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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

The problem of cheap and low quality products is certainly not confined to kitchen appliances. I know an agricultural engineer who repairs the expensive and sophisticated grass cutters we whizzing round the green spaces in residential areas. They are mostly very high quality and the work is mainly servicing and repairs to accidental damage. As a one-man business he often asked to look at lawn tractors, generators, and all sorts of domestic grade stuff with small diesel and petrol engines. Most of that is sub-contracted to others or scrapped but he has shown me plenty of examples of dreadful build quality, third rate bearings and metal that is so weak that it has fractured in use. Though I have not seen examples of the cheap washing machines that Kenneth has mentioned I can well imagine the problems.

What other industries have lost their way because of companies producing cheap and nasty products and why have some sectors managed to retain sensible quality and price?

You are quite right.

I had a conversation some years ago with someone, will we say from a large manufacturer of lawnmowers that are rather popular, who pointed out to my dismay that a certain big shed was specifying low grade components in their products as exclusive models.

It didn’t strike me why until it was pointed out.

On an exclusive model people couldn’t price compare (happens in loads of places if you look) and they seemed miles cheaper. Of course the quality was sacrificed but all the retailer cared about was that they lasted long enough to get out of warranty.

So they were essentially built to last two seasons. But it’s important to bear in mind, that is what they were built with in mind and priced accordingly.

Not such the great bargain that they seemed after all for some people I expect.

Meanwhile the brand name took a kicking.

Much the same you can see in whitegoods at times but these days it tends to be more exclusive brands with “budget” sounding names although some retailers have bought names you will all know and rebadged low end machines to sell under those brands.

Another reason that the onus is on the retailer.

K.

I’m certainly familiar with this, Kenneth. It is interesting to see how many names that were synonymous with good quality are being used to sell cheaper products. Brands from the past have been re-launched at the lower end of the market.

The computer industry seems to be producing reasonable quality goods, though there are exceptions. I know many people who have had no problems with cheaper hardware, sometimes branded with names I have never heard of.

The clothing industry remains capable of reasonable quality at affordable prices. I have not heard people complaining in the same way that they curse declining quality in white goods and some other everyday household items.

I appreciate that the computer industry has benefited from the continued decline in cost and increase in capability of electronics, and that cheap production and online sales have helped the clothing industry, but both sectors could have moved the bulk of their production to making cheap and non-durable tat.

abcya says:
17 July 2014

I’ve had my Bosch washer-dryer for 20 years. I had one part replaced when it was about 10 years old (cost c£80 as I recall) and I’ve had an engineer out 2 years ago to sort out a valve that was sticking. The engineer’s advice was that it was still a good machine, but that their newer models aren’t as tough.

Rodders says:
18 July 2014

Surely, of the ‘variables’ mentioned, usage and overloading wouod have the greatest impact on lifespan. Why not write a usage counter into the software and have service intervals for the critical items like filters, pump and valves, which can result in flooding when a fault occurs. A warranty could then be like a cars, I.e. based on time and usage cycles.

We could even display the amount of use for all to see (as I have previously suggested) and put a prompt on the front panel to check the filter periodically. Sometimes input from users can help companies.

Yes we could learn a lot from the motor industry.

Fitting – and using – timers to appliances that might be perceived as high electricity users is likely to become more prevalent when smart meters arrive as they will allow wider use of cheaper electricity during the night.

You could use an external timer on my ancient washing machine with its mechanical programmer, but my guess is that this would not be possible with modern press button machines. Kenneth will know.

Better to stay up late or get up early than go to sleep hoping that the flood caused by the washing machine will put out the fire. 🙂

No.

Modern electronically controlled machines will usually not work on an external timer as the start button must be pressed manually. Many will also default to a “base program” when powered up as well.

They also mostly now shut down automatically due to energy saving requirements.

K.

Reminders to check things does help. There are so many things to remember everyday that most people won’t remember to clean the filter, soap drawer, do a maintenance wash etc.

Dishwashers could also display reminders to clean the filters, clean the spray arms and run a maintenance wash when empty. Most dishwashers today indicate when to refill the rinse aid and salt.

Looking after appliances will reduce breakdowns and make them work better. Nobody wants a smelly washing machine or a dishwasher that doesn’t clean properly, both of which are (usually) caused by lack of maintenance. I think it’s also a good idea *not* to use 30C cycles or below, otherwise the washing machine will quickly smell and become germ ridden.

Agreed, but keep products simple. The more complicated they are made the more likely they are to be expensive to repair. Too many programmes – how many do you really use on your washing machine, dishwasher or tumble drier?
Most people I suspect will not look after their machines – I guess many only read the instructions once – if that. So making it simple (try for foolproof but you can’t beat the fools) helps.
I suspect much complexity might be introduced by EU legislation, in the interests of saving a little bit of energy and water, lighter weight machines, but that in the end results in throwing away more failed machines instead of repairing and extending working life. Perhaps this works more in the interests of the manufacturers than the consumers?
Just a humble opinion.Life has become full of overcomplex products – try phones, cameras, a s examples – that there should be a university course in living life.

Yes and, more spares to stock, more that can go NLA, less volume on them so they are more expensive and therefore more probably will go NLA then, when you get a part that commonly fails or get gunged up or whatever the manufacturer gets berated as it is “obviously a design flaw” even if it clearly isn’t.

I think that overly complication is bad enough, most people can’t even tell you what detergent they should use, what a care label means or what program to use. To further complicate it would be madness if you ask me.

Even if you did add all the widgets and gadgets and sensors discussed above, nobody would want to pay for it any in all likelihood, a few perhaps, but not many. Not enough to justify doing it.

You can’t win, you just cannot please everyone, I realised that a long time ago.

K.

The trouble is that while most of us will mainly use just two or three programmes, the choice may depend on the individual. (This is equally relevant to your examples of over-complicated phones and cameras.) With an old washing machine with a complex mechanical programmer then more complexity is likely to impact on reliability, but that might not be the case with computer control. One of the (few) features of my washing machine is a control to set the spin speed. I would like to be able to choose the temperature of my wash and to have a display showing the temperature. I’m sure Dieseltaylor would value these features too.

A simple example of foolproof design is car rear fog lights that go off automatically when the other lights are turned off. It costs no more and means that people don’t drive around for days with their fog lights on. I understand that some washing machines do better than others at collecting foreign objects that could cause a blockage or destroy the drain pump. I think there is a lot of scope to ‘beat the fools’ as you put it.

I don’t know how much EU legislation has increased complexity, but from what Kenneth has said it is quite clear that with low water usage the detergent dosage is critical for effective rinsing.

Kenneth

“Yes and, more spares to stock, more that can go NLA, less volume on them so they are more expensive and therefore more probably will go NLA then, when you get a part that commonly fails or get gunged up or whatever the manufacturer gets berated as it is “obviously a design flaw” even if it clearly isn’t.”

Whose fault is it if spares are no longer available. Is it right that a well known company should let this happen within a reasonable time period? It’s all about contingency planning and something a company can insure against, in the same way that an owner can buy an extended warranty. I once nearly bought a gas appliance to replace one for which parts were NLA, and fortunately discovered that the model was identical to the one I intended to replace. I do not know if the retailer was aware of this.

If a part commonly fails then it is either wear and tear (possibly premature) or caused by misuse or is a design fault. If it get ‘gunged up’, as you put it, that may or may not be the user’s fault or due to poor design.

Obviously the nature of the problem should determine who is responsible for rectifying a fault under warranty.

“Whose fault is it if spares are no longer available”

Quite possibly nobodies. The company that produced the component could go to the wall. Mould lost. Any number of things.

“It’s all about contingency planning and something a company can insure against”

Good luck with that.

Asides which all the insurer will do (if you can find such insurance) is pay the owner market value and, you’re back to that again. And, the cost of it would just get calculated into the initial pricing so, the end user will pay for it whether it’s hidden or not.

K.

“The trouble is that while most of us will mainly use just two or three programmes, the choice may depend on the individual”

Correct.

But if you used the machine correctly sorting lights/whites and different fabrics then you need a whole heap more than that.

