Why are electrical appliances not built like they used to be?

Sheena Grant thinks computers and other electricals do not seem to last as long as they once did

Sheena Grant thinks computers and other electricals do not seem to last as long as they once did - Credit: Getty Images

Sheen Grant’s year of being thrifty

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 a fairly simple ruse: if everything breaks down sooner, we’ll all have to shell out 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 parting with £45 for various health checks and diagnostic tests, have the hard drive replaced but, in all honesty, I’d be best to buy a new computer.

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.

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.

Most Read

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 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 or tweet #ThriftyLiving.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter