Why are appliances so crummy these days?
April 3, 2012 5:28 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone noticed that the quality of kitchen appliances these days is really, really bad? I think I need a new dishwasher.

I just bought a new oven and dishwasher after the 15-year-old ones started to fall apart. My new oven is sort of okay, but that panel that has the burner controls gets very warm when the oven is on! Good thing I don't have little ones. And the dishwasher ($500 but with many bells and whistles) fizzles out after the wash cycle, the power failure light flashes, and it clanks to a stop 2-3 hours later. (I'm returning it tomorrow.)

I have heard similar complaints from others. What gives? I am thinking of going back to washing dishes by hand! I guess I'm stuck with the oven but are there any solutions for under $600 for the dishawasher?
posted by PJSibling to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Often they will add fairly useless bells and whistles to a cheaply made appliance so they can sell for more. I have found the best bet is a machine that is more expensive than the cheapest but does not have all the features of a lots of machines in that price range. This has served me well with a washing machine and a refrigerator and a furnace. Brand names can be guide, especially if made in north america (Canada and mexico have some very good manufacturing capability) but cheap stuff from anywhere in Asia is usually junk. Expensive stuff from anywhere but china is usually pretty good also.
When shopping see how it feels, are the hinges sturdy, do the controls feel solid, does it latch well, do the rubber parts feel soft and supple and strong or thin and like vinyl? are the edges easy to pry or is it all double rolled and tucked in so gaining access is tough? are any vinyl coated parts covered with a thick layer that feels decent? Are any of the plastic parts loose, poorly fitting or feel solid and can be flexed easily without any noise, popping or rattling? all of these are a sign of quality, and consumer reports is usually really good on appliances.
posted by bartonlong at 7:34 PM on April 3, 2012

Can't say I really agree. We bought a $600-ish Maytag dishwasher (a real beast that you can throw a lasagna pan into and it'll come out sparkling) two years ago, and it has been fantastic. Our newish Jenn-Air stove has been fine. And, of course, can't forget the must-be 40-year-old avocado green Kenmore dryer with 18 different polyester settings that just will not die.

What brands are the oven and dishwasher? And were they professionally installed?
posted by xedrik at 7:36 PM on April 3, 2012

FWIW, I hate the new dishwasher I bought last year and concur that many appliances seem to be built pretty badly these days. It's a Bosch. Don't recommend at all :-(
posted by couchtater at 8:22 PM on April 3, 2012

I bought a Frigidaire Gallery dishwasher (hope I can say brand names here) and a GE oven.

Found out later the d/w is rated at 1 or below at Amazon! I'm thinking of a Whirlpool Gold now (rated high by Consum. Reports). The guy at the new store swears they're good.

I've heard mixed reviews of Bosch too.
posted by PJSibling at 9:26 PM on April 3, 2012

We moved into a brand-new, never-been-lived-in apartment in 2009, and the Bosch dishwasher and Whirlpool Duet washer and dryer have been great.

We just bought a house with a Samsung range, oven, and refrigerator/freezer and I bought a Samsung washer and dryer and have no idea what the hell you're talking about. The appliances are great – as in so much better than any older models we've dealt with (seriously, the new dishwasher is unbelievably quiet, and the washer does not vibrate At. All. It's right next to our bedroom, and it's crazy quiet, and my clothes are oh so clean) – and we even got a bunch of money back from the City of Seattle as a rebate thanks to their energy efficiency.

Maybe you got a lemon?
posted by halogen at 1:46 AM on April 4, 2012

It's really important to read reviews for the exact model you're planning to buy, especially with familiar mass-market brands. Competition in this segment is just brutal, so redesigned products are rushed to market with whizbang new features that aren't always well-tested or refined. A lot of unintended crap slips through into production. Brand alone is not a reliable proxy for quality.
posted by jon1270 at 4:06 AM on April 4, 2012

I bought a Frigidaire Gallery dishwasher

I'm sorry. I bought one as well, about seven years ago. We've had it repaired once. I still can't get it to run on command, I always have to hit the delay button. It cleans OK, but the computer on the one we have does not work right. And that is what we had repaired. Neither worked correctly for more than a couple months, they both refused to wash on command.
posted by kellyblah at 5:28 AM on April 4, 2012

Rebadging is used in a lot of industries, but it is really common in home appliances. The name on the front is no real indicator of the factory that made the appliance. This is especially true of the lower-priced appliances.

It's important to look at each model individually, and not depend on a brand name. If you compare models in the store, and look at non-cosmetic parts on the appliance, it is sometimes obvious that two different brands were made in the same factory. There can also be a significant price difference in two otherwise identical appliances if one carries a different brand name.
posted by Quonab at 5:53 AM on April 4, 2012

When my GE fridge crapped out prematurely about 3 years ago, after constant problems in its short 7 year life, I asked the repair guy what brand he liked. He said that nothing but Whirlpool crossed the threshold of his house.

We bought Whirlpool and so far it has operated flawlessly. YMMV...
posted by COD at 5:54 AM on April 4, 2012

I have a Fisher&Paykel Dishdrawer which has been bombproof, quiet, extremely ergonomic (its greatest feature, so much easier on the back, better use of kitchen space) and uses 14 litres of water per load on the efficient 'eco' setting. It's more expensive in the US - if that's where you are? - but worth every cent. Our bottom-of-the-range Whirlpool washing machine has lasted without any issues at all for 15 years.
posted by honey-barbara at 8:06 AM on April 4, 2012

Just have to say I agree. We've been through three dishwashers in three years. The current one (installed by the owner- we rent) doesn't even fit our plates. Seriously, you can't put regular size dinner plates in it. It was clearly designed by someone who doesn't even know what a dishwasher is supposed to.
posted by jrichards at 8:52 AM on April 4, 2012

My Maytag clothes washer/dryer have lasted 25 years! They wash, they dry. Simple!

I've heard good things about Fisher/Paykel but aren't they about $1000?
posted by PJSibling at 8:55 AM on April 4, 2012

Not precisely related to lower manufacturing quality of appliances, but iirc somewhat recently a (legally mandated? maybe?) change was made in the composition of powdered dishwasher detergent, so many machines that previously worked perfectly well are now giving crappy results for reasons that are not actually mechanical.

We have a Miele machine at the office that works really well despite a lot of abuse, but I am pretty sure it was way over $600.
posted by elizardbits at 10:13 AM on April 4, 2012

but iirc somewhat recently a (legally mandated? maybe?) change was made in the composition of powdered dishwasher detergent

Yeah, many (all?) states required detergents to go phosphate-free. Hasn't really been an issue for us, so I haven't really researched it much. But from what I gather, it sounds like water quality really affects your results with phosphate-free detergents. The appliance guys around here recommend Lemi Shine to help.
posted by xedrik at 10:30 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I hate our GE appliances. They remind me of the worst qualities of recent American cars - bulky, plasticky, layered with bling features which end up being a nuisance, and almost no attention to actual user interface. My GE fridge makes me swear about 5x a day because the layout is so freaking idiotic. Frigidaire doesn't have a great reputation either.

I do love our fancy front-loading Samsung washer and dryer. Gentle on the clothes, extremely water efficient and about 8 useful settings including wool, quick wash, hand wash and pre soak.

Do a ton of research on the specific models - not just the brand and series names. Replace all cheap plastic water intake hoses with good quality metal braided versions. Numerous plumbers have said they cannot understand how people will drop hundreds on a new appliance but freak out at an important $15 hose.
posted by barnone at 12:33 PM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

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