whims. I’ll check out that book and your website, fascinating stuff. I subscribed to your blog as well, I’m very interested to follow your progress on that refrigerator!

      • Thanks Ryan. I have been reading about your success with repairing and re-selling appliances. I have often thought about doing the same. Someday I will have a garage and will likely do the same, at least on the side. It seems like a good way to fund my refrigerator projects, and eventually open a refrigerator museum. Keep up the good work.

        • Thanks Mike! I think you would find it pretty fun. I’ve always enjoyed passing on little bits of knowledge about appliances to customers over the years. And you can make good money. Take care!

  29. This is the dream of 3d printing. The MBA schools are teaching managers to produce bad products because they know they can get away with it. The only way to fight back is basically to take away their power. Like Gandhi preaching to people that they can harvest their own salt and spin their own thread, we need to be making our own knobs and switches, building our own replacement parts, and, eventually, our own appliances. Imagine if we could buy machine designs directly from engineers, print them out, and use them. Get rid of the worthless business people and their bloodsucking shareholders. This is not about nationality anymore this is about open class warfare by the elites against the masses. The masses need to start fighting back.

    • It would be awesome to have an open source washer and dryer plan available for people to make out of easy to get parts. I think there is a movement towards this and the appliance industry is ripe for disruption because of how poorly these corporations are treating consumers right now. It will be interesting to see a grassroots movement towards longer lasting machines!

  30. Is this just about applicances int he US market? In my experience Miele (Privately held German firm that sells across Europe) bucks the trend you highlight here but you do pay a premium for it.

  31. We need more customer awareness and governments to start pushing legislation to turn producing non-lasting appliances a bad deal. A good one is to have a mandatory 25 year warranty. That’ll probably bump the price tag, but it’ll start being worth designing appliances that can have their breaking parts replaced.

    • Yeah the libertarian in me says to let the markets work it out. But, I’m not sure that can happen now with all the consolidation that has gone on so that there isn’t proper pressure being put on the few appliance makers.

      It’s actually surprising that the government hasn’t stepped in and put pressure on these companies from creating such crap and waste.

  32. We got free a fridge from 1974 in 2008. Thats more than 20 years old than me!
    Today, the fridge is a bit hard to open, but we don’t expect even a maintenance in the next years.
    About energy, we dont get high bills, so, nothing to say; just, once you got something like that, you expect new things to be better 🙁

  33. I think you have rose tinted glasses. The 30 year old appliances that still work are the ones that didn’t break. Lots did, but you obviously won’t see them because they’re in the dump.

    I personally have had absolutely 0 issues with any appliance manufactured in the past 20 years, other than minor stuff like replacing knobs. Modern appliances are much more energy efficient, cheaper in real dollars, and I’m sure many will survive 30 years just fine.

    • See my above comment about my opinion about the machines that didn’t break. All appliances need maintenance, but an ignorant public often throws a washing machine away for needing an expected routine maintenance done similar to changing your brake pads on your car. Poof, the machine goes to landfill and you assume that it was a faulty one that shows that old machines were made just as poorly. Not the case and if you were in the industry yourself you would know this.

      Yes some washing machines are more energy efficient. Dryers, not one bit, as technology hasn’t changed the design of the dryer yet. Refrigerators are more energy efficient, but not when you consider that people go through them 3-4 times more than they used to. Takes a lot of energy to make a refrigerator.

    • No problems with the appliances he’s owned?
      DVR’s and xboxes arent appliances.

      I dont believe he’s ever owned a real appliance .

  34. There’s a problem with some of your logic.

    You say, “I’ve bought and sold refrigerators and freezers from the 1950’s that still work perfectly fine. I’ve come across washers and dryers from the 1960’s and 1970’s that were still working like the day they were made.”

    But how many have you come across? Surely not the entire production run of those appliances. Probably note even 0.01% of all the units made. Right? So that means millions of units did not last decades.

    And the same thing will be true for appliances made to day. Most won’t last. But for every model, some units will last, and those units will be the ones that some repair person decades from now will talking about as the “old and reliable” models.

    An additional problem to your logic: Are you comparing apples to apples? Or are you taking instead the high-end models of the past and comparing them to the low-end models of today and expecting them to match up? I’m betting it’s the latter — and I’m betting you have no idea exactly how to find the price, materials, and production data so you can properly compare appliances to appliances across the decades.

