Using Consumer Reports

Don’t get me started on vacuum cleaners. I am on the house committee at my church and was responsible for buying vacuum cleaners for the custodian. I used to go to Big Lots and buy a vacuum. These were “factory reconditioned” vacuums. I would pay $30-$40 for a vacuum and it would last for 2 or 3 years. When it quit, I would go to Big Lots and buy another one. Unfortunately, the custodian got the idea she should have a more expensive vacuum with a good repair record. I don’t remember what was purchased for about $250, but I had to sign a voucher for a $100 repair. For $350, i could have purchased my cheap vacuum cleaners for the next 25 years. I really don’t see that the $250 super vacuum cleaner does any better than the cheapo vacuums from Big Lots and it is harder to push.

Good point; Consumer Reports does not often do Life Cycle Cost calculations. They assume that everyone buys everything based on ratings only.

There are a number of cars that fall in the cracks because of their obsession with safety, for instance. The Hyundai Elantra has been an excellent car for a number of years, but was “not recommended” until recently because it did not measure up in one collision test.

The Toyota Yaris is as close to a bullet-proof little car you can buy and I know a lot of happy owners. Yet they say it does not measure up to what they want “modern” small car to be.

I have used CR since the late 60s and use it as a guide to ferret out poor quality products and look for the best value for money. Where I live, for instance, energy efficiency is not a deciding factor in product purchases, such as washing machines. But if one lives in an area that does not have natural gas for water heating and washes with hot water, efficent front loader washers are a good choice.

I talk to a lot of mechanics as to how difficult is is to service and repair various vehicles, and the frequency of breakdowns they experience. Tow truck drivers will tell you that a Ford Windstar pulling a trailer up a long mountain road with a steep grade is worth following.

Our house has 58 electric appliances and electronic items and other things that will need repairs. We have a choice with smaller items to buy the cheapest, and then buy another one when it breaks. However that would mean something breaking down every few weeks or so. So we switched to stuff with a good reputation for items used frequently, like mixers, blenders, bread makers, coffee makers, and steam irons.

As a followup to your excellent post, some years ago, I owned a Ford Maverick. When the car was several years old, I noticed that the Ford Maverick had a much worse frequency of repair record than did the Mercury Comet. The Mercury Comet was the same car except for the grille and tail lights. I wrote a letter to Consumer Reports questioning this finding. The answer they sent back essentially stated “That is the way the data came out”. I couldn’t understand why the data would be different for two almost identical makes of cars. I finally found the answer: the average age of the Mercury owner was about 7 years higher than that of the Ford Maverick owner. The older owners probably drove more conservatively and may have had the resources to maintain the Mercury better than the younger owners of the Maverick.

Now, I suppose if one were buying a used car and knew nothing about the history of the car, it might make more sense to choose the car with the better repair record. However, if one knows the history of the car, this is probably more important. I would at least make this case for a Ford Maverick vs. a Mercury Comet as a used car.

I owned a Chevrolet Uplander minivan that according to CR has a poor repair record. I had no significant problems with the Uplander except that my wife decided we should sell it (at great family discount) to our son who needed a better vehicle. I replaced the Uplander with a Toyota Sienna. The Sienna has been fine, but really no better than the Uplander. However, a minivan is a minivan. If you’ve driven one minivan, you’ve driven them all.

We’re Passing Through About five Years On Our $80 CR “Best Buy” Vacuum Cleaner. It Works Just Fine. Like Other Best Buy Products, It Scored Higher Than Many Much More Costly Machines.

I like your buy cheaper things and run them til they quit idea, Triedaq. You get the latest updates that way, especially when it comes to electronics.


The last “best buy” vacuum I bought for home use was a Eureka I bought in 1977. I’ve changed the belt, replaced the bristle inserts in the revolving brush and replaced the motor brushes once. I did have to replace the bag assembly because there was a hole in the bellows. I went to a vacuum cleaner shop and they had the whole bag assembly at a reasonable price. When I made some comment about how wonderful it was to be able to get parts for a 30 year old vacuum, the parts man went over to the sales area and showed me a vacuum that was almost identical to mine–the difference being that the new vacuum said “commercial” on the housing. He told me that the vacuum would outlast me. Sadly, I’m afraid he is right.

Some vacuum cleaners live forever. In 1965! I bought a GE canister vacuum (in turquoise color) from a co-worker who had won it and had no use for it. Paid $35, and since that time have only changed the hose, and nothing else.

It’s used for cleaning out the cars, basement storage, etc. GE no longer sells bags for it but Walmart and other firms sell aftermarket ones. It’s more convenient that my $100 ShopVac for cleaning up sawdust in my shop.

With vacuum cleaners you get what you pay for. You get a high velocitude, cyclonic vortex-generator with a mutidirectional ball-steering system and and optional hand extension. It weighs 80 pounds and doesn’t clean any better than the old simple ones I have at home or probably than the $40 ones you got at BigLots, but it has all that junk that you paid for.

Me, I’ll stick with the old Eurika vacuums I have at home.

“Paid $35…”

That was a lot of money. You must have had to think twice. At least it worked out for you.