How This Humble Washing Machine Achieved Cult Status

published Mar 9, 2017
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“They don’t make them like they used to” is a phrase you’ll hear just about everywhere, regarding just about anything. In the age of planned obsolescence, it can be a struggle to find anything that’s actually built to last. So while it may be weird to wax poetic about an appliance, a century-old company’s American-made washers have amassed quite a cult following.

The brand is Wisconsin-based Speed Queen, but unless you know someone who owns one, you’ve probably never heard of them. You won’t see them in your local Home Depot or Best Buy, and they don’t run ads—they mostly make industrial-grade products for laundromats, apartment complexes, and hospitals.

They do, however, produce a few machines made for home use, and their popularity is growing, Speed Queen spokesman Randy Radtke told Money. Those in the know are big fans of the durability and cost-effectiveness of the brand, especially since others have a tendency to get moldy or quit after a few years. Speed Queen buyers also like that the machines don’t have a ton of complicated parts.

The most popular home model, the AWN432, is available on Amazon for under $900. “People just like that built-to-last mechanical control,” Radtke says. As one Amazon reviewer put it, “A manual dial commercial Speed Queen will outlast any of the fancy computerized pieces of imported junk on the market. I’ve gone through 3 American and foreign brand name units in the last 10 years and all failed.”

Sure, $900 is not cheap—especially since Money notes that Best Buy’s top-selling washer is a Whirlpool model under $500. But there’s also truth to “you get what you pay for.” Radtke says that Speed Queens are tested for 25 years (or 10,400 loads—typical for eight per week families). “It sounds like a cliche, but the equipment I have in my house is from the mid-to-late 1980s.”

h/t Money