    • They didn’t change the parts or design for decades, so my logic is not flawed. Whirlpool literally used the exact same parts, design etc for almost 30 years for their top loading washing machine. If a machine ended up in the dump, it was likely because people throw appliances away even if it only needed some expected, routine maintenance like a dryer belt. So to say that the machines that were scrapped had to be faulty is not good logic because it’s assuming that the consumers made wise decision to scrap their appliance. My experience is that consumers make very poor decisions about when to fix or get rid of their appliances and that’s been going on for a few decades at least starting with the baby boomer generation I believe. The generation before fixed everything.

      High and low-end models? You seem to be taking a shot at my knowledge of the industry and assuming the absolute worst. Let’s talk high and low-end dryers that are currently being made, use Whirlpool for example. The most expensive and cheapest models they make are using the exact same parts. All you are getting is a shiny shell for the extra money. Also, the technology hasn’t changed on dryers in 40 years, so that’s what you are getting for that extra $1,000 for the fancy model. As far as production date etc on washers and dryers it’s hidden in the model number for some manufacturers, usually on the sticker on the door. Refrigerators have it inside on a sticker and ranges have it on a sticker down by the drawer.

      Mike if you want to find someone else that’s been entrenched in the appliance business on the used/repair side for several years, go for it. Then come back to me and let me know what their opinion is rather than just attacking my logic and assuming I have no position to speak into the current state of the appliance industry.

  35. I once lived in an old house that came with a fridge from the last 50s. It was still working. You had to manually defrost it. The fridge lasted because the compressor motor was build to last for ever. And the fridge sheet metal was a lot thicker than what they build now. I live in a new house now. And I change appliances about every 7 years and I buy the Consumer Report recommended. I get the 5 yr warranty. I know I am getting ripped but I hate headaches. I used to fix them myself but the parts are expensive and once they start to go it is just one part after another. So I gave up.

    • You are not alone when it comes to giving up on the current appliance industry. The consolidation of the brands has been the most discouraging thing for me. Hard to have competition when there are only a few players.

  36. Sensationalist anecdotes don’t rise to the level of data. I also love old things, but not becuase I think they work any better or longer than anything else.

    Its possible someone else pointed this out, but history has a serious bias issue when it comes to the perception of ‘quality’. Items that were poorly made in the past are already in the trash that you can’t see. Planned obsolesce, the big driver here and only mentioned once and not defined, is the plan because otherwise the manufacturer will go out of business. Make something that lasts forever, and you are making your own competition.

    Note that our collective perception of old cars being made “better”. Well… I would want to be in one in a collision or it will squish me like a bug. Sure, they are basically throwaway now with tons of plastic parts, but the idea that things SHOULD last forever is unreasonable. Ever have a 20 year old car that you were constant fixing because things were worn out? At the ripe old age of almost 50 I realize that I pay about as much for a car regardless of its age. I guess there is a year or two after I pay it off before it starts costing several hundred a month.

    I have a better article idea for Ryan however. is there a way to predict which product will last the longest? In other words, in a given technology, say CD players, is there a way to figure out when manufacturers made the best units, then started to make them cheaper?

    • I don’t think it’s sensationalist at all. Side by side comparisons of appliances made decades ago to our current machines show a massive difference in quality.

      When washing machines were made 40-50 years ago they were made with parts that would need to be replaced occasionally, but they were very inexpensive parts. So routine maintenance could be done for cheap to keep them going, similar to brake pads on a car. This was even the case on Whirlpool made washing machines up until about 4-5 years ago. The average parts that would need to be replaced were all under $5, and some under $1. Want to compare that to the average repair on the new top loading vertical modular washer made by Whirlpool? Repairs are usually upwards of $300 which is pretty much total replacement cost. These machines are lasting less than 3 years with repairs so expensive it’s better to buy a new machine. You cannot compare this washing machine, which is the most common that is being sold today, with machines that were made over the past several decades.

      I like your idea about battle testing the machines. When one of these new machines comes out someone needs to do like 1000 loads of laundry and see how quickly it breaks. It’s crazy to me that Consumer Reports isn’t catching these in their testing.

      • I think anyone who has taken a few appliances apart, even just out of curiosity, will notice the flimsy construction, compared to old units. I have repaired a lot of different sorts of machines, and consumer grade appliances are the most infuriating. The other day I cut open a refrigerator compressor to see why is started rattling and got so loud. The compressor worked fine, but a plastic component was supposed to be fixed to the intake as some sort of muffler or oil separator, I’m not sure. Vibration in the compressor, which is normal, snapped this plastic piece off leaving it rattle around in there. The refrigerator was less than two years old.

