How long do your appliances last?

My washer has become a sullen teenager, leaving an occasional, unremovable streak of rust on random areas my clothes. I didn’t realize this until recently. Actually, I had assumed the kids had left a funky pen in their pocket and it was washed with our comingled laundry. Thank goodness my spouse figured it out; otherwise, with my luck, I’d have some ‘splainin’ to do.

Obeying the stereotype of being a late-30s guy with tools, I took the washer apart. The agitator was fine, but there was a nickel-sized spot of rust on the inner spire basket. It’s not something I’d be confident sanding out and covering with Krylon (that sacred knowledge is gained when I turn 42), so the whole piece needs to be replaced. I priced parts at about $200, half of the original cost of the washer.

I’m sorry, Jim, I’m afraid
I can’t wash that

Thus begins the walk down the slippery slope of wanton consumerism. For $200, I fix a teenage washer that may have other areas of rust or wear. For $500, I can buy a new, energy- and water-efficient washer with more capacity and a warranty. For $1,200, I can buy one of those HAL-9000 washers named after legends. If the marketing is to believed, the appliances summon angels to make my colors brigher, whites whiter and tropical fish fishier. (Optional fish feeder and fish pedestal not included.)

Consumer Reports had a washer and dryer issue in February. While I admire their attempt to provide useful information, it’s not as helpful as I’d like. For example, I’ve found that it’s incredibly difficult to match up the model numbers to the specific units they list. The methodology has changed, too. Is “average washing capability” necessarily bad? Too bad I can’t compare it to my current washer, before the rust streaks appeared.

As I perused Consumer Reports’ site, I came across their 2003 article on repairing versus replacing. It’s an eye-opener. For example, if a washer breaks in the first four years of ownership, they recommend fixit it; if it breaks 5-7 years, they recommend you consider fixing it; otherwise, they suggest replacing it. They have the same timeframes for dryers, dishwashers and refrigerators.

Their thinking apperas to be predicated on improving technology and the availability of parts. In the case of my washer, units manufactured after 2004 are required to be much more energy and water efficient. Still, looking beyond the washer, my dryer, dishwasher, and refrigerator are thirteen, seven, and thirteen years-old, respectively. I’ve done a little maintenance on each.

  • Dryer: I cleaned all twenty serpentine feet of lint exhaust with one of those special tools I was compelled to acquire when I turned 35. It worked a lot better after that was done. It’s due again soon, I’m sure. If it totally crapped out, I’d buy an electric one.
  • Dishwasher: I just re-tined the racks and sanded out some rust spots. If there’s one appliance my spouse will never let me forget she hates, it’s this. However, she doesn’t hate it enough to buy another one before it dies.
  • Refrigerator: The icemaker clogged up a few months ago, but I just had to thaw it out. I vacuum out the coils once or twice a year, usually after fishing out all the toys my kids wedge under it.

Do most folks expect only eight years out of a major appliance?

19 thoughts on “How long do your appliances last?”

  1. All of my appliances were bought when the condo was built – 13 years ago. Everything still works. The microwave had a bit of an attack several years ago (it would not let me use the numbers 1-6. Quite the handicap on a microwave). I had it fixed. I should have replaced it.

    I hate my stove. The burners all tilt like playground slides. The oven never worked right so now I use two toaster ovens and keep the big oven for storage. I’ve said that if there is any money left over after the redecorating, it’s going to be for a new stove.

    The hot water heaters in the building are expiring one by one – some with fairly creative revamping of surrounding carpet and drywall of their units and the ones below them. Just yesterday my neighbors convinced me that while things were already in upheavel and before the new carpet goes in, I should replace the hot water heater. So… The stove money will buy a hot water heater.

    I hate the dishwasher and the refrigerator is ugly. So, I’m guessing the next to go is the stacked washer/dryer.

    Appliances are built to bite you in the ass. (I can never remember if that quote is from Shakespeare or the Bible.)

  2. Just a tangent… I read a book over the weekend in which there was a magic ring that let the wearer talk to inanimate objects. Just think how much worse the decision would be if you could hear the washer crying as you talked of replacing it 😉

  3. What was the tool you used to clean out the lint exhaust on the dryer? Do you go in from the outside end and clean it without disconnecting it? I’ve been putting off this chore for quite a while.

  4. > What was the tool you used to clean out the lint exhaust on the dryer?


    > Do you go in from the outside end and clean it without disconnecting it?

    On my house it works best going from the inside out. It’s not very graceful, especially since the lint clogs stuff up pretty good, but after three passes, the dryer works great.

  5. > The microwave had a bit of an attack several years ago

    That’s the one appliance that CR doesn’t ever recommend fixing. Our built-in microwave, part of the oven, is useless.

    > I hate my stove. The burners all tilt like playground slides.

