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How long should your washing machine last?

Wrecked washing machine

How long your washing machine lasts is one of the main considerations when shopping for a new model – so how about putting expected lifetimes on washing machines?

According to research by WRAP, the average consumer expects a washing machine to last six years before it needs replacing.

It has also found that a product’s lifetime is one of the highest buying considerations, just behind reliability and quality, but more important than price. It’s something that the Which? Convo community has been discussing at length on this faulty washing machines debate.

Manufacturer warranties too short?

While washing machines do not currently come with lifetimes, they do have manufacturer warranties. However, these often cover just a one or two year period. Would you feel hard done by if your machine broke just outside this warranty period?

I would. Two years seems a much shorter time than a washing machine should last, even if I’d paid a relatively small amount of money for it, say less than £250.

Lifetimes for washing machines

One solution could be to decree that all washing machines should have a minimum lifetime, perhaps three or four years, ideally with a manufacturer warranty to match?

Or perhaps it would be better for manufacturers to apply expected minimum lifetimes to their own machines – and have the freedom to give different life expectancies to different machines?

That means if I’m in the shop, I might see a cheap washing machine for £250 that the manufacturer expects to last a minimum of two years. But next to it could be a near identical machine that costs £450 and has an expected minimum lifetime of five years. That would give me a clear basis to consider paying more for the pricier model, or to save some money but lower my expectation as to how long it will last.

Manufacturers on lifetimes

So why are lifetimes not already in place? We asked LG, Bosch, AEG, Miele and Indesit how long they would expect their own washing machines to last.

The responses vary but almost all mention the same problem – there are a lot of factors that affect the potential lifetime of a washing machine, making it very difficult to predict. Such factors include:

• Correct installation.
• Where in the house washing machine is installed (a machine may not last as long as it could do if placed in a garage without central heating).
• Over/under loading.
• Frequency of use.
• Detergent usage.

Of those that provided a figure, Miele came back with the strongest answer, saying that all their machines are tested to last 20 years. But Miele does not offer a free 20 year warranty. Instead, a small handful of models have a free 10 year warranty. Five year warranties are more common, but the remaining machines have the standard two year Miele warranty.

Indesit, which also owns Hotpoint, came back to say they’d expect their washing machines to last seven to eight years, with consumers looking to replace within five to six years to pre-empt the need to replace. The standard warranty for an Indesit/Hotpoint model is one year.

When I asked why the warranty length was so much shorter than the expected lifetime, a spokesperson from the company said that warranty length is an ongoing discussion, ‘but there are some retail outlets who like to sell their own extended warranty’. Of course, a documented expected lifetime will be very helpful when exercising your rights under the Sale of Goods Act once the warranty has expired.

Do you think that all washing machines should have a minimum lifespan, or that manufacturers should be able to set their own life expectancy? Or both?

Do you think manufacturers should give minimum lifespans to their washing machines?

Yes - manufacturers should provide minimum lifespans for their own machines (85%, 1,741 Votes)

All washing machines should have the same minimum lifespan (11%, 228 Votes)

No - manufacturers should not have to prescribe a product lifespan at all (3%, 70 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,039

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Comments
Member

Durability and economic repairability are key attributes of a decent appliance in my view, and I’d like Which? to examine and report on these aspects when comparing them. Sustainability is becoming more and more important.

Member

Economic repairability and availability of spares is certainly becoming worse. The obvious solution is to push for longer guarantees and sensibly priced extended warranties. An increasing number of products do offer these, and we could make more progress if Which? included information when reporting its product tests.

Sadly we have some products that are very cheaply made and unlikely to last much longer than the guarantee. On the other hand, paying more is not always rewarded by good reliability, but with a decent guarantee, then it is the responsibility of the retailer to deal with the problem.

Member

I would like Which? to look again at extended warranties, including multi-appliance insurances. As Ken would no doubt remind us, many people want cheap appliances and are prepared for the consequences. That should not mean we all have to of course.

Collecting data on durability and repairability is something I think a consumers’ association should be doing as a matter of course. The sooner you start, the sooner you will get some useful results. BEUC (the European consumer group’s umbrella body) say they take sustainability durability and repairability seriously. A concerted voice in the EU’s ear might not go amiss.

But are there any votes in promoting consumers needs?

Member

I’m not convinced that there is a place for cheap products that could let us down, but if we are coming out of Europe then we could insist on a minimum guarantee of 5 years for all larger or more expensive products with the exceptions of products such as phones which most people replace frequently because they become outdated.

If a product has a decent guarantee then it’s more likely to be repairable and for spare parts to remain available.

If we both cross our fingers, maybe consumer issues will be mentioned in the run up to the election. 🙂

Member

I think its strange to regard £5-600 as not worthy of a decent lifetime. If it is essential to have the latest gizmos (why?) then the older phone can be passed on to another family member.

Member

Got distracted! I meant a £5-600 device. 🙁

Member

Which? list a lot of washing machines around the £200 mark – mostly with poor scores (no surprise). No mention of whether they are well built, likely to be durable, whether they can be repaired, or the guarantee. They are not cheap if they fail relatively quickly, must be thrown away, and don’t do a good job of washing.

We often talk of “honesty”. Is it “honest” to sell such products that don’t perform well and don’t last – without pointing this out?

One got 65% overall score – a Montpellier at £219. It’s price was orginally £319. Wonder just what it actually is worth?

Member

If manufacturers were required to provide a decent guarantee, consumers would be protected from repair costs. It would not be economically viable for companies to sell machines if a significant proportion needed even one repair during the guarantee period.

Abuse is a common problem with washing machines. I wonder how many of the new £1 coins have put washing machines out of action. I wonder how many machines are replaced due to unintentional money laundering and other forms of carelessness.

I wonder how many people replace working products with new ones. Before Christmas, someone along the lane had a replacement kitchen fitted. All the white goods were sitting in the rain on the drive for more than a week before collection. My guess is that they were still in working order. Some people replace working products just because they would like new ones. One reason is that plastics can become yellowed after a few years, or shelves in fridges and freezers get damaged, either due to flimsy construction or abuse, or both. How many users fail to follow the manufacturers’ instructions regarding space around fridges and freezers? This is a factor in both reliability and running costs.

I would like each Which? report to prompt us to ask ourselves if products need to be replaced, in each product review. This would help counter the efforts of the marketing men who peddle their latest, greatest products.

I have not found much benefit in moving from a 34 year old washing machine to a new one. The new one does not rinse as well so I often choose the option to use extra water. The new one has a ‘dirt trap’ door seal that has to be cleaned and dried. Other brands have this feature and I hope there is a purpose, like trapping foreign objects. The first time I used the machine I watched as the laundry detergent capsule went into the dirt trap and remained there for most of the washing cycle, resulting in detergent being released during the rinses. It does not happen every time but I’ve had to do a second short wash after the spin cycle. I must try washing powder but with my old machine it tended to stick in the dispenser, resulting in detergent being added during the rinsing cycles.

If a manufacturer a of cheap product advertises it as durable(or a retailer does this) and that model proves not to be, they have made a dishonest claim. Which? focuses on brand reliability and often alerts us to products that perform poorly or there is some other problem.

If Which? was to focus on product guarantees and affordable extended warranties we might have a quick win.

I missed your earlier comment about mobile phones, Malcolm. The fact is that the majority of phone users replace their phones every couple of years and might not be interested in a five year guarantee. Mine is over three years old and I have not thought about replacing it.