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Why modern appliances don't last

Suspect your new appliance isn't as good as the old one? You might be right. Here's what you can do to minimize the repair cost.

By MSN Money Partner May 29, 2013 4:17PM

This post comes from Angela Colley at partner site Money Talks News. 

MoneyTalksNews logoAppliances, both large and small, just aren't what they used to be. Case in point: I'm using a 10-year-old food processor borrowed from my mother because the blade in my one-year-old KitchenAid stopped spinning.

Here are some disturbing statistics from Consumer Reports. In three to four years, here are the odds of an appliance breaking down:

  • Side-by-side fridge with an ice maker -- 36%.
  • Dishwasher -- 20%.
  • Washing machine (front load) -- 25%.



Buy one of those appliances and you have about a 1-in-4 chance of calling a repairman in the next few years.

Why appliances aren't what they used to be

I'll give you another example: Three months ago my old gas dryer finally called it quits. I bought it used almost 10 years after it was manufactured and it lasted an additional two years.

Instead of calling a repairman, I opted to buy a slightly used, less than two-year-old model with all the bells and whistles. Less than a month later, it stopped working. The dryer won't turn on anymore, which left me wondering how something practically brand new didn’t hold up as well as a 12-year-old appliance.

 A woman looking at a washing machine in an appliance shop © altrendo images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

The answer turned out to be all those bells and whistles. Modern appliances have gone digital with electronic motherboards and LED screens, and features like moisture sensors and energy-efficient cycles. They do more, but also have a lot more that can go wrong.

Another problem we're facing: Things aren't made as well as they once were. A report on The Huffington Post from Next Avenue said:

As (MIT lecturer Daniel) Braunstein tells it, many consumer-product companies have moved their manufacturing offshore, delegating design and engineering to contractors, which can create a conflict of interest.
A contractor, Braunstein says, might try to lure corporate customers by keeping the cost of its design and engineering services low. "The result becomes focused on the factory's bottom line instead of the interests of the consumer," he explains. Trimming costs can mean taking shortcuts that negatively impact the appliance's quality.

Learn how to DIY

According to reference site Homewyse, the average cost to repair an appliance ranges from $254 to $275. That's not exactly pocket change, but there is something you can do about it -- learn how to make some repairs yourself.

Some modern appliances aren't too difficult to repair. Stacy Johnson of Money Talks News installed an ice maker in his refrigerator. I repaired the switchboard on my dryer. Check out these sites for DIY instructions:

Find cheaper parts

When buying replacement parts, compare prices at two or more sources to make sure you're getting the best deal. While the manufacturer might sell the part you need, you can probably find it cheaper at another retailer. Check out:

Before you buy, make sure the company has a return policy in case you accidentally order the wrong part or it arrives damaged or doesn't work.

Know when to let go

First, don't count on an extended warranty to cover repairs. According to a study by Consumer Reports, appliances typically don't break until after the standard extended warranty expires, meaning you'll have spent $142 or so and will still end up paying for service calls when the appliance breaks. Skip the warranty.

When your appliance breaks down, get estimates for the repair cost rather than just calling the first repairman in the phone book. I made this mistake once and ended up paying $92 for a service call just to have the repair guy tell me he couldn't fix it that day. Instead, call three or more service companies and ask what they charge.

Once you know the likely repair cost, consider this rule of thumb from Consumer Reports: Replace the appliance if the repair will cost more than half the cost of a new one. Otherwise, you might end up paying for the repair now, only to have the appliance break again later on.

More on Money Talks News:

May 29, 2013 6:14PM
She missed the most important, and real, reason... Modern appliances don't last, because company execs realized that, if they made things to break within five years, and if repair costs reached the same dollar amount as buying something new, then they (the companies) could make a butt-load more money from people having to replace their appliances every few years.
May 29, 2013 5:57PM
Anything made in china is junk and will not last. Thank you American Corporations for relocating to china. You guys suck!
May 29, 2013 6:13PM
case in point maytag used to be very good,then a few years ago they moved factories to you are buying junk.
May 29, 2013 6:41PM
There's no craftsmanship anymore; no pride in constructing a quality product.  Everything's just slapped together as cheaply as possible to make an easy buck.  The worse it's made, the sooner we'll have to buy a new one - that's the game. 
May 29, 2013 8:31PM
I'm sure I'll get lots of 'thumbs-down', but I use all vintage appliances more than 30 years old, except for a new microwave. Never have any problems with any of 'em, and they look better, too.
May 29, 2013 6:42PM
many companies, even American companies have started doing what they call "planned  obselesence" which means that even though can and should build a better quality machine, they opt to purposely build one that will need to be replaced within 5-10 years.  That way they make more money instead of replacing major appliances every 10-20 years.  So sad our american companies are doing this also.
May 29, 2013 8:01PM
LMAO is this article for real??? Look this is from a retired Aircraft Technician, none of the reasons stated are the real reason things aren't built well.  The real reasons they aren't is one simple thing.

Its a concept widely used in virtually every manufacturer of durable goods, its called planned obsolescence.

1. Manufacturers do not want you to own items for a long period of time because you will not invest in continued growth and development for the company.  If items are built to last beyond 10 or more years, the development of products and technology would be much slower and various sub contractors and parts makers and distributors would not be in business. 

2.  Manufacturers want items to break to bring you back into buying a new one, in the past manufacturers made money by having service technicians make house calls with factory authorized parts and with service calls, but as independent appliance service centers (sometimes good and sometimes bad) and 3rd party parts worked there way into the repair side of it, manufacturers lost a good deal of income. 

3.  Since millions of PCB and other electronic boards cannot be on any manufacturer's parts shelf at any given time, parts supplies must be tightly controlled and regulated, most PCB and electronic boards are refurbished since new ones are rarely made, so therefore the cost is going to be a lot higher. Its not the fact that electronics are expensive, its the fact business cant justify having thousands of new boards just for repairs. 

Do I think its right? no, will it make the item more expensive? yes but I think that should be up to the consumer, not the manufacturer whether you opt for a more expensive better built product, but this is also a side effect of mass manufacturing. You get what you pay for, 50 years ago appliances cost the same as they do now, but you got a lot more for the same amount of money. and when you consider back then a TV was 500 to 700 dollars (1500 to 2000 now) you better be getting something that will last.

In short you get what you pay for, if your stubbornly insisting on walmart prices for a major purchase, your going to get something your just replacing a few years down the road. 

As for people think everything made in China is bad? They can make excellent products, its the American companies who send them garbage and tell them to make quality with it. You give them a dime of material and want a dollar of product. Even with their social medicine and low wages the profit mongering of companies is sickening.  You want better? force American companies to return to the US and be responsible for what they make, hire Americans with the know how. Its not Walmart, its people wanting Walmart prices for products like Ethan Allen or Broyhill, or any of the once great American products.
May 29, 2013 7:43PM
Planned obsolescence. 20 year old dryers do not make any money for the corporations. Pride in workmanship and product is now bad for business. The corruption of corporate America. 
May 29, 2013 6:36PM
We live in a throw away society.  It breaks we replace!  No one takes or has the time to fix anything anymore.  It's all about money!
May 29, 2013 6:42PM
They figured out that you will spend $400-$500 avery couple of years for a new I phone.  So lets stop making are stuff last 10-15 years. 
May 29, 2013 8:15PM

Duh! I remember when the big appliances made here lasted for 15 years, with (maybe) 2-3 minor repairs over the course of the life of the appliance. That was when American workers could be proud of the quality of goods they produced when they were made here. The problem is that good quality reduces sales and profits. repetitive business is a lot more profitable.

so now we have junk, that need constant repairs, with prices for repairs and parts costing more than the original cost of those appliances of yester year. We are now told that you might as well buy a new appliance when the repairs will cost you half the price you paid for it. you can always buy an extended warrantee  (I call them profit protection plans) to cover the inferior quality of your purchase. And as the reports state, the appliance coincidently breaks down after the warrantee is expired anyway.

Since we offshored almost all of our manufacturing and the jobs that went with them, we have the next gen of American workers selling these junkers in Wal-Mart and other big box houses of fraud for

starvation wages, while the top level CEO's, who used to average maybe 40X their average workers salaries, now see their incomes rise to 500-800 times that.

