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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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CathL says:
20 April 2020

My Indesit washing machine has just developed a problem and will not spin. It is 32 years old and cost £200 in 1988, with a 5% reduction in price due to it being an ex-display model. It has served a family of 5 well and was only repaired once,16 months after purchase when a new module was fitted. I have absolutely no complaints regarding this machine but I do not hold out any hope of any new machine giving such good service!

Carl Duffin says:
17 June 2020

My Indesit washing machine has just developed a problem and when it spins the bearings are obviously worn out. It is two years old and cost £200 in 2018. It served my wife and I well and would continue to do so if the bearings were not already shot.

My complaint is that while bearings only cost about £20 to replace and I could DIY, you cannot buy the bearings separate because they are sealed inside the drum and outer casing (tub), so a couple of bearings will cost £200!

Needless to say our experiences of the same company are wildly different.

Hi Carl – As far as I know, most modern washing machines are of the ‘sealed tank’ construction that you mention, so unless you have a very expensive machine it is economically not worth repairing. There are efforts in Europe to tackle this sort of problem that is expensive for consumers and creates mountains of waste.

I would not expect too much from a £200 washing machine. That’s what I paid for one back in 1982. Modern machines have large drums and high spin speeds and that is asking a lot of the bearings. If the load is unbalanced, water and detergent can bypass the seal and very quickly wreck the bearing. I suggest not using the maximum speed, making sure the machine is levelled and stopping it the load becomes unbalanced and that might help prolong the life.

Cath – I am very impressed by how long your Indesit machine has lasted and hope it lasts for a few years yet.

Cath L’s machine bought for £200 with a 5% discount in around 1988 would have been the equivalent of a £500 or thereabouts machine today. This allowed, I’d suggest, for a quality build, as hers shows by its longevity. A £200 machine these days requires construction and labour costs to be minimised. For a machine that will be lightly used, say in a single person household or a holiday home, this might well be an adequate choice. But I would suggest you generally get what you pay for and such a machine is likely to have a shortish working life and not be economically repairable.

The questions we need to address include whether non-repairable (economically, that is) light duty machines should be sold without explaining its limitations, or whether all domestic appliances should have (acceptable) minimum working lives, in time or cycles, covered by an appropriate warranty; the latter would no doubt remove a swathe of low cost appliances that could be considered appropriate for people with limited use and low funds.

“Disposable” appliances are damaging to the environment in absorbing resources and then going to waste. Many don’t have enough spare money to buy better quality products but still need to wash clothes. A dilemma.

The EU is trying to bring in legislation to ensure that products are more repairable and that spares remain available. It would be good if the UK becomes more involved and maybe helps drive this forwards. We cannot just carry on producing mountains of white goods that have failed prematurely. Here is a relevant Conversation: https://conversation.which.co.uk/sustainability/right-to-repair-appliance-eu-rules

I am not happy that some products become not economically repairable after a short working life, as Carl Duffin reports. Equally I am unhappy about expensive goods that fail prematurely, especially since the our legislation provides consumer protection for a maximum of six years.

I presume that the UK has been part of the EU initiative while it was a member. Do we have any evidence it will not continue to support it?

There are many people who cannot afford a better quality appliance. How do we take account of their needs?

I think you misunderstood, Malcolm. I have not suggested that the UK will not support the Right to Repair and as I did suggest it would be good if we could drive this forward.

One way of obtaining a better quality appliance at an affordable price is to buy secondhand. I don’t know if there are dealers that offer a guarantee or whether it is better to take the risk of buying on Gumtree or eBay, or through local advertising. Some charity shops sell electrical goods and our council has a shop that sells working electrical goods that are taken to recycling centres.

My housemate steered my away from a cheap Indesit in about 1988 and persuaded me to buy a Zanussi instead. It still works fine, but has not ever had to serve a family as large as 5. It required a very simple DIY repair in about 1998.

From what I’ve experienced, cheap modern £200 washing machines may only last about 5 years if heavily used. I know of two such Bekos that have not been heavily used and are now both about 10 years old. One heavily used Beko last about 5 years and a similar Bush has now been going well for over 5 years.

I wonder how many washing machines have been scrapped because the motor brushes have worn out. It’s one of the first things to check if the drum stops rotating. It should not be classified as a fault but as failure to carry out maintenance.

For most people that fault would need diagnosing by a domestic appliance repairer. I rang my local one to find out the cost of call out and a brush replacement. Call out £35, repair £25, brushes depend on make but around £15 to £25. For many people an £85 potential bill plus vat might think it’s better to replace their old machine whereas a simple fix could keep it going for a few more years.

Many are quite capable of doing this sort of repair themselves, for example replacing a belt, door seal, brushes given suitable maintenance instructions and diagnostic information. This should come with the appliance. Spares are generally widely available; so, indeed are many repair instructions for those who delve of course, but why not make it easier.

The Right to Repair rules (see my link above) could mean that service information must be made freely available. At present, some manufacturers do not make this available to anyone other than their agents.

We have the choice of paying for repairs, paying for a new machine or carrying out a periodic inspection ourselves. With the more popular machines, spares can usually be obtained at very reasonable prices.