We know what you're thinking – products don't seem to last as long as they used to. You may have fond memories of tuning in to The Simpsons on the same television for 15 years or more, but statistically speaking, we're buying a new TV every four years or so.
So how long should your fridge, camera or smartphone last? And if it breaks down, should you repair or replace it?
Below, we estimate how long an appliance should last, given reasonable use and some maintenance and minor repairs.
We base this figure on the more than 1000 responses we received to our 2018 consumer reliability survey, member and manufacturer feedback, and the type of product – some appliances (like TVs) have an easier working life than others (like washing machines).
Cheaper to replace?
If your appliance is broken and out of warranty, you might want to consider whether you're better off replacing it than fixing it. We've estimated when it's likely to be cheaper to replace a product based on advice from manufacturers.
While tossing that temperamental toaster that cost less than $20 is a no brainer, major repairs to a large appliance that might be nearing or at the end of its expected life take a bit more thought. Think about:
- How long will the repair last? If it's only a year or two, you may be throwing good money after bad.
- What else could go wrong? You may replace one part only to have another one fail soon after.
- How long will spare parts be available, and how long will operating systems supported?.
- What are the logistical challenges? Can repairs be carried out in your home? Will retailers charge delivery fees? How long will you have to wait for parts?
- You may be concerned about the environmental impact of disposing of an old appliance that isn't quite dead, but weigh that up against the environmental benefits of a modern, more efficient appliance.
- New items are likely to have technological advancements you'll enjoy and make use of, and a new product warranty, and
- Working out the residual value of your old appliance can give you an indication of what it's still worth and whether it makes economic sense to repair it. To calculate residual value (R), divide the purchase price (P) by life expectancy (L) to give a value per year. Now multiply this by the remaining years you expect the appliance to last (Y) [R= Y*(P/L)]. A residual value higher than the cost of repairs is a good economic argument to go ahead with repair work.
Service calls for major appliances can be expensive, even before any repairs are carried out, so it's worth seeing if there's a simple solution before calling in the cavalry:
- Try turning it off and on again (it's a cliché for a reason).
- Check the troubleshooting section of your owner's manual.
- Search the "support" pages of the manufacturer's website.
- Google the fault (others might have encountered – and solved – the same problem).
- Contact the manufacturer's customer support service, either by phone, email or social media.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.