I appreciate that most people don’t nor care to but, if you want to do it properly and not have issue…

“With an old washing machine with a complex mechanical programmer ”

Actually, they were desperately simple, incredibly reliable and often repairable.

Not so electronics, especially with surface mounted components designed to be replaced by trained ants or under a microscope by a person akin to a surgeon.

But to meet the energy requirements, you need to use electronics, no option.

“I think there is a lot of scope to ‘beat the fools’ as you put it”

There’s been plenty effort to try but, as the famous Douglas Adams quote says, “A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”

Probably one of the best sentences ever written.

K.

“Asides which all the insurer will do (if you can find such insurance) is pay the owner market value and, you’re back to that again. And, the cost of it would just get calculated into the initial pricing so, the end user will pay for it whether it’s hidden or not.”

I cannot believe that any independent person would see this as fair, Kenneth. You said something similar in the previous Conversation but I’m glad that our more recent contributors can read this post in particular.

Well, let’s say you buy a cup of coffee in Costa.

In the price there is, at least..

– The cost of the coffee
– Labour to make it
– Water costs
– Cleaning costs
– Electrical costs
– Cost of the milk
– Employer’s insurances
– Public liability insurance
– Decor, wear and tear
– Cost of consumables (sugar, stirrers, napkins, cups and so on)

And a whole bunch more, all you are asking for is additional protection and, that’s absolutely fine but any business, regardless of what it is or the size of it will simply cost whatever you want into the price.

It’s really very simple stuff as no business goes out with the intention to operate at a loss and, what you pay incorporates all the costs, not just the one’s you might fancy.

If you want “new for old” cover you can get it but, it is very costly and I would advise against it due to that, doesn’t mater who provides it.

K.

Kenneth – I have never mentioned new for old cover. I just would not want to receive a derisory payment in relation to a warranty claim just because a company had run out of spare parts.

It is not in the interest of customers for a company to go bust but I doubt that anyone else who has contributed to this discussion will see your views on this as fair.

It is fair.

You buy a car (to use one of your favourite examples), drive it out the lot and it’s worth at least 20% of what it just cost you. We all know this, we all accept this, we may not be tremendously happy about the loss of value but, it is what it is.

It is known as depreciation and recession and it applies to all goods. That would include appliances, PCs, audio equipment, TVs and a raft of many other product categories.

If you take that shiny new car and ram it into a wall a few miles down the road you probably won’t get the full value back or, given new car. You may well even suffer a decreased second hand value because it was involved in an accident.

But, you can buy GAP insurance to mitigate that risk, if you want and are prepared to pay for it.

Cost to cover the accident you pretty much have to have, by law you must pay to cover for that, with all other products you have a choice.

You may like to purport that it isn’t fair but, I can assure you that it is.

It’s just that people don’t like the reality of that and what I am getting the impression of is that you would like to see this potential risk to be covered for you by the manufacturer or retailer at no charge. That I am afraid is both unrealistic and unreasonable in my opinion.

K.

I am well aware of depreciation and Gap insurance, Kenneth. I know about this before I buy a car. I have always been able to get parts for every car I have owned and I keep new cars for longer than many people, the last one being traded in after ten years. Malcolm has done a lot better and I recall he mentioned keeping one car for over twenty years. I know that there are a few models where there is a problem with parts becoming no longer available, but that seems to be the exception to the rule and I am not aware that this is common for most of the familiar brands.

If my car became unrepairable because the manufacturer failed to keep a stock for whatever reason and no alternative parts were available, I would make my views known. Others might be less polite. Incidentally I have no great love for the motor industry and you will find quite a few criticisms by me on other Conversations.

So you expect the consumer to take out an insurance warranty if we want extra cover but the appliance industry is not prepared to do what is necessary to maintain availability of spare parts for a reasonable time. I wonder if the directors steal sweets from their children. 😉

And that last remark is the sort of thing that is, to be blunt, a despicable thing to say about anyone, even in jest. I shouldn’t think that bashing company directors is a good way to go, don’t you?

Reciprocally, I wonder if employees will work for free to subsidise all these extras or, if HMRC will allow a discount to companies who provide such glorious services for nothing. Somehow, I doubt it.

Or is it that you expect company directors and their families suffer because people want something for free that they have no entitlement to nor any right in law to? How would that be fair or reasonable?

So please, there is no call for that at all, the reality is that any business has costs, they don’t all make huge profits and in fact most just get by, some better than others granted but, as I have said before it’s not as if business owners are rolling about in barrels of money. To boot, I work on average ten to twelve hours a day at least six days a week, as many business owners often do.

That’s just the start of it.

If you think it’s so easy, start a company and try it for yourself, anyone can have a try at it if they so choose. I would bet after a few months you would have a somewhat different take on things.

If you look you will find cases of cars being written off after six years due to non-availability of spare parts. It isn’t commonplace, yet, but it can and does happen.

If I recall there was a case brought in France a year or so ago over that and other non-available spares.

This phenomena of modern life is not confined to one industry I can assure you and, given that most products are planned to be more or less finished with in 5-10 years they will not normally stock for any longer than that as, it costs money to do so. Some I know of are ramping down stock at 2 years.

Some large retailers (supermarkets and a couple of others) simply do not have any spare parts support at all outside of the warranty period and, it is legal. And, no I don’t agree with that and I think it totally immoral but morality doesn’t matter, the law does.

For the record, I don’t expect anyone to do anything at all other than play fair and by the rules set in law on this topic. What you are asking for is way outside most contracts let alone the law of the land.

K.

I think we had better leave it here, at least for the time being. We both have expertise in different areas and you have been fairly direct in some of your comments to me. We have both made factual errors. I have very much enjoyed the technical aspects of our discussions.

Yes, probably for the best although I am not aware of making any factual errors.

K.

sherise says:
19 July 2014

My last washing machine an AEG model, lasted around 20 years.
I would expect a machine to last at least 10 years depending on certain variables:-

The build quality of the machine to start with.
The hardness of the water in the location where it is used.
The usage level by the owner.
The care taken by the owner to follow instructions i.e. loading, being installed level, etc
Basic maintenance and care of machine i.e. ensuring no items like coins in pockets etc, cleaning detergent draw, ensuring drain pump filter kept clear, wipe round door and seal etc.

Current machine is Which? best buy Beko and (touch wood) all ok so far!!

Nonsumer says:
19 July 2014

Next: Cars!

That would be a good idea, though there are plenty of Conversations to whinge about all sorts of things to do with cars.

I wonder how many people find out if it’s necessary to lift the engine to change the timing belt, or realise how many cars are scrapped because they have a problem with dashboard warning lights that makes them uneconomic to repair. Manufacturers have the arrogance to decide that we don’t need spare wheels.

But at least the build quality, safety and fuel economy have improved dramatically since I started driving, warranties are getting longer, goodwill repairs outside the warranty period are quite common and there is a good market for secondhand vehicles (if only because of the absurd depreciation of new ones, as Kenneth highlighted).

I have to say, I sympathise with people’s view on this as well as with appliances but, it’s probably better to explain rather than just to assume acceptance or understanding.

The second hand market is largely determined by what people are willing to pay, if anyone will. So, it’s not set by businesses at all in much the same way as new, it’s determined by consumers.

What you have to try to keep in mind is that almost everything you buy, bar some notable exceptions, attract 20% VAT so, a full fifth of the money you hand over is lost in tax immediately. You also need to understand that every month or quarter that the retailer has to hand that money collected on behalf of government has to be handed over, less any offset for inbound costs. For business, this is a cost as it has to administer that and account it on behalf of HMRC.

That’s fine, it helps pay for schools, hospitals and other essentials.

But it is a total right off so far as the transaction you make goes.

VAT applies to second hand cars only applies to the profit in the vehicle, not the whole cost of it. On appliances second hand, the entire sale price has 20% VAT in it just the same as new.

The car industry has many exceptions that do not apply to any other industry, this is one of them.

If you therefore buy a second hand car (simple numbers, not typical) for £4000 that cost the dealer £3000 then the VAT element is only £200.

