What realiable durable goods wouuld you recommend?
October 19, 2008 1:54 AM   Subscribe

This week a lot of things I own have worn out or have broke, and many of my other belongings will probably "expire" in the next year or so. No big deal, but what I'd like to do is purchase high quality durable goods that will last 5+ years. I'm also concerned of possible hyperinflation so I don't mind spending. What realiable durable goods would you buy?

The past few weeks, a bunch of things have needed replacing:
- wallet
- speakers
- laser pointer/flashlight
- pepper mill
- ups battery backup
- sneakers
- laptop
- external hard drive
- umbrella

Most of my other possessions are nearly worn out as well, and I even have some new things that I know will not be working in a few years (projector bulb). Another example, I opened up my tin of about a hundred various pens and most of them don't write.

Some things I own have lasted a long time and still work great:
- hard anodized cookware, abused over and over
- medium-expensive casio watch, worn every day
- silverware, corelle plates/bowls, pedrini waiter corkscrew

I live in Seattle, if that affects anything.
posted by lpctstr; to Shopping (22 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
A proper stereo separates system - I bought mine 9 years ago and still going strong. Most cheap all in one systems have lasted 6 months to a year.
posted by timmow at 2:54 AM on October 19, 2008

laser pointer/flashlight

Use a yardstick for a pointer. They never wear out or need batteries.
Get a handcrank flashlight - no need for batteries.

-get brown shoe hikers - they last far longer than running shoes - for real longevity get real hiking boots.

-get a rain coat with a hood instead.

-it is not worth buying for durability. The cost of doing so will far outstrip buying and replacing with more advanced tech later. If you are really concerned about inflation - buy a couple of laptops now and stash them. Be aware that the batteries won't last.

For most things if you can get antiques for them then go that way. They lasted long enough to be antiques they will probably last a lot longer.
posted by srboisvert at 3:13 AM on October 19, 2008

global knives - complete handle and blade are forged steel, had two for 7 years, they should last, I don't know, 337 years? Paradigm monitor 3 speakers, had them for about 9 years, they were knocked over from stands a couple times but are still fine. HP laserjet 1100, had it for about 6 years, works fine. I have an ibm clicky keyboard that was made in 1987, works great and will last and last and has a great tactile feeling, many say it's the best keyboard. I have also a rotring core fountain pen, ~5 years, going strong. NAD cd changer, 9 years, works fine but doesn't close itself completely, you have to push, and does not play all types of cd-rs. NAD amp, also 9 years, also is fine but just in the last couple of months it developped a small problem that left channel does not come through until you raise volume on it fairly high, then it kicks in and you can lower volume again. And: I have a piece of bread, 17 years, I nibble a little bit of it every now and then, it's still fine, although in the last 16 years it's gotten a bit mouldy, but that just gives it character.
posted by rainy at 3:19 AM on October 19, 2008

Perfex pepper mill. They've been making them exactly the same for over fifty years, and it's a joy to use and... holy shit, a hundred bucks! What is this world coming to? I've had one for ten years and it's always a joy to use.
posted by Etaoin Shrdlu at 3:40 AM on October 19, 2008

Etaoin beat me to the pepper mill suggestion. Perfex pepper mills can be found for a little less (I got mine on ebay, for about $50), but they will last forever -- very good craftsmanship and a classic look you won't get tired of.

A wallet that I'm very happy with, that has not shown any wear yet despite some real use and abuse, is the Taxi Wallet. It's tough, and it is well designed, too.

For the umbrella, I agree with srboisvert that a raincoat is the way to go. I live in a rainy place, and I've had a London Fog raincoat with a hood, similar to this one, for about 20 years. It's been through some rough times, a lot of bad weather, and hundreds of washings. It looks brand new, the zippers, snaps, and buttons are all in place, and there are no snags or color fading, or anything. I guess it'll last my whole lifetime, and I love it. The design is one that works well, too, with multiple big pockets that zip so things are protected, and a large hood that keeps me completely dry.
posted by Houstonian at 4:24 AM on October 19, 2008

Hyperinflation? Inflation is the condition of too much money chasing too few goods. Too much money is probably not going to be one of the world's problems for the near future. A much more likely scenario is deflation, i.e., too little money chasing too many goods. There aren't many manufacturers raising prices going into this holiday season. And the liklihood of a Democrat sweep this fall means fat tax hikes, especially on the people with money to spend and/or invest. Taking their purchasing power out of the economy will have a further chilling effect on the money supply. (I know, Obama has promised no new taxes on most people. Please. Don't even start.)

