Best and worst of 2018

Which products and services topped our best – and worst – lists this year?

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Every year, Consumer researches, tests and reviews hundreds of products and services, some of which stand out for being either exceptionally good or astonishingly dreadful. Here are our picks of the best and worst of 2018.

Appliances

Best

Miele

When it comes to appliances, Miele’s on the home straight. It’s a Top Brand in five categories – clothes dryers, washing machines, dishwashers, built-in ovens and vacuum cleaners – and a close second in many others. It regularly bags pole position in our annual reliability and satisfaction survey of home appliances. In addition, its reformulated dishwasher powder is the first powder to earn our recommendation.

Worst

KitchenAid 2-Slice Toaster KMT2116 $199

KitchenAid’s 2-Slice Toaster KMT2116 put in such a crumby showing that we awarded it zero for performance, as well as “don’t buy” status.

It’s not like we didn’t give it the benefit of the doubt. Thinking there might be a fault, we bought a second unit. It, too, didn’t cut it. So we bought a third – and again it left us feeling browned off.

KitchenAid says it stands by the quality and performance of its products – but we say this expensive toaster is a pale imitation of the real thing.

Dishonorable mention

Kogan Compact Robot Vacuum $219

Not only did the Kogan Compact Robot Vacuum KACOMROBVCA suck at cleaning, it struggled to cross the divide between carpet and hard floors and needed a hand to get moving again. It then ran out of juice after 21 minutes (the shortest runtime of any tested model) and didn’t return to base to charge.

This robo-vac caused so much trouble, we deemed it a “don’t buy”.

Kids and family

Best

Springfree Medium round 10ft trampoline $1499

It’s all fun and games till someone gets hurt, so you’ll want to play it safe when it comes to buying a trampoline.

In our test of seven 3m (medium) models, the Springfree was the only one that didn’t suffer a major safety failure. All the other trampolines had hazards that could pinch, shear or crush fingers and limbs.

Honourable mention

Strollers

These 10 strollers scored a perfect 10 in our safety tests.

  • Steelcraft Agile Elite
  • Mountain Buggy Urban Jungle 3.0 Luxury Model
  • Bugaboo Fox
  • Bugaboo Cameleon3
  • Edinburgh Trend 3
  • Mountain Buggy Swift 3.1
  • Phil & Teds Go V1
  • Mountain Buggy Duet 3.0 (seat + basket)
  • Mountain Buggy +one
  • Bugaboo Donkey2 Duo (2018)

Home and heating

Best

Karcher K3 Full Control Home $499


Karcher’s K3 Full Control Home waterblaster really packs a punch. It powered through our tests, scoring an impressive 89% overall – streets ahead of the next best model, which notched up a more modest 77%. It comes with plenty of attachments so you can take on a range of tasks and it’s very easy to use.

Availability: Bunnings only.

Dimplex GDDEKD9 $499

In our test, the Dimplex GDDEKD9 desiccant dehumidifier extracted so much moisture, it broke our scoring system. It soaked up almost two litres more per day than the next best model, earning an overall score of 85% and our tick of approval.

Worst

Globug

Prepay power retailer Globug is often the last resort for consumers no one else wants on their books, but in our survey of energy providers, the Mercury subsidiary was the only company that performed below average on all our key satisfaction measures.

Dishonourable mentions

Ionisation smoke alarms

Ionisation-type alarms respond well to flames, but our testing uncovered a potentially fatal flaw: they can be dangerously slow to detect smouldering fires like those produced by upholstery, bedding and the plastic bits in electrical equipment.

Our findings prompted us to ask retailers to stop selling ionisation alarms. A month later, most major DIY stores had pulled them from the shelves.

Multi-purpose cleaners

These multi-purpose cleaners struggled to do any better than water:

  • Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner Ready to Use
  • BioHome Multi Surface Cleaner Lemongrass & Green Tea
  • Dettol Anti-Bacterial Surface Cleanser With Fresh Lime & Mint
  • Mr Muscle Antibacterial Multi Purpose Fresh
  • Ajax Spray N Wipe Divine Blends Orange Mountain Blossom
  • Dettol Multi Purpose Complete Clean Crisp Green Apple

Electromagnetic and ultrasonic pest control products

Pest control products that claim they can get rid of your rodent problem by emitting electromagnetic waves or high-pitched noises are heavily promoted. But none of the companies selling these devices would provide us with robust, independent research showing them to be an effective means of rodent control. Don’t waste your money.

