Over the last 11 years I’ve been writing about the poor quality of many modern washing machines. As a long-time repairman I’d witnessed the gradual slip between people keeping them running as long as possible to all too often throwing them away at the first breakdown – unless it could be fixed for a pittance. Since then it’s become a serious environmental issue.The public usually gets exactly what the public wants. The majority of people don’t want more reliable washing machines – they mostly want cheaper washing machines. They might say they want more reliable washing machines, but only if they aren’t expensive, which can’t happen. If this wasn’t true – how come hardly anyone buys a Miele compared to how many buy Indesit, Beko, Candy, Servis, Hotpoint etc? Most people know a Miele washing machine is substantially better quality and likely to last at least 2 or 3 times longer than a Hotpoint or Indesit but they won’t buy one – because they are “expensive”.
This isn’t an advert for Miele, I mention them because apart from the odd machines such as the ISE10 made by Asko it’s hard to find a washing machine that is still so well built. However, buying a high quality washing machine such as a Miele is regretfully no longer a guarantee it will definitely last longer than a normal one even though most will. These days it seems some Miele repairs can be uneconomical due to very high spares prices and lack of competition in repairs. However, most should still have a much better chance of lasting longer than an average appliance, and are without doubt a much better machine all round in every other sense.
The ISE10 is semi-professional quality, guaranteed for 10 years parts and labour but it costs around £899. Miele have models just as “expensive” and more though entry models are around £600. The most important thing about the ISE10 is the commitment by ISE not to profit from spare parts other than to cover costs, and to make all technical information freely available to all repairers out there. This should ensure that despite not being quite as good quality as a Miele, spares and repairs should be seriously cheaper meaning an ISE10 should potentially outlast anything else on the market at the moment. A point I make on the Miele article above is that no matter how well built a product is, it can only really last if either it just never breaks down – or future repairs to it are economically viable compared to replacement costs.
I use the word “expensive” reluctantly, and in quotes, because they are only relatively expensive. £800 is what a washing machine of that quality should cost these days – if not more. They only appear expensive because other manufacturers constantly undercut the quality so much they can sell much cheaper and make them look expensive.
To quote from the first article linked to below -
.. For example, Hoover used to sell a 1200 spin 4.5Kg washing machine at over £400 in the 1990s, yet you can now (2008) buy a Hoover 1600 spin 6Kg washing machine for £211. That’s inflation in reverse, and it’s achieved in large part by reducing quality, repairability and aftersales service.
In 1973, a basic Hoover washing machine was £94.88, in today’s prices that’s £912.74 (April 2011) – Source: Inflation calculator. Today – well over 30 years later, a similarly basic washing machine – but with faster spins and a bigger drum can be bought for £179 (Beko or Indesit – source Kelkoo price comparison site). That’s equivalent to just £18.43 in 1973. So in 30 years the price of a basic washing machine has dropped (in real terms) by nearly 80% which is absolutely staggering.
A 80% reduction in the cost of a washing machine 30 years later is impossible without reducing the quality and longevity of the product. If you want to produce a washing machine made as well as the Hoover was in 1973 it would cost at least £500+ and with extra features and technical advances it can easily be £700+.
Bear in mind also that Hoover weren’t even a quality manufacturer, there were plenty of better built appliances available at the time. They simply produced decently made washing machines that were relatively cheap to repair because spares were reasonably priced and technical support freely available to every independent repairer. This optimum recipe meant Hoover washing machines commonly lasted at least 10 – 12 years and very often 15 – 20 years. I’ve repaired 30 year old Hoover washing machines from the 70s). This is something ISE are trying to reintroduce (What is the ISE washing machine, and why is it different to other washing machines? )