We have had a bit of run of appliance failures in our house the last few weeks. First our dishwasher, which is only 2 years old, stopped functioning. This wasn't the first time we've had someone out to fix our relatively new dishwasher. It's not like we went the cheap route on our dishwasher either. We did our research and picked a dishwasher that had excellent reviews, a Whirlpool. From experience we knew that buying an extended warranty on an appliance like this is a sound purchase, so the warranty covered both the first visit last November and this last visit. This time around the repair technical told us that there were several parts that had to be repaired and that the repairs were extensive enough that it was cheaper for the company to just give us a brand new dishwasher. So they issued us an electronic gift card worth the initial purchase price we paid and we were off the store to get a new dishwasher (and of course we bought an extended warranty again this time as well).
The 2nd appliance failure was our front loading washer. We had to leave town for about a week and when we returned and our daughter went to do a load of laundry, she opened up the door and water came pouring out. Our laundry room and kitchen were quickly flooded. Apparently there was a slow leak in our washing machine and since the door was closed all week it had filled up with water. The washer was 7 years old and our dryer was 15 years old, so we made the decision to just go ahead and replace both. We had purchased an extended warranty on the washing machine but the warranty had expired several years back. We did our homework and ended up purchasing a matching washer and dryer set from LG, and again we purchased an extended warranty (on the washer, not the dryer). A dryer is a fairly simple machine compared to the washer and at least in our experience the dryer always outlives the washer (generally by a factor of 2-1). So we put our money in the washer warranty.
So what's going on? You would think that as technology gets more advanced we would start getting more time out of our appliances, but the opposite seems to be happening. It used to be that you could get 10-15 years out of a washer, dryer or dishwasher but not anymore. I think it comes down to simple economics. It's cheaper for a company to design a product that hits that 3-5 year lifetime mark. It doesn't cost them anymore to just manufacture more devices, there is no charge on the manufacture for filling up our landfills. So they just keep pumping these things out. The consumer is also partially to blame. It seems like it is much popular to go out and do a kitchen remodel and that generally involves buying brand new and matching appliances. The manufactures are simply responding to demand and demand is for updated appliances more often. A growing number of people just aren't happy with keeping a device for 10-15 years anymore.
So what does that mean for the consumer that wants to minimize the amount of money they spend on appliances?
- Do your homework and research consumer reviews and professional or industry ratings
- Don't assume that a more expensive appliance means a longer lasting appliance. An increased cost usually means more functions that can potentially break over time.
- Brand names don't carry the same weight and value that they used to. A brand may produce a great long-lasting products for a few years and then go downhill. Don't put too much emphasis in brand names.
- Extended warranties are generally a good idea, but shop around and don't pay a ton of money for a really long warranty. Coverage for 3-5 years is good, much longer than that and you are going to be paying a lot of money (probably more than you will ever get out of the coverage)
We typically look at who is offering the best sales and/or interest free financing and then buy from that store. BestBuy, Lowes and Home Depot are all likely candidates and they all offer extended warranties. I've found that all of these stores have extended warranties that have similar benefits and there is no real advantage to one over the other.
Hopefully you have better luck that we have had in the past month, but if you find yourself in the market for a new appliance do your homework...