Technology

Best

Specialized Vado 4.0. $6300

If you’re looking to ditch your gas guzzler for an e-bike, look no further.

Mountains become molehills when the Vado 4.0’s 250W Brose motor kicks in and, thanks to the large 500Wh battery, our tester easily managed his 40km commute with plenty of charge to spare. With a slight tweak, the top assisted speed can reach 45km/h – hardly a slowcoach – and even at full-bore it’s a sturdy ride.

Worst

Vodafone

Who you gonna call for top-notch telco service? Not Vodafone. In our annual customer satisfaction survey, it came dead last overall for both broadband and mobile and was the only company to rate below average on all our key performance measures.

It also features on the Commerce Commission’s list of the most complained about traders. This year, the commission laid charges against Vodafone alleging it made misleading claims for its FibreX broadband service. It’s also facing separate charges for allegedly overcharging customers who wanted to end their contract.

Dishonourable mention

Printers

Don’t be fooled by the low purchase price of a printer - the real cost is in the ink. With some printers, for every drop of ink that ends up on the page, five drops are wasted cleaning the heads – an astounding 500%. And because it’s often cheaper to buy a new machine rather than coughing up for new ink cartridges, many printers end up at the tip, adding to the piles of junk already there.

Yurbuds FOCUS 400 $95

These Focus 400 earbuds hit the wrong note with our expert listening panel. They rated the buds extremely poor for sound with a woeful 0.1/10 for an especially “nasty” classical music experience. It didn't get much better from there, with the panel scoring the buds a painful 1.3/10 for comfort. In brief, our experts rued every second spent using these headphones.

Money and finance

Best

A just fine

It’s the biggest fine handed down to a mobile truck shop. Mobile Shop Limited, which sold goods door-to-door in Auckland, landed itself in court for using ropey loan contracts and misleading consumers about their rights. It deservedly copped a $330,000 fine. The company is the 13th mobile trader to be prosecuted by the Commerce Commission since its 2015 investigation found widespread shonky practices in this industry, which targets the most vulnerable consumers. Mobile Shop has now shut up shop: it was put into liquidation in July 2018.

Worst

Insurance

We’ve been campaigning for an overhaul of our archaic insurance laws to drag industry practices into the 21st century and get rid of junk products and unfair terms.

Take a product like mechanical breakdown insurance. It can add up to a grand to the purchase price of your car but, with all the caveats, the cover it provides is hardly worth having.

Adding salt to the wound are the handsome commissions and other perks insurance reps reap – consumers ultimately foot the bill for these incentives through higher premiums.

Dishonourable mentions

Westpac Hotpoints World Mastercard

Credit card reward schemes require you to spend big to earn big. But Westpac’s Hotpoints World Mastercard takes the cake. Even spending $50,000 over two years only gets you $53 (after annual card fees are deducted) to shop with. It offered the worst value of any of the credit cards we compared this year.

Viagogo

Complaints about ticket resale website Viagogo just keep coming. Unclear pricing and hidden fees have resulted in consumers paying huge mark-ups on tickets. Others have been turned away from events because the tickets they were sold turned out to be fakes.

We asked the Commerce Commission to take action against Viagogo. And it’s doing just that. It’s seeking a declaration from the High Court that Viagogo has breached the Fair Trading Act and an injunction preventing further breaches.

Transport

Honourable mention

Nissan Leaf

In our latest car survey, the all-electric Nissan Leaf cruised past the finish line as the one of the most reliable vehicles on our roads.

With 98% of owners telling us they are very satisfied with it, we’re impressed.

Health

Worst

Bupa Care Services

In 2017, Bupa Care Services was told to refund $10,000 for failing to provide reasonable care to a resident at its St Kilda rest home in Cambridge.

Earlier this year, we asked the Waikato District Health Board (DHB) to carry out an unannounced inspection of the home. The inspection found there were still problems at the facility and it was breaching its contract with the DHB. We’re continuing to push for higher standards in this industry so residents get the care they need.

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