This article was posted on Sunday, Mar 01, 2015

 As consumers, we’ve all probably held some unexpected funerals for our appliances.  In property management, conventional wisdom is that they usually break on weekends or holidays. But, the fact is, consumer products like appliances don’t last as long as they used to because manufacturers are using more components from overseas nations that don’t have the standards and durability and quality standards as , say Whirlpool, GE or other popular brands from the heyday of U.S. manufacturing.  Thus is the hidden cost of lower price points and more intense competition among brands. 

The National Association of Home Builders released the “Study of Life Expectancy of Home Components” – the most comprehensive such study which included these estimates on how long various appliances should last before needing replacement.  Keep in mind that these numbers are eight years old.  If the expected life spans of these have changed since then, they probably decreased.  So … here’s the list. 

Gas Range – 15 Years
Electric Range – 13 Years

Some people are cooks or bakers, others may use the oven to store cookbooks they hope to get to some day.  Usage makes a big difference in expected lifetime here, but as a rental property owner, you have to assume normal use by tenants.  The quality of the range counts as cheaper products will age faster and money saved at purchase may just lead to more frequent repair or replacement. 

Water Heater
Electric – 11 Years / Gas – 10 Years

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We don’t know why, but when the after-hours emergency maintenance line lights up at 11:00 pm on a holiday weekend – it’s usually about a water heater.  With water heaters, replacement cost isn’t just the unit – it’s often the cleanup and repairs caused when units installed inside the living space (such as in most apartments) fail and leak.  We strongly advise keeping a close eye on unit age and proactively replacing every 10 to 12 years rather than waiting for a failure. 

Refrigerator – 13 Years

Similar to ranges, cheaper products will age faster and money saved at purchase may just lead to more frequent repair or replacement.  Some bells and whistles like in-door ice makers and water can be finicky in function and cause added repair costs as well. 

Washing Machine – 10 Years

Electric or Gas Dryer – 13 Years

Remember washers that just had two knobs?  Machines these days are loaded with electronics and features (which is a step forward).  But check product reviews to avoid units that are prone to a lot of faults and repairs. 

Dishwasher – 9 Years

Dishwashers are still pretty straight-forward.  Better designed products are a plus that attracts tenants, but no need to have a dishwasher with a long list of fancy features. 

Microwave Oven – 9 Years

Similar to dishwashers, a good quality product will show well and work a long time.  Unless very minor, repairs generally aren’t cost effective since prices for new ones are fairly moderate. 

RD House is a property management company that specializes in property management in the Seattle metro area.

Reprinted with permission of UPDATE.