What’s the Life Expectancy of That Appliance?

by Kay Lynn

Main Street #6 (Superior Appliances)

A friend recently mentioned that appliances seemed to be dying prematurely for his neighbors and wondered if his were next.  He bought new construction about five years ago and knew of  multiple neighbors replacing their hot water heater or microwave.

I thought five years seemed about right for the microwave but agreed the hot water heater should have lasted longer.  The conversation had me wondering what is the normal life span for household appliances we consider necessities.

Factors in Appliance Life

The amount of use is going to impact how long the appliance lasts.  A large family is going to have more wear and tear on the clothes washer and dryer or the dishwasher than a single person or couple.  Of course, wear and tear can be mitigated by repair or replacement of damaged parts and much of this repair is within the purview of the homeowner.

Numerous sources are available for replacement parts. For example, GE Parts can be purchased by the consumer directly from General Electric’s corporate site or from third party retailers like Partselect.com. One of the advantages of using a third party online retailer is that they can often provide tutorial videos and help lines.

Its important to take care of your appliances to extend their useful life.  For a refrigerator this means cleaning the coils and gaskets regularly.  That microwave needs the filters in the vent hood cleaned monthly.  Charcoal filters need to be replaced every 6-12 months.

Sometimes it is worth paying more for a product with a longer warranty.  Installing a water heater can cost several hundred dollars.  Consider the installation costs when comparing water heaters that range from a 6 year to 12 year warranty period.

With new construction, the builder might have purchased low end appliances with shorter useful life warranties and projections.

Appliance Life Expectancy

The important thing to remember about stated appliance useful life is that it is an average.  You might have the bad luck to be on the low end.  If you’re not willing to take the chance, that’s why they offer extended warranties (although I don’t recommend them in general).

According to Mr. Appliance, the life span of the microwave oven is 5-10 years with an average of 8 years.  The gas water heater can live 5-13 years with an average of 9 years of use.   My friend’s neighbors ended up with the short end of the life spans.


The conversation spurred me to evaluate the age of our appliances.  We’ve replaced all of them since moving in four years ago with one exception.  The water heater is at the average life span.  Let’s hope it’s a couple of years before I write about replacing it. :).  How do you extend the life of appliances?





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Tony @ Investorz Blog October 24, 2011 at 6:35 am

Wait, aren’t appliances being made so that they last longer than ever before? That’s the basis for my reason to not invest in appliance stocks, because their quality is getting so good that appliance spending has become completely discretionary.

First Gen American October 24, 2011 at 8:34 am

You’ve just touched upon one of my biggest pet peeves, which is the crazy design life of appliances these days. When I redid my kitchen it was bitter sweet because I knew those appliances I replaced that were 25 years old and still alive and kicking would be replaced with new ones that will last a fraction of that time. I really hate what a disposable society we are in. Do you know anyone who replaces appliances in less than 10 years willingly? Me neither.

krantcents October 24, 2011 at 10:30 am

Builders generally buy appliance based on price not quality. Therefore theri life epectancy is alway less than a middle of the road product.

Jackie October 24, 2011 at 5:12 pm

It seems like the life expectancy of appliances has decreased over time. We keep looking at dishwashers now and and then, to prepare for when our current one (which is from the late 80s or early 90s) goes out. I doubt we’ll replace it until that happens, either, because I just don’t have much faith in the life expectancy of the newer ones.

Kennedi, Face & Fitness October 24, 2011 at 7:40 pm

I read reviews of appliances, try to buy something well-made (based on quality not just price) and then look for a scratch-n-dent version of it online.

Kay Lynn October 25, 2011 at 11:39 am

@Tony, I really don’t think the quality is better than in the past. Plus it often costs too much to repair so we’ve become disposable.

@First Gen American, no I don’t! When we moved in our current home, the range was the original installed by the builder 22 years before. Of course, it was in pretty bad shape but it worked!

@ Krantcents, Good point about what’s put installed in new construction. Unless you buy a high end, custom home the appliances probably won’t last longer than average.

@ Jackie, We had to replace our dishwasher a couple of years ago and the old one was only 11 years old. Nope, they don’t make them like they used to!

@ Kennedi, Great idea about buying a slightly damaged appliance. My son works for Lowe’s and I know they go fast!

