The household refrigerator is one of the longest-lasting appliances, and we likely all have one in the family somewhere that’s lasted for generations.
Some homes have fridges that have been around for 30 years or more, now living on the porch or patio and existing solely to hold cold drinks but still humming along without any need for repairs over the years.
So, what is the average lifespan on a refrigerator, and are newer ones made to last as long?
On average, a modern refrigerator has a lifespan of between six to 13 years, depending on the condition of its parts and the manufacturing process.
Compared to older fridges that seem to last decades, newer appliances are cheaper to purchase and therefore not made to be lifelong investments as they once were.
Is it possible to extend the lifespan of your new fridge so that it outlasts the older models?
With a little bit of regular maintenance and knowing when it’s time to call in the experts for help, you can have a fridge that lasts your family around 20 years, but it’s not always possible.
There are some things you can do to keep your refrigerator running and expand its life, as well as common practices you should avoid.
We’re here to look at how long fridges are meant to run for and how to prolong this, as well as how to know that it’s time to give up and invest in a new one.
What is the Average Lifespan of a Refrigerator?
All refrigerators are made differently, and the quality of them is what will determine their lifespan.
On average, fridges were built to last between six and 13 years, with the budget-friendly options being on the lower end of the scale and the high powered and quality appliances built to last longer.
The warranty on a standard refrigerator is usually a lot less than this intended lifespan, with most fridges offering just a 12-month limited warranty on appliances.
Some models come with an additional warranty period just for the motor as this is one of the most expensive parts to replace, so if anything goes wrong with it you’ll be able to have it fixed under the warranty coverage.
Although the warranty period might not be much, you can trust that most fridges will last for an average of 10 years.
By doing your research and purchasing one that’s well made and comes from a reputable brand, as well as ensuring you use it correctly and do what you can to take maintain it through the years, it should be able to last well beyond this timeframe.
Refrigerator Use and How it Affects Its Lifespan
Just like any other appliance or possession we have, the way we take care of our refrigerator will have a direct impact on how long it lasts.
Considering fridges are such a hefty investment and one of the most expensive appliances to purchase, this level of care needs to be top-notch if you want it to survive past 10 years of regular use.
A fridge that’s working around the clock 24/7 and packed to the brim with food is going to be put through more strain than one that has food stored correctly.
As a result, the motor and other mechanisms that keep it running will be worked more, which can cause them to burn out of experience other damage and faults more regularly.
To counteract this issue, it’s important to choose a fridge size that works for your family. When you try to put too much food inside, it can block the air vents that control the cool air, so the fridge has to work harder to keep everything at the right temperature inside.
Therefore, the first step in choosing the right fridge of adequate size is an important one and will determine just how hard this appliance has to push to serve your family.
The Staying Power of Older Refrigerators
We all know that one refrigerator that’s still in the family after years of use, likely being passed down between generations and running in perfect condition just as it did 30 years ago.
Fridges today don’t seem to have this same staying power though, unless you purchase one of the leading brands, so if you purchase a new one you can expect it to last an average of 10 years instead.
The reason for the decline in this longevity is due to a few factors. Compared to the fridges made 20 years ago or more, the standard appliances of today won’t last as long because of:
The price of the average refrigerator in 1947 was $200, and when adjusted for inflation that equates to around $1,800.
Compared to the average refrigerator today that costs upwards of $1,000, the cost has come down. This is due to things like a faster manufacturing process and cheaper parts, so although they’re more affordable it’s often at the detriment of its longevity.
More market competition
Back in the day, there were only a small handful of brands that made fridges, and most of them were trustworthy names.
These days, there are hundreds of manufactures from all over the world, and even some of these older brands no longer make the top quality appliances they once used to.
This increase in market saturation gives consumers more power to choose cheaper fridges, which means less quality.
All of the parts that make up a refrigerator are what determines its lifespan and because these parts appear to be flimsier in some makes and models, it makes sense they don’t last as long.
Not all brands use cheap parts, but those that do rely on them breaking within a certain amount of years so that the consumer has no choice but to purchase a brand new fridge.
Increased rust factor
Rust is a major issue with household appliances and fridges tend to rust sooner these days.
This is caused by a decrease in the thickness of metal that fridges are made of and the painting techniques use to coat them.
Society today seems more likely to throw items away that no longer work, rather than trying to fix them.
Some people assume that fixing a broken refrigerator will cost almost the same as buying a new one, so they don’t bother trying to make it work.
Therefore, their fridge only lasts a few years when it could run a lot longer with professional maintenance and repair.
Mini Fridges and Standard Fridges
Many households rely on more than one fridge, using one for food and others for snacks and drinks, or perhaps having fridges in separate living areas of the house.
Whatever, the reason, it’s common for homes to use a large, family-sized fridge and a mini-fridge, but what’s the difference in terms of their longevity?
On average, a mini-fridge will last a few years less than a standard size refrigerator, simply due to its construction and smaller parts like motors and compressors.
The Annual Portrait of the US Appliance Industry Saturation regularly rates household appliances in terms of longevity and found that mini and compact fridges have an average life expectancy of eight years compared to standard fridges that last on average 14 years.
