This review describes the ethos of the washing machine manufacturer Miele. Why are they are a lot more expensive than most other washing machines? As an engineer with over 40 years experience I think Miele make the best quality washing machines by far.
The company motto at Miele is, "forever better". They are one of the very small minority of washing machine manufacturers who decided to build the best appliances they were capable of. Achieving this standard meant their washing machines would be amongst the most expensive. The average UK consumer is put off by the price. But Miele continue to make their washing machines the best quality you can buy.
About Miele washing machines
Ranging from over £600 to well over £1000 many people baulk at the price. Some high end models can even cost over twice that. In theory a Miele washing machine is cheaper to own than the cheapest washing machine in the long run. They are designed to last 20 years or more (under average use). Many cheap washing machines can last only a few years, the average life span is said to be 7 years. So it’s quite possible to spend £650 on a Miele washing machine, and 10 years later it’s never broken down and still sounds like new. A different brand costing £300 might have broken down after 3 to 5 years and be beyond economical repair.
Many people will get through several washing machines before an average Miele would have worn out – see my poll on how long should a washing machine last? (nearly 20% report their washing machine lasted only 3 years or less. Over 40% reported it lasted 5 years or less).
There’s an old saying that springs to mind, "buy cheap, buy twice". If something costs twice as much to buy, but lasts more than twice as long, it's actually cheaper. It’s just the up-front costs that are higher.
Will a Miele washing machine last over twice as long as a cheap one? It should do. Some of them are even guaranteed for 10 years. Most should last considerably longer than a normal washing machine. Miele still claim that their washing machines are designed and tested to last 20 years. However, I have had some reports that sometimes the cost of a Miele repair can make it uneconomical to repair when they get older. Like their cheaper counterparts, if the main PCB, Drums, or motors need replacing it can just not be worth it because of the high cost of the spare parts. (are there any downsides to buying a Miele washing machine?) The vast majority though are going to be a very good investment. They are also a lot quieter, more sophisticated, and a pleasure to use. My own Miele (W3740) is at now 12 years old and hasn’t faulted once yet. It sounds just as quiet as the first time we used it. I genuinely expect it to last quite a bit longer, but even if not, it’s been excellent value for money.
What’s wrong with cheap washing machines?
The trouble with many washing machines these days is that their design and reliability is dictated almost entirely by costs. The majority of washing machine manufacturers are fighting out a long running price war. It will end up with them all being taken over by large global companies until there are just one or two companies making washing machines worldwide. It’s already not far off that. Already, many apparently competing washing machines are actually owned by the same companies. There are surprisingly few appliance manufacturers. (Who owns who? Who really makes your washing machine)
The modern washing machine is not designed for a long life. Under very light washing requirements and a good headwind so to speak you might get 10 years from one but if you are a family you may be lucky to get 5 years. Many parts that used to be repairable no longer are. More and more parts have been designed to be inaccessible and unrepairable. The main goal is to produce a washing machine that can be sold at profit for a specific price.
Are Miele uniquely better at making appliances?
I don’t think for a minute that someone like Hoover or Indesit couldn’t make a washing machine to rival Miele. It would take them a long time to get right. Miele have a hell of a head start. But Miele make exceptionally high quality appliances and the others don’t because they all make exactly what they want to make. Most appliance manufacturers simply do not want to make high quality products. They choose to sell multi-millions of them and go for the mass market. They rely on people constantly replacing their appliances and owning enough brands to always get a good chance of selling them another even if they switch brands.
In an ideal world, companies making a product should make it as well as they possibly can. Then sell it at what it costs plus their profit margin. Unfortunately this results in a product costing a lot more than the average person is prepared to pay. So manufacturers usually do it the other way round. They find out or guess what most people will pay and build the product to sell at that price. This results in a lot of compromises, and many corners being cut. Because most other manufacturers follow the same path competition is fierce. These products then tend to get lower and lower in quality until they become rubbish – but most people still buy them because they won’t pay for a "proper" one.
People usually get what they pay for. If you’ve had nothing but trouble for many years with your washing machines and think they are rubbish it’s probably because you haven’t been buying the genuinely well built ones. To be fair though, most people just don’t think of it like this, or aren’t even aware that high quality washing machines are available and what the real difference is. (If you’re thinking, what does he mean, I paid a lot of money for my last washing machine? Read this – If I buy a more expensive washing machine do I actually get a better one?)
Miele have always strived to be the best, which is why they are. It comes at a cost (see right column) but if we want to see manufacturers stubbornly refuse to dumb down their products and take the difficult path of excellence they need people to buy them.
More on Miele
See my accompanying article are there any downsides to Miele washing machines?