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How Long Do Common Household Items Last?

Did you have an appliance or other household items that need repairing? We have had several big household items hit our budget over the years. The washer-dryer combo, a new refrigerator and a new stove have all needed to be replaced over the years. And who could forget the really big one – the new heating and cooling units that brought in a new air conditioning and furnace. Wow – those were really expensive!

All in all, having lived in three homes over the course of our marriage, my wife and I have had to replace the following list of items:

3 new air conditioning units, 2 new furnaces, 2 new refrigerators, a new stove, a new dishwasher, a new microwave, a new garbage disposal, 2 new water heaters, a new dryer, 2 new washing machines (bad luck here), 5 new vacuums (we buy the cheaper ones), 4 new televisions, 2 new garage doors (main and basement), 3 new lawnmowers and countless other electronic devices (computers, iDevices, clocks, etc.)

In case you didn’t know, this is the reality of owning a home. All these items will break at some point. When that occurs, you will either have to a) do without or b) replace them. So it may be helpful before you purchase to know how long these items will last.

Research on How Long Household Items Last

The issue with appliances is twofold:

  1. We don’t know when appliances will break and,
  1. We don’t plan ahead.

So when the unfortunate incident occurs, we are usually unprepared and have to scramble to replace them. In the urgency of the moment, we end up making a poor financial decision. Either we overpay to get something right away or we have to go into debt to fund the purchase. You can avoid both with a little patience and planning.

Even though we don’t know when household items will break, we can gain some insight from statistics gathered by the manufacturing industry. Check out this image (used with permission) by ChoiceHomeWarranty.com that highlights how long the average household item lasts.

household items

The Best Plan to Replace Household Items

You may have found some information in the graphic surprising, like how quickly the average mattress wears out. As I’ve written recently, I’m skeptical of that data.

Related Content: How Often Should You Change Your Mattress? Every 5-7 Years? 

And your experience may be entirely different than the averages. As I mentioned earlier, we’ve replaced several washing machines in the time we’ve been married. We obviously aren’t getting 15 years out of each one of ours.

Whether or not you are hitting the industry averages really isn’t the point though. What should be emphasized is that you are prepared to repair or replace household items when they break. Remember those expensive furnace and air conditioning units I said we’ve replaced? We paid for them in cash. And it didn’t bother or cause me frustration at all to do so.

My lack of frustration was because we’ve made it a priority to have an emergency fund of cash on hand for just such situations. We’ve put money into our savings account at our bank and leave it there for when we have an emergency. We don’t use it for anything else.

Related Content: Emergency Fund Basics: The Step on Which All Other Success is Built

We don’t touch it for vacations.

We don’t use money from it for a special date night.

And we avoid it at all costs for spur of the moment purchases.

It’s only for emergencies.

The Impact of Having an Emergency Fund

I cannot describe how peaceful a feeling this produces. It’s relaxing to have money sitting in an account for issues like this. I really do not worry about anything I own breaking down. We will be able to weather any household items that breakdown, even if several happen in a row. We even have enough for a major car repair.

So start your emergency fund today. Save at least $1,000 first. You can do that in one month if you’re focused. Then over time build it to 3-6 months worth of your family’s monthly expenses. With that much saved you will be able to manage through some tougher life situations that may come like an illness or loss of job.

Related Content: How to Save One Thousand Dollars in a Month

The emergency fund creates the foundation upon which all other financial steps are built.

Leave a Comment or Answer a Question Below: What stands out to you about the graphic? What’s been your luck with replacing household items? How does your emergency fund make you feel? When was the last time you used your emergency fund?

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  1. Love the tips! We use a front loader washing machine, so it might be different, but last time we had to call a repairman he actually advised the same thing about detergent. He said most people (following the instructions on the container) use WAY too much laundry detergent.

  2. Hello, My hubby and I always say that they don’t make things like they used to and with the decrease in cost in most appliances we feel that it means a decrease in quality and the manufacturers almost produce product with the knowledge that you will have to replace it in 2-5 years so that they can sell you another one.

    • “…they don’t make things like they used to…” A lot of people think that. I’d like to see some statistical studies that prove or disprove that.

