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Does reliability top your list of appliance ‘must haves’?

Inside a dishwasher

If you buy an unreliable appliance, you could soon end up shelling out on repair bills. But what matters to you most when buying an appliance? How well it works, the price tag, or how reliable it is?

In September, 14,770 Which? members filled in our online survey about the kitchen appliances they own that are up to six years old, including dishwashers, cookers and vacuum cleaners.

We found that top-end brand Miele excelled with our members, coming top in seven of the nine categories it appears in. Bosch and Neff also had good results with two wins each, while Hoover didn’t fare so well. As a result, I’ve made a mental note to explain the irony to my parents of referring to their Miele vacuum as ‘the Hoover’.

Performance vs reliability vs price?

Maybe one day I’ll have my own dream kitchen, picked straight from the pages of the Miele catalogue, but right now it’s out of my price range.

Usually I try to find the best appliance I can afford, while reliability comes top of my list of required features. I also know that sometimes it makes sense to stretch the budget a bit further if I know I can reduce the chances of spending loads on repairs in the future.

Looking after the pennies…

So, that’s me with my sensible head on – but now it’s confession time. Recently I had to get my malfunctioning integrated dishwasher replaced. The plumber warned me that if I chose a different model, I might have to pay a carpenter to get it installed as well. So for an easy life I invested in the same inexpensive dishwasher that I wouldn’t really recommend to anyone.

Then there are the appliances I simply had to have because it was love at first sight. My beloved iRobot Roomba vacuum has had a poor battery life almost from the start, and now can only manage my living room rug before sadly beeping to a halt.

I admit that if I put together all the money I’ve spent on unwise home appliances over the years, I’d be a good way towards being able to afford my ideal Miele kitchen. I guess that’s the price you pay for not putting reliability first. How do you weigh up performance, reliability and price when you’re buying a new appliance? Does your heart ever rule your head?


I avoid buying anything that is likely to be unreliable based on the experience of friends and family, Which? reports and online reviews. I prefer to examine prospective purchases, looking for anything that might be fragile, difficult to keep clean or might look dated in a few years.

With electrical appliances I try not to overload them or run them for long periods. With the washing machine, for example, I let the motor cool down before putting on a second load.

Perhaps the exception proves the rule and I was one who had a couple of problems with a Miele vacuum cleaner. Fortunately these happened when the machine was under guarantee.

Nollaig has mentioned the problem of failure of rechargeable batteries. I have had two hand-held vacuum cleaners and four cordless drills become useless because of this. With some items such as cordless shavers I have managed to solder in replacement batteries but often it is difficult to source the correct size. Even if they are available, the cost is often too high to make repair worthwhile.

Roger Rowley says:
18 April 2014

I bought a 2nd hand dishwasher from a charity shop for £50.00p in feb 2013 and have had absolutely no problem with it what-so-ever. IF it does break down the repair/ call out charges will outstrip the original £50.00p cost so therefore i will seek out another 2nd hand dishwasher at around the the cost as the existing machine

Reliability and performance are the key requirement for us, based on past experience (not reliable, because sources of manufacture change) and mainly Which? test results balanced to some degree against price. Out Miele dishwasher finally stopped working properly after 12 years daily service. We found a replacement Miele on line for £500, including 6 months consumables and removal of old machine. Unusually (actually uniquely) for us we took up a 10 year warranty for all parts and labour, or a replacement machine, for £149.

My gripe is the poor warranty period most manufacturers offer. We should be entitled to expect at least 6-7 years trouble-free working lives for “normal priced” appliances (not the cheap ones). Repairs can often be excessively expensive – to replace the circulating pump on my Miele dishwasher would have been around £400+, nearly as much as the new machine.

Why does Which not a) publish what should be reasonable lives and b) campaign for manufacturers or retailers to include better warranties at no extra cost (John Lewis do it for TVs). This might also help Sale of Goods Act claims.

William France says:
19 December 2012

Motorists have voted with their feet (sorry about the oxymoron). In the 1960s you were lucky if an exhaust pipe lasted a year and a day (the limit of the guarantee). Other parts were not far behind and after 4 years, enough rust could be on the car to make economical repair out of the question. Enter reliable, competitively priced cars from Japan. Now a car can often go ten years and still have an appreciable resale value!
If everyone paid as much heed to domestic appliances every machine would be as reliable as a Miele. You would only be paying extra, should you decide to do so, for style and convenience

The motor industry could teach appliance manufacturers a lot. Despite the fact that cars can easily be abused by their drivers, manufacturers often offer a longer warranty than we get for other products. Many people have had generous goodwill support after warranties have expired and I am one of them.

Though I agree that the Japanese cars were reliable, the early ones rusted just like their British and European competitors. Remember the early Datsuns, for example.

