Consumers need more information - and choice - when buying washing machines

Sheena's washing machine, 22 years old but nearing the end.
Picture: Archant.

Sheena's washing machine, 22 years old but nearing the end. Picture: Archant. - Credit: Archant

The more I look into the issue of how modern washing machines are built, the more confused the picture becomes, writes thrifty living columnist Sheena Grant.

Regular readers will know that my long-serving Hotpoint machine, bought for just under £300 22 years ago, is on the way out. Amazingly, I could replace it with a new one costing less than I paid two decades ago. Yet an inflation calculator on This is Money’s website suggests something priced at £300 in 1996 should cost £548 nowadays. How can this be?

I suspect it might have something to do with consumer demand for cheap goods. WhitegoodsHelp website agrees and says “most manufacturers are having to reduce quality and cut corners to keep appliances competitively priced”.

As previously reported, many modern machines have sealed tubs and drums, making bearings repair impossible. The whole tub has to be replaced, which can be uneconomic, meaning a machine’s life is effectively fixed to that of its bearings, which, some say, is not as long as it once was.

Bosch told me all its machines have sealed drums, as a “more reliable, hygienic and quieter” solution. Beko has said the same. Its quality manager, Andrew Mullen, says modern machines are built to carry heavier loads and spin faster and using sealed tubs means bearings can be fitted more tightly for increased strength and reliability. “We don’t build products to fail and we don’t contribute to waste because everything is recycled,” he said.

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Premium brand Miele, whose machines cost upwards of £600, is the only company I have found which doesn’t make any machines with sealed drums. And it has a reputation for reliability. A spokesperson said: “If required Miele washing machine drums can be repaired by its service team. The bearings have a minimum of 20,000 run-hours lifespan.”

Maybe it’s a case of your pays your money, you takes your choice. Except this information isn’t readily available and there’s not a lot of choice out there. That needs to change. And perhaps consumers should consider paying more for a quality, repairable machine. It might work out cheaper in the long run.

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