If you bought an appliance second hand (or most anything else) then the VAT on the same sale price is £800. Quite a difference and, quite a difference on costs to the buyer and seller.

It would be my position that this discourages sales of second hand or recycled appliances as well as being prejudicial to a degree or, is it favouritism? But, that’s just my opinion.

The spare wheel thing is to save weight from what I can gather, saving weight saves fuel, saving fuel and getting better MPG sells more cars. Aside which it frees up space for more passenger room or luggage space or, a big battery and all the gubbins needed for regenerative energy recovery.Hardly any wonder that things have gone that way.

But this is drifting well off topic.

K.

I get the feeling that most people are not prepared to pay much for a new washing machine; the same people moan about poor reliability or other problems.

The most “expensive” (or should I say “proper price”) for new domestic washing machines are made by Miele and maybe a few other brands? Looking on the Miele UK website now, I can see their cheapest washing machine is £749. This will of course change over time, but it’s correct as of now. Most people will only pay up to about £400 for a new washing machine. I’m prepared to pay for a Miele in future and if there’s a fault within the warranty period, I would expect it to be fixed for free – yes I do know how to look after washing machines and use them correctly. What worries me is when a manufacturer tries to blame the innocent user for misuse when it’s not their fault and forces the user to pay for the repair which should be free.

David – I’ve had a look and the Miele blurb for their cheapest machine, which says: “Tested for the equivalent of 20 years’ use” but I believe that you get a 2 year warranty with that model. I think you can buy a longer warranty but the durability claim coupled by a short warranty demonstrates that Miele have not got their act together.

In this or the previous Conversation we have learned that Miele insist that all work is done by their own service engineers and parts are not readily available to others. I guess that may be expensive, but it is just a guess. It might be expensive if you leave a coin in a trouser pocket. You don’t need to go to a main dealer to get work done on a car to preserve the warranty (if you abide by the T&Cs), but I think appliance manufacturers (and others) can legally abrogate their liabilities.

Like Apple, Miele seems to have everything under their control. I have had great success with Apple products over more than two decades, but the rotten company still gives only a miserable one year warranty. I did have Miele in mind when my old machine finally expires but if I have to pay for a new motor it could cost more than two cheap machines and that does not include fitting. I’m now thinking of a mid-price machine with as long a manufacturers’ warranty as I can get.

Miele test their machines for 20 years, but that doesn’t mean, of course, they’ll last that long without attention. I believe they make spares available for that time to enable them to be kept going.
You can buy a couple of their washing machines with 10 year warranties for around £900. If you want peace of mind then you should have reliable washing for £1.73 a week. It depends whether you are prepared to pay upfront. or whether you’d be better off chancing having to buy two Bosch (say) machines in that time, with the possibility of paying for repairs. (our last Bosch lasted 9.5 years). My choice would be a decent make machine in the £4-500 bracket.
I did however take advantage of an offer on a Miele dishwasher (as well as the perceived quality of the brand we particularly like the top cutlery drawer) which cost £600, with a 10 year warranty through Miele. The problem with Miele is the extortionate cost of spares, so I’d write it off if a fault developed after 10 years, despite the 20 year life claim.
We need reasonable guarantees for decent makes – not 1 or 2 years. And I expect most people would recognise that they will cost the manufacturers extra money, and that we need to pay that extra. These guarantees should be available directly through the manufacturer, who are best-placed to judge the reliablity and control repair costs of their products, rather than through commercial insurers.

Until recently, I thought that the biggest benefit of having a long manufacturers’ warranties (whether included in the purchase price or bought separately) is that they will be forced to make their products repairable at reasonable cost to avoid wiping out their profits. Now we have been told that it is legal for companies to discharge their liabilities by making a payment instead of carrying out a repair, for example if parts or no longer available or if it would be unreasonably expensive to effect a repair. The payment in lieu of repair would take into account the secondhand value of the appliance – in other words, not a lot. The warranty would be terminated. You could be faced with buying a new machine during the time you thought you had warranty cover.

Predicting lifetimes of 20 years is a load of tosh, whether it refers to kitchen appliances or LED lamps. That does not test natural deterioration of plastics or hardening of grease in bearings with time, for example. As we have seen with LED lamps (at least those sold for domestic use) these claims have proved unfounded.

We are familiar with people who have had washing machines that have lasted for many years and given excellent services, but these may not be representative of what we can buy today.

Consumer protection relating to the sale of goods is rather more complicated than I thought it was and the way forward might be seek a solution that is fair both to consumers and manufacturers. I have no confidence whatsoever that the new consumer rights legislation will do much to help.

Many of us want machines that are durable and repairable. A “proper” guarantee or extended warranty should be a “repair or replace” as I have on my Miele dishwasher – I wouldn’t contemplate a notional secondhand value.
For the sake of maybe examining figures – some have said the cost of longer guarantees would be prohibitive – suppose a guarantee from the manufacturer is 5 years. Assume an average repair cost of £150, and 50% of purchasers need that in the first 5 years. That would add £75 to the cost of an appliance. I think from peoples’ comments who have bought decent makes of machine that is a very excessive failure assumption. So suppose 20% have a fault in the first 5 years – that would add just £30 to the cost of a machine. Would you pay that? I would. It would also encourage decent manufacturers to think hard about the design of the machines to be easily repairable, maybe to standardise on parts and continue parts-usage through newer models, and to consider quality of parts.
I do not believe that longer guarantees from manufacturers would be either unaffordable or against anyone’s interests – except the manufacturers and importers of “toy” machines.

If your warranty is ‘repair or replace’ and the exclusions are fair then you are covered for five years, but on your own after that. Don’t forget what we have been told about the cost of Miele spares and who has access to them. If ten year warranties are available it does suggest that machines are designed to be repairable but I am now a bit worried about the cost.

“Many of us want machines that are durable and repairable. A “proper” guarantee or extended warranty should be a “repair or replace” as I have on my Miele dishwasher – I wouldn’t contemplate a notional secondhand value.”

I think you may find that not to be the case Malcolm, Miele states in it’s warranty conditions:

“If in the opinion of Miele an appliance is beyond economic repair, Miele reserves the right at its sole discretion to provide customers with a new appliance of equivalent specification. If Miele replaces the appliance, the Guarantee will become invalid.”

It is not a given that they will replace the product according to that, it appears to be discretionary and likely determined by circumstances.

By that I mean that Miele have to decide the machine is BER, but it doesn’t say that if a part is unavailable for example or, out of stock for three months, that you would be entitled to a replacement.

I will try to elaborate on why this is as best I can and, as briefly as I can to illustrate.

BER on a machine of that ilk is invariably due to a catastrophic failure and, on Miele products and other top end machines that is rarely (I’ve never seen that) an issue with the product as such. What can cause it and, is infinitely more probable, is a coin through the tank, foreign object damage essentially or the machine gets soaked (environment/use) and it blows all the modules and/or motor. Stuff like that can lead to a BER machine very easily and almost always is the cause of such events.

Then what happens, almost invariably once more, is that the customer will argue black was white that the problem was caused not by them but by a fault in the machine. Even if that means that the laws of physics have to be suspended to make it even remotely possible or some other sort of silliness.

Then you get into the whole “consumer rights”, “under the SoGA..” negative online reviews and so on which is for many businesses a tired argument that the have had many times over the years.

Recently customers have been seen to be using negative online reviews as a threat to elicit the result that they want. In essence, blackmailing businesses to do as they wish, whether reasonable or not, often even when it is explained why and so on.

I have not seen, in appliances, an unconditional repair or replace warranty for many, many years as anyone that did it got their fingers burnt since it is wide open to abuse or, as above, it leads to a confrontational situation that nobody wants. Or, in the case of the likes of Currys they will offer it if the product cannot be repaired within 28 days but only if you are on one of their rolling “Whatever Happens” warranties that carries a monthly charge but, abuse etc will often still be excluded. Accidental cover might be there but, if it is, you will find it more costly normally as it is (arguably) more probable.

The smarter warranties of that ilk, if you look at them a little, you will see slide the costs based on risk and liability. The easiest to see is as the cost of the product increases so does the warranty cost as the liability (or cost to remedy) increases.

