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Why the kitchen appliance shortage won't end

Freezers, refrigerators, dishwashers on backorder
There's a reason so many appliances are currently on backorder
Posted at 11:02 AM, Dec 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-15 13:14:00-05

If you've been looking for a new kitchen appliance this year, locating certain models can be as tough as finding a new Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5.

The appliance shortage that began in March shows no sign of letting up.

Tommy Conougher is among the many frustrated shoppers: He needs more space in his refrigerator.

"This is one we've had since we built the house 17 years ago," he said.

Like many families this pandemic, he wants to stock up on frozen beef and chicken.

"We thought we would just invest in a freezer we would put in the garage. So we started to look."

But finding a freezer was tougher than finding Nemo.

"We have been searching all summer long, nine months, for a freezer," Conougher told us in a Zoom interview from his kitchen.

"And even when the big box stores have their specials, they don't have them in stock."

Many brands, price ranges affected

It doesn't matter if you are looking for a freezer, refrigerator, range, oven, or washing machine.

It also doesn't matter if your budget is $800 or $8,000, or what brand you want (though American brands like Whirlpool and Maytag appear to be in better shape than European or Korean brands).

You are going to find spot shortages just about everywhere, according to Ken Reiman, co-owner of an appliance distributor.

He supplies builders and remodelers, who he says now have to delay finishing some projects due to ongoing shortages.

"When I check our vendor websites," he said, "they are just not available."

He says the shortages that started when factories shut down for two months early in 2020 have not let up.

"For instance," Reiman explained, "they will give an estimated time of December 5th, and December 6th comes around and they have moved to January."

Why the shortage hasn't ended

Reiman says there are three reasons for the current shortages.

Originally, it was caused by factory shutdowns in March, April, and May, along with delays getting appliances shipped from China during that time.

The second reason is a shortage of foreign-made parts, such as wiring harnesses and compressors, which forces U.S. factories to shut down their assembly lines until product arrives.

The third reason is high demand, as people spend their vacation dollars this year on their kitchens instead, Reiman said.

His suggestion: Be flexible on brand and model.

"We have products coming in," he said "Our warehouses are more stuffed now than ever. But it seems we can't get the full package of matching appliances, which means you may get a range and microwave, but may have to wait three months for the matching fridge."

If your heart is set on an exact size, color, and model, he says you could wait till spring.

Reiman says your best bet is to ask what models are in the local or regional warehouse that you could get in a few days. While you will find shortages of all appliances, the worst of all are standalone freezers, because not many of them are made.

As always, don't waste your money.

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8:47 PM, Oct 17, 2018

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