I regard reliability as the most important feature when purchasing appliances. Another important dimension, which is rarely commented upon or assessed, is repairability.

I agree with you John, but there are some big problems.

Many smaller items are made to be easy to assemble and are consequently difficult to dismantle.

It can be very difficult to find anyone to tackle repairs on anything other than large domestic appliances.

Parts are sometimes not held by manufacturers, to the extent that retailers sometimes have to replace rather than repair items under guarantee.

Rather than replacing a faulty component costing 10p, it is common to replace circuit boards at cost that is usually much higher than the value of the board, add labour, and add VAT to the cost.

In many cases the cost of repair makes it not economically viable to have the work done.

It used to be commonplace for householders to tackle repairs of domestic goods. In many cases that could still be done if there was a will to do this. Some parts are readily available from specialist Internet traders. I would certainly be interested in an assessment of repairability in Which? reports but I guess there would be more interest in whether a product is available in alternative colours.

I’m all for repairability to keep appliances functioning. All mine are repairable, but the issue is whether it is economic. My dishwasher repair – above – would cost nearly as much as a new machine, so no contest there. Call-out and labour costs can make it uneconomic. Do it yourself if you are competent. I’m all for dependable brands but backed up by a long warranty – if the manufacturer wants me to buy their appliance, then if its as good as they say, give me the support. car makers have been forced in to doing it.

For motor vehicles I believe their is legislation requiring the manufacturer to have parts available for a fixed number of years. A similar requirement should be placed on domestic appliance manufacturers.
Many years ago I purchased an antique replica telephone with a walnut body and gold plated fittings, from BT. It needed it repairing just outside the guarantee period and required a part. Astonishingly, BT could not repair it even for a fee, could not supply any parts and would not even divulge the name of the manufacturer they had commissioned to produce it.
Perhaps Which? could do an article on spare parts suppliers and domestic appliance repairers?

I have found ebay a godsend for finding obsolete parts, products and instruction manuals.

We seem quite lucky with cars, with manufacturers’ spares, replica parts and no shortage of people willing to carry out repairs. It used to be easy to find parts for old gas appliances too, but that’s probably not the case now.

I believe that certain trade bodies recommend that members hold spares a fixed period but I am not aware of any legislation.

Katharine Fussell says:
21 December 2012

Over 20 years ago I bought a Kirby vacuum cleaner at great expense. It’s still going strong, very efficient and my only complaint is that now I’m old I find it heavy to carry upstairs.

Reliability is a factor, but only one. No point in having a device that would go on forever if it is difficult to use, or doesn’t do a good job or is a lot of trouble to set up or clean afterwards, Then reliability issue never arises, because you don’t use it very much. I like to look at reviews (Which?, Amazon etc.) but of course they often reflect people’s early impressions, or may not be available at all for new models. You also often see a f”five-star/one-star” effect – reviews divided between lovers and haters. For electronic goods I think this is often poor QA by the manufacturer – if you are lucky enough to get a unit that works well, its great, but too many are faulty.

Price is an unreliable guide of course – anyone can put up their price!

I bought an AEG8800 (Best Buy) in 2006. Last week the on/off button broke. A replacement control panel would cost £140ish but I am able to fit myself. The problem is Electrolux tell me this item has been discontinued. I am faced with replacing an otherwise serviceable £800 oven after 6 years. I have asked Which to add a warning to their website advising members that parts may be I available after 6 years. Some existing Best Buys have been I production for 6 years.

I imagine that a competent person could fit a suitable replacement switch. If you can take the control panel and broken part it will save the cost of a callout.

Thanks Wavechange. AEG use an array of 7 switches in a flush panel so to have to replace the whole array hence the £140 price tag. I was ready to fit the part myself but they have stopped making it. I got the oven working by bypassing the on/off button. Keeping my fingers crossed for Xmas Lunch!! Merry Christmas everyone.

Brilliant. It’s always good to hear from someone prepared to have a go. It’s not a substitute for reliable appliances but I’ve achieved more with patience, and a soldering iron than I’m ever likely to achieve with the Sale of Goods Act. 🙂

Merry Christmas.

K & S says:
13 January 2013

When we refurbished our kitchen 3 1/2 years ago we did a lot of research about reliability and energy efficiency. We decided on a Miele integrated fridge-freezer. We figured that the higher price would be offset by the longer life of the appliance. Wrong. It has broken down. We also counted on Miele for good customer service. Since the appliance is out of warranty they will only repair it if we pay, asking £117 plus parts.. We think a Miele appliance should last more than 3 1/2 years. We called their Customer Service a number of times and even called and emailed their main headquarters in Germany – to no avail. This in our opinion, is not good customer service. The product has a very poor life. Considering the trouble now to repair/replace an integrated fridge-freezer – makes us think very hard about buying any more Miele products.

