8 Companies That Make Quality Products That Last

Day 234

Our garage door opener stopped working a few months ago so I called the company that installed it for a repair.  After a brief period of rattling and banging, the technician explained to me that the “whatchamagig” was broken causing the “black spinning thingy” to fail.   (OK, that’s not exactly what he said, but you get the point).  I asked him about fixing it.  And then we had a conversation that went something like this.

Him  “Well Ma’am, that part alone is $215 and the work will take about five to six man hours, so it would be cheaper for you to buy a new one.”

Me: “Well, let’s just repair it.”

Him: (now speaking slower) “Yeah, Ma’am, see it’s gonna cost MORE (emphasis on the more) to repair it than to get a new one.”

Me: “I know, I would still like to schedule a repair.”

Him: “Ma’am is your husband home?”

How many times has someone said to you, “it’s cheaper to buy a new one than repair this?”  Or you have a product that you have to replace because it has worn out sooner than you think it should?

During The Simple Year, since we aren’t buying anything new and I can’t easily replace items; I am now, more than ever, appreciative of products made to last and actually have good customer service with repair options.

I suppose I am a very typical consumer in that I am quick to complain when I am unhappy with something. So, I thought it only fair that I take some time to talk about products that I believe are well made with companies that stand behind them.

Lego- If you can get over the fact that stepping on a piece with a bare foot is torturous, (I bet that’s what they used at Guantanamo), Legos are an amazing product.  I didn’t quite realize HOW amazing until we recently got an off-brand building set.  Those pieces weren’t manufactured to the same stringent specs. The blocks were difficult to snap together and overall the finished product was a bit wobbly looking and likely to fall apart.  I’ve never had those issues with a Lego brand product ,which is particularly amazing given some of those sets have a gazillion pieces.  Also, if you lose the instructions for a set you can visit their website and download a new set for free (just for the ones manufactured in the last 10 years).  They also have an option to order key replacement blocks if one or two has been eaten by the dog or dropped down the heating vent.

Wusthof- I love these knives, I’ve had my two favorite for at least 10 years.  I follow the original instructions for care and with minimal effort they stay as sharp as the day I got them.   I actually dropped one on a marble surface once and broke a chunk off the handle.  I sent it back to the company and they sent it back as good as new (it is possible they just gave me a new one) for a no charge.

Le Creuset–  Known primarily for its cast iron cook wear coated in enamel, they can alternate between stovetop and oven.  The pots are as heavy as– iron and a little unwieldy (i.e., don’t drop it on your toe) but I use mine at least once a week.  After a few years the knob on the lid started to spin.  I called a very lovely woman in their customer service department who asked me a couple of quick questions and said.  “I’ll just send you a new knob and if that doesn’t do the trick, just call me back.”  And it worked, just as simple as that.

Hanna Andersson– Once you can crack the code on the sizing, this children’s clothing catalog retailer makes a great product. The clothes not only last longer, they seem to fit longer.  I swear I am not making that up.  Usually my kids can stay in a Hanna Andersson outfit for at least two seasons, sometimes longer.  I think it is because the styles are forgiving and look good both a little looser as well as more form fitting. Plus, the customer service is really top notch.  I once called in a panic because some clothes I wanted for a family photo had gotten lost in transit.  The woman didn’t even bat an eye and suggested she overnight a new set (at no additional cost) and then told me when the other ones arrived I could just mail them back.   Also, these are my very favorite resale clothes to buy because they hold up so well.

Lands End– I have three words for you, lost mitten club.  If you, or more likely your child, loses a single mitten and it is a pair they still make they will sell you a single mitten for 50% off the price of a pair.  I LOVE that.  It just makes so much more sense than having to throw out that lone glove.  Land’s end also sells clothes that are really pretty timeless and long lasting.

Tupperware– So, I am always a bit skeptical of any product that’s business model is multi-level marketing. But, as far as standing the test of time, I do have a Tupperware cake server and deviled egg tray that are both at least thirty-five years-old and in fine shape.  Tupperware has a life-time warranty against chipping cracking or peeling and seems to stand behind it.    (but not if you melt in on the dishwasher element or in the microwave) Plus, you can purchase replacement lids although I think you have to go through one of their “consultants” which is a little annoying, but workable.

Craftsman Tools- Have you ever broken a hammer?  Well it usually happen in mid swing turning the head into a flying projectile with enough potential force to blow a hole in your drywall, or head, whichever gets in the way first.  Quality tools are pretty important.  Craftsman has been the go-to brand for several generations on both sides of our family.  We haven’t had any non-electric Craftsman tools break.  Although, they have a pretty good warranty, it is specific to each tool so all guarantees are not created equally.  Craftsman is sold by Sears which also has a couple of helpful websites that help extend the life of their products to include, www.managemylife.com where you can download owner’s manuals and www.searspartsdirect.com where you can order parts to fix their products, if you are handy.

Shorts I have had (and worn) for 12 years.

Patagonia- I have had a pair of Patagonia shorts for the last twelve years (some years the waistband is tighter than others). I love those shorts, what they lack in style, they make up for in utility.  Patagonia also offer repairs to equipment that has been broken or ripped.   Interestingly, the founder of that company, Yvon Chouinard, recently wrote a book called The Responsible Company in which he offers that our society must move toward a “post consumerist economy” where goods are high quality, recyclable and repairable.  It has been my experience, his company practices what their guru preaches.

I would also like to give a nod to Tumi and American Girl both of which I have already written about (click the words to read that post).

One thing that is pretty universal about all of the products listed above is that none of them are the cheapest option.  But, in this age of planned obsolescence, which is the business practice of building products with a reduced lifespan to create a bigger demand, I suppose If I do have to buy something; I would rather spend more up front than have to buy more frequently and toss more things away.




