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  Washing Machine Lifespans

Many people think a washing machine will last X years, we explain why that's wrong


Most people when they set off to buy a new washing machine will have some kind of preconceived notion in their head about how long a washing machine or, for that matter, almost any other appliance will last. Some people think that they should last a minimum of five years, but most expect to get more from the humble washing machine.

The fact is, life just isn't that simple and all washing machines are not created equal.

We all know that there are differing levels of quality for just about any product we buy whether it's food, cars, computers or home appliances. But, what a lot people have a tendency to do is forget that simple fact and blindly assume that they should all last a set period of time.

This is an incorrect assumption to make about appliances as they are mechanical devices that is made even more incorrect when you take into account the use that the machine is going to get.

What most people will happily accept is that, should they buy a car and cover say, 40,000 miles a year, that after a few years the car will be next to worthless and that over the period that it was owned that it would have cost much more than the same car covering the average 12,000 miles per year. In effect you would, in three years, cover more than three times the average mileage which means ten years worth of wear and tear in a mere three years. So that means that the car will almost certainly break more and require a lot more maintenance than the lower mileage example.

We all know and accept these simple facts.

When it comes to appliances and, specifically washing machines, the same analogy applies in large part.

Even if a good many people seem to think that they can get a washing machine that will last years and years of daily slog for less than it costs to buy a  hunk of plastic Dyson vacuum cleaner.

  Duty Cycles

The ISE10 Washing MachineThe "average" use is determined as being about 7 loads per week (one load per day) for a typical washing machine. Therefore, for the likes of an tpo end washing machine with an 8000 cycle design life, it is extremely easy to see that, in normal average use, that the machine is designed to last approximately 1143 weeks or, 21.98 years. Simple enough to follow really although the old ISE10 was actually tested for 12,000 cycles MTF (Mean Time till Failure, in other words, the average before it breaks) so that's really 1714 weeks or, 32.97 years. Not bad value for £900 in 2010.

Now, if we look at another example that we know the figures for, the 2009 ISE AW23. That particular machine was rated for approximately 2000 cycles, which equates to 285 weeks use or, 5.5 years before, on average, you'd have some sort of failure. The old ISE AW23 was actually tested for 2000-2500 cycles but was expected to last a little longer however this is assuming correct use.

Conversely however, if the same machine was subjected to higher use you would expect a failure of some sort sooner, depending on the level and type of use that could be much sooner.

A lot of washing machines, especially the lower priced ones, are rated for a few hundred duty cycles, not thousands and it is very much can be a case of getting what you pay for. but, as you can see from the above, three times or more the projected lifespan for less than double the cost.

The important point of this however is that, just like your car, the more likely and sooner it is that the machine will suffer some sort of failure. The more you load it or, in many cases, overload it then the more strain you put on the components such as bearings and motors and the more liable they are to fail prematurely.

This is not a failing of the machine or the engineering behind it most often. It's actually more a failing of people to recognise and buy a machine that suits their own requirements or a failing of retailers that don't ask basic questions to help you choose the correct machine for you.

Research by Candy Hoover in 2015 backed up (again) our figures on use that dictates that, per member of the houshold, the average number of cycles is 2.5 per week although Candy Hoover got it to 2.6 we won't quibble, meaning that the average British person will require a minimum of about 135 cycles per year.

Average British washing machine use

So, if you have a home with two people in it you can reckon on 270 washes per year. With a family of four, 540 washes per year and so on however it is important to remember that these are average figures, if you are into sports heavily for example and wash above the average these numbers can be significantly higher.

Every factory we've ever spoken to have these figures, they know what the duty cycles are for the machines but very few want to talk about it, unless of course they are proud of them and the quality of the machines.

You can, we are quite sure, figure out why some don't want these figures published.

This isn't to say things cannot go wrong sooner, they can. After all, it is just a machine and, machines will all eventually break down, this is an inescapable fact but you can minimise the chance of a premature breakdown as well as maximise the lifespan through some simple choices and research.

  Things Do Break

Just like a car, after so many miles you know that you will need to replace certain elements or, we all accept, that things will start to break. But, like any piece of mechanical hardware they tend to occasionally break in unpredictable ways before hand which can be down to the way it's used (or driven) what you use it to do and, how much you use the whole thing or certain parts of it.

For example, if you constantly place heavy loads in the back of your car you KNOW that the shock absorbers will fail sooner than they ordinarily would if it was used normally and, you probably wouldn't be surprised about it either.