  3. Informative ! Thanks for the good read 🙂
    Id like to share some of what’s grossing in our place.

  4. Paul Langley says

    This is some really helpful information for anyone who wants to be prepared for sudden appliance issues. I really like the graphic you included with the average lifespans of most appliances. I agree that not being prepared is a huge issue, we actually just had our fridge die and we were forced to get a new one that day, to have it installed the next. It would’ve been much easier if we had been prepared for that situation. Thanks so much for writing!

  5. Hey, great share….
    We have owned our Norseman 447 Third Wish for 10 years. It had a cold plate system on board when we purchased it. We were never able to freeze anything. We always thought the problem was inadequate insulation because the cold plate itself would ice up very quickly. We really want to replace it.

    Nice information!!it will surely help me with budgeting.
    Thanks for sharing this post.

  6. I was very surprised to see that the doorbell was the longest lasting household item! I was also chagrined to see that things like a dishwasher and microwave don’t tend to last longer than 9 years. Thank you for sharing this because it will help me with budgeting for possibly needing repairs or replacements for a few things in the next year!

    • I guess it makes sense the doorbell lasts the longest…it’s hardly ever used (at least at my house) so very little wear and tear. And I hear you on the budgeting for new items. We are constantly doing this so we can be prepared when something breaks down.

  7. I guess I’ll choose something that lasts longer rather than those that claim they’re energy efficient.
    I can never really feel the significant effect of its efficiency anyways, I’d go for sturdiness anytime.

  8. Hi Brian, these are helpful tips on choosing the right appliances as well as how long it last. I like the infographic that you put in the middle of your article, it is eye catching and informative as well.

  9. Our Panasonic microwave has lasted 28 years and the power is just falling off now. It was $1400, so that is $50 a year, a good deal in my book. For washers & dryers I always buy the cheapest conventional version and if anything goes wrong I just throw it away; appliance service in-home is very expensive.

  10. Terri Neville says

    At this point with appliances I have given up caring whether they are energy efficient. Simply not worth it if they don’t last.

  11. I think the most eye opening thing about this is that they must not make appliances like they used to. I remember the microwave and dishwasher that I grew up with at my parents house. Those lasted somewhere between 15 and 20 years…. I thought technology was supposed to get better! (I bet the old ones weren’t efficient though)

    • Hey…if you can manufacture something that breaks down after five years and force consumers into buying a new one, why not? The old model of having an item last 15+ years doesn’t help the bottom line I guess. (sarc) 🙂

  12. That makes me really sad because it means we are almost due or overdue for some break downs! We have not had luck with washers at all, having bought 3 in the past 10 years. We try to always buy energy efficient everything, but sometimes it seems the cheapest ones last longer without all the fancy functions. The washer and dryer in our first rental have to be from the mid 90’s. I’m prepared any day to have them go out, but so far, they work like charms.

  13. I’m always amazed at the short life of household appliances these days. My mom’s last clothes dryer lasted over 25 years. Not the case with stuff these days.

    • I know Laurie. I don’t remember it being as big an issue for my parents when I was growing up. I think a lot of it has to do with the technology (computer components) built into the appliances. That’s what often goes wrong. That and cheaper materials.

  14. Interesting infographic. Some seemed a bit high to me but I may have bad luck and it probably always depends on the quality you buy too. 🙂 And I absolutely agree, emergency funds are lifesavers when it comes to broken appliances. Like you said, you never know when they will break but it always seems like at the worst time possible and in twos or threes, just make it more fun.

    • “…in twos or threes,…” Agreed Shannon…That’s when the emergency fund really shows its benefit, when it helps weather a series of events.

  15. I guess this is one tiny advantage of being a renter, although some of those items would be purchased by me and not my landlord. One thing that surprised me was the gas stove. There was a brand new one put in my unit when I moved in 7 years ago, but the electronics on it were starting to go haywire this past summer so my landlord had to replace the entire gas stove. Crazy! Some things that I bought that I didn’t think would last long have lasted so long, like my alarm clock which I’ve had since I was a junior in high school, and some things, like dvd players are awful and break ALL the time! A sofa is a weird one on the list. I had no idea it had a shelf life. But YES to the emergency fun. It’s no fun to use, but a lifesaver!