        Standardizing components would make them cheaper and easier to locate. Constructing the same models for decades (with changes to the general appearance to keep up with styles) would make it much more likely a person could find someone who could do a repair, and more likely the machine stays out of the scrapyard, as the still working components would still be of use. This type of consistent manufacturing would allow for manufacturer refurbishment, and wouldn’t have to hinder innovations in increased efficiency by supporting older models with modern components.

        Even if older cars and appliances weren’t “made better”, they were certainly easier to repair.

        • Completely agree. It seems terribly inconsistent to me this broad message that our culture sends out that we are fighting to save the environment, but not fighting to make quality goods or goods that are easily repairable. The money and time that could be saved by not having to throw all these appliances away would be staggering to tally up.

  37. Hi Ryan,

    Do you have a microwave recommendation? It’s not one for above the stove top – it seems micros with surrounds have fewer choices.

    Enjoyed the article. I’ve had my Whirlpool Duets for 11 years now, but I’ve had to repair the dryer 4 times and the washer 3 times. Luckily, parts are easily found on eBay and repair videos aplenty on Youtube.

    Few anecdotes. My Dad replaced his aged dishwasher in his vacation condo with a new Samsung. The control labels on the outside of the machine rubbed off within 6 months! Because the wheels on the bottom slide out kept falling off, he ended up epoxying them in place.
    In his home, he paid $900 for a fancy super quiet Bosch dishwasher. The bottom tray, ALWAYS, comes off the guides on the door, and their support says that’s the way it’s designed and that you have to just slowly roll it out after the door is completely down. It’s sad to watch him slowly pull out the tray like someone trying to diffuse a bomb. Even with care, the wheels fall off their track. Profanity ensues.

    My nephew spent $2k on a fancy refrigerator when the double door models first came out. Compressor died just after the warranty lapsed. $800 repair.

    • Hey Dave, I don’t have too much advice on microwaves to give other than avoiding the smaller, super cheap low powered ones.

      Question about your dryer, what keeps breaking on it? I might be able to help you get to the bottom of that problem.

  38. We here in Europe have Miele, Bosch and Liebherr as good brands. Our Miele washer and drier are from 1998. Our refrigerator is now 10 years old. Dishwasher broke down after 9 years, but that was probably because we never pre-rinsed and never washed on a hot program.

  39. I cringe when I hear people announce they are replacing an appliance because it is old. I ask them if it is still working and they say yes, but… I have had ao many arguments on this subject. I am not of the school that believes in “new and improved.”

    When we bought our 1954 home in 1989, the previous owners carefully explained work they had done on various appliances, etc. There was a 1962 Maytag washer…I was thrilled! The previous owner had replaced the transmission and it kept on working beautifully for us. At one point the timer dial failed so my husband (who could fix anything!) replaced it. Never another problem until in 2014 when the water intake valve cracked and then leaked. An honest appliance repair person told us he could replace the valve for $12.50 and even had the part on his truck, but then he showed us the underside of the tub. It was so rusted out that he said it was only a matter of time before the tub sprang a leak and flooded our house. He strongly recommended we get a new washer. I was heartbroken. After a long search I picked out another top-loader called “Maytag” but by then it was made by Whirlpool. No problems yet, but from all I hear nothing would surprise me.

    In 2003 our 33 year old Fridgidaire fridge died. It was the compressor. My husband hunted far and wide to find a replacement but no luck. So we got a cheap “real” Maytag. Our space is small so that dictates what will fit. Anyway, at the Maytag Direct store they explained about the “new freon” and warned us to not expect a long life from it like we had before with the old one that used “old freon.” When they installed it I asked how long to expect. He said, “Eight years for sure. If it passes 8, then maybe 10. And if it passes 10, maybe 12, but after that was anybody’s guess.” Well, it died at 13. It had worked beautifully for 13. Had dual controls for freezer and lower fridge. When I replaced it last year (2016) with a Whirlpool (only one that would fit) the store made the speech about not expecting more than 8 years. They said it was because the new “freon” had no oil in it so therefore nothing to lubricate the compressor and that would be the cause of it eventually dying.

    I lamented the filling of landfills by all of these dying machines, the expense of constant replacement, the endless work preparing for the replacement, and the idiocy of building so that it would not last, which clearly was intentional built-in obsolesence. If the lack of oil kills the compressors, then we are not helping the environment with this new refrigerant since the filling of landfills negates the other hoped for benefits for our planet. It seems criminal to me!

