How long appliances may last and extending their lifespan — including cleaning, safety and repairs.
Expect electronics to last longer than the manufacturer's warranty.
To extend their lifespan:
- protect from dust
- clean out gunk
- guard against computer viruses.
Check to see if a device is repairable before replacing it. Well-known brands are usually easier to fix.
Look for signs appliances are unsafe, eg exposed wires, ill-fitting batteries, discolouration, burning smells, particularly if they are old or second-hand.
How long could it last?
What the law says
The Consumer Guarantees Act says products must be durable and last a reasonable length of time.
Appliance life expectancy can depend on:
- if it's a quality product or brand — often tied to price
- how often it's used
- how it's maintained/looked after.
Look at the manufacturer's instructions to see how to use and care for your device. This can help it last longer.
There are no hard and fast rules, but generally:
- ovens and fridges stand up better to wear and tear
- smaller appliances, eg toasters and kettles, wear out quicker
- smart appliances that link to the internet have more to go wrong
- mobiles phones and computers are built to go out of date as new models become available.
Test your know-how!
If your fridge breaks down a month or so after the manufacturer's 12 month warranty has run out, does the store still have to sort it free of charge?
Yes! Your fridge must be of acceptable quality and last for a reasonable amount time based on how much you paid for it and how it's used.
Even if it's outside the warranty, you may still be entitled to a repair, refund or replacement.
This is a clue to a device's shelf life. Manufacturer's warranties are based on average use. They generally cover less time than consumer law says is reasonable, eg a phone with a two-year warranty is likely to last longer than a phone with a one-year warranty. But it might be reasonable to expect both phones to last longer than two years.
If something breaks after the manufacturer's warranty expires, you might still have the right to get it fixed under the Consumer Guarantees Act. The CGA does not give a time limit. It says a product must last a reasonable amount of time.
See how manufacturer's warranties, extended warranties and the Consumer Guarantees Act compare:
Appliances have varying lifespans. Some are built to last, others aren't.
Example — Cheap vs expensive
When Stacey's $30 toaster stops working after three years, she's surprised it lasted that long. She happily buys a fancy new toaster. Three years on, it too stops working. Having paid $120 for it, Stacey's opinion is that it should last longer. She's looked after her expensive toaster well, so confidently takes it back to the store for a repair, replacement or refund — in line with her consumer rights.
Example — Fixing smart oven
Franklin loves his oven. It has wifi, a temperature probe and camera, and cooks his steaks to perfection. He feels less devoted when the device sends him error messages, and a oven repairer tells him it's a six-week fix — a specialist needs to reset the software. Once fixed and serving up the perfect roast again, Franklin's oven is still his pride and joy. But he wishes he'd known what it might take to repair when he bought it.
Some electronics aren't built to last. Computers and mobiles, in particular, can become out-of-date — or obsolete — as manufacturer updates make in-built software redundant.
Before upgrading, check if the hard drive can be replaced. Ask a computer or mobile repairer.
Make appliances last longer
- Keep devices away from direct sunlight — overheating can permanently damage smartphones and computers.
- Make sure there's enough airflow.
- Regularly clean them — dust can reduce their lifespan and be a safety risk.
Dust + dirt + grime = shorter life
It is especially important to maintain appliances used for cleaning, eg washing machines, vacuum cleaners and dishwashers. Being constantly filled with gunk takes its toll. As does heating and cooling, filthy water and detergent.
Cover gadgets you don't use very often to stop dust getting in. Dust can cause overheating and significantly cut your appliance's lifespan.
- Run your dishwasher/washing machine on hot every few washes.
- Run cleaner or rinse aid through your dishwasher, on empty — use the pots and pans cycle.
- Vacuum the dust from the back of your fridge.
- Clean your keyboard with a clean soft paintbrush.
- Regularly clean your vacuum filter.
Computers, tablets and mobile phones slow down with age, but also when their memory is too full or they have a virus. Your device will run better for longer with regular maintenance:
- use anti-virus software to protect yourself from scams
- delete files you don't use anymore
- unplug your battery when it is fully charged
- disable programmes you rarely use
- clean up (defrag) your hard drive — Macs do this automatically.
Getting started with cyber security(external link) — CERT NZ guide
Don't assume you need to replace an appliance when it stops working. Electronics can be repaired. Well-known brands and more expensive models are often easier to fix.
Manufacturers should keep spare parts for the same amount of time the model is expected to last. It can be hard to get parts for appliances that have already been on the market for several years overseas.
Repair damage after normal use
If something isn't working as it should, call the manufacturer’s technical support line. It may save you time and frustration — or stop you damaging your device.
Example — Easy fix
When Fernando's breadmaker stops working a friend suggests he visit a repairer before jumping online to price up new ones. He is glad he does. The fault is simple to mend and, as the appliance is a well-known brand, the repairer has the faulty part in stock. The breadmaker is fixed in half an hour for a fraction of the cost of a new one.
Example — PC troubleshooting
Frustrated at how slow his PC was running, Levi calls the manufacturer's helpline. The technician asks Levi which programmes he uses and asks him to click on a few things to help diagnose the problem. She guides Levi through deleting a voice editor he is confident he'll never use. She also takes him through defragging his hard drive. With a smoother-running PC, Levi is happy he tried this first before paying for repairs.
Because of the risk of an electric shock or fire, it's important to check appliances are safe — especially if they are old. Watch for:
- worn cables/exposed wires
- funny smells/sparks — unplug immediately if present
- ill-fitting batteries — especially on mobile devices
- dust at the back of ovens and fridges.
Replace higher risk appliances regularly, eg hair dryers and electric blankets, especially if showing signs of wear and tear.
Try not to fold cables when packing appliances away.
Electrical equipment and appliances(external link) — WorkSafe