How long should appliances last? The answers are surprisingly hard to pin down.

There are 2 ways to estimate an appliance’s lifespan. We use both.

Economic life - when it's more economical to replace the appliance than repair it.
Economic life - when it's more economical to replace the appliance than repair it.

Economic life: At some point an appliance reaches the end of its economic life: that’s when it's more economical to replace the appliance than repair it. Our estimates of “economic life” are based on a survey we sent to manufacturers in February 2013. Where we didn't receive a response, we used data from a previous year’s survey.

Life expectancy: This is how long an appliance should last, given reasonable use and perhaps some repair. Our estimates of “life expectancy” are based on our appliance-reliability surveys and feedback from our members.

Large kitchen appliances

Become a Gold or Silver member to find out our estimate of the economic life and life expectancy of dishwashers, fridges, ovens and stoves.

Small kitchen appliances

Become a Gold or Silver member to find out our estimate of the economic life and life expectancy of microwaves, espresso machines, kettles and toasters.

Laundry and cleaning

Become a Gold or Silver member to find out our estimate of the economic life and life expectancy of clothes dryers, vacuum cleaners and washing machines.

Heating

Become a Gold or Silver member to find out our estimate of the economic life and life expectancy of dehumidifiers, heat pumps and heaters.

Electronic appliances

Become a Gold or Silver member to find out our estimate of the economic life and life expectancy of cameras, computers and TVs.

Your rights

The Consumer Guarantees Act obliges retailers to guarantee their products are "of acceptable quality". This means that they must last for a time that’s reasonable for the particular product and the price paid for it.

Manufacturers and importers must hold spare parts for this length of time, unless you're told at the time of purchase that spares and service won’t be available.

If an appliance fails before its time is up – and you haven't caused the fault – the retailer has to put things right:

When it's a minor problem the retailer has a choice between fixing the appliance, replacing it, or taking it back and giving you a refund.

If it's a serious problem then you can choose whether the retailer replaces the product, or takes it back and gives you a refund. You can also claim for losses that have happened because of the fault. If your washing machine is faulty, for instance, you can claim the costs of going to the laundromat while it's being fixed.

Tip: your receipt proves where and when you bought the appliance. Keep it tucked away with the appliance's manual.

Lines of support

A service call for a major appliance can cost upwards of $100. This might make repairs uneconomical. Can you resolve the glitch without calling in the fix-it person?

  • Unplug a troublesome electronic appliance from the wall, wait a minute or 2, and then reboot it.
  • Check the troubleshooting section of your owner's manual.
  • Search the "support" pages of the manufacturer's website.
  • Google the fault (you might find others have encountered the same problem).
  • Phone or email the manufacturer's customer support service for advice.
  • Still no luck? Many companies use social media to correspond with their customers. Post the problem on the manufacturer's Facebook page or Twitter account.

Report by Luke Harrison.