    I have still a GM Frigidaire fridge from the early 60s or late 50s which requires manual defrosting, which I happily do. It was given to us in 1984. It will work in an unheated setting like a garage. It lives in my mudroom which has no heat. I thank God for it. When my other fridges died, it saved me until the new arrived.

    I still miss my old appliances. My 52-year-old Maytag washer never damaged even the most delicate clothes.
    The newest Whirlpool fridge freezes food in various parts of it and the temperture swings from a low of 30 or 28 up to 42. There is only one control. In short, it is crap.

    • Beautiful comment! Thanks for sharing your stories and I completely agree with you and share your frustration. It’s hard to see our world advance but in many ways, like appliances, take steps backward apparently by choice. Just know that you are helping things by trying to get your hands on appliances that will last a long time and then doing your part to keep them going. That really does help the environment. Keep it up!

  40. Seems mighty strange to me to be hearing about this – I have been talking to people about the same thing! Now cars are lasting longer than appliances- good thing because guess what’s more expensive…not much we can do about either…I lease cars now-cheaper for me.

  41. Playing devil’s advocate I have to ask you, ‘Do you really want a machine to last 20 years?’ You may think you do but I am here to tell you: you don’t.
    You don’t for several reasons. Firstly, because the new technology works much better and is much better for the environment. Modern dish washers and washine machines sip water, are mean on electricity and are extremely quiet.
    They mostly have higher spin speeds and higher load capacity too. Plus they are better designed for modern living: cutlery trays for knives and programs for sportswear or shirts. Very low temperature or gentle wash.
    Compare a machine made today to 20 years ago and I’ll bet it uses way less than half the water and electricity and makes less than half the noise. Plus, they tend to have more safety features and don’t use nasty things like lead paint and ammonia.
    Last time I checked out the costs for a machine that was 12 years old and starting to grind, I found that if it lasted four more years the extra electricity the old one would use would be more than the entire cost of the new machine!
    Secondly, have you ever looked inside a washing machine or dishwasher that’s about seven years old? That’s seven years of limescale build-up eating into all the metal, filling up all the valves and covering the element. Seven years of the switches getting pitted and blackend and cables getting hardened. Seven years or rubber gaiters and joints getting hardened and perished. And the crowning glory: seven years of bacterial slime building up in evey pipe and every interior surface. We tend to wash at a lower temperature today don’t do the boil wash and don’t use bleach and it plays havok with the inside of your machine.
    Then you’ve got the problem of repairs these days. I’m talking from Europe so maybe things are diferent here but it’s usual to have a 150 euro call out charge before they even touch the machine. Then it’s 75 an hour (or part there of) plus parts. Last time I had a Miele repaired it cost me just over 350 euros and the problem was a sensor. He left the old part so I checked on line and I could have bought it for 9 euros. In fact I paid for him to take several parts off and change them to see which was wrong which is why it took so long. I would have fixed it myself but I didn’t have the time.
    If they want us to have things repaired they must not treat us as the mark and must not rip us off.
    Talking of Miele. The first one I had lasted 16 years although it stank towards the end. The next one lasted 12 and they are so expensive now it’s actually cheaper to buy a Bosch and replace it every 5 years. I really don’t believe they are the company they were 30 years ago.
    Talking of Bosch. My latest Bosch weighs the washing and senses the colour of the dirty water deciding how much water detergent and time it needs to do the job (it sucks the liquid detergent it needs out of a resevoir). It runs at 48db. It has some sort of rocking motion which didn’t exist 20 years ago and so on and so on- so many things even a light which might seem like a gadget but it’s extremely useful to have a light inside. My Bosch tumble unlike the Miele, has a condensor that cleans itself well and it really does hardly need any attention. It creases the clothes less than the Miele, is quieter, doesn’t shrink anything and is quicker. The dish washer has some sort of drying system using something callled Piolite. I don’t know what it is but it works better then the ones I had 20 years ago and the machine is so quiet the only time I know it’s on is when it’s coming right to the end of the cycle.
    Technology changes and no matter how much you want things to last, rubber perishes, switches fail and limescale eats everything. Far better to spend your money on new technology every five years not be ripped off by crooked repair men and for your country to put a bigger effort into recycling. If you can go 20 years without a call out for replacing an element joint or washer then you are doing really well, and one call out is going to be nearly the cost of a new machine which will work better and give you 5 years’ service.
    Here in Europe each part of a machine has to be labelled to say how it must be recycled- and that’s thanks to German laws. When a shop delivers a machine they are obliged to take the old one away and have a program in place to recycle it. We pay a very small fee to go to the cost of recycling too.
    Finally, there is the question of employment. Unpalatable though it is to think you are wasting the world’s resources by buying new, you are also doing your bit for jobs. Someone has to make them and all the parts that go into them, and if everything lasted for ever then our society wouldn’t exist. Change society for the better please, but make sure you have an alternative system to put in place before you mess with the one you’ve got. In the meantime just make sure you recycle.
    I rest my case.