That having been said, get a MacBook. The white plastic model is a terrific bargain after the recent price drop, available for well under $900 if you shop at large internet retailers that start with "A". If you want a step up in style and don't need Firewire, the new unibody aluminum models are tougher, lighter, and quite stylin'. You can't beat Apple's customer service, and you'll be able to run both OS X and Windows.
posted by dinger at 4:34 AM on October 19, 2008

I've thought of another reliable brand. You mentioned sneakers, and of course shoes are very personal (how your foot is shaped, and how you will use the shoe). If you are looking for running shoes, I don't have a suggestion for ones that last forever. But, if you are looking for shoes to generally wear with casual clothes, I recommend Clarks if you like the way they fit on your feet. I've got perhaps 5 pairs of Clarks shoes -- sandals, loafers, mules -- and they are indestructible. After 6+ years of near-daily use, the soles of the shoes are like-new, the stitching is still perfect, and they don't have that "run over" look. I would guess that I will not replace them ever, unless I just get tired of they way they look.
posted by Houstonian at 4:37 AM on October 19, 2008

Not on your list, but scour Ebay for a Valezina corkscrew. No longer produced but traded among collectors. Utterly indesctructable (milled out of a few pieces of solid metal alloy), and utterly foolproof as well.
posted by beagle at 5:00 AM on October 19, 2008

My boyfriend recently bought a new Barbour waxed cotton jacket. His last (abused horribly) lasted over ten years. And they do repair and servicing.
posted by tiny crocodile at 5:28 AM on October 19, 2008

Most of the things listed here are electronics. Except for audio equipment, which with a few exceptions hasn't changed that much for a few decades, electronics really aren't all that durable.

Things you might consider:
- Major appliances. A solid washer, dryer, and dishwasher could easily last for decades. You probably need to own your own house for that to make sense, but if you're looking to upgrade something, that's a good place to start. GE is probably your best bet.

- Minor appliances. Same goes here. A well-built, non-crappy microwave, toaster, blender, iron, what have you, can easily last you decades. This means you aren't buying from Wal-Mart. GE remains a good brand here too.

- A car. Subarus and Hondas in are known for their longevity. Subarus are particularly robust: Something like 96% of Subarus sold in the past decade are still running.

- Furniture. Solid wood, not-from-Ikea furniture. As in made by an actual carpenter. You probably aren't going to be able to find Amish-made furniture in Seattle for anything like a reasonable price, but hit up your local antique or used furniture store. Well-made furnishings like tables, chairs, beds, dressers, etc. pretty much never need to be replaced. I grew up sleeping on what used to be my great-grandmother's rope bed, which had been converted with a box spring. Seriously, this is the way to go.

- A well-made suit and coats. As long as your size doesn't change too much (watch that diet!), a suit can last generations. This is more practical for men than women, because men's fashions change precious little over time, whereas a woman will probably want a new suit every year or two. But I've got my grandfather's tux, and after minor alterations I wear it today. I've also got a fantastic wool great-coat which is at least ten years old. Leather, wool, it is of these that long-lasting clothes are made. Cotton, while nice, isn't terribly strong, and synthetics just seem to wear out somehow.

- Tableware. Knives, forks, spoons, etc. plus dishes and servingware. This really will last forever. And unlike some of the things described above, cheap stuff can actually be worth getting here. Stoneware is incredibly durable, but pretty cheap. As in "32-piece set for $100" cheap. That really will last forever. I dropped a plate on my tile kitchen floor and it made a godawful noise and was completely undamaged. You might want to spend a little more on flatware, as the cheap stuff can be light enough to bend, or simply unsatisfactorily hefty, but as long as you stick with stainless this doesn't have to be too expensive either.
posted by valkyryn at 5:29 AM on October 19, 2008

- wallet
- speakers
- laser pointer/flashlight
- pepper mill
- ups battery backup
- sneakers
- laptop
- external hard drive
- umbrella

These are all things (except maybe for the speakers) that I would expect to wear out every so often. They are all items that get physically used -- bent, opened, stepped on, twisted, turned on and off. They have a lifespan, and eventually that lifespan hits its end.

Now, there can be a big difference between the lifespan of well-made sneakers and crummy sneakers, but both will wear out at some point. So I've gone through two or three pepper grinders (the cheap kind, not the recommended $100 ones) in the last 15 years, and a laptop every four years or so, and a lot of umbrellas (though there is a reason they aren't used so much in Seattle -- buy a raincoat instead), and even more pairs of shoes. These are just things that wear out, and you replace as they wear out.

There are other things that you hope to only buy once or twice in a lifetime. Kitchen knives, silverware, plates, cast iron pans, etc will all last decades if not centuries. Furniture, too. Appliances can last a long time, but there are efficiency gains from buying newer ones that can be cheaper than keeping an old appliance running.

Clothes will last, if they are of decent quality and well-cared for, but it's trickier than it sounds to buy "classic pieces that will stay in fashion" as the common advice goes. Look at photos of fashionable people over the decades, and note how many look really dated. But other people do have the knack of dressing more timelessly, and their clothes really could be used for decades.
posted by Forktine at 6:44 AM on October 19, 2008

I am a big fan of buying used when possible, because you know what you're getting in terms of durability. Brand new items won't have a track record of reliability so it can be hard to know if you're buying the 'last one you'll ever need' etc. For instance the newest Macbooks may or may not be as reliable or more reliable than previous versions (OK, they look pretty durable but you see what I mean - we're guessing right now). Used items have more of a track record of use and the gains you get may outstrip the fact that they are already one or more years into their service life. Stuff like flashlights are a good example. Could be that premium brand X is about the same price on ebay as cheapo brand Y, new, and will last twice as long.

