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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
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.

Footnote: the Bush has just become beyond economic repair, after the remains of a Yale key and a £1 coin impacted and ruptured the bottom of the drum housing. That lets all the water out, onto the kitchen floor 🙁

I’d never seen a £1 coin with the silver centre separated from the gold outside before.

I know what I think, but I’d like to ask the panel whether or not this type of “money laundering” should be an anticipated operating occurrence, or a fault that should have been prevented by the user?

That’s an expensive mistake. With luck you may be able to remove foreign objects before they cause damage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqP6grp0BXY

Some washing machines have a coin trap in the filter to protect the drain pump. I once wrecked the plastic impeller of the drain pump of my machine by leaving a £1 coin in a pocket. I made a new impeller from brass. It taught me to check my pockets twice.

Another argument for a cashless society and amazon keyless entry? (whatever happened to that?).

Duct tape?

As a repair would have to withstand temperature cycling and both static and dynamic pressure, I was tempted by the use of car body repair / bodging materials, as a fun and relatively inexpensive repair.

Vibration is another problem, particularly during the spin cycle. Any patch would be best applied to the inside of the tub, but the drum will be in the way.

A metal patch, pop rivets and silicone sealant? I’m trying to work out how a key and £1 coin has managed to puncture the drum housing?

The gap between the tub and drum is small and if the coin etc. moves it can act as a wedge, sometimes causing serious damage.

Aluminium sheet is easy to shape to a curved surface but silicone sealant does not adhere to it, presumably because of the oxide coating. on the surface.

Maybe after 5 years the bearings have worn sufficiently to reduce the clearance. If the machine has been used regularly then 5 years seems a reasonable life for a cheap machine.

I have always assumed there is a little person inside our washing machine who turns my trousers inside out, opens and reverses the pillow cases and duvet covers, and takes the collar stiffeners out of my shirts and puts them in the door seal. Sometimes an anorak has come out repacked inside the hood. Only folding money has been found so far and is usually still fit for purpose. Tissue handkerchieves are a bigger problem as they tend to atomise and end up over everything.

Prior to making its way into the pump, a £1 coin put a couple of dents in the drum of my old washing machine, demonstrating the small clearance. Thankfully it did not puncture the polypropylene tub and the machine continued to work for another 20+ years.

I washed socks the other day. Remarkably every one that the machine released had a pair. I don’t remember that ever happening before.

In this specific case, over time all of the plastic stirring paddles had failed where they lock into the drum. After removing failed paddles and not replacing them, I think the now uncovered mounting slots made it possible for £1 coin sized objects to get between the drum and tub.

I was told that the catastrophic failure was associated with a loud bang.

As this machine has been heavily used, even with this failure, it has been good value for money.

That might have been a factor and it would have made sense to replace the paddles when they failed. Coins etc. do find their way out of the drum on washing machines where the paddles form part of the stainless steel drum.

Most modern washing machines are ‘sealed tank’ models, were the tank, drum, spider and bearings are a single unit. It makes them cheaper to make but repairs are unlikely to be economically viable.

I suppose that heavy use for five years is good value but with a little more care it could still have been working.

Replacement paddles are between £2.50 and £21 each depending on the model and possibly delivered by 9pm the next day.

Here’s information about replacing paddles, which can be easy or not so easy, depending on the model: https://www.ukwhitegoods.co.uk/help/fix-it-yourself/washing-machine-washer-dryer/3287-how-to-replace-a-washing-machine-drum-paddle

I have not had a washing machine with plastic paddles. The advantage seems to be that it may be possible to remove one so that small fabric items can be retrieved as explained in the linked video I posted above.

I presume that washing trainers is hard on the paddles.

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.

Tina says:
31 July 2020

I paid £1300 for Samsung 4 years ago and now being 25% discount off new one. As if I’d buy a Samsung at those depreciation rates!!!

Products can be heavily discounted when a new model comes along, even if the differences are only cosmetic. Any initial teething troubles with a new model can also be avoided.

Harald says:
14 August 2020

Yes manufacturers of all major goods should have to guarantee the product for at least 6 years. This would incentivise them to make the goods to last longer than the cheap poor quality good we get today. This in turn would do far more to reduce our energy consumption and resources than simply making the machines more complicated to use less energy i.e. less water. making them use less water makes them more likely to fail because they have to be more complex.

Harald says:
14 August 2020

My families 2 previous Indesits lasted over 15 – 20 years each with one only having a new door seal, and one having a new pump, which I did myself.

