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How long do you expect your kitchen appliances to last?

Faulty household appliances

You’ve bought a new small home appliance, it didn’t cost a great deal but it’s developed a fault. Do you take it back and complain, or do you just resign it to the recycling pile?

We buy more than 59 million small electrical products each year (yes, that’s a lot of kettles and toasters) and while the majority of the work as promised, others miss the mark.

In our latest small appliances reliability survey we reveal the brands that you’ve said are most reliable. Our results have also shown that you expect your small kitchen appliances (that’s your toaster, kettle, coffee machine, breadmaker, food processor or stand mixer, and iron) to last longer than they actually do.

Reliable kitchen appliance favourites

My favourite, the toaster, for example is expected to put in more than eight years of hard-toasting-graft, when in reality most last around five and a half years. Stand mixers last around 10 years, according to the data you’ve provided us with, but you expect them to last double that. And when it comes to the large scale appliances, some of you have experience of very long-serving appliances.

But are our expectations for small appliances too high, and why do we expect them to last so long?

Have we been brought up on long-lasting sturdy appliances that have stood the test of time or are we now a nation of time-saving gadget loves that rely on a kitchen full of small electrical to help with breakfast, rather than using the trusty cooker hob and grill to boil the kettle and toast the bread.

Great expectations of gadgets

Of all the product areas we survey, quite a few are actually fairly reliable. With irons for example, there isn’t much difference in reliability between the brands we asked about. Food processors have a good shelf life as do stand mixers.

Toasters have better reliability than maybe a lot of us would expect (we get a lot of member comments on toasters via our customer reviews tab) . Your feedback usually relates to the evenness of toasting and performance, rather than actual faults

Kettles seem to be the main culprit for inconsistent reliability, and this is one product that we replace quite a bit, and quite quickly after it breaks, not surprising really considering 95% of you own one. Maybe we just can’t cope without a cuppa.

So, what do you think about small appliance reliability? Has your toaster broken in the middle of breakfast, or did your kettle  cut out just as you were desperate for a cuppa. Tell us about your reliable appliances and which ones have lasted the test of time.

Comments

Regarding appliances, Which? surveys and customer comments.

I have made enquiries and a friend who deals with very large databases and their manipulation tells me that the biggest cost would be the one-off interface design which he believes would be £25-50K. It may even be possible to buy this interface off the peg. Database storage is cheap. Given an existing web presence and a million subscribers getting the design panel and road-tested before release would be simple.

I have added to the original idea to incorporate added value for Which? subscribers such as record keeping:

1. For insurance purposes all entered details of your equipment will be off site. If fields are made available a scan of the receipt and the guarantee could be entered. The guarantee is an interesting one as possibly Which? might have a facility where the details of the purchaser required for registration are electronically sent to the necessary Company.

2. Far improved data on what members own and longevity of products used – by actual model. This hopefully will make reliability more important than purely price.

3. Which? surveys will become much more detailed. If 6 members say theKenwood kMix SJM 042 is very poor and only ten are known to own them that is a significant figure possibly warranting a Best Buy cancellation – possibly. Incidentally there are three colours of this particular kettle but only one is listed as a best buy unlike the Opula where all 4 coloured kettles are in the best buy list. ?!
Also this thread illustrates the sense of frustration when one buys a Best Buy
http://www.which.co.uk/home-and-garden/kitchen/reviews/microwaves/next-red-800w/customer-views/

4. Surveys can to a major degree can be replaced as with, for most products, a response for 30 being required for statistical purposes it should be easier. The survey addressed to respondents might have more useful questions on usage which I rate as a important question. After all e-reader usage or camcorder usage must vary widely and have a bearing on longevity.

5. Warning notices issued by manufacturers can be distributed quickly via Which? to up-to-date e-mail addresses. Think carbon-monoxide warnings on ovens.

6. Data on service calls and faults, and costs could be entered and would be a treasure trove for finding long term weaknesses.

7. Which? giving details on simple maintenance such as replacing batteries in small consumer goods could save expense and waste. Even finding a good source of batteries can be difficult. Sony PRS 350 e-reader battery replaced for a tenner. Officially a non-replacement part!

