Most last about a decade, but there are ways to prolong their lifespans.
I’m about to begin the fourth year in my first home—and over the past few years, my partner and I replaced the dishwasher, the refrigerator, the kitchen faucet, the oven ignitor, a section of sewer pipe and our entire downstairs HVAC system.
None of these upgrades were cosmetic. While our new dishwasher is an upgrade over our previous one, especially in terms of water usage and decibel level, we only bought it because the appliance that came with the house literally stopped working.
That dishwasher was about 13 years old. So was the refrigerator, which conked out six months later. So were the oven and the kitchen faucet and the HVAC unit, all of which had become significantly less efficient than they were when we moved in. Loaves of bread that took 25 minutes to bake started taking a full hour. The kitchen faucet dripped so often that we made a point of checking, double-checking and triple-checking the sink every night before we went to bed. The air conditioning ran and ran and ran and the house remained warm.
When I reached out to the experts, I learned that our appliances’ extended run—a few years longer than expected, when you calculate the average—may have been due to the care we and the previous homeowners gave them. "With appliances, it all depends on how much you use them and how well you maintain them," explains Erin Hybart, a real estate agent in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
That said, you may still need to replace your appliances every ten years or so—and if the appliances were already in your home when you bought it, those upgrade dates may come sooner than you think.
Here’s how to prepare—and how much it might cost you.
When to replace each major appliance
I asked Hybart, who shares advice about alternative and creative living at ReErin.com, to help us put together an appliance-replacement timeline. Here’s what she came up with:
"You’re looking at around ten to 15 years, but if it starts making strange noises or sweating more, it might be time to say goodbye. A fridge budget is about $2,000–$3,000."
"Usually, it's a seven to ten-year timespan if it is used regularly. If it starts leaving your dishes dirtier than normal, it could be a sign it’s going out. I do feel the dishwashers of today tend to fail more often, especially the ones with more electronics. The budget for a dishwasher is about $600–$750."
Washer and dryer
"These should last about eight to 12 years, but you can extend their life through regular maintenance. For a washer-dryer set, budget $1,400–$1,600."
"Generally, you can expect about seven to ten years—but if it starts taking five minutes to pop a bag of popcorn that used to take two, it’s probably time for an upgrade. A microwave budget should be about $350–$500 depending on the size and features."
"While there could be a difference in lifespan for gas versus electric, a range should easily last ten–15 years. A budget for this item is about $650–$900, depending on features."
How to prepare for appliance upgrades
Since you’re going to need to replace every appliance in your home roughly once a decade—or once every 15 years, if you take good care of your stuff—you can start preparing for these expenses today.
Start by setting aside a little extra money each month. This, I know, is easier said than done—but getting started now could save you a lot of money later. The last thing you want to do is put a $1,500 washer-dryer set on a credit card, especially if you’re going to be paying 20 percent APR every month on your unpaid balance. Credit card interest rates, like mortgage interest rates, are higher than ever—so do what you can to avoid taking on new debt.
As you spend the next five to ten years building your appliance fund, get to know your current appliances. How old are they? How efficient are they supposed to be, and has their capacity started to slip? How often do they need to be cleaned, and when is the last time you cleared out the crumbs and dust bunnies that have undoubtedly gathered underneath them?
If it looks like you’ll need to replace an appliance in the next year or so, start comparison-shopping early. The best time to buy a refrigerator is while your current fridge is noticeably less efficient but still keeping things cool. You could have two months in which to choose the best refrigerator for your price point, and another two months to shop the sales. The worst time to buy a refrigerator is the day after Christmas, after you and your partner spend the holiday nibbling on crackers because the refrigerator you were pretty sure was dying stopped functioning on Christmas Eve.
Lastly, don’t forget to take advantage of any tax credits that might be associated with appliance upgrades and other home improvements. If you give yourself enough lead time to compare units and prices—as opposed to finding yourself in a situation where you need a new refrigerator right now—you might be able to choose energy-efficient appliances that could save you money every month and give you a much-needed tax break at the end of the year.
Choosing the right appliances could also increase the value of your home—so start saving now, and prioritize your upgrades when they become necessary. You’ll be glad you did—ask me how I know.
Top photo originally found in Row on 25th: Affordable Housing Development in Houston