Consumer Reports – August 2007

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Consumer Reports has asked me to eliminate the content of my summaries and any other references to the content of Consumer Reports. I have complied.

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17 thoughts on “Consumer Reports – August 2007

  1. Get the kitchen aid stand mixer!!!! I got one 9 years ago for a wedding present and it is amazing! Make some room on your counter for it. It is quite heavy. I’m sure that you will use it so often you won’t ever even consider moving it off your counter!

  2. The Quote: “Maybe you shouldn’t go to Consumer Reports for financial advice A two page article on how to pay for a home remodeling now on credit? Hmm… maybe not. (p. 50)”

    The Reply: I suppose it depends on how you handle it. When our refrigerator died and we had no other alternative, we used our Lowes Home Improvement CC to purchase a new (floor model, thus discounted) fridge. It has 12-months no interest, no payments, so while we’ve already saved up the money to pay it off, we’re waiting until one month before the deadline to let our money accumulate interest in our high-yield savings account. We did the same thing with our new bed, and it worked just fine for us.

    Do you see what I’m getting at? Of course, those with bad credit or those who are shopaholics or what have you (my baby brother has to go to SA meetings, so I understand how hard that is) definitely wouldn’t benefit from the same technique, but some folks could probably take advantage of the no-payments-no-interest plan and come out okay if not slightly ahead of the game.

  3. My wife and I have been using the CookTek Apogee 1800 induction cooktop in our apartment for almost a year and a half now. I grew up with an electric coil range, worked in a restaurant kitchen with gas and had a gas range at a previous apartment. I can say unequivocally, that an induction cooktop is the best cooktop available today. The one we have allows us to set the pan temperature in 5 degree increments and it will maintain that temperature. We cook eggs at 175 degrees F, crepes at 250, and sausage patties at 220 degrees. Having such a scientific precision to cooking really makes it easy to have reproducible results time and again.

    The one issue we’ve had relates to our apartment, but I’ll mention it anyway. We have one 15 amp circuit for all outlets in our entire apartment. If we’re cooking, we need to ensure that all other devices are off, otherwise the circuit breaker will pop. It’s a limitation of the apartment design, but it’s a limit we always need to keep in mind when we’re cooking. (There is a 20 amp breaker just for the garbage disposal, but they never thought that we’d need more than one 15 amp circuit for the rest of the apartment?!?)

    I think this cooktop costs us about $600 for a single standalone hob, but it was completely worth it. It only works with magnetic stainless steel or cast iron, but that’s all we asked for on our wedding registry. We only have six pots and pans, but it works fantastically for us.

  4. On the Kitchen Aid mixer: get a refurbished one. We found a place at an outlet mall that sells refurbished ones for about half of what they sell new, and IIRC it came with a warranty, too.

  5. Fridges: side-by-side are less efficient (most have a big hole in the door for ice/water), and claim more capacity than they actually have (as CR has noted before)

    Mine is a side-by-side (crushed ice!), but if it died I’d replace it with a top-freezer (much cheaper purchase price, more usable fridge space, cheaper operating cost)

    Dishwashers: noise is the big issue – my $400 model cleans just fine, if you don’t mind the noise.

    And remember, you’ll never make back remodeling costs.

  6. If you don’t care about color Kohl’s has a sale on a white kitchen aid 4.5 quart for $228. I just got my kitchen redone and was pretty happy with a lot of the things the consumer guide reported.

  7. I also bought my refrigerator at Lowes – I think it’s a great place to shop for kitchen appliances. Before I bought my current fridge (a GE side-by-side) I checked all over for prices, etc. Not only did Lowes have the best price, but it offered an extended warranty for free. And that was on a discounted floor model! I was very impressed with their service and wouldn’t hesitate to go back.

    And Trent, haven’t you ever heard fish, especially salmon, called “brain food”? :) Not only can it improve cognitive ability, but can actually reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. If you eat salmon, however, make sure you buy wild salmon and not farmed (if it doesn’t say, it’s probably farmed). Farmed salmon has much higher quantities of mercury in it than does wild salmon.