Most people would give up at this point but if you can bear to be without a fridge/freezer you could make a claim under the Sale of Goods Act. You can find helpful advice and a suitable template letter on the Which? website. Best of luck, and do report back if you have any success.

If a product was manufactured in Germany I consider it a front runner for reliability and customer service. I have a variety of AEG and Miele appliances and have found them to be outstanding for all dimensions of quality. I recently purchased a Medion computer from Aldi. Although it developed a minor faults and I had to return it to Germany for repair, the customer service was gold standard. Inevitably things will go wrong from time to time but it is how you are treated on these occasions that is the measure of quality. Some years ago I had a Telechron 2000 central heating programmer installed,once again a German product. I tried to reprogram it and messed it up. I phoned the customer helpline in Germany on a Saturday morning and they put me on to an English speaking engineer who patiently explained how to reset it. That experience, to me, was the epitome of German quality ,customer service. I am surprised to learn of the bad experience of the member with the Miele appliance. The moral of the story is to be merciless in reporting your experiences through Which?.

I am another person who has had a bad experience with a Miele product. German cars don’t feature in the Which? top five brands for reliability.

Some German products are good and some are poor, just like goods made in other countries.

Product reliability is a continuing issue in a number of conversations. This reiterates an earlier view. Consumers (and their associations) could press for warranties more related to expected product life (as improved car warranties and TVs – John lewis). A start may be to ask manufacturers to declare their expected (design) life for a product. At present a one year warranty followed by a battle with the manufacturer, as in Kindle screens, is an unfair situation.

As I said above, the motor industry could teach appliance manufacturers a lot. Car manufacturers generally offer warranties of more than a year and dealers often make ‘goodwill’ contributions if something goes wrong after the warranty has expired – particularly if the vehicle has been serviced by a dealer. I was fortunate enough to be given a new engine for a three year old car.

Occasionally, retailers are helpful but I have seen little evidence of customers customers managing to pursue their rights under the Sale of Goods Act, and warranties longer than a year are the exception rather than the rule, unless these are paid for.

Once again, I ask Which? to mention warranty length in every product report and to include this as a factor when selecting ‘Best Buys’. Sadly, the Sale of Goods Act has proved unfit for its purpose.

My parents raised me to believe that buying the best was indeed “the best,” but in my lifetime I have found that buying the “best” isn’t always cost effective. It can be really difficult to find a loyal brand these days because most if not all brands are not that loyal to the buyer. Poor marketing, high claims that are often false and misleading facts help to confuse buyers completely. Then there the actual origin of manufacture. We may no longer be ruled by Maggie Thatcher but we’re still a patriotic nation expecting British things – trouble is not many brands produce in the UK any more – including Dyson and Russell Hobbs – and that’s a great pity. Yay to Numatic, even if they only make smiley, happy vacuums!

Tony Robinson says:
2 July 2017

I spent £400 on a Stove cooker which was a waste of money. I got it via AO and to be honest 11 months on I wish I had gone to ebay and bought another eye level grill cooker from a lady going into a home. I have had Stove out as the main oven cook NOTHING according to the instruction on any packet or my training as a CHEF. The engineer told me all the figures were guide lines and therefore varied from appliance to appliance. The fact that “when I was a lad” if you opened an oven at 200C you fried your eyebrows, appears no longer to be the case. I appear to have heat resistant eyebrows.

Very personal thing but I think which should start cooking food precisely as the instructions say and see what the result is. The Stove cooker requires in excess of 40% more time and 20% more heat do what we did ” back when I was a lad”

This comment was removed at the request of the user

The quality of ovens has deteriorated markedly in the last decade in my view and I can only be very concerned that Which? do not more robustly examine ovens and ranges. By this I mean strip down to components to look for weaknesses aswell as index temperature accuracy, speed to heat, and durability of physical assembly.

I suspect overall ovens have become cheaper to make and cheaper to sell but there must be some serious brands left surely. Que Choisir the French consumer body rate: Siemens HB675GBS1F
bear in mind there are ten models differing in finish, number of cooking modes, pyrolisis cleaning etc etc

Which? are reporting on new built in ovens and Samsung seem good though the John Lewis one from 2014 is the star. The only review intimates it is a re-badged Siemens.

Dave says:
23 January 2018

Been looking at the updated reliability guides, and wondered why Beko aren’t listed in the tumble dryers chart, when there’s a sample listed in the numbers. Any ideas?

I spotted this, Dave, and meant to post this link to the report: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/tumble-dryers/article/which-tumble-dryer-brand/most-reliable-tumble-dryer-brands Beko is mentioned in the notes below the table. Hopefully this will be corrected. I wonder how the reliability of one brand of dryers remains constant from year 4 to year 10.