Home Household machines How long should your household purchases last? | Personal finance

How long should your household purchases last? | Personal finance


As consumers, we’ve probably all had unexpected funerals for our purchases. Maybe it’s the fridge with the smart cooling system that died way too young. Or the self-cleaning double oven, which was so shiny and full of promise when you first met. You tried to tell yourself that everything happens for a reason, but it didn’t come as a relief to lose the dishwasher or your 42-inch TV.

It’s not your imagination: consumer products don’t last as long as they used to. Here are some thoughts on why this is and how long many products will last in and around your home.

Appliances. In 2007, the National Association of Home Builders and Bank of America Home Equity released the “Life Expectancy of Home Components Study”, which included these estimates for various home appliances to last a long time before you never had to think about replacing them.

  • Gas cooker: 15 years
  • Refrigerator: 13 years
  • Trash compactor: six years
  • Dishwasher: nine years
  • Microwave oven: nine years
  • Washing machine: 10 years
  • Electric or gas dryer: 13 years.
  • Food Waste Disposer: 12 years

Keep in mind that these numbers are seven years old. If the expected lifespans of these products have changed, they’ve likely decreased, according to Neal Asbury, CEO of Legacy Companies, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based manufacturer and exporter.
It’s worth noting that he believes his companies’ products — all made in the United States — are sustainable. For example, its Omega juicers have a 10-year warranty. “We don’t design failure in a product,” he says.

But Asbury says consumer products overall don’t last as long as decades and beyond ago, “when much of what was produced was products that lasted forever.”

Of manufacturing today, he says, “a lot of it is doing more assembly work than in the traditional sense, like in the 1950s and 1960s, where you were making not just the product, but all the components.

He says that even when a company makes a product in America, many components often come from foreign countries that don’t always have the best standards. “A product is only as good as its components,” says Asbury.

And there are plenty of incentives to manufacture these components at the best possible price to stay competitive. Asbury says many of the compressors used in its ice machine plant were made in countries like Brazil, France and Korea. But these countries outsource to other countries, which can make things even cheaper. “Everyone is looking for that cost reduction,” he says.

A big part of what’s driving this cost reduction is the rising cost of raw materials, says Roger Beahm, executive director of the Center for Retail Innovation at Wake Forest University School of Business.

“Competitive and market pressures prevent the manufacturer from raising prices too quickly. Manufacturers are therefore looking elsewhere for ways to offset these raw material cost increases. These factors reduce product longevity and, related for some products, sustainability,” says Beahm.

Around the house. If you have an air conditioner, you can expect it to last 10 years, according to the Household Component Life Expectancy Study. Carpet? Eight to 10 years old. A linoleum floor wears best at 25 years and a laminate floor can last 15-25 years. Here are the life expectancies of more home products:

  • Electric water heater: 11 years
  • Gas water heater: 10 years
  • Electric boiler: 13 years
  • Gas boiler: 21 years

How long should your mattress last? According to Consumer Reports, about 10 years if you don’t let your kids use it as a trampoline. Mattress advertising campaigns suggest that you should buy a new one every eight years. However, your back is probably the best judge of when to replace your mattress.
Electronics are infamous for not lasting as long as consumers would like, but they probably fail less than you think. According to a December 2013 issue of Consumer Reports, if you buy a flat-screen TV, there’s a 3% chance it will die within the first four years of ownership, and if you buy a laptop, there’s 11% chance it is. give within three years. Not a good thing if you’re in that 3 or 11 percent of buyers, but in general, Consumer Reports says the electronics are reliable enough to make an extended warranty unnecessary.

Still, even though your TV will probably last more than four years, you’ll be lucky to have it in, say, 14 years. “As manufacturers try to reduce costs and prices to compete, the lifespan of products in our core categories – appliances and electronics – has shortened dramatically,” said Jon Abt, co-president of Abt Electronics and Appliances in Glenview, Illinois. “Customers who come to our store to replace their 20-year-old refrigerator are surprised when we tell them that the average lifespan of a new one is seven to 12 years.”

Incidentally, if you’ve noticed that stores are pushing extended warranties just as the standard product warranty time seems to be shrinking, it may have nothing to do with quality. Asbury says many manufacturers cut time due to warranty fraud.

“People buy a computer, use it for a month because they needed it to study until final exams, and then give it back,” he says. “There’s all kinds of abuse out there.”

Your house. The aforementioned “Study of Life Expectancy of Home Components” report states that a typical asphalt shingle roof should last approximately 20 years. Fiber cement shingle roofs should last 25 years, and wood shingle roofs are generally good for 30 years. If you have a slate, copper, clay or concrete roof, you can expect it to last 50 years.

Your home’s foundation and frame should last a lifetime if properly constructed. And while the walls should also last the life of the house, aluminum windows should only last 15-20 years. Wooden windows should last up to 30 years.

Your garage door opener won’t be so lucky though. Expect it to last 10-15 years.

Let’s say you buy a garage door opener today. Maybe when it drops in 15 years, consumer products will have passed a milestone, and the next will be 30 years. That’s doubtful, according to Chip Manning, director of the Babson Center for Global Commerce at Sewanee-The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.

“Planned obsolescence is not a new concept in business, but an ever-evolving and important concept,” he says. “Any goods manufacturer wants your loyalty, but also wants you to keep buying products.”

Asbury does not buy this view. He says every manufacturer he knows is passionate about delivering the best possible product. From an environmental point of view, he says it is immoral to do otherwise. But it’s not too optimistic that the country will see garage door openers with a 30-year lifespan.

“I think some products will improve,” Asbury says. “I think the American automakers are making a much better product than before because of the shellacking they went through throughout the 1970s through the 1990s. I think that’s a good example of the improvement quality levels due to competitive demands. But it could be. Overall, there will always be tremendous pressure from the American consumer for manufacturers to cut costs.”

So it’s our fault. But who can blame us? We need to cut costs after replacing all of our appliances and electronics and making payments on our more durable but more expensive cars.