I think overall this would revamp Which? as obviously with the Internet the ability to mobilise all the relevant experiences from members exists. More interactive, more relevant, and ultimately with the record keeping more useful for members who don’t keep all their receipts and guarantees in a handy place.

I find that I often do not agree with Which? tests, and in particular with reasons that something is not a best buy. Like sat-nav directions, they have to be measured against common sense. This involves going to a shop, looking at the product and seeing how it measures up against how you are going to use it. ie. does this thing look like it was designed by an engineer or a “designer” out of art college with no knowledge of material strengths and characteristics or of forces. However, this doesn’t help with hidden defects, which become apparent after time. Such as the crazy system in newer Bosch dishwashers, which measure water in and out with turbine counters that “gum” up in hard water, stop the machine working and need replacing. Not a robust system! Do Which? have supplies of very hard and soft water to test things like dishwashers, washing machines, kettles and irons? Can they cycle them through an acceptable lifecycle: say 3500 washes (10 years) or 20,000 kettle boils (5years)? What do they consider to be a “normal” appliance life? This is the sort of testing manufacturers should do. Maybe Which? should go into Quality Assurance ie. ask the manufacturers if they can monitor their testing program and results, rather than try and repeat some of it. After all this is what the Health authorities do with pharmaceuticals. Of course a feature of health authority approval is that the manufacturer has to report every adverse occurrence, and what they did about it. Food for thought?

As with all things costs must have a bearing on what can be achieved and I do have concerns about the testing regime. Very interesting point on hard and soft water testing though and as for the Bosch designed to fail quite gob-smacking . One thing, unlike pills is that washing machines are assembled from many bought in parts and the quality control on these parts can vary or at a later stage be sourced from a cheaper supplier. So even early full testing can be misleading, that caveat aside still seems a good idea.

The news on the washing machines and the 60c wash quite shocked me. And the main part of that was the fact that Which? was not testing fully.

I believe Which? has contracted out testing for some years and my concern is that non-technical people are commissioning tests – probably cost shared with EU consumer associations – without necessarily having a grasp of the whole. As has been revealed in the EU clothing at medical establishments is washed on site so the fact that most British nurses are having to clean their uniforms means that in the UK washers doing hygienic washing is actually much more important.

Stain removal is but one reason for washing but we also have viruses, bacteria, insects, pollens to be considered let alone ease of use and wash cycles.

One interesting line of inquiry not yet pursued is why the wash cycle profiles differ so much with the Beko’s being substantially more reassuring to my untechnical eye. Which? might usefully explore this area. For instance we are told that bed mites die at 60c after 20 minutes but I am slightly loathe to believe that bed mites are so obliging to die at round amount minutes and degrees. Perhaps they actually also die at 30 minutes if at 55 degrees. Possibly the Panasonics brief incursion to 67c actually kills them very quickly.

However whatever that reveals the idea that a 43c wash is an acceptable attempt as 60c wash is laughable and should have been spotted immediately. When are we going to see a full review of washing machines showing all their wash profiles and whether the different profiles have any appreciable effects.

Michael

When testing appliances, what is practical often needs to take priority over what is desirable. There is no point in reporting that a machine is durable if the model tested has been discontinued by the time that tests have been completed. The best that can be achieved with a washing machine, for example, is to use the machine heavily over a short time period, even though this is not representative of household use. That might make little difference when testing kettles but could be much more important with washing machines and dishwashers, where there are mechanical parts that can become stuck or blocked. It would be good to take apart every item and look for design weaknesses but that involves a lot more work and means that staff in a test lab can test fewer appliances.

Testing protocols are adapted with time. Nowadays, a significant number of washing machines are suffering from contamination by bugs – biofilms containing bacteria and/or moulds. The likely reasons are changes in detergent formulation (especially absence of bleaching chemicals), the popularity of washing at lower temperature (to save money and because low temperature washing is effective with modern detergents), and possibly less efficient rinsing. In the past, measuring cleaning performance and energy use were the top priorities, but since washing at higher temperatures helps keep machines clean, it becomes important to test the maximum temperature achieved in a wash cycle and how long this temperature is maintained for. I’m glad that Which? has reported the tests showing poor temperature control, even if this issue has not been highlighted in the past.

