The smart buyers guide for updating home appliances
Whether it's simply time for an upgrade or fate forces your hand with a broken appliance, replacing your washing machine, dishwasher or fridge can be a stressful and costly situation.
Megan Birot, Home & Lifestyle Editor, Canstar Blue, shares her insights on how to get the best deal when replacing a home appliance, without compromising on features.
Stop before you shop
It is a good idea to start each year considering the age, condition and features of your current appliances to prepare for potential upgrades. For example, the average lifecycle of a washing machine is around nine years, eight years for a dishwasher and up to 13 for a fridge. If your white goods are nearing this age, it is time to start planning to replace them.
"It's important to consider the lifespan of an appliance prior to purchasing. For example, if a fridge has an average nine-year lifecycle, then spending extra upfront for an energy-efficient model with added features may be a worthwhile investment that pays off over time," says Megan.
If you can, shop seasonally to get the best deal, such as during end-of-financial-year sales, Boxing Day or Black Friday, and review all the discounts on offer at the time.
If you have to replace an item in a hurry, be sure to check clearance items and factory seconds stores. You may even be able to bag a bargain on an item that has a minor imperfection, like a small scratch or damaged box.
Cheap versus steep – is there a difference?
According to Megan, there's a common misconception that cheaper equals value which is not always the case. Likewise, more expensive isn't synonymous with better quality.
"What consumers should look for is the extra features, functions, and energy-efficiency of specific models, relative to the price and what's available in the market," says Megan.
For example, cheaper dishwashers will often have a plastic interior, which is less durable than stainless steel. Expensive fridges will have more versatile and stronger interior shelves and drawers and low-priced washing machines may have budget internal wiring and concrete counterweights.
If they break down, it can be more complex to fix, and you could find yourself needing to replace your appliance after a short period of time.
However, she suggests paying a premium is never a guarantee for quality, which is why it's important to undertake research before dropping $4,000 on a fridge or making any big purchase.
"Have a good idea of the features and functions you want as well as your price point, but never settle for the first option you see. Compare models and prices from different brands and retailers to make sure you're getting the best deal possible and always check online reviews of a product before purchasing," advises Megan.
However, there are some additional features that will be worth every cent, especially when it comes to safety. Megan notes that stovetops in particular are worth investing more in.
"Some new models have special features such as automatic switch off, which turns the gas off after a certain period of time. Investing in these additional features could help prevent accident or injury," she says.
Saving the planet and your wallet
Another key tip from Megan is to always consider energy and water-efficient appliances.
"Keep in mind that appliances with high-efficiency ratings may be more expensive to buy upfront, but the initial cost will be offset by reduced utility bills over time," says Megan.
Megan recommends using Energy Rating Calculator to gain perspective on the energy rating of your appliances, the amount of energy used, and how much an appliance will potentially cost to run per year.
This is particularly important if you are replacing your hot water system. According to CarbonTrack, hot water heating can contribute up to 30 per cent of household energy bills, so it's important to think about which hot water system makes sense for your home.
Natural gas is the most common type of hot water heating in Australia, followed closely by electricity. Gas is usually more expensive to install but can provide savings long-term, while electricity is cheap to buy but expensive to run.
Sustainable options, such as solar systems can be a considerable investment, but will save you the most money in the long run, as well as reducing your greenhouse gas emissions.
"Consider your household budget, needs, water usage and location and make a decision on the heating system that would work best for you," says Megan.
Word to the wise on warranties
Megan advises both the warranty period and terms and conditions should always be an important consideration when buying a big-ticket appliance.
"You'll want to make sure that your warranty is valid for a reasonable time during which you could claim remedy/compensation from the manufacturer or retailer if your product is defective or does not meet quality standards," says Megan.
"Extended warranties can offer extra peace of mind at checkout but aren't necessary due to the standard consumer guarantees in place under Australian Consumer Law. These will protect consumers over the appliance's reasonable life expectancy - even when a warranty has expired - and operates regardless of any other warranty extensions they have purchased."
While the price tag of big-ticket household items can seem daunting, savvy homeowners can use careful consideration and planning to maximise value for money, features and safety when it comes to appliances.
The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author(s) and not necessarily those of State Custodians.