Kenmore appliances: Why they're not better than Frigidaire

Many a customer has probably faced a dizzying array of gas stoves and thought to themselves, which is better, Kenmore or Kitchenaid? Should I buy this Whirlpool refrigerator, or the Kenmore? Isn't Bosch a more trusted name than Kenmore for dishwashers? The answer to those questions is probably, in order, "neither," "either," and "not really."

Because even though Kenmore is proudly advertised by Sears as "the best known name in appliances" with a product in 60% of American homes, Kitchenaid, Whirlpool, Bosch, and a host of other manufacturers are the ones that made your Kenmore appliance.

Kenmore isn't the only brand to appear on products actually manufactured by its competition, but it may be one of the biggest. At Appliance411, a chart demystifies the Kenmore purchasing process. According to the web site, you can deduce who manufactured your appliance by reading the model number on your appliance's identification tag. The first three numbers (or in some appliances, the first three numbers plus the initial "C") correspond with a manufacturer. Does your refrigerator's model number begin with 106? You have a Whirlpool. If your dishwasher's model number starts with 630, it's made by Bosch. A microwave starting with 401 is a Samsung. And so on.

The consumer is often left with strange choices: between, for instance, a front-loading washer made by Maytag, and a very similar (but not quite identical) model made by Kenmore, at slightly different price points. Which is better? Well, who knows: but they're surely not different enough for a normal consumer to suss out.

Once you've decided which manufacturer really made the appliance in which you're interested, of course, your job could be a bit simpler; instead of choosing between a wide number of different brands, you're really only choosing between one or two total manufacturers. And if it's that front-loading washer to which I was referring? Turns out both Kenmore and Maytag are made by a third brand: Samsung.

Quality can't vary much between brands that are all manufactured in the same Chinese or South Korean factory. So when you're selecting an appliance, skip the brand loyalty and focus on features, efficiency and price alone. Otherwise, all you're buying is marketing -- good marketing, it's true, but at the end of the day, marketing won't clean your clothes.
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