The other thing is knowing how to fix stuff when it breaks. It might be worth investing in tools (again, buying used can often be a super deal) so you can fix things that break. But more generally it can pay off to ask, when something breaks, whether there's a way to fix rather than replace, and having a tiny bit of handy-ness in you helps immensely.

Finally there's always a tradeoff in terms of what you want vs. need. You always pay more for the newest features but some are better than others. If you don't need a laptop with all the features, an old one that runs older software might be sufficient for what you want to do with it.
posted by drmarcj at 7:42 AM on October 19, 2008

Instead of a wallet, what about a money clip? I think that would last longer.
posted by like_neon at 7:45 AM on October 19, 2008

The important detail you left out was how these things failed.

For instance, I have to buy a new leather wallet because the card pouches are stretched out, and the cards are falling out when I open it. So to avoid that particular mode of failure, there are various options for what to change:

1) Materials: Buy something synthetic rather than leather, so it stretches less.
2) Behavior: Buy the same wallet but carry less credit cards on me.
3) Design: Buy a wallet that stores the cards differently, so they don't fall out even when it's worn.

You need to do this kind of analysis for each of the things you mentioned. Like I don't even know how a speaker would fail; I haven't noticed any difference in longevity between super-cheap ones and my nice stereo set. So I can't suggest an alternative that would fail less quickly for you.
posted by smackfu at 8:53 AM on October 19, 2008

You get what you pay for. Swiss watches, German cars, are expensive for a reason.

GE appliances are not your best bet. I can't believe someone recommended GE.

Go with German or Japanese brands for appliances- like Bosch or Hitachi- or the American brand Dacor.

This bears repeating: You get what you pay for.
posted by Zambrano at 8:53 AM on October 19, 2008

You get what you pay for. Swiss watches, German cars, are expensive for a reason.

Well, sort of. But if your goal is a long service life at the lowest possible cost, you would not buy a Swiss watch or a German car. You'd buy a $25 Timex and a Honda Fit, and financially you'd be thousands of dollars ahead. There are other benefits to Swiss watches and German cars, but cost of ownership is not part of that.
posted by Forktine at 9:37 AM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Might want to check out this thread: Cheap But Bombproof. Alot of great gear recommendations in this vein.
posted by Freen at 10:06 AM on October 19, 2008

For sneakers try Lowa. I am very hard on shoes but I have a pair of their low cut approach shoes (lightweight, basically sneakers) that are probably 5 years old and the tread is not even worn. I rotate with a pair of Keen hiking sneakers and I've gone through probably 3 pairs of the Keens in the same time period. If you buy Lowa shoes make sure you really like them because you will be wearing them for a long time.
posted by fshgrl at 1:15 PM on October 19, 2008

I'm not so sure Global Knives are all that durable, mine lasted about 3 years before it snapped in half. The blades are very thin compared to a lot of knives and can keep a very sharp edge but tend to be quite delicate. I use a Gustav Emil Ern knife for my main knife. These are German made knives designed for, and used in professional kitchens, so can take the abuse. One of these will last you a life time.
posted by tallus at 1:19 PM on October 19, 2008

I did a lot of non-leather wallet research. I recommend these: Spec Ops Wallets. Bombproof.
posted by lalochezia at 9:20 PM on October 19, 2008

~ I recommend Clarks if you like the way they fit on your feet. I've got perhaps 5 pairs of Clarks shoes -- sandals, loafers, mules -- and they are indestructible. After 6+ years of near-daily use, the soles of the shoes are like-new, the stitching is still perfect, and they don't have that "run over" look.

After all the Clark's recommendations on MeFi, my wife bought a pair before she started her last job. They lasted all of three weeks before big pieces started coming out on her foot when she took it out.

YMMV, but we aren't buying any more Clark's.
posted by paisley henosis at 6:42 AM on October 20, 2008

I have an Eagle Creek slim wallet. It's a bi-fold type, so there's no closure system which might fail, and it's made of very durable woven nylon. It has already lasted about twice as long as the leather wallets I've had, and still looks relatively new (unlike the leather ones, which get rather tatty after a couple of years).

Other durable stuff:
Ka-bar fighting knife (the older ones tend to be better, try to find one in good condition from the WWII, Korean War, or Vietnam War era. These are extremely durable camp/all-purpose knives)
Nikon Monarch binoculars (these are excellent mid-priced, general-purpose waterproof/fogproof/shockproof binocs. They also come with a 25-year limited warranty and an unbeatable no-fault warranty: Nikon will make any out-of-limited-warranty repair for a flat fee of $10 plus shipping and handling, even if the damage was your fault.)
550 Parachute Cord makes extremely durable shoelaces for those extremely durable sneakers of yours. It comes in all colors, too.
Merrell or Vasque hiking boots last a lot longer than the cheap brands -- they are $80-100 instead of $20-40, but they will also last three or four times longer than Hi-tecs.
Leather bookmarks last forever. They tend to get more beautiful with time and use, also.
If you own your home, a good wood-burning stove will last for decades, and provides affordable heat even when the utilities are out. The newer EPA-certified ones don't pollute much, either.
posted by vorfeed at 1:34 PM on October 20, 2008

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