It works rather like car insurance in some respects, different but the same basic principals to a degree.

I suspect that yet again, it is more complex than you may be given to initially think it was.

K.

“If in the opinion of Miele an appliance is beyond economic repair, Miele reserves the right at its sole discretion to provide customers with a new appliance of equivalent specification. If Miele replaces the appliance, the Guarantee will become invalid.”

Is there any opportunity for an independent opinion? If not, why not, and how can that possibly be fair?

I very much doubt it.

Aside all else, Miele has a completely closed eco-system on repair, spares and service information.

Their argument would be, which does hold some merit although I understand many may not see that, is that nobody else would be able to ascertain the cause or to determine what was required.

Then there’s the issue over who bears the cost and, is it worth it for either party, keeping in mind depreciation and recession?

K.

I presume that whilst the repair warranty will last for 10 years, should the appliance be replaced with an equivalent new one that will carry its own warranty.
In answer to Kenneth, I do not expect to be given a new machine if mine fails but a repair is economic – just keeping the machine properly working is fine. Why should I expect otherwise?
Regarding “customers blackmailing” and not accepting damage is down to them: maybe I represent a different type of customer but if it is shown to me that I have caused the machine to fail then I will accept that, unless maybe it is clearly something stupid in the machine design that allowed it. I believe many consumers have a fair approach to these issues – you may just see the dark side.
However, the point I was expressing was that for a decent product the cost to the manufacturer of providing a sensible length of guarantee (fair to both parties) should not be at all excessive. Which, in fact, published data showing that only 12% of washing machines surveyed failed in the first 5 years. So my 20% seems pessimistic.
Once again, a fair deal is achievable for consumers; we just need the will to pursue it – and help from Which? I’m still waiting for them to reply to my last email to see what their stance is.

I don’t think I need say any more Kenneth. You seem to have done a grand job explaining that whether it is claims under the Sale of Goods Act, warranty claims or even providing us with information about how machines can reasonably be expected to last, the consumer is not being treated very fairly by industry. Obviously that is not just the white goods sector.

When you retire you might like to use your knowledge to promote the interests of the consumer. I hope you will.

Malcolm – I agree that consumers should be branded as unfair or aggressive, just because some try to treat companies unfairly. My approach is to give respect and to expect the same if I have a problem.

I wonder if the Which? members who respond to surveys are be representative of the population as a whole.

I hope that by keeping this Conversation going and reasonably on topic we will raise awareness of it, not least from members of the Which? team. We have already had the Which? Fixed Means Fixed campaign for phone contract pricing and now we need one about warranties – maybe Fair Means Fair.

I’m going on holiday for a few days, so please keep stirring the pot. 🙂

No Malcolm the warranty dies, I learned that years ago with Zanussi, before they were rolled into Electrolux and, there is actually a good reason that happens.

What can happen is that, say you get an issue with a component that breaks or is broken somehow the, if the warranty was renewed then it could go on in perpetuity and that’s not going to be allowed to happen. Additionally the warranty period is the warranty period, irrespective of what happens within, be that a repair or a replacement. When the warranty reaches the maturity point, that’s it regardless.

Almost all warranties will work this way.

Some, as the Miele one appears to, will cease if the product is replaced. It is a bit odd that there seems no continuation of the existing or, a new one to replace it even if it were reduced somehow but, not unheard of.

Again however I go back to the fact that a manufacturer warranty is an addition to basic rights, not a replacement, a manufacturer or retailer doesn’t even have to offer one and each manufacturer or retailer can set their own terms in this respect. In large part the onus is on the buyer to decide if those contract terms are acceptable to them. I say it that way as the warranty forms a part of the contract of sale so, once set, both (or all) parties have to abide by them as, that’s the deal and that part of it is affected by the SoGA as it is a part of the contract of sale.

My point re blackmailing etc was that it is not uncommon for some people to try to manipulate this stuff to suit themselves and most businesses have to protect themselves from that and the potential damage or cost. Just is the same way that consumers do also. It’s a two way street.

Most people are no issue and the vast bulk of customers completely get this stuff once it’s explained, they might not like it perhaps but, understand it as they are rational and reasonable. There is a sizeable minority however who do not, it is that which any business has to protect against.

That could be, banning someone from your pub, setting terms to ensure that liabilities don’t spiral out of control, placing use limits on warranties such as mileage on cars and so on, there are many such limitations we all see every day. For most people, most of the time, this is not a problem. But it is important to see that much of this is merely those same sorts of things put a different way.

It’s not so much I see the dark side of all this although I freely admit that I do tend to see the more extreme examples at times but, through dealing with that I have come to understanding it all over the years through the experience. I very often find that people, even in the retail and servicing sectors I deal with regularly do not fully understand all this let alone the general public.

The average breakdown norm anticipated for most washing machines in the mass market is 8-12% per annum.

Decent mid range that will drop, depends on the brand.

Top end, 5-7% over five years.

If Which? just did an overall survey without breaking it into price sectors then the figures you mentioned would likely be about right. What it cannot show you is how many fewer you get on decent product as opposed to lower down the food chain.

As with most surveys, it depends who you ask, what you ask and how you interpret the data.

Washing machines “fail” more than dishwasher, much more. As do dryers. Largely because both are much more commonly misused, abused and are far more “mechanical’ in nature. It can of course still happen on dish but it’s far rarer and genuine faults far more common on that product.

K.

K, “a manufacturer warranty is an addition to basic rights,”. This is the nub of the issue – as far as I see it the only “basic rights” are given in the Sale of Goods Act. Until we resolve how that can be used more effectively, some would argue their are no other rights than those the manufacturers choose to allow us.
Assuming most need a washing machine, a fridge and other basic appliances, at present there is no sensible scope for avoiding dismally-short guarantees, without purchasing stupidly-expensive commercial warranties. That is what we should be campaigning to put right. The solution is not expensive.

“No Malcolm the warrantee dies”……………. Consumers take heed, the warrantee warrantees the warrantee! Fred Karno would be well impressed.

Sorry but passive negativism is something I don’t ascribe to – it usually leads you down a road to nowhere.

Yes. The SoGA is intended to and, to a great extent does, provide a basic foundation of what you can expect. It does have limits though due to that and the wide scope.

Beyond that in large part is it a case of caveat emptor I’m afraid and, again, there is good reason as it not only can be bad as you may wish to see it if that’s how you want to but, it can also be very good in that it allows a huge degree of competition and variation in the marketplace, that is hugely beneficial to consumers.

If you restrict that then you restrict the market.

I would guess that’s why it is the way that it is.

To be honest when dealing with warranties and, there’s no great secret here, commercially you have two basic options:

– Cover the cost yourself (retailer or manufacturer/brand owner)

– Insure commercially

Option A means that the warranty is carried and the costs met by the party that issued the warranty. That’s fine so long as they don’t go bust but the contract of sale in any event still rests with the retailer, whoever you paid basically.

What they will do is calculate the potential failure rate and, based on the averages, determine a cost per product then add that to the price. Therefore the more warranty or, the more you want to cover, the better service and so on the higher that cost will rise.

Hence, the adherence to terms as anything outside of them are not costed for. Many will come and go a bit as I have said but, within reason.

Option B means that the loss is insured, normally this will be with a registered insurer usually through a broker unless it’s a very big deal or, with large retailers it can be a self controlled insurer or warranty scheme. If the business fails then there is still cover although, as there is no ongoing revenues the cover may get “more rigid” will we say.

Yet again however all that the insurer will do is more or less the same calculation as above but add on a margin for themselves as, they’re not charities and they do look to make profit. Therefore yet again the more cover, better service, more bells and whistles that you want, the more expensive it will get.

Warranty length is calculated in much the same way so, poorer quality goods have less warranty as a general rule, better ones a stronger warranty as the retailer/brand can be more confident that they will last the term without fault or major fault.

Case in point, the LG washing machine 10 year warranty on one component. They low that 95% or more will not fail so, to put a warranty on it isn’t an issue.

What causes them an issue is that some people will assume that this warranty covers more than it actually does in the terms. And/or that the machine has to be looked at by an LG agent, booked through LG and with LG’s prices. That’s the deal, it was always the deal.

