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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.