However, one advantage that the mini-fridge has over a larger one is its energy efficiency, which can also have a positive impact on its lifespan.
A small fridge loses less cold air when it’s opened and thus relies on less energy to run, and when you consider how often you might open a larger fridge just to grab a cold drink, you see how it adds up.
To extend the life of both your compact and standard fridge, you could consider having one of each. Some homes keep their cool drinks inside of a mini-fridge with their food and ingredients in the larger one, and if you can afford to take this approach it could prolong both of their lifespans significantly.
Common Mistakes that Shorten the Life of Your Refrigerator
Owning a fridge isn’t as hands-off as you think and you can shorten the life of these mighty appliances by not giving them the attention they need.
Here are some common errors that people make with their household refrigerators that could lead you to purchase a new one well before you have to.
Overpacking the fridge
If it’s hard to see the back and sides of your fridge when you open the door, there’s a good chance you’ve packed too much food in there.
For a fridge to work, it needs adequate airflow, and if food items are blocking this cold air it’ll have to work harder to keep it cool, and eventually burn out.
Leaving it dirty
Many parts of a fridge need regular cleaning and most of us do a good job of ignoring most of them.
As well as cleaning the inside shelves, drawers, and other compartments, you should never ignore a dirty gasket or the coils on the back of the fridge.
Ignoring strange sounds
We’ve all been guilty of hearing our fridge or some other appliance make a strange sound, and dismissing it until it gets out of hand and can no longer be ignored.
If your fridge makes a loud humming sound or vibrates more than usual, try some troubleshooting tips to see what you can do or call in the experts for help.
Having the temperature too cold
People assume that for a fridge to work its best, it needs to be the absolute coldest it can. However, keeping the thermostat way down on the fridge and freezer can only do damage.
While we need the freezer to be between zero and five degrees Fahrenheit, having it any lower can destroy the defrost thermostat and icemaker, causing the fridge to work too hard and burn out.
Replacing when you could fix
Most of us are quick to throw out appliances when they stop working, thanks in part to the reduced price of things like fridges these days.
However, most fridges will continue humming along in perfect condition with just a little bit of TLC, so try to fix the problem first before you throw it out altogether.
How to Keep Your Fridge Alive for Longer
There is a bit of work that goes into keeping your fridge alive, contrary to what most people think.
If you’re someone who lets the refrigerator just do its own thing and you don’t put much care into cleaning or regular maintenance, your minimal work will be rewarded with a fridge that doesn’t last longer than five years or so.
Here are some simple things you should be doing regularly to keep it alive well past the 15-year mark.
Clean the gasket
As well as keeping the shelves clean and free from harmful bacteria, you also have to focus on the door.
The gasket should be regularly cleaned to remove food and debris from building up so that it seals correctly and doesn’t require more power to keep cool.
Clean the internal mechanics
Things are happening in your fridge that you rarely see and these are the parts that need attention. The defrost drain gets easily clogged with frozen water or food debris and it can overflow the drain and drip into the fridge.
This means your fridge is being overworked and it could even result in leaked water on the floor which is a symptom that should never be ignored.
Clean the coils yearly
Once a year, pull the fridge out from the wall and clean the coils situated on the back of it.
Most maintenance jobs can be resolved if you do this job and it’ll prolong the life of the fridge significantly. Wipe them down and remove any dust so they work without strain.
Scheduled maintenance checks
If there’s nothing obviously wrong with your fridge, you should still have it checked every couple of years by a maintenance professional.
They’ll be able to highlight any issues before they get out of control and expensive, and it’s worth getting your other large appliances looked at as well.
Keep it level
The reason most fridges these days are made with adjustable feet is that the appliance requires a level surface to work its best and use less energy to operate.
Use a level on top of the fridge to make sure yours is correct and adjust it if need be.
When Is It Time to Get a New Fridge?
The most important thing to know is when a fridge issue can simply be fixed or whether it requires replacing altogether.
If your fridge is more than 10 years old and has something more complex wrong with it, like a burned-out motor, it can be harder and more expensive to fix.
Fridge repair will usually give you two or three more years of use depending on the issue, so weigh up the costs of the job with the price of a new fridge.
There are plenty of things you can do to prolong the life of your refrigerator, but knowing when to admit defeat and get rid of it is another important lesson to learn.
A fridge is a major investment for a household and one that will hopefully last many years.
If you have some questions about fridge maintenance and want to prolong your appliance’s lifespan, we’ve answered some common FAQs that can help you do just that.
Why Is My Ice Maker Not Working?
An ice maker on your fridge that suddenly stops working or makes irregularly shaped ice is usually broken or clogged.
Look at the filter and pipes where the water goes to see what the issue is and rectify it immediately. If the filter is blocked or broken, your fridge will work harder to do this job and it can burn out the motor.
How Long Can a Fridge Be Off For?
If you’re planning on doing a major clean of the fridge and want to defrost it, you may consider turning the fridge off and disconnecting it from the power.
Provided it’s not turned off more than a couple of hours, there’s no harm in doing this.
Can I Run an Empty Fridge?
Running a refrigerator with no food inside is not more energy-efficient and can even end up using more power than if it had food in it.
If you have an empty fridge at home or one that is rarely used, clean it out, and unplug it completely.