Basic warranty terms, such as all brands or manufacturers offer almost universally are generally not that expensive to maintain, for the most part. And, they are hugely better than having no warranty at all for sure and far beyond the basics of the SoGA as, whilst in warranty other than a breach of terms, the owner is fairly well covered against risk.

What I sympathise with is that people seem to assume that there is more than there actually is in there, in my experience at least, very often incorrectly as what they really wanted was an across the board, cover anything type warranty. As I have said, that is expensive and it wouldn’t really matter how you went about it, it would cost too much for most people to stomach.

It often isn’t that a warranty is fair or not its that people don’t understand what they are and often what they actually cover, i.e. the terms, which is an education problem. I do feel that explaining and making people better aware is likely preferable so that they can make a more informed choice when buying so that people buy what they need with the cover that is required.

To attempt to legally force a warranty I would think an uphill struggle at best. To be honest I’d like to see it happen as I think everyone could benefit in some way but, to apply it across all industries and product categories would be a nightmare to try to do, it’d be hugely complex. I think it’d literally be War & Peace, if not more than that so I doubt it’d be practical to obtain.

K.

I haven’t got a firm answer on whether a secondhand older machine is the cheapest option – provided that spares are always available… or buy brand-new by saving up and buying a good make of washing machine with a long warranty, which so far appears to be Miele, unless other manufacturers offer a free 5 or 10 year warranty?

If second-hand is cheaper in the long run, which washing machines would you recommend? Hoover, Hotpoint, Siemens, Zanussi Jetsystem (ones with grey fascia), Philips? I don’t know if older Miele washing machines also have restrictive electronics?

I suspect because there likely isn’t a firm answer to give David.

You could get lucky with a secondhand machine but, you might not. A bit like buying an old car really, it’s a gamble to some extent.

There’s no such thing as a “free” warranty, that is an illusion as I’ve been trying to explain. It just comes down to costs and risks and is rolled into the purchase price.

Old machines are just that, old machines. They have both pros and cons like anything else as in, yes they are more forgiving in use and more robust than many of the cheap machines you can buy now as well as in their day more serviceable but, they use a lot more energy and water as well as having less capacity, lower performance and so on.

Old Hoovers and Hotpoints are, to me from my era in the field, not very good. I used to joke that they were machines designed by Fisher Price but, that said, they were cheap and easy to fix even if they did break a lot.

The Zanussi machines you mean are pre-Nexus range and many spare parts are now NLA.

Same with the rest I’m afraid.

As soon as the demand dips all suppliers start to delist parts both genuine and non-genuine largely as there is no demand, therefore no call to make them. You may still get common, what were, high use items for some but it will be an ever diminishing pool.

It used to be that spares were available under the AMDEA code of practise for eight years cosmetic, ten years functional. That changed a decade or so ago to six years cosmetic, eight years functional.

There was never any requirement to hold spares for any longer at all. Many did but, they didn’t need to.

Now there is no guide to spares availability as it appears to have been dropped completely by AMDEA as well as others and, no legislation either.

That is something that I would very much agree is not in the interest of owners. Not at all in my opinion.

But, without some sort of European wide mandate to change that culture it is extremely unlikely to alter as, in mass market terms, we appear to have inadvertently drifted to a point where major appliances are often viewed as kettles and toasters, especially so in the lower to mid market and, for the most part this is the customer’s view. We just throw them out and buy another one.

On the service side almost every other warranty or extended warranty call you get on the phone you just know that all the person wants is for the machine to be replaced. The attitude is that ingrained and to be honest, after a spell on the phones you get tired of hearing it, it does grate.

I don’t agree with this and personally, I don’t like it, I think it’s an environmental disaster area but, it is legal and it does appear to be what a lot of people want. Even if it isn’t in their interest for things to be this way.

In some regard it has to be acknowledged that many people, probably most, either do not have the skills to repair machines themselves or, have not the inclination to do so. Therefore when faced with assessing on whether to repair or replace, when replacements have become so cheap, guess what they do?

So if nobody repairs them or, not so many do, there’s no need to have spare parts.

If there are no spare parts, there is no second hand market as the machines become (rightly or wrongly) unserviceable.

Catch 22.

K.

Thank you for explaining it K.

Well Ken and Dave surely the answer is to cannibalise the thrown away machines for the parts still working and provide a grey market for spares. I fully realise that this is not going to be profitable but with a vast pool of un- and under employed people in the UK it might provide some useful outlet of energy.

As a side benefit some of those may well graduate to being able to service machines at a reasonable price or on a barter basis.

The ELEPHANT in the ROOM ……

Whilst we talk about number of washes in a life cycle, the EU legislates for less water and electricity use, why does nobody point to the new breed of quick washes where a kilo or two is done with great rapidity.

So with a fast “wash” machine cycles increase in number with less washed and of course how good is a quick wash anyway?:
http://www.ukwhitegoods.co.uk/help/buying-advice/washing-machine/2945-washing-machine-fast-wash.html

So far as I am aware there is no EU regulation on energy use, they just came up with the energy label and let the market sort itself out.

Of course, nobody will buy a machine that isn’t A rated or A++++ to infinity and beyond. The fact that to achieve that might mean a five hour wash cycle nobody (or few) looks or thinks about when buying.

When people discover that they then switch-aroo around the program that they use mostly to get the time that they want, even if it doesn’t wash properly. Then you get the residue issues, poor cleaning and so on.

Almost all fast wash programs are not suitable for most people’s normal everyday laundry regardless of what is said.

K.

I wholly agree with you DT and wish more could be done amount the mountains of kitchen appliances that pile up at the disposal sites, most of which must contain reusable equipment. I suspect, and Kenneth will no doubt give us the facts, that modern machines are made in an integrated way that defies disassembly and component recovery so that, ultimately, crushing to destruction, fragmentation, and magnetic and others forms of separation, are the only ways to salvage any valuable commodities for potential reuse and to avoid harmful disposal of hazardous materials. This could be changed if there were protocols on modular assembly and replaceability but most products are going along the same route, even motor cars unfortunately. There are railway and Underground trains, aeroplanes, and ocean going vessels, in daily service over forty years old that have been successfully re-engined, refitted, modernised and refurbished and generally life-extended [often for a different role] but in those cases the capital values of the original equipment and of any new replacement dictate such action. Many washing machines and dishwashers are now so cheap there is no economic sense in recovery unless political decisions are made to raise the value of the environmental benefits. I think that is where we should be directing our energy now. I still support longer warranties, however, and think one of the problems is the lack of competition in the customer-purchased ‘extended warranty’ market – they mostly seem to be under the control of one company.

I meant “about” not “amount” in the first line.

No, it’s not as complex for once.

The value in spares recovery is for a manufacturer to service warranty needs so, you quite often see machines returned to be stripped for that. Not all though.

For older machines, they hold more value as scrap material than they do in second hand spare parts and, as I said, spares only hold any value at all if or when someone needs them, outside of that they are a cost.

You also need to keep in mind that you have to pay someone to strip the parts out in the first place so, it’s not a cheap thing to recover them. Especially so if all they do is sit on a shelf gathering dust. Then are they good, bad or indifferent as if they were in a busted machine you can’t check them all too often and, you can’t really offer any warrant of them as you can’t judge the state beyond cosmetic and electrically sound.

Hence, no value in it therefore not commercially viable so, almost nobody will do it.

So much so that every year there will be tens of thousands of brand new parts that have no use put in a skip let alone old used ones.

The OFT have looked several times at the extended warrant market for that very reason and one I have made my feelings known on. I would tend to agree, I do not think that there is enough competition and that there are anti-competitive things going on.

K.

Totally agree not commercially viable but from the point of view of giving something for people to do that may present an element of self-worth, to let these people see how machine “work” , and possibly add skills why not.

In conurbations like Manchester etc I suspect there are empty warehouses where the owner would be grateful for the tax relief of having it used by a charity. Yes there may be surpluses of some parts – though from the operational research perspective this will reveal what lasts well : ).

