Second thoughts on secondhand appliances

Most brand manufacturers talk about a 15-year service life, but washing machines can actually last upwards of 25 years. — dpa

Brand-new isn’t always better. Take household appliances, for example: It’s easy to find secondhand dishwashers online these days that cost far less than from the store and do the job just as well. Claudia Oberascher is a German expert on energy-efficiency, and she has a few tips on what you should look for when buying secondhand appliances to make sure energy costs don’t outweigh the asking price. > Washing machine: “You can buy a used washing machine in good conscience, ” says Gerhild Loer, who works for a German consumer advice centre. Most brand manufacturers talk about a 15-year service life, but washing machines can actually last upwards of 25 years. Loer’s tip: Ask the previous owner how often the machine ran on average. “If it comes from a two-person household, for example, it will probably last longer.” > Dryer: Buying a used clothes dryer together with the washing machine is often a good deal. “However, technology has changed in the last 15 years, ” Loer explains. An old exhaust air dryer sometimes consumes five times as much energy as newer models. > Oven: The energy class doesn’t matter so much in this case, says Oberascher. It’s more about how much the user turns on the device. More importantly is making sure everything works before purchasing. > Dishwasher: Buying a used dishwasher can be a gamble. Dishwashers are more likely to break down than washing machines, explains Loer, because the electronics are much more sensitive. If you still decide to buy one, you can do a wash cycle with a special cleaning liquid before using it, to remove all the leftover residue, says Oberascher. > Refrigerator: Caution is advised here as well. “We generally advise against buying a used refrigerator, ” says Loer. Although only the best energy classes have been sold for years, this appliance doesn’t age as well as other household appliances. “A refrigerator loses its insulation over time. After three years, it already uses more than when you buy a new one.” After 12 years, it uses 50% more. Anyone who decides to buy a used appliance is also faced with legal issues. Does it need a sales contract? Is the seller liable if the appliance breaks down? “You always conclude with a sales contract, even if only verbally. But I would recommend that it be drawn up in writing, ” says expert Michelle Jahn from an consumer advice centre. There are free templates available online. The document should record the condition and age of the appliance, as well as any defects. – dpa/Anika Berger

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