I bought an Indesit cheap model for £189 just under 3 years ago, fairly light use and never overloaded. But stopped working yesterday, start light comes on, press start, and nothing happens for 10 minutes, when it eventually has all the lights flashing and the pump runs until it is empty (a safety feature I guess).

The old machines were more mechanical, the new ones are all full of electronics which I think causes them to fail sooner and cost more to replace. Manufacturers though have been driven by other EU legislation to make them “greener”, automatically weigh the load and adjust water consumption, and other things to get an A+ energy rating etc.

Now when it comes to this machine, which I expected to have lasted at least 6 years before anything failed needing repair work. And now I believe is outside warranty period. I will be throwing it in the dump and buy a new one rather than pay at least half it’s value in calling out a repair service. If I wanted to take the retailer to small claims, I guess I would first have to get it repaired at my expense, possibly I would have to give the retailer a chance to send their own repair service which could take weeks to get a refusal. Then eventually I’d have to prepare a case for court. Not something I have the time to do and possibly lose the case anyway. All the time I either wait with no washing facility or buy a new one and fight for the old one to be repaired leaving me with 2 working machines.

Therefore with regard to the article. The EU has recently made all manufacturers give a 2 year warranty – I’m not sure about the details but I assume that applies to pretty much everything? Even 2 years is not enough. It should be 6 years minimum parts and labour on EVERYTHING that is electrical and substantial in quality, to that I mean TVs, monitors, PCs, PC peripherals, radios, vacuums, white goods, kitchen items e.g. kettles and irons, electric/petrol garden tools. I think we could have a 2 year category for cheap rubbish items which serve little purpose and are only expected to last a year or 2. Then again, it could be argued that such cheap rubbish should be effectively routed out by having a minimum 6 year guarantee on everything.

Doing the above will not cost very much, when you divide the inevitable repair costs between 500,000,000 people in Europe. And the manufacturers will have an incentive to build well using quality components. It would cost something more but not very much more. Most importantly making warranty compulsory for longer will stop this culture we have where the only viable option is to take the offending article to the dump. I hope someone in the Far East who receives our waste electronic goods is doing a fine job of repairing the good stuff and selling them on.

Harald, as far as I know the EU 2 year requirement you refer to is not a minimum manudacturers’ guarantee period but the equivalent of our Consumer Rights Act 2015, which gives 6 years protection (5 in Scotland) but with restrictions on the redress provided and the actions the customer needs to take. The onus is on the retailer and not the manufacturer.

Hi Harald – You might find what the flashing lights mean by looking online or asking a question on a forum. Here is some troubleshooting information from Indesit: https://www.indesitservice.co.uk/washing-machine-repair/troubleshooting If the drum is not rotating I suggest checking that the motor brushes are not worn out.

Over the years, the price of white goods has fallen and your £189 is less than I paid for a modestly priced machine back in 1882. If you want a machine that might last a decent length of time I suggest spending at least £500.

http://theinventors.org/library/inventors/blwashingmachines.htm
Was yours one of these early ones? 🛁🙂

Mine was a cleaner version of the one on this page, a Philips W082 Variatronic, made in Great Britain: https://www.automaticwasher.org/cgi-bin/TD/TD-VIEWTHREAD.cgi?15603 It served me well for 34 years but I decided to not to take it with me when I moved home. My parents had an Electrolux machine that lasted about 25 years. It was still working but my mother had been warned that parts were no longer available.

Earlier this week I helped a friend install and christen “George II” , her new Bush washing machine from Argos.

George cost £200 including delivery and removal of its predecessor. That was a similarly cheap Bush that had lasted for about 5 or 6 years of fairly intensive use I think.

Harald’s problem does certainly sound like a motor or drive fault. The Beko that my friend had before her 1st Bush failed that way, as best we could tell. The cost of a new motor would have been over £100, so did not seem appealing as an economic repair.

Naming a washing machine after a US politician may be setting a president. Maybe George II will serve for about eight years.

Phil Warren says:
21 September 2020

Just a point of interest. Our Miele washing machine is 30 years old and still going strong. When we moved we transferred it to our static caravan where it has spent 8 years in an outside plastic storage bin. Nothing has ever gone wrong with it. Incredible!!

Nice one Phil. I still use a Zanussi that is a few years older than yours. Mine has not been fault free, but has only ever needed a minor DIY repair.