*None of these companies have paid or compensated me in any fashion, blah, blah, blah…  Actually as my husband has pointed out, my blog only costs us money.  But that is another story.

21 Responses to 8 Companies That Make Quality Products That Last

  1. Could we have a tab on your blog listing these? I bought Frye boots about four years ago. The lining has ripped inside in such a way that I can’t get one foot into a boot. I called them about repair, and they offered me 20% off any new pair. The boots I bought are out of warranty and cost me about $400 to begin with. I wore them less than fifty times and had the heels and toes reinforced twice. What a waste of money! For a brand that people think is high quality!

    • Laura- I think that is a good idea because I am already getting suggestions for products that I didn’t know even existed which makes me excited and I’m sure it would be a good resource for many people. I tried an an internet search and couldn’t find any existing list from “average folks” that weren’t taking money for the endorsement. Maybe I can work on it over the holiday break…

    • Ha, well the truth is I was going to take a photo of me wearing the shorts but they were snug enough when I put them on that I decided I needed to lay off the holiday goodies 🙂

  2. I would like to add Filson as a clothing manufacturer. The materials, which are nice heavy durable stuff, wear out before the stitching.

    Saddleback if you’re looking for leather bags or wallets, where else does your wallet come with a 100 year warranty?

    Wolverine makes some of the best boots, though Filson and Danner come close for a little less, and they re-sole better than the goretex monstrosities.

    Klean Kanteen makes an insulated bottle that holds up better than a Stanley thermos, and you don’t look like you’re headed to the construction site carrying it.

    Anything you buy from Lehman’s is going to be good, though shipping from Amish country can be a killer on some of the bigger items.

    Katadyn made my water filter, built like a tank and can be cleaned by the user in the field, plus the filter will last for longer than dozens of others stacked end-to-end over the years leaving it the cheapest long-term cost for a filter even with a $250 price tag.

    Snugpak makes good sleeping bags that pack tiny and light, though the colder weather ones can get a bit pricey.

    Sonim makes dumb phones that are practically unbreakable, and you’ll save on the cell bill for owning your own unlocked GSM phone.

    Even computers can be bought to last, just buy a used Panasonic Toughbook, my CF-27 from the mid 90s is still in perfect condition, though $3-12k leaves them on the buy used if at all possible list.

    I’ve been spending a lot lately, replacing cheap junk that broke, and I’m finding that once I get over the initial pain of spending at least three times as much as I would at Wal-Mart they’re really a great deal over the long run. If you can’t tell, most of what I’ve bought is outdoor equipment, and I’m really rough on it, so they’re good enough for most anyone if they can survive me.

    That old laptop has even survived being given to a toddler as a toy after it had done everything from flying out of a jeep to knocking out a mugger, still no more than a few scratches on the magnesium alloy shell.

    • Thanks for taking the time to share all of this info. I am very intrigued with the Panasonic Toughbook and I have never heard about many of these products. I am considering making the list with it’s own page as suggested by a couple of folks. When I can get my act together to do it, I may email you for a bit more detail if you don’t mind.

      • Not at all. I’d been planning on a page, like the one suggested in the comments here, if I ever get around to starting on the blog I keep putting off starting.

        Having something break on you always seems to end up costing you more than just buying the better item and there really need to be more lists of quality brands out there that aren’t shilling something.

  3. Have loved all our Jansport backpacks, they seem to last forever. Plus, if they get “zipper disease,” you can send them to their repair center, they’ll fix it for free, and mail it back on their dime.

  4. Leatherman tools. My husband carries one of their multitools all the time. He uses it *everyday.* Twice it has broken, and they have an easy warranty policy — send them the tool, and they fix it or replace it. Period. And they get it back quickly, too. (For a lark, check out their homepage, and the paens men write about their tools.)

    • Thanks for the info. I FORGOT about Leatherman when I was writing the post. My husband and I both carry one in our vehicles. I did read some of the posts by the way, very entertaining.

  5. We have a La-Z-Boy sofa in our family room that originally belonged to my in-laws. It’s now 25 years old, and even though the upholstery is outdated, the comfort level and durability of the sofa are still going strong! Even better, they’re manufactured here in the USA.

  6. People mock Ikea furniture as being low quality, but I would stand them up against just about anyone. We have a “Billy” bookcase that came with us from England, and we’ve lived here for over 22 years now. It went to Iceland, survived three moves in the US and is still with us – not bad for flat pack furniture. If anything breaks on them go to your local store and you can get replacement parts usually at no cost. Oh, and their frozen meatballs are great!

    One more but again it’s a transatlantic company I’m afraid. I’ve had a Barbour waxed jacket (the Royal Family always wear them in their photo ops while they’re grouse hunting) for about 28 years. Not cheap to buy, but when it needs reproofing I send it back and they refinish it for a small fee and ship it back at their cost. If it needs repairing they will do that also (again at a cost). I don’t think I have another piece of clothing that has lasted as long as this.

  7. We just found out today that Crocs no longer sells replacement rivets for the straps… instead they now give you a brand new pair of Crocs (equal value or less) for FREE! No receipt needed and no age limit on the Crocs (that I know of) – my husband’s were over 2 years old. Awesome!

  8. Another company to keep in mind is L.L. Bean (http://www.llbean.com). They have a lifetime guarantee on all of their products and excellent customer service. Returns and replacements of items is seamless. Their products cost more, but last longer.

  9. James Avery will let you buy one earring if you’ve lost one at 50% the price of the pair, & their jewelry is built to last.

  10. Pingback: Throw Back Thursday: When Kerry made the repairman question her sanity | The Simple Year

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