Nuts & Bolts VS Bells & Whistles.
What Are You Really Getting When You Buy High-End?
The old saying goes “you get what you pay for”. When it comes to several products, that saying holds true. However, how does that phrase hold up when you’re talking about major household appliances? Today, we will jump in and tackle this question and learn what models are receiving upgraded parts and what models are adorned in more bells and whistles.
We’ve all been there; standing in front of 2 items with wildly different price points, wondering if the extra cost adds additional value. Whether it was a car, alarm clock or bottle of BBQ sauce, we’ve all had to make this decision before. What are the differences? Will it be worth it? Does it last longer? These are all things that pass through our minds when we’re trying to finalize the purchase. With household appliances, this especially holds true. This is one category that truly has a “good, better, best” mentality, but what are you actually getting when spending $200, $500 or even $1000 more. This question is a little tough to answer, because it depends on what appliance category you’re shopping, ie: dishwasher, refrigerator, washer or dryer. It also depends on if you’re comparing different brands, like L.G. compared to Maytag. Many factors truly come in to play when you’re deciding on what price point you want to stay in.
One of the biggest determining factors in an appliance’s price is innovation or features. Innovation is defined as making changes to something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products. Innovation is an important process that has truly taken us from the dark times in human history, to the bustling society we have now. In appliances, it has brought us the automatic defrosting refrigerator, the automatic washing machine and the steam dryer. However, it has also brought us refrigerators with coffee makers, washers with WiFi and gas ranges that can re-ignite a blown out burner, but won’t work in a power outage. Some of these features, although trendy, haven’t really added anything that will truly better our lives. Instead, they have increased the prices of these goods exponentially, and in some cases, lowered the lifespan because of added parts that can fail. A phrase I’ve heard in the past is “more innovation, equals less life.” When searching for an appliance, you may want to ask yourself if you’re going to use these features. If not, maybe look for something that fits your needs a little better. If you don’t need a 5.3 cubic foot washing machine, search for a smaller one that fits your lifestyle. If your dishwasher isn’t a few feet away from your couch, you probably don’t need a $1500 dishwasher with a 39 dB wash noise level. It’s all about getting the features you need while not going for the most expensive.
Another factor that really determines the price of an appliance, is the parts that make up the machine. This is where different manufacturers and their pricing compared to each other really play a role. Speed Queen is on the higher end for washer pricing, but on the lower side for features. How can this be? Speed Queen, as compared to some other brands, uses considerably better parts to build their product. The amount of plastic you will find is far less than any other washer you can buy. Due to their commercial quality product, they have considerably more robust parts that make up the machine. Their motor is double the horsepower of any other machine, their bearings are better built bigger and they have the best warranty in the industry. A Maytag washer from the 90’s that still works, would’ve cost you around $699, depending on what model you got. In today’s money, that same product would cost you $1299+. If you use lifetime costing, or the price of a product over its lifespan, you’ll find you actually saved money going with a more expensive product.
What about different products from the same manufacturer? What’s the major differences between their entry level and their top of the line? There are many changes that happen with the features and capacities, but sometimes the interior parts are similar if not the same. Other times, the products are very similar but have very different operating systems. For instance, entry level washers start at a smaller capacity, have a plastic console and have no glass lid. As you progress up the line, you’ll get a larger capacity, a metal console and a glass lid, as well as a better warranty and some nice comforts like a “finger faucet” or an area where you can wash your hands or pre-rinse your clothes. However, the interior parts like the water pump, motors and transmissions are all very similar to each other. You aren’t getting more robust parts, just features. Is this a bad thing? Not at all. It’s not like you’re getting cheap, low-end parts, you’re just getting the same parts whether you go high-end or low-end.
Now, if you bring refrigerators into the equation, things begin to change drastically. Refrigerators are constantly “evolving” and the higher priced refrigerators always get the newest technologies. For instance, you may have heard the phrase duel evaporator or dual cool when it comes to refrigerators. This is when you have 2 cooling components or evaporators in your refrigerator; one in the freezer and one in the fresh food compartment. This, in theory is a good idea. However, in practice it is nothing more than an innovation that increased price, but lowered the life expectancy. Sub Zero was the pioneer of this duel cool system, but did it in a way that makes much more sense. They used 2 completely different cooling systems; 2 compressors, 2 condensers and 2 evaporators to make their dual cool. The rest of the manufacturers are sharing a cooling system, but added an evaporator to both compartments. This added parts to fail, which increases the price but lowers its life. With refrigeration, you have a sealed system that carries the Freon throughout the system. When you add more sealed system components and tubing, you increase the likely hood for a leak, which is always an expensive repair. The sophistication in doing sealed system repairs is very high, and you want to minimize the potential for any kind of sealed system issue.
Another thing that you’ll see with more expensive refrigerators, is luxurious interiors. Many higher end refrigerators will have more shelves, colored interiors, wood grain and metal accents. Sometimes, you’ll even get multiple ice makers, cameras to access and view what’s inside your refrigerator and air filters that help keep the inside smelling clean and fresh. Although these features don’t add or detract from the life expectancy, it does add some nice, added flare to a usually boring appliance.
In closing, if you want to know if a products increased price is worth the value, look at the difference in features from its lower priced counterpart. If it has several features or add-ons that are nice but you aren’t going to use, odds are shelling out the additional funds won’t be worth it. Adversely, if the product is low on the features and add-ons, but has a higher price point than a brand or product that has more features, consider that maybe that appliance has added value in its warranty or the quality of the parts that were put into the unit.
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