    • “Firstly, because the new technology works much better and is much better for the environment.”

      We would need to discuss appliance by appliance. Dryers..technology hasn’t changed in 30 years. They haven’t come up with a more energy efficient way to use heat to dry clothes. Any changes that manufacturers claim is pure fluff and all they have done is make their machines more shiny. Whirlpool duet front load dryers are a classic example. They are literally filled with the same parts that have been in traditional models for 30 years but they charge 2-3 times the price for that dryer.

      Front load washers I will concede spin the clothes faster and thus get more moisture out of the clothes prior to them entering a dryer. This saves on electricity needed to run the dryer.

      I guess I believe that not everything should be built in a way that it constantly needs to be replaced. I understand for the need for jobs, but it’s bad for the environment and world to needlessly destroy all these appliances because of design flaws.

      When people are freed up from the endless replacement of an item, they are freed to buy other goods, which is still good for the jobs situation.

      Thanks for your comment!

      • It is simply not true about dryer technology not advancing. In Europe condensation style driers are now the most common dryer type. The condensation technology is _much_ more energy efficient than just venting the heated air. It is however also more complicated technology and therefore more expensive than the venting dryers. Venting dryers are one of the biggest energy hogs of all appliances.

        Front load washers do not only spin the clothes at higher speed, they also use less water than top loaders. According to a soap manufacturer I spoke with, you use much more soap in the US, as your top loaders are not very good at circulating the clothes efficiently in the water.

        A couple of years ago we scrapped our 10 year old Bosch washer. It still worked, but didn’t cope well with our hard water (scale). Had to change pump and heating element in its lifetime. We bought a new Miele which has a noticeably more quality feel to it and mounted an ion exchanger in front of it. They brag about a 25 year design life, so let us see about that 🙂

        • Hmm, I’m not sure about those claims. How long does it take to dry a load of clothes with the condensate type? My understanding here in the states is that they run off of 110 volts, which is 1/2 the electricity and take over twice as long to dry. They call them ventless dryers here.

          Can you explain how this advance in technology works and how it’s more efficient? I mean, it takes heat to cause the water to evaporate, and when it does, it needs to be removed from the dryer.

          It is true that front loaders use less water, but it’s water that gets dirty clothes clean, not soap. Less water is fine as long as the clothes aren’t really dirty to begin with.

          • Hi Ryan,

            There is no magic involved 🙂 A condensation dryer still heats the clothes to aid in evaporation of the water. It just lets the warm, damp air by a cold condenser drying the air before re-heating and letting it back in. So instead of letting all the heat out of the machine it basically re-cycles the heat by using a heat-pump. The water is drained from the machine afterwards. The energy usage is less than half (maybe less than a third) of a venting dryer and by personal experience their performance is very similar (normally about 1h). According to our local consumer test institute the condensing driers are better, but it is probably mostly because the new venting driers are now the cheap low-end machines.

            You seem to over-simplify things about washing. It is obviously the right combination of water, soap, heat and mechanical movement, that gets dirty clothes clean. Top loaders have an inefficient movement pattern and uses more of the other to compensate. I was not impressed by the washing performance the single time I tried a top loader (an old robust machine at a hotel). Conversely I observed some (minor) advances in the drum design, movement patterns and washing performance between our old Bosch and new Miele. You cannot deny technology *is* advancing – and thankfully not just for how to make even cheaper crap 🙂

            Some of the old machines may be built robustly, but they are often wasting more energy and performing worse than a modern quality machine. The tricky part is getting good quality – even if you want to pay for it. I *really* support the idea of 3rd party repair and sustaining quality machines. However to be frank, some of these old resource hogs ought to be recycled 🙂

  42. This was a very good read. Now I understand why my refrigerator is still going strong after 36 years. It is a Frigidaire. And my Whirlpool stove is still going strong after 36 years. I’m one of the lucky ones I guess I think it’s terrible the way things are being made and we definitely need change I used to wish my refrigerator would break down so I could get a new color but I don’t think like that anymore I’m just happy it’s still going

  43. I have worked in contract manufacturing for 37 years and I can tell you that the problem isn’t entirely what you concluded. You got the how but not the why.

