We are often asked how long a washing machine, washer dryer, fridge freezer, dishwasher and so on should last and the simple answer to this question is that there is no set time that any product should last.
It is proper to point out in the first instance that there is no guarantee of durability in law. What this means, in lay terms, is that there is no way to say that any machine should have operated for X number of months or years without breakdown and, in fact, no way to tell very often what the anticipated lifespan should be.
There are a number of factors that will determine the life of a machine however, the main ones being explained in this article but it is very important to remember that to say that an appliance should last X number of years is often a fallacy.
Most appliances (as well as most electro-mechanical devices) are usually designed with what is known as a Mean Time Till Failure (MTTF or MTF) which is exactly what it states, the average that the machine will operate for in terms of hours running, the cycles ran or, in the case of cars which we can all understand, the miles covered before something breaks or the product reaches the end of its useful life.
Depending on the quality of the goods, the amount of use it is given and how it is used will determine at what point this machine is liable to fail. But, this is not a cast iron guarantee that something won't go wrong earlier than anticipated or that the machine could suffer a failure that renders it, in effect, beyond economical repair.
Very few manufacturers will publish these figures in the appliance industry but it is very common in other industries and in industrial situations to have these figures. Televisions often have a published MTF figure, as do projectors and so on with an "average" lifespan of (for example) 10,000 hours of use before failure. Basically, after that you are on borrowed time.
For domestic appliances (at the time of writing) only ISE and Miele offer these figures on their products. The reason is perhaps as simple as, they are the only ones that are worth publishing or perhaps other manufacturers don't see this as being of any importance or interest to their customers.
What we can tell you is that the lowest grade of washing machine for example will have an MTF of 600 hours whilst the highest will easily exceed 10,000 hours of use. But the best machines do not cost more than ten times that of the lowest grade machine.
When durability is determined in law a judge would ordinarily look at the top of the market and what is expected there, the bottom and what is expected there and make a judgement based on where the product being debated sits in the market and what can be "reasonably" expected as a lifespan. However, it is very important to point out that there are other factors that can creep in to this that can change that view slightly and it is not a 100% guaranteed way of measuring durability.
Another very important point is to ensure that you, as the customer, explain your requirements correctly and buy the correct machine for your needs.
As an example, should you walk into an electrical store and simply buy the cheapest washing machine possible and not explain to the salesperson that you need to wash at least three times a day for a family of five is it your fault that the machine is not fit for purpose of the salesperson? If the salesperson was not aware of the requirement then really it is down to the customer.
If you consider, as we already pointed out, that the lower end of the market will ordinarily have a 600 hour or cycle MTF then a cheap washer being used three times a day can reasonably be expected to last perhaps two years at best in such circumstances. The top end of the market that figure could easily be ten years or more with the same level of use.
Think on this another way for a moment however.
If you walk into a car showroom and buy a normal saloon car and don't explain that you have to drive across a muddy field to get to your home then you return a few days later to return the car as being "not fit for purpose" then who is at fault, anyone? The car you bought was perfectly fit for the purpose and use it was intended for it's just the use that it was put to it was not designed for or cope with.
It really is the same thing albeit an extreme example. But, just like cars, not all appliances are the same and not all appliances will last the same length of time in similar circumstances.
Another common example is where a "domestic" appliance is used in commercial premises. As a general rule there is no warranty offered as it is a "domestic" product, not a commercial one. The onus is on the person buying the machine to ensure that they buy the correct product to suit their needs.
The point being that, unless you explain your requirements fully when buying a product, what you will use it for, how much you will use it and how long you expect it to last instead of buying solely on factors such as price, style or functions then it is unreasonable to expect the retailer or manufacturer to accept the liability for unsuitable use or expectations.
Just like cars and other mechanical devices, appliances can suffer from breakdowns, a broken component, an electrical surge wiping the programs as well as a host of other things that can possibly go wrong. This is perfectly normal and the odd failure across many thousands of appliances is to be expected.
It is important to understand that a breakdown or a component failure is just that, a component failure. It happens.
It does not mean that the machine is rubbish and it does not entitle you to a new one as a replacement automatically and it does not breach consumer legislation, it's just a breakdown.
Even the best products in the world can suffer from failures in one form or another and, whilst it can be inconvenient and perhaps shake your confidence in the brand or product, it is not a cause for concern most of the time.
Where there is perhaps a cause for some concern is where you have repeated failure of the same component but that is rare.
We often receive enquiries which go along the lines of:
"My machine has broken after only two years and it needs a xxxxxxx replaced and that will cost £xx.xx and I think that the machine should have lasted longer than this and do I have a claim against the manufacturer under consumer legislation?"
The short answer is, no, you don't.
The reason is that, as we said, machines will all ultimately break in some way or another, the only question that is virtually impossible to answer with any degree of certainty is when that will happen. You can minimise the likelihood or chance of it by buying good quality appliances in the first place with the correct advice to suit your needs but, also as already stated, even the best machines can and, on occasion do, breakdown.
The six year rule (five in Scotland) is a rule in consumer legislation which basically states that, if a product is defective from new then you have a claim on the retailer for up to six years from date or purchase.
Please understand the very important part of this, the fault has to have been evident from new and, after the first six months of ownership, it is up to you, the customer, to prove that the defect was there from new.
This would entail some sort of record that you had reported the fault within a few days or perhaps a few weeks of taking delivery of the product. If you haven't done that and, if the fault was not evident from almost the point of delivery, then this rule does not apply.
People often assume that this piece of legislation, in some way, offers some sort of guarantee of durability or that the appliance has to be designed to last beyond this period of time but, sadly, this simply is not the case in reality.
Over the past decade or two appliance prices have, in real terms, dropped quite markedly largely due to consumer and retailer demand for lower and lower cost appliances. The erosion of prices has had several effects on the appliances themselves and a massive effect on the industry in general.
The average lifespan of appliances has dropped in relation to the prices.
Now, over 80% of all washing machines as an example sold cost under £500. Over 40% cost under £300. Obviously these cheaper products do not have the same build quality, performance or longevity and therefore the average lifespan has dropped from over ten years to under seven years and it is not unusual for cheaper appliances to only last a few years now.
You can find out more about the prices of washing machines and other appliances here, which explains how much they have been devalued over time.
If you are considering some sort of claim against a manufacturer or retailer we would urge that you consider these points very carefully before proceeding as it may save you a lot of time and money. And, when you do consider replacing your appliances please also consider the information here.