AP

Liz Weston: How to buy stuff that lasts

Jul 17, 2022, 4:00 PM | Updated: Jul 18, 2022, 4:01 am

Savvy consumers consider price, performance and reliability when making a major purchase, such as a car or home appliance. The greatest of these is reliability — particularly lately.

Supply chain disruptions can mean long waits for parts or replacements if something breaks. Getting a new refrigerator, dishwasher or other major appliance now often takes weeks or even months, says Paul Hope, home and appliances writer for Consumer Reports. Plus, the microchip shortage means many manufacturers prioritize making their most expensive models, which are typically the most profitable, Hope says.

“It’s getting increasingly difficult to get some of the inexpensive models of any given product,” Hope says.

Even in normal times, of course, you don’t want to waste money on unreliable products. Plus, buying stuff that’s built to last can help save money and create less waste.

“It’s a huge expense to have to replace products prematurely. It’s also extremely detrimental to the environment,” Hope says.

PRICE AND RELIABILITY AREN’T NECESSARILY RELATED

Finding truly reliable and durable products isn’t always easy, however. You might assume that more expensive products will last longer, but that isn’t necessarily the case. For example, you can spend $5,000 or more on a premium range that breaks down frequently or $850 on one that provides years of trouble-free use.

“We actually find that many of the pro-style range brands are some of the least reliable products that we test,” Hope says. “On the contrary, we often find very good performance out of very inexpensive brands.”

Consumer-generated reviews, like those on Amazon, may alert you to products that break quickly or don’t perform as expected. But such reviews can be skewed by a grumpy few who had bad experiences or a torrent of fake reviews designed to boost a product’s star rating.

To create reliability ratings that are actually, well, reliable, you need large sets of data. Consumer Reports surveys tens of thousands of people each year about their experiences with various products. Similarly, J.D. Power , which rates cars, bases its dependability ratings on reports from more than 80,000 owners of 3-year-old vehicles, who detail the type and number of problems they’ve encountered in the previous 12 months.

Even then, reliability ratings are predictions, not guarantees. You might luck out and have a great experience with a product that’s usually flawed or get the rare lemon in a product line that’s generally solid.

WATCH THE WARRANTIES

So it’s also important to check out a product’s warranty. A long warranty can signal a company’s confidence in its product’s reliability. (You can typically add a year to a manufacturer’s warranty, by the way, if you purchase the item with a credit card that offers such extended protection as a benefit.)

A one- or two-year warranty is standard for major appliances, but some brands offer longer guarantees on certain parts, Hope says. An LG refrigerator typically has a one-year general warranty for parts and labor, for example, but compressors, which circulate the refrigerant, may be under warranty for five or even 10 years.

Lifetime warranties are obviously the gold standard, although companies differ considerably in their definition of “lifetime.” With Craftsman hand tools, for instance, “lifetime” essentially means indefinitely. According to the company’s site, if a Craftsman wrench, screwdriver, hammer or other hand tool “fails to perform for any reason,” the company will replace it, with or without a receipt.

Meanwhile, Manduka, a manufacturer of yoga supplies, offers a lifetime warranty for many of its mats — but it’s for the expected 10-year lifetime of the mat, not your lifetime. Some lifetime guarantees are limited to defects in materials and manufacture, not normal wear and tear.

THEY DON’T MAKE ‘EM LIKE THEY USED TO

Some products are better built than ever before. Cars used to be ready for the junkyard at around 100,000 miles, but you can expect a typical new car to last over 200,000 miles, or roughly 15 years of average driving, without major problems if it’s well maintained, according to J.D. Power. The average price Americans paid for new cars exceeded $47,000 last year, according to Kelley Blue Book, so hanging onto your cars longer can be a smart financial decision.

Other products may not last as long as their predecessors, which means we have to budget for more frequent replacements. Your grandma’s clothes washer or refrigerator may have chugged along for 30 or 40 years, but most major appliances these days have an expected life span of around 10 years, according to Consumer Reports.

That said, today’s products may offer energy savings, convenience and technology the older versions lacked. A new refrigerator is typically twice as large as the workhorses from the 1970s and runs on a fraction of the electricity, Hope says. Many have ice and water dispensers. Some have smartphone apps, interior cameras and internet connectivity so you can check the contents of your fridge while you’re standing in the supermarket.

“Yes, things have become a little bit more disposable, but they actually have become far better in a lot of ways,” Hope says.

____________________________

This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and the author of “Your Credit Score.” Email: lweston@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lizweston.

RELATED LINK:

NerdWallet: How to save money: 22 proven ways https://bit.ly/nerdwallet-how-to-save-money-22-proven-ways

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Photo: A delegate wears a hat with pins during the Republican National Convention Monday, July 15, ...

Christine Fernando, Steve People and Jill Colvin, The Associated Press

Rep. Walsh speaks for Washington as cheering GOP delegates nominate Trump for president

Cheering GOP delegates formally nominated Donald Trump for president at Monday's Republican National Convention kickoff.

3 days ago

Photo: Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, right, points toward Republican presidential candidate former Presi...

Jill Colvin, Julie Carr Smyth, Steve Peoples and Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

Trump picks Sen. JD Vance of Ohio, a once-fierce critic turned loyal ally, as his GOP running mate

Donald Trump named Sen. JD Vance of Ohio as his running mate, choosing a onetime critic who became a loyal ally.

3 days ago

trump assassination...

Ayanna Alexander, The Associated Press

What to know about Trump assassination attempt and the investigation into the shooting

Authorities want to know how a shooter was able to get on top of a roof so close to where former President Donald Trump was speaking and open fire.

3 days ago

Photo: Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret...

Julie Carr Smyth, Jill Colvin, Colleen Long, Michael Balsamo, Eric Tucker and Michelle L. Price, The Associated Press

Trump heads to convention as authorities investigate motive, security in assassination attempt

Trump called for unity and resilience after an attempt on his life added fresh uncertainty to an already tumultuous presidential campaign.

4 days ago

Photo: President Joe Biden speaks from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Sunday,...

Will Weissert and Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

In primetime address, Biden says country must not go down road of political violence

President Joe Biden says “we can’t, we must not go down” the road of political violence in America after the attempted Trump assassination.

4 days ago

Photo: President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference following the NATO Summit in Washington, Thu...

Zeke Miller, Seung Min Kim, Lisa Mascaro and Colleen Long, The Associated Press

Biden says during news conference he’s going to ‘complete the job’ despite calls to bow out

Biden used his highly anticipated news conference to deliver a defense of his policies and batted away questions about his ability to serve.

7 days ago

Liz Weston: How to buy stuff that lasts