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Great old appliances Readers tell us about ancient stoves, washer and toasters that still work
Illustration of a woman and her washing machine Illustration by Christoph Hitz

Talk about growing old gracefully: Sue Hughes' 1930 refrigerator still keeps her ice frozen and her cold cuts cold. When we recently asked readers to tell us about old appliances that still get the job done, we received almost 400 love stories like Hughes'. We heard, for example, about Frank Wunderlich and his 1950 freezer ("The people who made this product really knew what they were doing"), Regina Doering and her 1955 hand mixer ("It has never failed me"), and Brent Ferrici and his pink 1958 wall oven ("The best I've ever used, however hideous it may be").

Why do people who could afford a new device keep the old? Some readers gave a sentimental reason, but most were practical, like Florence Pick, owner of a 1960 dishwasher. "It works," she told us. "Why do I need a new one?"

What lives longest?

The oldest oldie was a stove, but many other major appliances have stood the test of time, as have some minor ones, including a can opener from 1963. Various Sears Kenmore devices were long-lived, and we heard about plenty of Frigidaire and GE ranges, Whirlpool dryers, KitchenAid mixers and dishwashers, Maytag washers, and Oster blenders.

When we asked Oster spokesman Mike Fretwell for the secret of blender longevity, he said: "More than anything, it owes to the simplicity of the construction. There aren't many places where it can fail."

Some of the brands we heard about no longer exist. The Chambers Fireless Gas Range brand died years ago but is scheduled to be reintroduced this year. Other brands morphed as companies devoured competitors.

Readers tend to keep appliances going by using them regularly and making repairs on the rare occasions when they're needed. At some point, of course, most appliances will give up the ghost. If repairs to an old appliance cost more than half the price of a new one, replacement makes sense.

Although many readers noted that "they don't build them like they used to," there's something to be said for newer appliances. Replacing a 20-year-old refrigerator with a new, energy-efficient one, for example, could save as much as $100 per year.

Perhaps it says something about expectations that some readers nominated products made in the 1990s. But we heard from many people whose standards were far stricter. We feature 14 of them, and their ancient appliances, in Long lives.

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