    Everything in the world is built by the lowest bidder. You couldn’t afford products made by any of these companies if they manufactured everything themselves.

    High profit margins dictate the need to offload manufacturing and cut corners with materials and construction. All of them could design and produce better products, they just will not because it cuts into profit margins.

    Engineering is a huge concern of mine, I hate to pick on the younger generation of today but GD&T and CAD are the bane of modern engineering. Parts of today have been engineered with too much complexity because we simply overthink design. Simple is better and more reliable but we buy bells and whistles.

  44. You should watch “The Light Bulb Conspiracy” and read about the Phoebus Cartel. The movie is about a guy who gets pissed at his printer because it fails after printing a fixed number of pages. He then goes back in history to understand who started it all. And it could have happened with the light bulbs.

    Wikipedia says about the Phoebus Cartel https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoebus_cartel:
    The Phoebus cartel was a cartel of, among others, Osram, Philips, and General Electric[1] from December 23, 1924 until 1939 that existed to control the manufacture and sale of light bulbs.[2]

    The cartel is an important step in the history of the global economy because it engaged in large-scale planned obsolescence. It reduced competition in the light bulb industry for almost fifteen years, and has been accused of preventing technological advances that would have produced longer-lasting light bulbs.
    […]
    The cartel was a convenient way to lower costs and worked to standardise the life expectancy of light bulbs at 1,000 hours, while at the same time raising prices without fear of competition. Members’ bulbs were regularly tested and fines were levied for bulbs that lasted more than 1,000 hours. A 1929 table lists exactly how many Swiss francs had to be paid, depending on the exceeding hours of lifetime.[6] This was not public knowledge at the time, and the cartel could point to standardization of light bulbs as an alternative rationale for the organization.

  45. When we cleared out my mother’s house the washing machine there was the same one that was there when we were young kids. Since she always kept all documentation we were able to show that, apart from regular services, the only thing that had been done to it was new brushes in the motor.
    We gave it back to Service who wanted it for their working museum.

  46. A personal example of #2 (parts being designed to fail). We had our Kenmore (Samsung) front-loading washer die a couple years ago. It was spinning away and then we heard this terrible BANG from the laundry room. When we pulled the machine apart, we discovered the spider arm (the thing that mounts the drum to the motor) had disintegrated to gravel.

    Apparently this is a known, serious problem, not just with Samsung, but with GE and probably all the other guys. The spider arms are aluminium (ostensibly so they’re lighter), but the problem with aluminium is that sodium carbonate can etch it away. Guess what’s in a lot of powdered laundry detergents, especially natural ones like we use? Sodium carbonate (AKA washing soda).

    I don’t believe the engineers are stupid; they could’ve done their research and discovered the interactions between aluminium and washing soda. The inside of a washing machine is a harsh environment, so I’m sure that materials experts have studied what chemicals harm what metals.

    A good coating of protective paint could’ve prevented this without much cost. (When we bought our replacement spider arm we made sure to spray it thoroughly with automotive paint.)

  47. When my Duet washer purchased in 2005 started banging and slamming during the spin cycle, I wasn’t concerned. I had one previous minor repair and figured I needed another one. When I called my trusted appliance repair service and described the problem, they told me they wouldn’t waste my money on a service call. They explained the infamous “Spider arm assembly” problem and that the fix was more than I would probably want to spend on a 10 year old washer. Then they explained that a 10 year old Duet washer is a washer that has had a good long run.

    I then asked which makes/models they would recommend. They told me to stay away from LG and a few others. Which whittled my list back down to the Whirlpool line. Point is, the appliance repair people will tell you which ones are the good ones and which ones to stay away from. And I know to be really, really careful using it for heavy items, which could break that assembly. I used to wash comforters and sleeping bags at home. No more! It is worth the money to take it to the laundromat.

  48. Great blog – going into my bookmarks, thanks. A comment, only because our experience is different than yours; my Wife and I have an LG front load washer and dryer, and hands down, they are the worst appliances we have ever owned. I’ve replaced the heating coil and moisture sensor on the dryer a few times, it rarely gets things dry on the 1st load. Our washing machine has the most complicated seal on the front door I have ever seen in my life. There is a drain tube on the bottom of the seal, but not much of a hole connected to it, and doesn’t like to drain. We are constantly battling that, to keep mold at bay.