The same thing goes with washing machines.

Used correctly, within the parameters it was designed for and looked after they will last longer.

Used poorly and treated with abandon and they will break sooner rather than later.

But we have to remember here, they are machines. They break and can be broken. You can get faults developing sooner that are totally unexpected and out of the blue, it happens.

You hope that you don't have anything major breaking but it can, on the odd occasion happen with no particular reason or explanation, it's just a failure.

The same thing applies to cars, whether it's a Ford Fiesta costing a few thousand pounds or a Rolls Royce costing tens of thousands, they both can still suffer a component failure, even in warranty.

  Heavy Washing Machine Use

If you buy a cheap washing machine and use it two or three times a day then don't be surprised if it breaks after 18 months as some are only rated for 600-1000 cycles. It's perfectly obvious that using it more than is anticipated will lead to failure earlier in terms of time but, very importantly, not usually in terms of duty cycle.

But two or three loads a day is "abnormally high" use. Most washing machines are not designed to take that sort of punishment for an extended period of time.

Let us demonstrate by using a graph that shows how long a washing machine is expected to last based on the number of people in the home. For this we have used figures from Which?, the Office of National Statistics, The labour index, national census and the Energy Saving Trust, none of the figures used are ours at all.

Graph showing how long a washing machine will last

  • Blue: Low quality, low cost machine rated for 1000 cycles of use
  • Yellow: Mid range washing machine rated for 2000 cycles of use
  • Purple: High quality washing machine rated for 8000 cycles of use

Along the bottom is the level of use given and the scale on the side is the number of years that the washing machine will last based on the quality level and use. However it is very important to note that this does not preclude the possibility that, like any mechanical device, that your machine can suffer an unexpected failure at some point.

To find out where you may sit on this chart we would recommend that you read our guide to working out your washing machine use and needs from this link

  Washing Machine Fit For Purpose

This is why legislation, such as the Sale Of Goods Act, is so "vague" on how long goods should last as, just because someone expects to get X years from an appliance doesn't to say that they actually will. The lifespan of almost any mechanical product is very often entirely dependent on how hard the product is used.

It is therefore not possible to place a value on just how long a washing machine will last or just about any other similar product

There is no set amount of time that a machine is expected to last in short, it depends entirely upon the level of use that it is subjected to.

The classic example of this is the call that we often hear that someone needs the washing machine fixed yesterday because they have three, four or five kids etc and do at least three loads a day, it's usually broken down several times in the past too. We often find that it's a normal, bog standard washing machine that's not that old really. Well, a normal bog standard washing machine just won't survive in that environment with that sort of use, you'll simply wear them out more quickly than someone doing one load a day.

It's not because the machine wasn't fit for purpose or that it was particularly poorly made, it's just that the person with that sort of requirement bought the wrong thing! For that sort of use you need a good, solid and robust machine, which costs more and this is why the term "reasonable" creeps in.

The use has to be "reasonable" and befitting the price and quality of the goods. You can't just say that any machine should last any number of months or years and that's it, there are differences between them and it's not a case of one size fits all.

Think on it this way, it's sort of like buying a Smart car then complaining to the dealer that it keeps breaking down because you're doing 40,000 miles a year, I think you know what sort of response you would receive.

With more and more people buying online based on price primarily and perhaps also specification and not having the option to discuss their needs or, thinking it isn't important, this knowledge before buying a new washing machine is absolutely vital if you want to get one that suits you.

The trick is to buy the right product for the use and purpose that you have for it as, buying the wrong one simply means that it is very often the buyer's fault for buying an inappropriate product for their use, not the retailer or manufacturer's.

Richard Weller
Washing machines
I bought a cheap and cheerful washing machine many years ago before my two children were born. When they arrived it was used to wash nappies. I would say it was well used and it lasted approx 14 years. Next I thought I\'d go up market to a department store brand washing machine which lasted about 7 years. The bearings went on that and it went to white goods heaven. We thought that fo a mid range WM it should have lasted longer but that was a fair amount of time in the current climate. Finally we spent more on what I considered a premium brand though not Mile and it lasted 2 years and 7 months. Go figure!
Sigurd Max Fordham
I do thank you for this discussion. It is illustrated by a clothes washer. I guess that is most often used excessively. Dish washer and tumbler test figures would be interesting.The average MTBF would be more useful for me if the "standard deviation" or some other discussion of the variability in practice could be tried. I am trying to evaluate The offers from Domrstic and General?
It would be nice if producers published the MTF figures.

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