  8. Another place to find good reviews of anything cooking related is Cook’s Illustrated. Lots of techniques, lots of reviews of tools, but also, reviews of all sorts of ingredients, like – is that fancy pasta sauce as good as a lower priced one [often it isn't], and is truffle oil all it’s cracked up to be [it's not]. The reviews of tools and equipment are very eye opening; frequently, what you think is the best tool for the job either has a serious rival or it isn’t as good as its press.

  9. I’ve always had the standard refrigerator, but when we built a house a few years ago, we decided to go with the side byside one. My father curses it all the time. If you are anything like my Italian family (we make too much and have lots of leftovers) you won’t be happy with it. It’s difficult to store something like a turkey, big roast pan, etc. in. You have to remember that they are taking the same amount of space and splitting it in half. And yes, the ice bin and dispenser take up a lot of space too. If I had a choice, I would go with the freezer on bottom model. I think this model would be more efficient anyway since cold sinks. And you won’t hit your head on the freezer dood when you bend down.

    I also want to say that for basic appliances, the “off” brands work just as well and last longer. We had a hotpoint (?) dish washer for over 10 years. We really abused that thing with 2-3 loads a day. We got a name brand one when it quit. A year later it needed to be replaced. The more modes/features something has, the more likely it will break down. More moving parts. Besides, if Kenmore, etc. made a product that lasted consumers 10 years, they would go out of business. They only want it to last X amount of time.

    I also wanted to comment on warantees. They used to be a good deal. I used to get one for any electronic device I bought (and I would always benefit from it). Times have changed though. Everyone is getting cheap, they don’t want to replace a product anymore. I got screwed out of $300 on my computer because the sales guy lied to me about accidental damage coverage. Just make sure you read all the fine print and terms before shelling out extra cash for a warantee.

  10. Man, you always get your before I do Trent!

    Thanks for the great summary, makes me look forward to when I actually get my issue.

  11. Ditto to widowspeak. We just took advantage of the Home Depot “no interest, no payments for six months for purchases over $299″ to help furnish our house. We’re grouping our purchases into $299+ batches, and transferring the purchase amount from our checking account into our HSBC Direct 5.05% savings account immediately afterwards, to pay off within six months.

    We used it — in combination with a 20%-off sale on ceiling fans — to get four $120 fans for $100 each, plus we’ll be making interest on that $100 for the next six months.

    Assuming interest doesn’t accumulate on the card (it doesn’t on this card, so long as you pay it off before the due date), and that you don’t get stupid and start buying stuff you don’t need (we needed the fans), or stuff you could get cheaper elsewhere (we shopped around), is there a fundamental mistake to this plan?

    The obvious problems are: 1) forgetting to save the money or pay it off in time; 2) having an emergency in the interim that requires you to use this money and then get hit with the huge store credit interest rates, and 3) using it as justification for over-spending. With those caveats in mind and prepared for, I think it’s a good plan. Thoughts?

  12. Ooh, I just found out I’m getting 12 months, not 6 months. Score!

    Basically a 5% savings on the items I bought. Considering I’ll be spending close to $2k all told, that’s essentially $100 off. Counting the $20 same-day credit they gave me for opening the card, and it’s $120 savings. Whee.

  13. The one thing that bugs me about CR (and call me a pinko Northern California eco-freak if you like) is that they don’t seem to take into account that there is a growing population that considers environmental trade-offs against the “best bang for your buck.”

    I’m one of the lucky ones…through a combination of busting my rear, some undeserved (IMO) misfortune, and a healthy dose of undeserved good fortune I learned my lessons early and have my financial house in good order. While I still prioritize frugality as often as not, I am *choosing* in some cases to pay more to offset my impact on the earth.

