Liz Weston shares tips on how to buy things that will last longer

Savvy consumers consider price, performance, and reliability when making a major purchase, like a car or appliance. The biggest of them is reliability, especially 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 appliance writer for Consumer Reports. In addition, the shortage of microchips means that many manufacturers prioritize making their most expensive models, which are often the most profitable, says Hope.

It’s getting harder to get some of the cheap models of any product, says Hope.

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

It is a huge expense to have to replace products prematurely. It’s also extremely damaging to the environment, says Hope.

PRICE AND RELIABILITY ARE NOT NECESSARILY RELATED

However, finding truly reliable and durable products is not always easy. You may assume that more expensive products will last longer, but that’s not necessarily the case. For example, you can spend $5,000 or more on a premium range that breaks frequently or $850 on one that provides years of trouble-free use.

In fact, we found many of the professional-style range brands to be some of the least reliable products we tested, says Hope. On the contrary, we often find very good performance in very cheap brands.

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

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

Even then, reliability ratings are predictions, not guarantees. You can get lucky and have a great experience with a product that is usually flawed or get the rare lemon in a product line that is generally strong.

SEE THE GUARANTEES

Therefore, it is also important to check the guarantee of the products. A long warranty can indicate a company’s confidence in the reliability of its products. (By the way, you can usually add a year to the manufacturer’s warranty if you buy 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 warranties on certain parts, Hope says. An LG refrigerator typically carries a one-year general warranty for parts and labor, for example, but the compressors, which circulate the refrigerant, may carry a five- or even 10-year warranty.

Lifetime warranties are obviously the gold standard, although companies differ considerably in their definition of useful life. With Craftsman hand tools, for example, shelf life essentially means indefinitely. According to the company’s site, if a Craftsman wrench, screwdriver, hammer, or other hand tool doesn’t work for any reason, the company will replace it, with or without a receipt.

Meanwhile, Manduka, a manufacturer of yoga supplies, offers a lifetime warranty on many of its mats, but it’s for the expected 10-year lifespan of the mat, not its entire life. Some lifetime warranties are limited to defects in materials and workmanship, not normal wear and tear.

THEY DON’T MAKE THEM LIKE THEY BEFORE

Some products are better built than ever. Cars used to be ready for the junkyard around 100,000 miles, but a typical new car can be expected to last more than 200,000 miles, or about 15 years of average driving, without major problems if well-maintained, according to JD Power. The average price Americans paid for new cars topped $47,000 last year, according to Kelley Blue Book, so keeping your cars longer may 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 grandmother’s clothes washer or refrigerator may have worked for 30 or 40 years, but most appliances these days have an expected lifespan of around 10 years, according to Consumer Reports.

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

Yes, things have gotten a little more disposable, but they’ve actually gotten a lot better in a lot of ways, says Hope.

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