Jackie October 25, 2011 at 11:44 am

My husband and I were just talking about this when we went to purchase a new washing machine last week. Seems like the appliances that are made today don’t last as long as the ones our parents’ had when we were kids. My mom had her washing machine for 20 years (7 kids). Why is this the third washing machine I am buying in 24 years? We have the machines a little over a year and we are calling for a repair. I guess we are somewhat lucky…my microwave is 15 years old….five years over life expectancy….and still running great (knock wood).

Joyce Mlinek October 25, 2011 at 12:06 pm

I’m 61 years old and I can tell you they don’t make appliances that last as long as they used to. They are made cheaper and more complicated which makes them hard to repair without a service person and then they want to charge you a ridiculous amount for labor.

Beth October 25, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Maintenance can be so important and keep things alive and working for much longer. It is amazing how little maintenance many people will do – I’ve even heard of people tossing a vacuum cleaner the first time the hose gets a clog or, even worse, when the the bag get full.

Donna B. October 25, 2011 at 4:24 pm

I had my washing machine for 21 years (and it was a couple years old when I bought it) and the only reason I replaced it was because the drum rusted through, too expensive to replace. I hate to think how long my new washing machine will last 🙁

I hate to sound cliche, but they definitely don’t build them like they used to.

Alyssa October 26, 2011 at 11:12 am

i always make sure to do teh research before i actruelly invest in a applience, the one thing i look for s the lfe exspectancy and the appliance with less repairs

Jacob October 26, 2011 at 5:04 pm

I think the best way to extend the life of an appliance is to read the instructions carefully. People tend to think they know what they are doing but don’t really follow instructions. I discovered this on a washing machine. The load of clothes, even in a larger washer, is smaller than you think. If you wash more than recommended it will not work as well and wear out the appliance. This is true of any appliance

Gianna October 27, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Use it as directed is one way.

Dr Dean October 27, 2011 at 4:38 pm

K.L. our microwave is about 15 years old. We’ve replaced the dishwasher once during that time and have replaced washer and dryer once during that time.

We still have the same TV that we bought when we moved in 15+years, much to the chagrin of friends and family when they come over to watch a football game, no big screen for Dean….
We’ve replaced both hot water heaters in the house just once.
So, we are doing ok I guess.

Evan October 29, 2011 at 9:42 am

Cell phones are the same way! The old school cell phones of the late 90s probably STILL work today…

Paul @ The Frugal Toad October 29, 2011 at 11:02 am

Our front loading washer just died and luckily we have a 10 year warranty on the tub. Sears came out and replaced the insides and it would have cost $1400 if not covered under warranty. We obviously would have bought a new one for that price!

Liz October 29, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Several years after I sold my first house I found myself wondering why I never worried about the very old water heater it had (I work as a real estate agent so life expectancy of appliances is often under consideration). Then I remembered that it had been an old copper water heater – at least 50 years old. Nowadays the clock is ticking as soon as a water heater is installed. I love old appliances – I found a vintage stove on craigslist for my new old house and I figure it will be good for many years to come.

Kay Lynn October 31, 2011 at 8:20 pm

@Jackie, you got a hardy microwave!
@Joyce, the cost of labor is exactly why it’s not fixing a lot of appliances. Might as well buy a new one than pay 1/2 as much for a repair.
@Beth, that’s horrible to think that people throw out an appliance due to a full bag!
@Donna, you were fortunate to have such a long lasting washer. Good luck with your current one!
@Alyssa, good point about researching your options before making the purchase.
@Jacob, you must know me. My husband reads the instructions; I just start using our new things and figure it out as I go.
@Dr. Dean, what is your secret? However, I think you should get a new TV. 🙂
@Evan, those old phones probably work but nobody wants to use them.
@Paul, that repair price is crazy! Good thing you got a warranty!
@Liz, it does seem those old appliances (and cars) keep going and going. I never heard of a 50 year old water heater though. That’s amazing.

dishwasher repairs January 5, 2012 at 3:26 am

Hi Kay I think the life expectancy of the appliance depends mostly on your usage. A proper maintenance is also a must and continuous usage of the appliance adds to the life of the appliance.

andy@AtlantaOvenRepair January 13, 2012 at 9:29 am

Many appliances twill last much longer than most people believe. I have seen microwave ovens work for 20 years. Probably these are the ones that never had any metallic dishes accidently placed in them!

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