Think of it as the Remploy of the 2000’s.

I see from a green point of view the number of long guarantees is here:
http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/buyersguides/appliances/washingmachines.aspx

If only that were so simple.

Legislatively as an “employer” you still have to have all the H&S stuff in place, insurances for public and employees, you need to account for it all, you need to pay minimum wages by law at the very least, you need to have supervision and on and on the costs go.

There are a number of charities that have tried this such as Create in Liverpool and have come asunder, even after subsidy. In part because they cannot get raw machines to recondition as they are worth more in scrap and offset tonnage under the WEEE Directive.

There are those such as the BHF that buy in machines from a certain division of a certain retailer and there might be more to that than perhaps meets the eye as well.

Outside of that you get small pockets of people doing it in some areas, one was mentioned before, but it’s often very local and limited in scope.

There are a number of reasons for this and, without boring you to death with it, it comes down to costs vs reward. The rewards are not there and the costs high so it isn’t appealing. Add to that the difficulty in obtaining technical information, spare parts and the prices of spares and it really isn’t an easy thing to undertake.

But fundamentally ask yourself this, how many people will buy a second hand machine of indeterminate age with no guarantee of longevity beyond the limited warranty on offer when they can pop down to Argos and buy a brand new one with a two year warranty for not a lot more? And, you can buy it on credit or with a credit card etc.

People don’t get that the cheap machine in Argos or wherever is not very good and probably won’t last. Doesn’t matter, it’s cheap, A rated and spins at a gazzilion RPM and has a two year warranty so it has to be a good deal, right?

K.

I know that using the correct dosage of detergent is important not just for the clothes, but the machine as well. One problem I find is the recommended dose can often create too much foam, so you’re forced to use less, which may be detrimental? Should people use less to avoid foam or allow some foaming to avoid limescale and other problems, which could be bad for the machine?

Is it also necessary to use Calgon or other water softening products in hard/very hard water areas?

Looking after the machine will of course reduce the chances of it breaking down.

Yes, dose is important. Very much so in modern high efficiency machines.

It is however a bit of guesswork on the part of the user as it is determined by three basic factors, the level of soiling, the hardness of the water and the load size. To be honest, for most people most of the time it’s best guess. That said, if you take the time to understand soiling levels and you know the water hardness where you live you can save a fortune on detergent as, detergent companies aren’t exactly keen on telling you to use less.

Where I am for example we have soft to very soft water so, we use a 25% recommended dose for normally soiled laundry, about 40-50% dose for heavily soiled. In London, that would be at least 25% higher if not more.

As a rough guide, if you see any more than about 25mm or so of foam, it’s too much detergent used.

Using too little won’t do any harm per say. Using too much can.

There are what are called builders in the detergent that will counter limescale so, dosed properly for water hardness that should not be an issue.

Calgon, big con. As we say. Not needed and we find ineffectual anyway, as has Which? and others.

Limescale issues the worst that will ordinarily happen is that the heating element will fur up, maybe fail eventually but, that’s about it really. Although looking at the advertising you’d think the world was going to end and the machine self destruct.

Of course there are extreme cases but, it’s also extremely rare indeed and most people that are likely to have issues in that regard know it all too well.

But yes, proper care can make your machine last a lot longer.

K.

Some may remember a bit of a discussion eartlier about an extended warranty I purchased, through Miele, for a dishwasher. The 2 year guarantee was extended to 10 years, for £149, on a repair or replace basis. One condition caused comment – if the machine were replaced (rather than repaired) the extended warranty would no longer apply.
Good news! I asked Miele and they have confirmed that:
“As you have purchased a 10 year warranty, if in the unlikely circumstances you should ever need a replacement appliance, then your new model can be updated onto your warranty.”

They did mention promotional warranties but with these the situation is different – presumably when a machine with,say, a 2 year warranty is temporarily offered extending it to 5 or 10 years at no cost.

“On occasions Miele offer free promotional warranties on certain appliances, therefore if the machine did need replacing then same as before the new appliance would come with a standard 2 year guarantee, but the 5 or 10 year warranty would not automatically apply, unless the equivalent model had a promotional warranty running on that appliance also.”

My experience with Miele appliances has been one of decent reliability, and they appear repairable (although expensive in many cases). So hopefully this would not become an issue.

DerekP says:
21 August 2014

My Zanussi FL812 was purchased on 19/08/1987 and is still working. It has been regularly but not heavily used.

I declined the offer of Zanussi 5 year cover, which would have cost me £89 in 1987.

It did once need a trivial repair – which I did myself.

Off topic, but my Sharp Microwave oven was purchased on 23/01/1985 and is still working too. (Mind you it cost me £164.95 for their most basic model).

Congratulations on a wise choice. I see that spare parts are very much available and it seems to be a hot and cold fill machine. The EU will not approve : )

As I understand it the magnetrons lose power with age and I was wondering if this was true, Perhaps you could post a time for a pint in a pyrex jug to bubble boiling. And advise what wattage you are using!!

The German Consumer site Stiftung Warentest may not look at as many washing machines as Which? apparently does but what it does do is test 3 of each type day and night for 6 months which is over 9 years of use.

Seems a amuch more thorough and useful test than stopping at the optical cleanliness of a 40C wash. If there are any German speakers …. I need help with my 5Euro report! Write to me care of Which? !!

dieseltaylor, I was under the impression that Which? collaborated with its European equivalents in testing. Perhaps Which? could comment. If it does not, it would be a good idea if it did as we are all using many of the same appliances

Hi Malcolm, very well recalled – we do indeed collaborate with our European equivalents. We’re part of ICRT (International Consumer Research & Testing). There’s more on their members here: http://www.international-testing.org/members.html. Thanks, Charlotte

Charlotte – Thank you for confirming Which? do collaborate.

I am confused why we have had a 60,000 word thread on how long should washing machines should last without any mention, other than my own, that other organisations do test on longevity so they can say that machines survive more than 9 years.? All are talk on SoGA may have been materially different if we could quote to court the information held in Germany on the same model machine.

In passing I see that the problems with Candy machines were flagged up in Germany where the washing machines were breaking up after 750 washes – providing my translation is correct.!
https://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/faulty-hoover-candy-washing-machines-not-recalled/

Charlotte are there any reasons why the collaboration does not provide more information to us – or is this a cost issue where Stiftung Warentest are asking more than Which? is prepared to pay.

Yes. And, no.

That is an area Malcolm that is, shall I say, “difficult” to get to the bottom of.

There are variances by territory or region but with much commonality on components as we do live in a more global market these days to a degree. The results are indicative for sure but not a slam dunk as you need to relate the components and whatnot to UK models to be wholly relevant beyond doubt.

Essentially, many appliances are tailored to local markets. That may just be changing the language on the control panel, the functionality, specific market needs in certain respects or, it could be deeper than that. Without really analysing it more in-depth it is difficult to be completely certain.

Worthwhile, yes. Conclusive, no.

K.

Perhaps then Which? could adopt the same rigorous testing regime for washing machines to give UK subscribers the same level of confidence in what is an acceptable life span.

Kenneth – We need to push for manufacturers to declare the estimated lifetime of their appliances. If I recall correctly, they have this information but choose not to inform us, the users. I hope that you might be able to use your connections to push for information about the number of cycles a machine is likely to last, assuming that it is not abused.

Nobody can exert that much pressure I’m afraid.

Keep in mind that you are dealing with multiple multi-national businesses that are in competition with one another and, as the industry is so heavily commoditised that competition is largely centred on price levels.

Being the cheapest is the name of the game for most of them.

Equally, customers vote with their wallets and snap up the cheapest that they can get with the feature set that is required at point of sale, little thought is usually given beyond that point until it is too late. Largely this is most probably as these are distress purchases, not planned.

The lifespan, whilst a factor I would acknowledge for *some* people is not a major one for a good many, likely most. But almost entirely over-ridden by the (cost / features + looks + brand = purchase) equation.

K.

The last two comments appear to ignore Which?’s “potential” role in simply doing the endurance tests as part of the overall testing. And in fact if the likes of Miele confirm that their machines are identical for both markets – bar lettering etc. then that is all to the good.

