What can consumers do to save money when products are made to be replaced in 1-2 years?
Is there a way to extend the life of small appliances and electronics to avoid purchasing new ones so frequently?
Learn to look at products and buy for simplicity. If all the controls are computerized, there is more chance of malfunction. Often, a cheaper model, made to only do a few things will last longer - in other words, spending more money doesn't guarantee that it will last longer.
Check how the pieces are put together, is the floor model flimsy. If something is already falling apart on display at the store, it probably won't last long at home.
Good question; it can be hard for us consumers to know what is quality and what is not. My parents used to read Consumer Reports (Consumer's Union) before buying - they usually bought well. I know when I bought my laptop I had a list of musts - 2 year warranty, a price range, etc. and managed to leave the store with a great machine at an excellent price. So I guess I'd suggest that you do both formal and informal research, ask around, trust your instincts, and get the best warranty available.
In the bottom line the important factor is the initial cost of the product divided by the years the product will be in service. (cost per year) and the energy consumption of the product (electricity is expensive!)
By and large, old products from 20 years ago that survived are more reliable than new ones, they are however not energy efficient
I agree with buying the more basic appliances. My mom used to so, the more things there are that can break the more the chance that the appliance will break easily! From experience I have found it to be true.
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