Appliances: They Don’t Make ’em Like They Used To.

December 6, 2010


Higher Price, Shorter Life.

Is it just my bad luck, or does it seem like home appliances aren't built that well anymore?   We remodeled our home back in 2000, so I have an easy time-line to measure the life of all of those expensive new  appliances that we put into the house.   In the span of 10 years, this is what we have had to repair or replace:

  • Refrigerator (replaced).
  • Dishwasher (replaced).
  • Clothes dryer (repaired and finally replaced).
  • Microwave (repaired and replaced).
  • Double Oven (repaired twice, and is now on its death-bed).

What's left? Only the clothes washer and gas cooktop!  And the latter doesn't have any moving parts, so you'd think it should last a few years.   Granted, with a family of 5, we use our appliances quite a bit.   But we didn't buy crap when we remodeled — we went for high-end GE, Whirlpool, KitchenAid, Thermador…  Not Bosch or Sub-Zero mind you, but still expensive stuff.   So what's going on?

Workhorses of the Past.

I see a lot of houses in my travels, and I'm constantly amazed at the number of old workhorse appliances that are still chugging along.  Some are even 50-60 years old…. or more!   They are ugly as sin, but they still work.  I still remember the old oven in my parent's home that got a TON of use, and was still working fine after 20+ years.   So why is the new stuff breaking down so quickly?

From my discussions with a few appliance repairmen (and I've gotten to know them pretty well lately), there are two factors — first, appliance are indeed made more cheaply.  What was once made of metal is now cheap plastic, and plastic stuff breaks much easier.    Second, appliances are getting much more complex.  My dishwasher had to be replaced because the computer module failed.  Since when did a dishwasher need a computer???   Just wash the stinkin' dishes already!  How complicated does that have to be?

Get An Extended Warranty.

I guess the moral of this rant is that it pays to get an extended warranty for your more expensive appliances (you can probably pass on the microwave, because the warranty costs about as much as the unit).  The first repair appointment essentially pays for most, if not all, of the cost of the warranty.

And if your luck with appliances is anything like mine, you will have that first repair appointment…because they truly don't make 'em like they used to.

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  1. Hans on December 6, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    In addition to appliances, the quality of the repair technicians has deteriorated. Having had a $800 Bosch microwave break after one year, I’m not ashamed to put a decent Kenmore in place. It’s going to be tossed every 5 years anyway. I’m not even sure having an extended warranty helps.

  2. Michael on December 6, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    Does anyone have a reputable repair company to call? We have had 3 appointments ignored (techs never showed up and never called) from 3 SEPARATE companies.

    Our 15 year old Kitchenaid Convection ovens are doing great; our 12 year old Dacor cooktop and downdraft are limping along and NEED to be fixed if I can get someone to show up; cost to replace is about $4000; I would love to know how much to fix if I can actually get an estimate.

    Our Bosch dishwasher (purchased for $50 at a Los Altos teardown sale) is flawless; was never used before we bought it and I installed it myself.

    Craigslist is a great resource for people who don’t want to pay full price and some serious bargains to be had out there if you look.

  3. Jim on December 7, 2010 at 4:19 am

    Try Peninsula Appliance Repair. I had them repair my fridge and cooktop — albeit when they were under home warranty protection. I don’t know how expensive the repair would have been without insurance, but they do have good reviews on Yelp.

  4. CE on December 9, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    I’ve had excellent service from Otto’s Appliance repair in Millbrae.

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