I simply do not see any point in continuing to ask the industry for information if by starting to highlight longevity aswell as optical cleaning [and please a hygiene mention] they will need to start providing the info. A Which? Best Buy recommendation can make a huge difference to sales and I cannot see the commercial logic of not using this as a stick in with the manufacturers.

I see that the Dutch Consumer body has a policy of allowing extra machines to be added to testing at the manufacturers cost. Smart. They started pre- Which? and have a higher % uptake per household than Which?.

“Although there are several consumer organisations in the Netherlands, there is only one
organisation which looks after the consumers’ interests at national level and which has
the means to execute this task: Consumentenbond – the biggest and most influential
consumer organisation in the Netherlands. In 2001, the number of its members was 640 000, i.e. 10% of households in the Netherlands. Consumentenbond is also the only organisation dealing exclusively with consumer questions.”

It has dropped from that high figure to around half of that but in comparison Which? is around 2%

Kenneth – We are not all looking for the cheapest possible washing machines. You have told us that manufacturers are aware of the expected life of their machines, so surely it is not unreasonable to expect them to provide consumers with this information, in the same way that we are provided with information about energy use, etc.

Apple provides me with information that the battery on my laptop has a maximum expected life of 1000 complete charge cycles. The cycle count is 1155 cycles so I realise that I am living on borrowed time and I know that it will need to be replaced soon. Cars have a milometer to record use and stationary engines have hours meters.

Is it really too much to expect washing machine manufacturers to provide us with information about how much use we have had out of our machines? Should we be pushing the EU to insist that we are provided with this information?

wavechange, so we can differentiate between different machines, the expected minimum usage before a failure would be a very useful statistic – indeed it would be better as part of a guarantee, as in cars – milers and/or years – so we could choose a machine to best suit our needs. It would also be a better basis on which to make a claim.
One thing strikes me as odd – Which’s test lab buyers guide lists, for example, 6 different machines form Miele, 11 from Bosch/Siemens, 10 Hotpoint, all with different scores. You would think when a manufacturer designed a machine the basic method of operation would be similar, with variants on extent of programmes and spin speeds. Would 10 machines from the same manufacturer really be distinctly different in practice? Or is their such inconsistency during testing that gives the different results.
I would have thought it sensible to make a basic, mid range, and top end all-bells-and-whistles machine as all we are doing is washing clothes. Is this marketing gone beserk? I don’t believe it is what consumers demand. Few models = fewer spares= more likely to repair economically.

It’s not uncommon for products from the same manufacturer to feature in both the Which? ‘Best Buy’ and ‘Don’t Buy’ categories. Unfortunately, some well known manufacturers do produce some poor products, so brand loyalty is not always a good strategy.

Different models by the same manufacturer could be closely similar or different, and there is no easy way of knowing. With cars it used to be common (and probably still is) for a model to be fitted with alternative parts. I well recall the hassle of taking back Girling brake pads and exchanging them for Lockheed pads, which were alternative fitments for one of my cars. I would not be surprised if some washing machine manufacturers fit different makes of drain pumps, for example, depending on what is available at the time of manufacture.

One factor that could obviously affect the performance of a batch of washing machines is variation in temperature. Maybe the manufacturers record the precision and the accuracy of temperature control for a production run, but we are not going to get to know.

Somehow we have got to get to the bottom of the durability issue so that consumers can make an informed choice.

While I will never accept that consumers are to blame for manufacturers selling very cheap washing machines, I do recognise that introducing new features helps sell many products. The idea of simplicity does appeal to me too, but even we are likely differ in how we would want to use a washing machine, for example.

Wouldn’t it be great to have the opportunity to visit the Which? labs and see how washing machines are tested? 🙂

Beryl: “I am no sure whether manufacturers would be willing to commit to estimates as the legal ramifications could be too complex and expensive”

Nail, head.

You’ve missed a very important element in it Beryl but you’re certainly on the right track there.

The element you’ve missed is another very complex topic with various forks in it but I will attempt to simplify as best I can.

If you give a long warranty then the owner will often “assume” that everything is covered when it plainly is not and, it would be unreasonable to think it were.

There is also an element of owners who then, working under that assumption, will think that they need take no care or can even abuse the product without penalty. Now, most reasonable people won’t do that and I completely understand this but, that bad element can be extremely damaging both to a brand’s reputation and directly in financial terms.

Hence a generalised reluctance to offer long warranties and it’s the same old story of, a few rotten apples…

wavechange: “We are not all looking for the cheapest possible washing machines.”

True. I would ask you to consider the evidence however.

Approximately 40% of the market is less than £300, decidedly budget.

Approximately 40% lies in the £300-500 bracket, mid range pricing wise, not quality wise.

About a further 10% sits in the £500-700 range.

The remaining 10% is above that.

The top 10% is where the quality products are and you can more or less guarantee that you are getting something that is of decent quality that isn’t just badged up or whatever.

Below this, without quality information to the contrary, all bets are off in respect to quality.

The market trend is leaning decidedly and, I do mean strongly, toward the sub-£300 bracket.

The reason I am giving you this information is to demonstrate that this is not just a supposition on my part or numbers pulled out the air but that the cold hard reality is that people want cheap. Good, not so much.

Manufacturers and retailers simply meet this demand. If there was sufficient demand for better products you would get them but, they would come at a cost and the entire market would be lifted in terms of pricing.

The people, perhaps like yourself or other readers of Which?, that want good quality, durable and repairable products are rare, very rare as they account for about one in ten sales at best. If you remove Miele from that the numbers as so low as to frighten you.

Mass manufacturers do not and, will not, cater to 10% of the marketplace let alone far less than that unless it is as a marketing exercise as the case with so-called “showcase” products. I am sorry but that is the commercial reality.

To put counters on the machines, which is technically perfectly possible without any doubt whatsoever, incurs a cost. When it’s a game that is based upon getting the price as low as possible I will allow you to work out for yourself the willingness to do that.

malcolm r: “so we could choose a machine to best suit our needs. It would also be a better basis on which to make a claim.”

Correct.

But, you need to get to that and given the commercial pressure to decrease pricing it real terms that is highly unlikely without huge consumer pressure and/or legislation to force it.

You also need to consider that most manufacturers and retailers are not going to set out to make a rod for their own back or, entertain the possibility of it. So, they need the counters in place to prove the use and defend, see above.

Who’s going to go first?

malcolm r: “Would 10 machines from the same manufacturer really be distinctly different in practice?”

In some cases, yes however that would very much depend on the tests and the quality of the machine being tested.

For example, a machine I happen to be familiar with and I know Miele have a variance on temperature of +/- 2˚C. Most however are +/- 10-15% (at best) as you just cannot get accuracy to that degree using cheap components.

Dieseltaylor will love that little nugget. 😉

Therefore you can test, as Which? do, several machines using the same bits roughly flying in the same formation and yet get varying results.

However without knowing how the machines are tested, the methodologies employed as well as the research on each carried out and so on it is not possible to do much more than guess at this.

wavechange: “I would not be surprised if some washing machine manufacturers fit different makes of drain pumps, for example, depending on what is available at the time of manufacture”

Don’t fret too much on that.

They use what is available, meets the cost requirements and so on with the ability to change if a better alternative becomes available etc.

Parts suppliers go under, items get discontinued for a plethora or reasons and so on, again a pretty complex area in many regard that when examined often proves not so straightforward as most people might ordinarily assume it to be.

malcolm r: “Is this marketing gone beserk?”

Yes.

That is most probably the most obvious conclusion and I am so glad that someone made it, not me, as that is precisely what it is in a good many cases.

Which often also plays to the warranty issue.

This is a deeply, deeply complex subject with a myriad of rabbit holes to jump down, you guys are only beginning to understand a few of them I feel.

K.

Kenneth – “For example, a machine I happen to be familiar with and I know Miele have a variance on temperature of +/- 2˚C. Most however are +/- 10-15% (at best) as you just cannot get accuracy to that degree using cheap components.”

I can understand +/- 2˚C but not +/- 10-15%. Percentage of what?

