As appliances become more advanced, consumers like us tend to expect that they should last longer than older models. At the very least, you’d expect them to last as long as your trusty window type AC from the 80s. Those older appliances were so dependable that you wouldn’t require appliance repair services as often as you do today.
The National Association of Home Builders/Bank of America Home Equity Study of Life Expectancy of Home Components reported that you could expect modern thermostats to last for 35 years, gas boilers for 21 years, and tank-less water heaters and oil warm air furnaces for 20 years.
However, the complete list of average appliance life expectancy reports that compactors only last six years on average. Dehumidifiers, humidifiers, microwave ovens, compact refrigerators, and dishwashers will last about eight to nine years. Washing machines, gas and electric water heaters, freezers, and room air conditioners are expected to last about 10 to 11 years on average.
What accounts for this decline in reliability and durability in modern appliances? Experts point out several reasons for this situation:
Outsourcing the parts. It’s not really true that the fault for the decreasing lifespan of appliances is because they’re all made in places like China where the quality control standards aren’t as stringent. Modern dishwashers aren’t as durable as its predecessors, but the dishwashers made by Ikea, KitchenAid, Amana, Maytag, and Whirlpool are all made in the safe huge factory in Ohio. This is the largest dishwasher manufacturing facility in the world, and it even had a $40-million upgrade in in 2016.
Frigidaire builds their dishwashers in North Carolina, while GE builds them in Kentucky. Even the German brand Bosch builds their dishwashers in North Carolina.
However, the production of appliance components is often outsourced and made by third-party manufacturers. Naturally, if they’re cutting costs they’re not exactly prioritizing quality and durability.
Less weight. Appliances manufacturers are building appliances that don’t weigh as much as before. They can tout this in their advertising, and they also cost the manufacturers to ship the appliances. To achieve this weight loss, the manufacturers have taken to using more plastic parts instead of metal ones and plastic doesn’t last as long as metal.
More sophisticated. If you want a longer-lasting appliance, pick one with simpler or fewer features. The simple fact is that the more advanced and the more features that an appliance has, the more things can go wrong with it. Simpler appliances tend to use technology and components that have proven their durability over the decades.
Benefits to Consumers
While the decreasing reliability of modern appliances is a cause of concern, it doesn’t mean that the appliance manufacturers are out to fleece you of your money. In fact, they offer certain advantages that compensate for the reliability drawback.
They’re more convenient to use. This is axiomatic—if your advanced appliances have more features, then they’re generally easier to use and offer better results.
They’re more efficient too. They don’t use up as much energy as older appliance models. Some appliances like dishwashers also don’t use as much water as older dishwashers. Now that most consumers are somewhat environmentally conscious, these benefits are crucial.
They’re more affordable. It’s true that from a straight price-point comparison, appliances today seem much more expensive. But in real-world terms, appliances then are 3 times more expensive than they are today. In other words, an appliance that would cost you 3 weeks’ wages back in the 1980s will now cost you a single week’s paycheck.
You can still do your own research to find the most reliable appliance brands and avoid the brands that often attract the most complaints regarding breakdowns. But you need to accept that modern appliances may be better and cheaper, but they’re certainly not as reliable as before.