    On dishwashers, thoughts on Miele? We were talked into one, and have been happy, though it’s only about six years old. Definitely expensive, but we were hoping this might be one of the you get what you pay for purchases.

    Thanks.

    • Hi Paul, thanks for the comment. I suspect that the issue with your dryer is your venting. Try unplugging your dryer from it’s vent and allow it to vent straight into the room it’s sitting in. Pull it away from the wall a ways so that it’s not sucking the exhausted air back in. I bet it will dry the first cycle go around. Almost every time if there is a dry time issue it’s venting related and not a problem with the dryer.

      Yeah, that’s the main issue with front loaders. It’s got to have that giant rubber seal in the door to keep from leaking, but it inevitably molds/mildews.

      I’ve heard good things about those Miele dishwashers, though I haven’t gone through one myself.

      Thanks for sharing!

  49. Hi Ryan, love your blog and I am glad to see that you still monitor comments! Here’s my quandary:

    Repair or Replace?

    I have a 1992 Maytag clothes dryer that needs a new motor. This is the first repair this dryer has needed. Total repair cost will be around $314. If I knew that the motor would give me another 20 years of service, this would be a no-brainer, but I don’t.
    My father-in-law has the same Maytag laundry pair that we own, and his is very lightly used (it was purchased after he and his wife retired and all their kids were gone.) Honestly, once he passes, I am tempted to snag those machines for our own home! Even though this would entail moving the machines from Wisconsin to Texas!
    But I digress – what do you advise in my case?

    Thanks for keeping up with the blog! You and your family are an inspiration.

    • $315 is a lot..more than replacement with a refurbished machine. The reality is you can find a really nice Whirlpool made dryer that will last a long time for less than half that price.

      I would probably buy a used dryer and save the money. You also could watch some youtube video’s and see how involved the motor replacement process is. There are probably only a few brackets holding it on and a wiring harness. Part is probably about $100 or a little over.

      Hope that helps!

  50. ok, dreamer, go and make a long lasting appliance and you will fail to profit because you will eliminate repeat customers. What you dream of is socialism. Look up creative destruction. Don’t get me wrong, I’m right there with you. Why should we be producing things beneath us? Because we equate jobs with products. Think of what a basic income would give us.

    • I don’t want socialism, I just want one company that builds their business on quality instead of joining their peers in producing disposable appliances.

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t see any of the big brands in the US trying to stand out on quality.

      If they want repeat business, they could handle repairs themselves like Apple does and make money that way. I guess I have a hard time believing that there is no way to run a profitable appliance business without making them disposable.

  51. This was a fun article to read and thought provoking as well.

    It does seem to just beg the question though, since there’s really only one motivator at work.

    Profit for the manufacturers based on perceived consumer demand.

    In Cuba they have cars running from the 1950’s because they had no power of choice to buy new. Old cars were built like tanks and had no electronics, so they could run forever on chewing gum and bobby-pin “fixes”.

    In the rest of the world we’ve seen a complete evolution of cars from monster-sized SUVs all the way to two person autonomous electric.

    The reason? Consumer choice.

    The manufacturers build what they can sell most profitably. That’s it.

    That’s the ONLY motivator.

    Profit margin.

    If American consumers truly wanted to buy the “Sherman Tank” appliances from the 1950’s in droves, we’d see appliance stores filled with them.

    But we don’t.

    Because consumers really want the latest “whiz bang” features at the lowest possible price.

    In order to sell for the largest profit possible, manufacturers are constantly scrambling to stay at the top of that intersection of features/lowest price.

    None of this logic takes away from the fun of your article, but I just don’t believe it’s any more complicated that that.

    Spence

    • I hear you. But I don’t think appliance manufacturers are listening to their customers. Being entrenched in the business, and through these blog posts I’ve had a lot of contact with fed-up consumers. They are sick of appliances breaking after only a few years and it’s because they are comparing the machines to ones they used to own that lasted much longer.

      I’m not seeing any response from manufacturers, and actually still seeing a decline in longevity and quality.

      I guess it could reach a fever pitch and they might respond, but it definitely seems like they are not interested in responding.

  52. No one here seems to have said it, though I’ll admit I didn’t read every reply, a washer dryer combos seem to have run an inflation-adjusted $4000 to $5000 in the 50s. I don’t even need to open Amazon to know that we’ll pay nothing like that now. Maybe we should, to reduce waste, but that’s a consumer problem, not a “manufacturers are screwing us problem”.

    http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/50selectrical.html
    http://www.aei.org/publication/appliance-shopping-1959-vs-2012/
    http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/

    • Could the same be said for Plasma or LCD tv’s? The cost always goes down eventually. It really doesn’t matter how expensive they are right now, people would pay for a basic one. Washers and dryers are one item that people do not go long without.