You do paint a depressing picture of washing machine manufacturers in your posts. 🙁

Within +/- 10-15% of set temperature but it can go way outside that in some cases. Sorry, lapsed into technobabble.

It’s not depressing really.

The market works, we have exactly what the vast bulk of people seem to say they want as that’s what they buy, cheap machines that are uber efficient, take huge loads, have loads of features and programs most people will never use as well as spin at stupidly high speeds that really aren’t required.

Manufacturers have delivered exactly what the market demanded.

An unfortunate by-product or side effect of that is that many, especially low cost machines, have become almost throwaway items.

You can debate the morality of that and where blame (if any can be apportioned) lies till the cows come home but technically speaking, from my perspective, that is the truth of it in that the market has been served with exactly what it wanted allowing for the unwanted side effects.

K.

Kenneth – I still don’t understand the +/- 10-15% of set temperature. Can you express this as +/- X˚C? That would mean something to me.

It’s very simple, set to 100˚C the temperature would very from 85-90˚C to 110-115˚C.

The temperature maintained is a mean temperature, not sustained for most.

This applies to virtually all appliances.

K.

That is a very strange way of expressing temperature, Kenneth. Try using that to show temperature variation for a 30˚C wash and you would end up with 15-20˚C to 40-45˚C, which seems unlikely. It’s better to stick with the system that is unambiguous and everyone will understand.

It seems clear to me is that these temperature variations could result in considerable difference in the performance of individual machines of the same make and model.

Wavechange – It is a 15% range so at 30C that would be a 4.5C either side of 30C.

Not very impressive and that is why I think Which? should test temperatures AND publish them in its reviews!!!

Kenneth: True to form the focus was very much on the negative. The point I was endeavouring to put across was the difference between an estimated lifespan and a warrantee. A warrantee normally comes with T & C’s whereas it would be legally difficult to apply these same conditions to an estimated lifespan which is why I can’t envisage manufacturers agreeing to this.

Wavechange: Until we have appliances that have dashboards with dials and indicators that tell us the exact speed the machine is spinning, how much detergent (fuel) we have put in the dispenser (tank) how much water is rinsing the laundry (cooler) whether the machine is overloaded (or overheating) then it may be possible, as with cars, to legislate for a definitive lifespan. OK it may presently be possible to incorporate a device that indicates the number of cycles (mileage) but without all of these indices or ‘bells and whistles’ we have a long way to go I feel before appliances correspond to cars on a technological and legal level, and then there is the economical aspect to consider in all of this……………..

Beryl. not difficult or expensive to incorporate electronics that record machine performance that could be read by a service engineer to determine whether it had performed correctly.

Dieseltaylor – I agree that it would be interesting to have this information. The practical problem is that if you test a few machines of a particular model, this could be unrepresentative of the variation over many thousands of machines. On the other hand, if the manufacturer provided a specification and Which? tests showed that this was not being met on models under test, that would show something about quality control.

I don’t know why washing machines do not display the temperature, which is an important factor in washing performance. We have temperature gauges for car engines and interiors, temperature gauges on central heating room thermostats, and temperature gauges on some fridges and freezers. I expect that we will be told that this would add to the cost, but that would not be much.

I don’t believe the Miele figure of +/- 2˚C is useful because the accuracy of temperature control will depend on how close it is to ambient temperature. It is well established that temperature is hardest to control near ambient, so I would expect a different range for each temperature setting.

Malcolm: A Black Box?………………………….bring it on provided it’s not beyond the pockets of the average consumer. It would certainly solve a lot of the issues in this debate.

in my experience thermal controls will be rated as a +/- degree tolerance throughout their working range, not a % .

The only time you will encounter percentages in the context of temperature control is in relation to duty cycle. I doubt that this is relevant to anything as simple as a washing machine.

I am no sure whether manufacturers would be willing to commit to estimates as the legal ramifications could be too complex and expensive; eg: How could you prove that an appliance has been misused? Is it not an either/or situation? You either have a decent warrantee with some legal backup but how you could legislate on an estimate is anybody’s guess. Would any manufacturer be willing to agree to this and who would want the bother of it all anyway. As has already been established in a separate issue on Which? Convo there are impulse buyers and contemplative buyers depending on age gender and circumstances. Let’s not complicate a very controversial subject further by delving into assumptions. Most consumers expect definitive answers when things go wrong. Going down the road of proving you haven’t misused your appliance is not something I for one would relish.

Beryl – Cars record the mileage they have travelled and this can be seen by the owner and anyone who services the vehicle. A car may have a three or five year warranty, but that will usually end when the car covers a certain number of miles. The low user has a decent warranty on a complex and expensive product and the company is protected against claims from those who cover a high mileage.

What I would like to see is a manufacturer’s ten year warranty for a decent quality washing machine (which would protect low users) with an appropriate cycle limit, which would ensure that the company does not have to provide repairs for machines that have been used heavily. As for the cost incurred in having a cycle counter, do you imagine it is expensive to have a photo counter in a digital camera?

In the same way that mobile phones need to be able to withstand slight abuse, washing machines should be able to do the same. Good design makes it harder to abuse products. For example, it would be good design to make a mobile phone that will not be damaged if it is used on a wet day. Unfortunately, manufacturers seem to prefer to build in moisture detectors so that they can avoid warranty claims.

Cycle counters and hours meters are cheap and simple to install.
I take issue with the view that most people want cheap appliances. Most people, I believe, want “value for money” that also includes a degree of reliability and ability to repair. The problem is they are misled with a lack of information. If they knew a machine could not be repaired economically, or if they knew a machine was not going to last long, then many would, I believe. buy more reliable and more repairable machines. Many have enough common sense to understand what they are told.
Having been in manufacturing I know that decent quality components do not cost an arm and a leg more than poor quality ones – motors, electronics, bearings, switches for example. So a £500 machine should be capable of being made far more reliably, and designed to be maintained, than a £250 machine. The key is to give the consumer the facts.

I agree, though one of the complications is that even well respected manufacturers commonly substitute cheaper parts when a design goes into production, sometimes to save a matter of pence. Failure of an inexpensive component can leave a product beyond economical repair. I have seen many examples involving electronic circuitry. Service engineers soon become aware of the design faults that cause frequent failure of particular models.

If I was a service engineer who owned a failed washing machine, I would be happy to take a company to court, assuming that there was sufficient evidence of frequent failure. Where a manufacturer has used uprated components in later versions of a product can help to confirm that there was a design fault.

Something I have noticed with the retailing of washing machines [and other domestic appliances, TV sets, etc]] is that model/type numbers vary between different sellers for essentially the same product; this makes buying more complicated than it needs to be because there is also usually a price differential. Adding to that is the likelihood that a lot of the stock is a 2012 or 2013 model, when you really want the latest version, and you have no idea what variance there might be between them and whether or not such variations are critical to performance [it could just be something like a different design of feet assembly or transportation bolts].

I have read that this is one of the ways that retailers use to prevent customers from benefitting from price match promises, though I do not know if that is true.

It also makes it difficult to find an independent review for a particular model. Even though it might be identical to one that has been tested and reviewed.

On a related topic, Nov Which? mag Test Lab compares heat pump and other tumble driers on the basis of energy + capital cost. The comparison is over 7 years, with no cost included for repairs. So will all these appliances last trouble-free for 7 years? Otherwise the comparisons do not hold water. We need to know trouble-free lifetimes expected for different appliances to make fair comparisons. Do you have this information from your “Appliances that will last” survey (Jan 14 mag). Publishing this detail would be very useful when assessing a potential purchase.

Malcolm – if you want a little comparison can I suggest you buy the Stiftung Warentest report – it may be the same genesis as the Which? report but more detailed! Noticably they seem to test substantially less than the 166 that Which? report on.

Dryer 42 machines in the test
28/08/2014 – With or without energy-saving heat pump – here you will find the clothes dryer that suits you. The product page shows all the models tested since 2012. You’ll find in the database test results for 42 Dryers, which are currently 36 commercially available. for Test1256
All test results
42 dryer
product Groups
Condenser dryer with heat pump (30)
Condensation dryer without heat pump (12)