A high quality washing machine can cost twice as much as a mid-priced washing machine. Advanced models can even cost over 3 or 4 times more, but are they just vastly over priced? And did you know it could cost more to buy an averagely made washing machine than to buy the basic model of the best quality washer in the UK?
There’s expensive washing machines – and high quality washing machines
You can’t judge how well made an appliance is by how much it costs. I’ve seen one of the cheapest brands on the market (now gone bust) selling poor quality models bristling with design and features, which cost almost as much as a renowned quality manufacturer’s entry models. Brands listed as one of the least reliable washing machines by Which? have models costing over £600, and some as high as £1000! Yet Miele washers, the best money can buy start at around £650, so you can get a massive difference in build quality for the same money.
Don't make the mistake of assuming a washing machine costing a lot of money must be high build quality because some are just expensive because of the perceived extra value of “features” such as faster spin speeds, bigger drums and extra options as described here – Is a more expensive washing machine a better washing machine?
High Quality Brands
There are a lot of very expensive washing machines on sale, but only a few are specifically built to higher standards and therefore what I would call a quality brand. Miele is the main high quality brand in the UK. With Miele you will get a solid, reliable washing machine built to a much higher standard than normal washing machines. You should expect it to last a long time. Miele for example claim their washing machines are tested for the equivalent of 20 years (average) use and many models have a 10 year guarantee. During this time it shouldn't break down regularly. It should be much quieter and more stable during spin.
At the end of the day, if you can afford it, the quality washing machines are far superior in every way, they are quieter, more sophisticated, a pleasure to use, and often more technically advanced and more reliable as well as cheaper to run.
Cheap washing machines
At the cheap end of the washing machine market, we now have brand new machines that can be purchased as low as £250. Expect them to be noisier and much less stable on spin if they have fast spin speeds. They need treating with respect. Not because they deserve it, but because they are not robustly made. Soap dispenser drawers and doors have a tendency to drop off occasionally unless well treated, and the writing on the control panel is may wear off or rub away.
You can get lucky with a cheap budget washing machine, but many can expect one to break down more often during its (shorter) life and they are very much unsuitable for heavy use, they will not last. Unfortunately the cost of many repairs as a percentage of the purchase cost can make them not worth repairing at shockingly young ages. Check out the poll in this article, which shows many washing machines lasting less than 3 years – How long should a washing machine last?
Buying budget washing machines can often work out more expensive in the long run than buying a much better quality one in the first place – especially if you are talked into buying an extended warranty too, which do not give the kind of cover most people expect – What you need to know about extended warranties.
Washing machines designed to sell cheaply, or at a premium price bristling with features are also less repairable by design in many cases. The number one goal is driving production costs down. By making parts unrepairable or only available as complete expensive units they drive down production costs at the expense of repairability and longevity. Examples of this are motors that can't be stripped down and repaired (some have even been known to have no replaceable carbon brushes available), drum bearings that can't be replaced meaning a far more expensive (uneconomical) tub change instead, and the latest crazy idea is a completely sealed outer tub and drum, which can't be stripped down. These machines are too cheap to invest much money in keeping them going, so, the old adage of "buy cheap – buy often" can be pretty accurate here.
Despite what's been said above, there are various circumstances where a cheap – no frills – washing machine is all that's required. Some might argue that for £250, if you get 2 or 3 years you shouldn't grumble, and this is a common attitude although not shared by me and not environmentally friendly either.
They might seem much cheaper, but buying a new washing machine every several years is very likely to cost more than investing in a quality one in the first place. Plus they can be very noisy and unstable in comparison to the quality machines. They tend to break down more regularly and are comparatively crude in places. They are may also cost more to run, which is something many people leave out of the equation. A poor energy rating for a washing machine can add a few hundred pounds to the running costs over a lifetime.
The third option? The middle range
If you can't afford a Miele but you don't want a "cheap" washing machine then the middle ground is a good place to try. Here you can find a reasonable amount of features and a relatively "decent" washing machine. This section is represented by brands such as Siemens, Neff, Electrolux and cheaper still are brands like AEG, Bosh, and the John Lewis brand washing machines which come with 3 year warranties.
For more information on the best and worst washing machines see - My buying washing machines articles or check out Which? reviews and Best Buys