    But magazines like CR don’t help me with that; and neither do blogs like TreeHugger help me with making frugal “green” decisions. I’m sure that Wal-Mart dishwashing detergent is a better value for the dollar than Cascade; but I’m not buying either one if I can possibly avoid it. I’d really be interested in knowing if there’s a significant difference between Planet Organics and Seventh Generation dishwashing detergent, but everybody seems to assume that anyone buying green has zero price sensitivity. I have similar reservations about the ecological impact of countertop surfaces like quartz and granite…how sustainable is either, really? (Although I’ll admit that I have a lot more resources there to find the most frugal eco-friendly choice.) So I bumble along trying to juggle my financial and ethical priorities the best I can.

    Which I guess is what we all do and I should just stop whining and thank my lucky stars that I’m have the luxury of worrying about my footprint rather than my next meal or the roof over my head. And I can thank the beneficent ones, too, that the frugal thing is often the same as the earth-friendly thing (like giving up the car).

    Oh, and one completely unrelated note, Trent: watch out for the Omega-3 supplements…they can cause acid reflux disorder. If you find yourself getting frequent or persistent heartburn, I’d strongly recommend cutting out the supplements and just getting your EFAs from whole foods. I was lucky enough to discover the source of my own acid reflux before it became irreparable, but even so I’m more susceptible to heartburn than I ever was before. (Plus, supplements in general are a less frugal way to get essential nutrients than real food!)

  14. Refrigerator’s- GE’s bottom freezer 18.1 Cubic Ft Stainless Steel Model Gds18lbr/gds18srb. Stay away from this fridge !! I bought new appliances for my kitchen and first house because I wanted something that I wouldn’t have to worry about for at least 10 years..wrong. It has been 2 yrs and 8 mos..the 1 year warranty has run out and I just shelled out $250.00 on a appliance that cost $2000. to start with. The compressor is covered for 10 years..but their are other little things that brake down before the brains of the opperation quit !! I should of opted for an old energy guzzeling appliance for less and be less concerned about the “look” of a product…

  15. Two people have touched on a really important topic for consumers, one that you don’t hear discussed much anymore: planned obsolescence.

    The time my five-year-old Maytag wall oven and Maytag dishwasher (bought at the same time) died within a month of each other, a repairman told me that kitchen appliances, washers, and dryers are now engineered to last about seven years, at the outside. Since then, I’ve found this to be true.

    And there’s just flat no excuse for it. We old bats can remember when appliances lasted upwards of 20 years. My first house had a Kitchenaid dishwasher that was about two years old when we moved in. It worked wonderfully and ran trouble-free, with no visits from repairmen, and it was still going strong when we sold the house 13 years later.

    One of the reasons Americans took to buying Japanese vehicles, with a generally destructive effect on America’s once-thriving manufacturing sector and blue-collar salaries, was that American cars were deliberately designed to crap out in a year or two. Drivers were expected to buy a new car about every two or three years.

    There’s no excuse for building planned obsolescence into household appliances. I realize appliance manufacturers want to get rich, too, but this is nothing other than a gigantic consumer rip-off.

    You can bet I’ll never buy another Maytag appliance, or any brand owned by the megacorporation that manufactures Maytag (since of course all its products are built to break down). Look around for things that last, and pay a little more to get them…it’s worth not having to replace a big-ticket item when it’s still practically new.

  16. Beware MayTag – Whirlpool Products & Service…Based on our personal experience. Our MayTag Diswasher (Model MDB9750AWS) has rarely run more than several months without problems with the Control Board and/or Display Panel. Since whirlpool acquired MayTag, they will not share our repair history with us, or our (very dependable) service tech. Additionally, the warranty on parts has been reduced from one year to 9 months. For us…that means…”buy a new part, sucker!”

    MayTag/Whirlpool has offered us a 10% mail-in rebate on a future purchase…and, we are going to write their Consumer Affairs Board.

    We will keep you posted. Till then, buyer beware!

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