I am not sure how many will be aware of the procedures for testing pharmaceuticals. There is also a well established procedure for reporting problems in their use, and that has been extended to allow the public to make reports. I don’t really trust manufacturers to report problems with their own appliances and feel that there should be handled independently.

Thanks for all your feedback, I can assure you to our researchers are looking into your points. Please could we move back towards talking about your stories of long-lasting kitchen appliances, which this debate is about. Thanks.

Hmmm. Sometimes it’s difficult to guess what comments are likely to be considered acceptable. 🙂 I thought that old appliances have been covered in one or more previous Conversations.

OK. I have a Rowenta filter coffee maker that is in daily use and must be over 20 years old. The gold filter remains immaculate but the plastic body of the machine is discoloured and looks very tatty. I would gladly replace it, but the few filter coffee machines I’ve seen in shops look cheap and nasty.

Update on recent purchase of kitchen appliance from Lakeland
“We’re sure you’ll love your new goodies and your satisfaction is guaranteed with our famous, unconditional money back guarantee: if at any time or for any reason you are not completely happy with your purchases, we’ll give you a full refund with no fuss, no time limit and with free return postage. No ifs, no buts!”

Paul D. says:
26 February 2014

I bought a Kenwood Kmixer 4th January 2013. I make 2x 550g loaves 4 times a week. The mixer has just given up the ghost. For the price of them I must say I did expext it to last 5 years or so.

Mark m says:
29 May 2014

Kenwood kmix toaster used at most once a day lasted 8 months. Our old one cost £7 and was still going after 4 years. Total waste of £40.

Cotswold Puffin says:
24 June 2014

Bought 2 Philips kettles just over 3 years ago. They have been in two separate households with 2 separate patterns of use and maintenance. Both have developed leaks at exactly the same time. Philips have told me that kettles should last more than 3 years. A programme of descaling once every 4 months rather than the recommended 3 month pattern for soft water is insufficient Philips tell me and therefore they don’t want to know. If you contact Philips remember to tell them that you descaled every 3 months if your water is soft or every month if your water is hard. Be careful with their customer chat service. I was half way through writing something and they just cut me off and I lost the thread and all the text. Try the phone but expect to deal with someone who has a limited command of English. Outcome was a 10% discount voucher on an online purchase.

Cotswold – Thanks for the advice. Which particular model?

Dairylea says:
12 February 2015

I have just retired a Morphy Richards electric kettle (model no 43136) which has lasted an incredible 11 years! It still works but the inside has started to rust up. During this time it has been used on average 3 times a day. I’ve replaced the filter once and never descaled it (likely the soft water in Edinburgh helps). I’ve replaced it with a very similar looking kettle from the Morphy Richards Accents range, although I’m willing to bet this one does not last as long.

Wow, that’s had a lot of usage Dairylea – plenty of tea/coffee made through the years then! Morphy Richards kettles score really high in our annual reliability surveys 🙂

I would be reasonably satisfied if a kettle lasted for 11 years but certainly would not see this as reliable, especially when used only three times a day.

I have suggested that kettles should come with a ten year warranty. Maybe that is too radical, considering that most of us don’t expect small appliances to last long, so perhaps a five year warranty should be the target for the time being.

Why do we still have expensive kettles with only a one year guarantee?

Why doesn’t which tell us the length of the manufacturer’s guarantee in its ‘Full product specification’?

Our Krups toaster is a youngster at just 6 years old – used daily – but our Kenwood kettle is also around 11 years and used 5 or 6 times a day. It needed the base dismantling to restore a dodgy connection last year. Neither were expensive and I would have thought 6 years was a tolerable life, given cost and usage.

This working life information is extremely useful and I hope Which? will set about collecting it on a large scale. Only then might we get some perception as to how long well-made appliances can last. Then, if we feel we’ve had unreasonably short life from an appliance (lack of reasonable durability in Sale of Goods Act terms) we’ll have some facts on which to base a claim.

Guarantees are in the hands of manufacturers (extended by some retailers) and are not progressing towards reasonable durations. I doubt that anyone would give 10 years for a small appliance, but a realistic expectation might be 5 years. But how do we persuade retailers or manufacturers to move this far? Suggestions?