May 29, 2013 8:48PM
Because of past poor experiences, I tend to buy appliance models with the fewest "bells-and-whistles."  My ultra-cheap (and mechanically simple) Roper washer and dryer have nearly 15 years on them, with no problems or repairs.
May 29, 2013 6:08PM

Everything seems to be made in CHINA, we have no choice but to buy what is presented to us at the time we need something. The people in China don't care how long something will last, there only interested in making a paycheck. It's the MANUFACTURERS that don't demand a QUALITY PRODUCT, there only interested in there PROFIT.

If the UNIONS would not have been so GREEDY maybe the jobs would of stayed here.

The PRIDE in AMERICA has gone., How can we feel good when our POLITICIANS sell us out.

We get no discount for buying CHINESE products, there prices are outrageous.

May 29, 2013 7:31PM
I owned Amana stuff for decades with never  a problem... as soon as Whirlpool bought them my new washer broke 4 times in 3 years.  When the warranty was gone so was the machine.  I now buy foreign brands.  American companies better wake up or they will go the way of most of our auto industry.  I will not trust Whirlpool, Amana, or Maytag as they are the same company.
May 29, 2013 7:55PM
I have a top-of-the-line KitchenAid dishwasher, 23 months old. MADE IN THE USA.  It was a selling point, because our previous KA dishwasher lasted 15 yrs with no issues.  It seemed like $1600 well-spent. Until last week...when the control pad started blinking in and out, worked, not working..etc.  But wait!! It is still under warranty!! Hooray! Well, maybe a small hooray, since the warranty only covers parts, we still have to pay for the service call. Geesh. Next time I'll buy one for half the price, with the same warranty and just replace it when it kicks the bucket.
May 29, 2013 6:48PM

Dishwashers, I haven't had dishwasher issues as far as cleaning function but I have had problems with the upper and lower racks going bad. Once the coating is compromised, even a little, then the rusting starts. This should be a simple change to replace them yourself but when you price them they are $150 to $300+ each. About the cost to replace the entire unit.


Counter top, or glass top, stoves, do NOT ever drop something on the glass surface. I never put anything that is hard, metal, or even glass in the cabinet above the stove. It cost as much or even a little more to replace just the glass than it does to buy a new one of equal or better quality.


May 29, 2013 8:33PM
The repair guy is here now, working on my 35+ year old Caloric range.  It's worth fixing every 5-7 years, as the Caloric Ultra Ray broiler was the best.  Nothing today comes close!
May 29, 2013 7:09PM

I was able to find a freezer made in Canada, but no appliances made in America. I feel as though three parts to the puzzle of why appliances fail early. 

1. I suspect Made in Chia is the problem with newer appliances.

2. Also some corporate greed in designing them to fail may play a part in early appliance failure.

3. The article did mention the only other piece of the puzzle. The fact that they put computers and electronic control panels in them. However the laughs on them for the electronics because I know how to fix them...

May 29, 2013 10:55PM
LESSON don't buy appliances with extra bells and whistles I made that mistake Samsung are crap. suppose to be high end but constantly stop working. you have to kill the power to reset the electronics. steam washer and drier takes 3 times as long to wash the cloths and leaves soap on them, drier sometimes wont dry the cloths I have to keep turning it back on like 3 times to get them to dry - CRAP side by side ref once a month shuts off freezer CRAP Kenmore elite dish washer have to constantly pull apart to clean garbage disposal CRAP Kenmore microwave and oven paints coming off and plastic door handle broke. CRAP Kenmore elite range, burners never want to light and don't burn even (gas) CRAP all new under 5 years old. stick to basic models seems they were a lot less trouble. wish I had all my old stuff back. never had any problems with them it was just the misses wanted new stuff.
May 29, 2013 8:46PM

Appliances don't last because they are now made in China, NOT because of complexity. Our Maytag washer and dryer, and refrigerator, are all junk. They don't have anything digital or electronic.


on the advice of the repairman, we got rid of the washer and dryer, and got the cheapest Whirpool ones. The part that failed in the refrigerator got replaced with a more expansive American-made part, which made more sense than a new fridge.


The washer was doomed because a broken transmission is more expensive to fix than a new washer, and the dryer, well no one could figure out what was wrong with it.

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