  53. You seem to ignore one of the most sweeping changes imposed on the appliance industry in the last 50 years: environmental regulations. The appliances of the last half century would be impossible to build today, not because of greedy companies or incompetent designers but because many of the methods and materials used then are illegal or unaffordable today. Everything from the type of paint to how it can be applied, whether or not the motor has low-lead or no-lead solder, whether the adhesives are of the low-volatile variety, considerations as whether the materials are sourced from eco-friendly, conflict-free, environmentally-sustainable vendors, and thousands of other eco-related factors have all irrevocably altered not only how something can be made but what can be made at all.

    All that costs money. The increased cost of eco-regulation must result in either lower profit margins, higher consumer costs, or both. Far from rolling in dough, many appliance companies are merely doing OK. Many have faltered only to have their names scooped up by larger entities, hence less competition. Appliance companies aren’t rolling in dough, though, so it’s not corporate greed. Doing business at all in such a regulator climate is a challenge.

    • I completely agree that environmental regulations have crimped some design elements, but that’s only a small part of it. Let’s go with glue for example. Why are refrigerator makers even using glue to hold on the seal of refrigerators? Pure foolishness. They used to be held on by screws and they rarely failed. Now the glue fails and the seals are shot and the fridge ends up in the landfill. That was a choice that had nothing to do with regulations.

      Other design elements that they don’t get a pass on are things like plastic lid switches that are glued together with zero extra support. I mean a plastic .5 cent zip tie could make the switch never break. But instead, they are glued together and fail needlessly which again gets the appliance a trip to the landfill most of the time.

      These are very subtle choices that have been made that aren’t saving any noticeable amount of money in the manufacturing process but which cause consumers to buy another appliance years before they would have otherwise. Who benefits when that happens?

  54. Ryan, I think you’re too gentle in your treatment of the appliance manufacturers. This is planned obsolescence, and it occurs due to lack of competition. The makers are treating us consumers like peasants and we need to shake up their hold over this industry.

    I have a 50-year-old GE refrigerator. Still works fine. Items inside collect a little more moisture than I’d like, so I was thinking about replacing it. Then I decided, naw, I’m much better off replacing the foam around the door and fixing the problem. I’m saying no thanks to those oligopolists who sell all the modern junk.

  55. Just selling Mother’s house (passed on at 97).
    We lived there since 1954, at which time my parents bought a Moffat (built locally in Ottawa Ontario) cooking stove. Still works 100% today, and have only changed top burners.
    I will attempt to enclose a picture, taken yesterday.
    Only damage is one partially broken oven drawer handle, otherwise not a scratch.
    The stove will go with the house, and I fear that renters (the buyer is a s— landlord) will not appreciate what they have.
    A sad day for a family who have had good appliances, and treated a 100-year old home with love and care.
    Dan
    Can’t seem to insert nor copy pic – sad, really amazing pic

  56. Hi, Ryan…what a wealth of knowledge you have gleaned and how wonderful to help all of us and the planet by sharing! I hope you can point me in the right direction. The repairman who performed an “autopsy” on my 10-year-old Maytag refrigerator (bottom-freezer) has proclaimed it “dead” as a result of a freon leak. For nearly three weeks!!!!…I have “lived out of” a Styrofoam ice chest while I’ve researched the best replacement to buy. It is a “jungle out there” filled with major, repetitive consumer complaints that seem to cover all the brands on the market. You know, Ryan, I never cared for camping…yet I feel as though I’m camping in my own home now. Furthermore, I simply can not stand to Internet-research bottom-freezer refrigerators one more time! Where shall I turn?

    • I would encourage you to go with either a side by side GE or Whirlpool fridge, or a regular top freezer style fridge if you can swing it space wise. GE and Whirlpool seem to make the best refrigerators in my experience. I hope that helps!

  57. Absolutely agreed!!! That is why I am buying used appliances. I know if I am lucky enough I can buy an appliance that will last longer than new ones.

  58. I am so glad I came across this post and your site. We are on the hunt for a new refrigerator and have been searching for months. We can’t seem to get a straight answer from anyone about the most reliable. We were considering GE but now they have gone downhill. Given that I don’t need a tv in my fridge,Is there one you would recommend? We really just want an ice maker and water dispenser included. Thank you so much for your open and honest insight!

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