All too often we hear cries that a washing machine, irrespective of the brand, has broken and that it should have lasted much longer than it did. Then, the conversation invariably swings toward how rubbish machines are and how they're not built the way they were and so on. Usually the debate ends up with people thinking that the big bad manufacturers (not that we have much love for many of them either) are ripping people off with machines that don't last.
Fair enough, but what is a "reasonable" life for a washing machine that is often used every day or several times over the weekend in relation to what people are prepared to pay for them?
Here's where most people, not to put too fine a point on it, lose the plot in this debate.
Washing machines and washer dryers these days at the lower-to-mid end of the market at least, are just ludicrously cheap. Just think about it, twenty years ago the cheapest you'd buy a 1200rpm machine with a half load button was about £350. Fast forward twenty years and you can buy a 1600 all singing and dancing machine with AAA performance for less than that, a lot less in some cases.
So okay they've improved production and all that malarkey but these things are primarily mechanical devices, like cars or boats, or planes. We don't get a car now for the same price we did in 1988 do we?
There's good reason, while the technologies have improved as well as production methods; things like steel have been replaced by plastic. Costs have been slashed by using cheaper and cheaper components as well as moving production to low cost labour countries, like China, in order to save every last penny.
But you will not buy a similar quality of washing machine for £350 now that you would have bought for the same price twenty or more years ago. Why do people expect that these cheap machines will last as long or be as trouble free? Simple logic dictates it's not possible.
Because of these simple facts it should come as no surprise whatsoever that the current crop of cheap washing machines are nowhere near the quality of their predecessors.
They won't perform as well or last as long.
Many people have a car these days; just your average bog standard family saloon will cost about £50 to fill the tank, perhaps more.
The average washing machine costs £300 which means an awful lot of people are buying cheap ones costing less than that. But, let's assume that your standard washing machine costs the average of £300.
That's six fills of fuel which, for most of us will be, at best, six months worth of fuel alone.
It's shocking that figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) say the average family spends £62 per week on transporting ourselves around and yet we spend a mere £300 on a washing machine and expect that it will last for years - less than 5 weeks of what we spend on getting places for a mechanical device we use daily.
It amuses us greatly that people can easily wash a load of clothes that cost more then the washing machine they're in and yet people expect quality and care for these expensive clothes. How?
Compare it to anything you like, nights out, haircuts, whatever you choose and you'll see that a modern machine is really too cheap.
According to the ONS we earn almost double today what we did in 1988 but we pay the same or less than we did for a washing machine.
This means that, were the machines we bought today relatively the same price it would cost around about £600 for an average washing machine. Quite a difference I'm sure you will agree.
But then, there's inflation.
Factor that into this and add twenty years inflation and you start to rapidly exceed £1000 for your average washing machine.
Perhaps now you can see what I mean, today's low/mid market washing machines aren't just cheap, they're stupidly cheap. In fact, it's really too good to be true in that you can, relatively, buy a machine today for less than a third of the price you could twenty years ago.
Yet people expect them to be of comparable quality and durability, which just isn't possible.
What do people want? Cheaper and cheaper washing machines. Well, cheaper everything it seems at times.
But they also have to have large capacity, fast spin s peeds, countdown timers, digital displays, be as quiet as possible, be as energy efficient as possible and they have to last years.
Can you see the conflict here?
You can't have all these features, bring the prices down and retain the quality, something has to give to make it possible.
Retailers have driven many manufacturers into the scenario where they are forced to produce ever cheaper washing machines by stripping out what they can and reducing weights and quality in order to meet an in-store price point. Then people buy into the idea that they can get something for nothing or a cheap machine that will be great or, good enough.
But then, if you stop and think about it...
Retailers are in the business of selling things. Whether you need them or not is not really relevant to teh bottom line but selling more and more is. So, selling more and more washing machines that last shorter and shorter periods well, does the retailer really care? Doe the retailer care about the use of natural resources? They might play lip service to green issues but, in reality, if it comes down to a choice between selling (and making) less money or tearing natural resources out the ground to muster up some half built Chinese washing machines for a few pounds profit, I can guarantee that the profit will be placed over all else, including the ecology.
It would be easy to conclude this article by simply telling you to rethink buying a cheap machine but we do realise that many people don't have the financial ability to buy a good washing machine. But, what we can tell you is that, should you choose to buy a cheap one then remember the above and don't think that you will get years of good service from it.
Don't think that it will be cheap either; lifespans for washing machines are dropping year on year as they get ever more relatively cheaper. This means you will throw a cheap one away sooner and, almost certainly, spend more over time on cheap washing machines than you would on a GOOD washing machine.
If you want to buy a good washer, think on a budget of £700-1500 and you're into the territory where you are buying a quality appliance and not a hunk of plastic junk you'll be throwing away in two years.
The cheap washing machine isn't a miracle and, it's not cheap at all.