Expensive Household Items Snag Surprisingly Poor Ratings

gray steel 3-door refrigerator near modular kitchen

If you have anything to do with keeping the various parts of your household in good running order, you’re probably familiar with Consumer Reports magazine and its website. Year in and year out, their technicians run thousands of household products through their testing laboratories, subjecting them to merciless stresses designed to simulate the effects of years of wear and tear.

High Price Doesn’t Equal High Quality

For the same reason that the high school classes that used to be called “Home Ec” are now called something like “Family and Consumer Sciences,” given the makeup of today’s tech-heavy household components, real-world performance is no longer easy to estimate by looks or reputation alone. CR’s solution is their rating lists which compare performance and value for leading models across scads of categories. Sometimes the most expensive models of everything from door locks to refrigerators are not the best performers—while some of the cheapest hold up surprisingly well.

Your own experiences may not jibe precisely in all cases, but for busy domestic decision-makers who need to replace failing or underperforming household items—on a budget and in a hurry—the CR ratings and background information are close to indispensable. Plus: they’re also fun to read! That was why, when subscribers received a CR email last week with the subject, “The WORST home products,” it’s highly probable that most of the consumer recipients who run households would have found it irresistible reading. Whatever else you think about their tests, when they flop, it’s human nature to find out why (and how badly).

The Dog Solution

The Shocking Results

As a public service, here are some of the good ones. We can’t verify the findings, so the actual brand names aren’t included—you’d have to go to CR for those—but here are some of the juiciest “not-so-hot” findings:

  • For a leading-brand refrigerator that costs more than $10,000, its internal temperature doesn’t always match the thermostat setting—and it’s more likely to break within the first few years than are some considerably less costly brands.
  • One range rates “Poor” for low-temperature simmering and melting, and its cookies brown unevenly. Despite a $3,900 list price, ranges costing $2,000 less performed better in both departments.
  • A leading washing machine brand that sometimes uses twice as much water as others also failed to get red wine, blood, and carbon stains out of clothing on its ‘normal’ cycle setting.
  • More and more common in today’s households, one best-selling air purifier model self-rated for 160 sq ft rooms wouldn’t handle a room half that size for smoke and dust removal —“at both high and low speeds.”

Reading about the worst performers is important when you need to replace an item—as is identifying the best. Keeping your household in top running order makes listing and selling it ever so much easier than playing last-minute catch-up.