I had a look at the website for the brand of kettle that scored highest for reliability in the Which? reliability survey. I could not find any reference to guarantee or warranty, only how to register a product. In the absence of information, I assume that a product carries only a one year guarantee.

My first two kettles lasted a total about 30 years and were still working when I disposed of them (one became tatty and the other had very minor leak). Number three lasted a matter of months and its replacement announced its demise with a bang about a couple of years later.

If kettles can be reliable, I don’t see why we have to put up with lack of durability. My latest kettle has a three year warranty and the receipt is in a safe place, just in case.

Malcolm asks how we should persuade manufacturers and retailers that we are looking for a decent warranty (at no extra cost). Perhaps we have to ask. When I replaced my car, the top priority was to get one with a spare wheel.

John Lewis is to be commended for giving a 2 year guarantee on all electrical products and stating where longer cover is provided. Only a couple of their kettles are covered for five years, but hopefully that will change if consumers make it clear that there is a demand.

If John Lewis can tell us about longer warranties, Which? should do the same in its product reviews.

Malcolm has also given us an example of how a simple repair can prolong the life of a kettle. When cheaper products break down, they are often not economical to repair, but there is nothing to lose by trying.

Which?’s reliability does not seem very helpful. Unless i have missed the information – quire possible! – a few stars are used, but no information as to how long a product / brand has generally lasted without breakdown. Reliability needs quantifying. I cannot believe with all the European testing and consumer surveys that go on that some such data does not exist. Please point me towards it.

I expect that it is possible to quantify the reliability of basic electric kettles. Even though some people may use them far more frequently than others do, that might average out.

The reliability of washing machines would be very difficult to quantify because they are reliable and some components will wear out. The number of operating cycles needs to be taken into account.

Fridges and freezers could be easier to compare because they are in constant use.

A big problem that was mentioned earlier is that any product may contain different components from one of the same make and brand. This is very obvious with laptops because you can check which brand of hard drive, battery and other components the manufacturer has used. Many manufacturers use parts made by other companies, depending on price and availability. I have seen two extreme examples of a particular brand of component failure. One was 100% failure of a batch of Sony hard drives in and the other was Microsoft-branded keyboards, where most of a batch of 80 had been replaced at least once after little use. Recalls often relate to some examples of a product, and this can relate to the source of a particular component.

The big problem with reliability assessment is that long term testing is no use if the product is going to be discontinued before the results are available.

Oops, that should read: “The reliability of washing machines would be very difficult to quantify because they are MECHANICAL and some components will wear out.”

Life in terms of cycles in some appliances seems an approriate measure, like mileage in cars.

In many cases of early failure this can be down to a single component, that production should rectify.

There is no reason why because a product is discontinued its replacement should not be rated for durability. A decent manufacturer will build on knowledge of products and not totally redesign a new version. My guess is that real manufacturers (as opposed to those who import and rebrand others products) can produce products of consistent durability from experience. Certainly that was my experience in manufacture. So we should be able to build a picture of reliability – or durability as I’d prefer.

As we learned in another Convo, some machines record the number of washing cycles but the manufacturers don’t make this available to the user. 🙁

I agree that it’s useful to know about reliability even if a product is discontinued. That could help anyone who wants to pursue a claim under the Sale of Goods Act.

Brand durability may be a useful indicator of durability but obviously it is only one factor to consider in choosing a product.

I have never been keen on brand loyalty as a way of deciding on a purchase. When Which? started nominating ‘Don’t Buys’ we learned that different models from the best known brands could be ‘Best Buys’ and ‘Don’t Buys’. The introduction to the Don’t Buys information makes interesting reading.