    I feel your pain. If there’s one appliance I truly hate, it’s my Jenn-Air cooktop. The electric?!?? grilling section was totally useless to me, and I finally tossed it in favor of the additional two burners. Oh, how I lust for a gas cooktop or one of those flat panel jobbers that are easy to wipe clean. Or a fifth burner!

    KB> magic ring that let the wearer talk to inanimate objects

    That would be pretty neat. On the other hand, I probably don’t want to know what the stovetop is saying to the oven.

  6. I expect more than 4 years of good service. I’d consider 8 to be acceptable, but I’d expect good appliances to last longer.

    On the washer side, we’re very happy with our Frigidaire front-loader. Note that you can probably get a check from the water company.

    I just did the washer/dryer thing for our ski place. Manufacturers make different models for different stores, so, as you’ve noticed, it’s really hard to even find the one that you want.

  7. My fridge and microwave are now 27 years old and both are still going strong. There’s a top-loading washing machine that was a “hand-me-down” in our family that lasted over 30 years; when it eventually gave indications that it was about to break down spare parts were no longer available. My parents’ clothes dryer is nearing its thirtieth birthday.

    Of course they were all built in the days before Australian manufacturers discovered the concept of “planned obsolescence” and so probably aren’t indicative of the potential life times of
    current white goods, but lifetimes of this length are what I (probably hopelessly) *expect* to be normal.

    The vast majority of my stereo is nearing its fourtieth birthday (it was a wedding gift to my parents) and still works; I am on my third CD player, however.

    Saying “they don’t make them like they used to” seems somewhat appropriate here 🙂

  8. FWIW, one thing I’ve heard is that those flat top stoves can be annoying because your pots and pans probably aren’t truly flat.

    I hate my stove too. 🙂

  9. I was eyeing one of the flat-top stoves in the Reading Room this morning. That would probably set of a cascade of kitchen remodeling…

  10. We opted for a GE top-loader, conventional agitator. Our “pass-through” space limited the size of unit we could install.

    I’m impressed with how long Steve’s hand-me-downs have lasted.

  11. We tossed our washer out when it started having rust problems. We bought a brand new Fisher Paykel set. Guess what? The tub is not metal and it spins up to 1000 rpm, so it sucks most of the water out of the clothes, giving your clothes less time in the dryer.

    We had a problem with one piece last year that ended up costing us $11. I can’t remember what it was. The set is about 4 years old.

  12. We just started having the rust streak problem in our 5-yr-old Kenmore(s) – haven’t figured out if it’s the washer or dryer. We would presume it to be the washer, but we do have a visible (though small) spot of rust around the vent grille at the back of our dryer’s bucket. We are trying to determine which unit is the culprit, and then will decide between repair or replace depending on whether I think I can get to the cause to fix it.

    My wife would love a new set of front-loaders, but I would not love the ~$2000 price tag. I agree with Steve that manufacturers are designing in planned obsolescence (in most appliances – my Sony TV only lasted 4 years), and I think it sucks.

  13. Consumer Reports’ ‘repair or replace’ estimate is about 5-6 years. Warranties on dryers typically expire after 1 year, though for an extra fee, you can extend it to three years. Since the motivation behind extended warranties is profits, one may infer manufacturers expect them to become expensive to maintain after that.

  14. jim wrote (April 18, 2005 09:45 AM):
    > What was the tool you used to clean out the lint exhaust on the dryer?


    The link doesn’t work anymore and I really need to know what the tool was so that I can use it myself.

  15. Our washer (a 14 year old Kenmore) stopped spinning last night. I can hear it try to spin – it seems like whatever connects the motor to the basket isn’t in place – maybe there is a belt? Based on the comments about repair/replace, it seems like a 14 year old washer should just be replaced. But if it’s as simple as replacing a belt, maybe repairing is worth it? On a side note, just a few years into having this washer the little plastic thing that tells the spinner to stop when you lift the lid broke. I repaired that for awhile with a wooden chopstick. (pretty creative, I thought) Eventually a friend took the apparatus out so it just keeps spinning when you lift the lid. I was not impressed with the quality of the parts in this washer way back then (must be at least 10 years ago now). I’d have no clue how to repair this spinning problem, so I’d have to call a repair person.

  16. Just cashed in the old Kenmore clothes dryer; it was 36 yrs old. Kept feeding it replacement parts stripped from a neighbor’s discarded Whirlpool. It sounded like the motor was finally dying and I probably would have fixed it again but the wife talked me into a new one. I chose a Whirlpool.

  17. I hate to break this news to you Rick but Kenmore clothes dryers are made by Whirlpool. Good machines. Should last awhile.

  18. This is a great thread. Whirlpool Duet washer and dryer have both been cantankerous for about the past 6 months and I think the dryer just bit the dust today. I was trying to find out how long people expect their appliances to last nowadays. These are 6 years old, looks like we’ll be replacing.

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