    • The electronics on appliances is what often goes bad, not the actual working parts. That’s what happened to one of our washing machines. Was going to cost about as much to get the electronic circuit board replaced as it would be to buy an entire new unit. Crazy…

  16. Of course a big factor on how long something lasts is how much it is used. If you mow a suburban lot once a week, a mower will last far longer than one that is used to mow acreage in the country. Another factor for mowers is how they are cared for. Oil and spark plugs need changing, the mower deck should be cleaned and gasoline drained at the end of the mowing season. Proper care and prevention of things like that can make them last a lot longer.

    • I think many people fail in the routine maintenance. I know I haven’t been as diligent on some things in that regard.

      • ThriftyHamster says

        Speaking of routine maintenance, here’s a little plumbing tip. You know those little shutoff valves (assuming they were installed) on the water supplies to the sinks and toilets in your home? They really should be cycled a couple times a year. If not, when it comes time to service the fixture you’ll likely find the shutoff valve does not work as advertised.

        The key word up there is “should”. I’ve worked to become a licensed plumber and even I seem to fail following that advice in my own home. “Oops” I’m curious to know how much a home maintenance plan could potentially save in the long run. Be it money or stress.

        • Albie Cardew says

          Thrifty Hamster, the little “plumbing tip” you shared is actually very helpful. I’ve never replaced the shut-off valves on my plumbing fixtures, and I’ve had them for a few years. They still work properly so far, but it would be terrible if one broke and caused a huge water damage or plumbing problem. That being said, how often would you say a couple times a year is? Can you go longer without replacing them if they are still working well?

  17. I was surprised by the mattress, but then thought some of those appliance figures were a little generous on the time side. My hubby and I always say that they don’t make things like they used to and with the decrease in cost in most appliances we feel that it means a decrease in quality and the manufacturers almost produce product with the knowledge that you will have to replace it in 2-5 years so that they can sell you another one.

    • “…appliance figures were a little generous…” That was my thought as well Shannon, especially on the washing machine. We’ve had terrible luck with those.

  18. Interesting infrographic Brian! I about fell out of my seat when it said to expect a laptop to last four years. We just had to replace mine a few months ago and the other piece of junk barely lasted two years. Then again, my wife’s Keurig is like at least four years. But, I guess much of it is relative. That said, I could not agree more on the need/reasoning to have an EF. It’s part of what helps me sleep at night because I know most things that’ll get thrown at us we’ll be able to cover.

    • “…much of it is relative.” It would seem so. My MacBook Pro is getting up there in years (nearly a decade) with only a few repairs along the way.

      • ThriftyHamster says

        I’m curious to know if new MacBook’s have the same longevity. My iMac is about seven and one half years young. This past summer I swapped out its aging (and likely failing) hard drive for a new solid state drive and the optical drive for a new conventional hard drive. The solid state drive is probably the best upgrade today for an aging computer. In some aspects I believe this iMac is now faster than when it was new.

        • I don’t know about the new Macbooks. My guess on durability is that much of it depends on components and the carefulness of the user. I might be due for one soon so maybe I’ll find out.

  19. I’m pretty sure I replace my coffee maker every year. My husband says it is because I buy the cheapest one out there and use it every day. I think it’s sad that coffee makers only have a one-year lifespan!

    • “…sad that coffee makers only have a one-year lifespan!”…I agree Holly. I don’t get that. I think we’ve had our current one for a couple years and I don’t expect it to last much longer…especially with everyday use.

      • One thing I would suggest is a French Press – when our last coffee maker broke 3 years ago that is what we bought. It is nice to have one less appliance. Also, we decided to not replace our microwave and just reheat on the stove ( I find it tastes better)

  20. Interesting information. With kids that leave toys around sometimes as well as a cat that sometimes makes a mess, a Roomba definitely could cause more problems than it would create.

    • My initial reactions from watching the promo video were a) that might be great for cleaning up dog hair, b) it sure sounds loud…followed by c) that sure is expensive. I’d be interested to watch one in action though to see how it learns the space and maneuvers around a room.

  21. Is a Roomba really only expected to last 2 years. That is pretty expensive…

    • I didn’t even know what that was David…had to look it up. Don’t think I’d get one of those for the price tag put on them. I’d just assume do the vacuuming and sweeping myself…better yet put that task on the kid’s chore sheet. 🙂

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