Were older appliances built better?

Are modern electrical appliances more likely to fail?

Are modern electrical appliances more likely to fail? - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Call me a cynic but I have a sneaking suspicion that ‘machines’ are designed to have a shorter life expectancy than they used to have.

It would, after all, be strange, wouldn’t it, if manufacturers in this aggressively capitalist, consumer age hadn’t cottoned on to what is, at its heart, a fairly simple ruse: if everything, from washing machines to computers, breaks down after just a few years, we’ll all have to spend a lot more money on replacements - meaning more profit for them.

I say this because I’ve just spent the last month paying ‘experts’ to try and resuscitate a laptop that is slowly expiring after little more than four years of life, during which time it has never been made to work terribly hard. I could, I’m told, after having shelled out £45 on various health checks and diagnostic tests, have the hard drive replaced but, in all honesty, I’d be best to buy a new computer - at a cost of several hundred pounds.

I can’t help feeling an inner rage. It really shouldn’t be like this. Our way of life should not be reliant on the vagaries of a technology that, let’s face it, never works wonderfully well and I resent the amount of my time it’s taking to sort it out, as well as what it is costing me. I also resent the fact that computers are considered old and in need of replacing after just three or four years. It’s madness.

But it’s not just computers.


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When we replaced our 30-year-old boiler a few years ago we were told the new one wouldn’t last nearly as long because none of them did these days. The most we could expect was 15 years.

And when my aged Singer sewing machine, which was second hand when I bought it 30 years ago, needed a replacement part a year or two back I toyed with the idea of getting a new one but was told by the repair man to stick with my 1970s model as it was much better made than modern models and would actually outlast them.

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I’m very attached to my sewing machine because of its solid character. It’s kind of comforting that in a world where so many things cannot be relied on, my sewing machine, at least, can.

I feel the same way about my washing machine and my vacuum cleaner - both 18 years old and still going strong - along with my similarly aged fridge and freezer.

I know they won’t last forever and I know that when they go it will be the end of a golden age of electrical longevity because any replacement is sure to be inferior - much like my hated four-year-old laptop. Grrrr.

? Do you have an older appliance that’s still going strong after years of faithful service? Email sheena.grant@eadt.co.uk, write to 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or tweet #ThriftyLiving.

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