Consumer Reports is a magazine most of us don’t read often enough. Sure, when we need a new TV or car, we scour the library for back issues, but this is hit and miss. Last weekend, sipping a cool drink outdoors at a local watering hole, I needed armor, so I bought and brought the latest Consumer Reports. So interesting was the August issue that my drink’s ice melted long before I’d finished reading.
For the first time, the magazine issued a report on appliance reliability by the manufacturer. Even more enticing is the inclusion of ultra-premium brands like Miele, Thermador, Sub-Zero, and Viking, which often get left out due to a lack of data compared with brands selling tons more units like GE or LG.
While not to be confused with the organization’s ratings on appliance usability and features, reliability is clearly as important when buying a car as a refrigerator. The surprising yet unsurprising thing was the general consensus by appliance makers that 10 years of life is good enough. Some ultra-premium players like Miele and Sub-Zero/Wolf claim 20 years of useful life while washer/dryer brand Speed Queen touts 25 years.
Of course, that’s not to say that consumers will have 10, 20, or 25 years of flawless service from their appliance. The organization reports that 40 percent of refrigerators will require some type of servicing within their first five years – ranges, the most reliable class of appliance will see 25 percent requiring service.
Reliability is important environmentally too. Those 10-year appliances produce twice as much landfill as those lasting 20 years – and if they’re not twice the price, you’re saving money in the long run. For example, a quick search found a stackable Speed Queen washer/dryer for $2,898 whereas similarly highly reliable LG would run roughly $2,200 for the set. For $700 more you get a set striving for 2.5 times the longevity. Quite the bargain.
Knowing our CandysDirt.com readers, you want to know where all the hotsy-totsy brands fall. Speed Queen was No. 1 overall, but they only sell laundry appliances. In the more full-line arena, Miele scored the top spot (followed by IKEA!). LG, Thermador, and Bosch rounded out the top six (not surprising as Thermador and Bosch are part of the same business that includes Siemens and Gaggenau – who weren’t rated).
The magazine does a good job breaking down how each appliance type within their lines fared in addition to an overall number. For example, Sub-Zero/Wolf got an overall middle-of-the-pack score of 58, but their refrigerators were rated “above average” only to be drug down by Wolf ranges and cooktops only receiving an “average” reliability rating.
The bottom of the list has surprises too. Dead last, with a score of 15 (!!!) was Viking, which received the lowest rating of “poor” reliability in all appliance categories except one where it received “below average” (cooktops). Next to the worst were Electrolux, Dacor, Fisher & Paykel, and Asko. For reference, Hotpoint and Amana were rated as being nearly four times as reliable as Viking.
I don’t want to give away too much of the non-profits’ secret sauce (buy the issue you cheapos), but there’s also a very useful section on the most frequent repairs by appliance. My friends think I’m odd for eschewing ice makers (I remove them) and water dispensers (never buy) but according to Consumer Reports’ research, 43 percent of all refrigerator repairs are tied to ice makers and water.
Anyone renovating or updating a kitchen needs to buy this issue and marry its rankings with Consumer Reports’ features and specs ratings before buying. Seeing Viking’s ranking, I feel I’ve dodged a bullet on the 8-year-old refrigerator I no longer own.
Central Market Takes Top Score
In the same issue, Consumer Reports ranks grocery store chains and various delivery services. Without delving into the details, Texas’ own Central Market, at 91 points, was rated the best grocery store chain in the nation. Of the top six, Trader Joe’s was the only national chain. Dallas big chains Kroger and Tom Thumb rated a middle-of-the-road 77 and 76 respectively.
Central Market’s individual rankings are not shocking to regulars. No one expects competitive pricing at the Tiffany of grocery stores. We’re all just happy they let us shop there.
Every time I pick up a Consumer Reports, I’m enthralled by all the information they have in every ad-free issue. For renovation junkies like me, appliance reliability has become another chapter in my renovator’s bible. Get your copy while they’re still on newsstands (you’ll want to own this issue as someone will invariably pinch the library’s and your dentist’s copy).
Remember: High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the National Association of Real Estate Editors recognized my writing with three Bronze (2016, 2017, 2018) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards. Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make? Shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.