Household appliances cost more but don’t last like they used to

Customers look at appliances for sale at a Best Buy store in Miami, Florida, Oct. 8, 2021.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images

Sara Rathner didn’t want to replace her clothes dryer. But a part was clearly broken, causing the machine to make a high-pitched squealing sound every time she dried a load of laundry. 

“We called an appliance repair company and he came and he replaced the component,” said Rathner, a travel and credit cards expert at NerdWallet who lives in Richmond, Virginia.

However, the machine broke for the same reason again a few months later, and then again shortly after that. After the mechanic’s third visit, Rathner said he told her, “You need to stop calling me and just buy a new dryer. I cost you $250 every time I show up. One more visit, you could have just bought a new dryer.”

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‘The appliance upgrade cycle has shortened’

Household appliances are becoming more modern and high-tech, but — as Rathner found — they don’t last like they once did. 

In fact, homeowners are purchasing large appliances, including washing machines, dryers, dishwashers and refrigerators, more often compared with 15 years ago, according to an analysis by Zonda Media, a housing market research and analytics firm.

From 1995-2005, the average homeowner replaced appliances consistently every 12 to 13 years. Today it is every eight to nine years, noted Todd Tomalak, Zonda’s principal of building products research.

At the same time, they are spending more than before.

Inflation hits home furnishings, flooring and appliances

Homeowners spend about 34% more on appliances than they did 15 years ago, “above and beyond inflation,” Tomalak said.

“Homeowners are purchasing appliances with more bells and whistles, but which become obsolete sooner and have more aspects to repair versus appliances years ago,” he said.

“As a result, the appliance upgrade cycle has shortened.”

As prices continue to rise while the quality of some products further degrades, shoppers will need to make trade-offs on how to spend their income, said chartered financial analyst Brian Laung Aoaeh, co-founder and general partner of Refashiond Ventures, a supply chain technology venture firm based in New York. 

“There will be some [products] on which you don’t want to compromise on quality so you might be willing to pay a bit more … and then there might be certain things you decide ‘I don’t need this,'” he said.

So, Aoaeh said, as a shopper, try to ask yourself this question: “In the things that you consume, where do you absolutely need the best quality?”

How to save on big-ticket purchases

While most consumers would struggle to cover a $1,000 unexpected expense, there are ways to spread out the cost of replacing a big-ticket appliance that breaks without warning. Otherwise, if your fridge or washing machine is on its last legs, seasonal discounts and credit card rewards can help you save.

1. Buy Now,…

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