Many people say washing machines are now deliberately designed to only last 5 years. The truth is many don’t even reach 5 years these days – but are they cynically designed not to last or just made so cheaply that it’s inevitable they won’t? Washers used to commonly last a minimum of 10 years. They often lasted up to 20 years. I’ve seen many as old as 30 years. However, they also used to cost a lot more.
I have information that many parts inside washing machines are specifically designed to run for a specific number of wash cycles. In many cases the amount of cycles they are designed for is shockingly small. It can equate to only 3 years under heavy use for a big family. This means many washing machines are completely inadequate for many families. The manufacturers don’t publish the cycle times their parts are designed for to enable people to make informed purchasing decisions. It’s safe to say though that you should not buy a budget washing machine for a large family unless you are happy for it to last only a few short years.
The only manufacturer I know in the UK who publish how long their appliances are designed for are Miele whom I constantly recommend as producing the best washing machines to buy. They claim they are designed with a life span of around 20 years (average use).
The last official stats I saw indicated the average washing machine’s lifespan was now just over 7 years, but it might be less now. My own poll asking users how long their last washing machine lasted for (filled in by 3,600 people) currently shows about 35% of washing machines have lasted 5 years or less. Surprisingly – over 40% of people said their last washer lasted 10 years or more, with almost 15% claiming it lasted over 15 years. Sadly there are many that have lasted very short periods indeed.
Are modern washing machines only built to last 5 years?
I used to believe they were not lasting long because they were relatively poorly made. But evidence points to them being designed for quite short lifespans these days. Clearly no one wants to build a washing machine that lasts so long that they go out of business. But we still expect a lifespan that leaves us feeling we’ve had good value for money. Some washing machine manufacturers seem to want to make their profits by simply selling new washing machines on a massive scale as often as possible using multiple brands.
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In the old days they all used to sell washing machines machines and support them throughout a reasonably long life. Manufacturers supplied a good (and reasonably priced) supply of spare parts. Plus, by giving good technical support to independent repairers it ensured a healthy competition and cheaper repair prices. Hoover used to be excellent at this before Candy bought them. These days, a washing machine can easily be uneconomical to repair once out of guarantee – even as young as 18 months old.
Manufacturers do make parts that cannot be repaired any more
In order to save money on production costs, many manufacturers use techniques that make some repairs impossible. Other repairs can require the replacement of whole assemblies of parts instead of being able to strip down the old one to repair it. Examples of this are motors that are spot welded together instead of bolted, pumps that have no parts available – only a new pump – and drum bearings that can't be knocked out and replaced so a complete new outer drum is needed. This often costs almost as much as a new washing machine.
Needless to say the cost of fitting a these parts is uneconomical. So most washers get scrapped if drum bearings or the motor fails. The latest trend, and the worst practice yet, is entire outer drums (tubs) that are welded together and cannot be stripped down – even to retrieve an obstruction such as a bra wire.
All this is most probably a side effect of the necessity to produce cheap washing machines rather than a deliberate attempt to stop it being repaired.
However, the pricing of washing machine spares by the manufacturers appears to be deliberately designed to either make up a lot of the lost profit on selling the complete washing machine at such unrealistically cheap prices – or to deliberately make them beyond economical repair so they don't have to stock many parts or to cause excessive washing machine replacement.
Not lasting very long isn’t automatically wrong
Most washing machines will not last anywhere near what we once all expected and experienced. The budget washing machines are definitely not built to last, or to cope with washing for a large family for a long time. I recently conversed with someone who’s washing machine’s drum bearings failed after 3 years. They were disappointed to find that no drum bearings were available as spares. An entire new drum would be needed. The cost of the drum was £230. However, they said they had still had value for money because it had done so much work –
Yeah, I cant really complain.. 7 children + 2 adults. We swim, school clothes, work clothes etc. Probably an average 3 loads a day. ”
So £200 for 3 years of that amount of washing is arguably perfectly good value for money. To be perfectly honest I’m amazed that a £200 washing machine could last for 3 years under that amount of strain.
Another washing machine failing after 3 years and needing replacement could be argued to have breached the consumer rights act if it had say cost £500, and had only washed for a 70 year old couple doing 2 loads a week. So in deciding whether there is something to complain about regarding how long a washing machine, or any other appliance lasts, we have to take into account all of the facts and look at it reasonably.
Mid priced washing machines
Many mid priced washing machines are full of extra features such as faster spins, bigger drums and many more options but although they can cost many hundreds of pounds they are commonly not built to a much higher standard at all. They are often just as unrepairable (is a more expensive washing machine a better one?).
If you want a washing machine to last well over 10 years the best bet these days is a Miele. However, even Miele washing machines are subject to sometimes being beyond economical repair. Many spare parts can be extremely expensive. The hope with a Miele is that it’s so well made that it just lasts for over 10 years before there’s any sign of any problems. My own Miele washing machine is 12 years old and has never broken down once.
Is renting an appliance a good alternative?
Although buying is likely to remain the main choice of most people, renting from a professional company may make sense and may be worth looking into for some people. Especially if you seem to be always buying new washing machines. Prices start from only a few pounds a week fully maintained. Check out my affiliate Forbes Rentals who rent out various brand new white goods appliances.
How long did your last washing machine last?