I have a Cona coffee maker that is at least 30 years old and I absolutely love it’s design. I would like to include a photograph but as they are still available to buy and parts are still available you can view it on Cona.co.uk – Glass Coffee Makers. It works based on the vacuum principle with an electric element. It makes lovely coffee, and is a very attractive addition to my kitchen.

wavechange – from April 2013 on the Continent

” Although some European countries have anticipated (Belgium, Netherlands, Finland), the CEC wants the European Union – much too cautious on the subject – finally grasp of this issue. To enable consumers to make an informed choice event, the CEC recommends that each device has to minimum this information:
Life: the approximate number of wash cycles, printed pages, of kilometers … should be on the label and the duration of the legal guarantee of conformity lengthened accordingly. She is now 2 years (during the first 6 months, the consumer does not have to prove the fault) and should move gradually to 5 years (the period during which the consumer does not bring extensive evidence to 2 years) if the law of Europe Ecology Greens proposal is accepted. In France, there is also a legal guarantee against hidden defects, it is 2 years from the discovery of the hidden defect.”

Thanks for this Dieseltaylor. The fact that France is going to bring in what is effectively a two year guarantee is the best evidence that consumers in some European countries are going to be better served in future.

We have the Sale of Goods Act which appears to give the consumer protection but in practice rarely achieves anything unless we fight for our rights.

It would be good if Which? could do an article on forthcoming consumer protection in Europe.

Prompted by your recent posts, perhaps we should look at protection afforded to consumers in the EU. This article has been in my reading list for months:
europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/shopping/shopping-abroad/guarantees/index_en.htm

What I remain uncertain about is the legal situation in the UK, with both the European legislation and the Sale of Goods Act.

Excellent link wavechange.

The EU legislation mentions that your cover cannot be reduced so I think both the national rules SoGa and this legislation can be used.

They do warn that some countries have a two month period to give notice of a fault – I doubt this applies in the UK. Perhaps Which? will confirm the extent of time of the cover.

I cannot find any mention of EU protection on the Which? website.

My priority remains to look for products with a long warranty provided by the manufacturer or retailer. That should remove much of the hassle if something goes wrong.

I think there may be confusion over the EU legislation. As I understand it, it is not a compulsory manufacturers guarantee but a trader’s (retailer’s) obligation under law. The UK equivalent is the Sale of Goods Act. If this is so, then the UK has better protection – 6 years (5 Scotland) then the EU 2 year version. Please tell me if I am wrong.

The EU legislation says:
“The two-year guarantee period starts as soon as you receive your goods. In some EU countries you must inform the seller of the fault within two months of discovering it otherwise you may lose your right to the guarantee.

Within six months from receipt of the goods, you just need to show the trader that they are faulty or not as advertised. But, after six months in most EU countries you also need to prove yourself that the defect already existed on receipt of the goods, for example, by showing that the defect is due to the poor quality of materials used.”

Consumer protection through the law or by commercial warranty seems to me to be a key responsibility of Which? to keep us informed about and to campaign for improvements. It would be useful if Which? gave a clear statement of the current situation, progress on extended warranties, effective use of the Sale of Goods Act and the ramifications of revisions to consumer law.

My cheap kettle from Asda lasted six months. When I looked at the base, I noticed that the connecters were just thin bits of bent copper which had no chance of lasting for long ; so I guess you get what you pay for. There was no quality in the manufacturing of this product. I will try a John Lewis kettle next.

I brought a Morphy Richards kettle from R&I Staceys in Rustington. I have had it for 5 years now and its still going strong. I use Brita cartridges and Descale the kettle every three months.

Paul Burns says:
18 February 2017

Our Russell Hobbs Easyfill (Model 19980) gave up the ghost today. It tripped the circuit breaker while heating water and then wouldn’t work after power was restored. So it lasted only thirty months in a two-person household despite regular descaling and anti-furring coil. Very disappointed.

Not so many years it was easy to replace the element of a kettle but now these are generally in the base, so failure means buying a new kettle. I have a couple of Russell Hobbs kettles that came with a three year guarantee (two years plus an extra year’s cover when registered).

We need Which? to tell us about guarantee periods when they test products. It incredible that there are kettles costing over £100 with only a one or two year guarantee.

The Consumer Rights Act provides legal redress for 6 years (5 in Scotland) if a product, considering its price for example, does not last as long as is reasonable. We should put effort in to using this law, until we get products protected by better guarantees. Which? should (well. in my opinion) be helping consumers by seeing the act is properly observed by retailers. Just because it might be a little difficult is no excuse to turn your back on it.