A Real Life Aga Saga

It looks quite handsome, doesn’t it, this cooker? When I originally wrote the tag line for this blog, A Suffolk Aga Saga, it was meant as a gentle joke. But it’s turned into the real thing and it doesn’t have a happy ending.

We had this big beast installed when we did up the kitchen at our house in Suffolk. It’s a Rayburn Alpha, a brand owned by Aga, and it was designed to act as a boiler and water heater as well as being a range cooker. It seemed like such a good idea at the time, an all-in-one solution. And after all, we’d been brought up to think an Aga was the heart of a home.

It is probably significant that Aga has since discontinued the model. In the last couple of years we have had it rebuilt virtually from the bottom up. We could nearly have bought a new one for the money it cost us the first time it had a catastrophic failure. We’ve had the repairmen out so many times I’ve pretty much got them in speed dial, I’m on first name terms with their receptionist/office manager and I know how many sugars the engineer likes in his coffee.

Then the other day it went wrong again. The central heating wasn’t working and the cooker was vibrating and roaring when it fired up.The repair to the heating bit was straightforward enough, even though it’s the second time in less than two months they’ve had to fix something mechanical or electrical. But the cooker is pretty much beyond repair.

Image of the money pit with its lid off

It’s lucky we turned it off when our friend Jenny was staying last weekend and we smelled burning oil, because the fire retardant panels inside had collapsed inwards, causing it to (again) burn its guts out. Did I mention that we live in a half-timbered house?

Image of the burned innards

We’ve had enough. We’re scrapping it and replacing it with a bog-standard boiler and some other form of cooker. By the time we’ve done this it will probably cost us another £10 thousand.

Yes, you read that figure correctly, and that’s on top of the high purchase price and the recent mega rebuild. It’s no coincidence that I’m driving an 11 year old car.

I’m not the only person who has complained bitterly about the quality of modern Agas and their spin-offs. The old ones were virtually indestructible – we had a second-hand gas-fuelled Aga in our old home in London and it never gave us a minute’s worry. This one though – if I had a mini digger (that’s a backhoe to you, American friends) I’d bury the damned thing in the garden and sing hymns over it, then dance on its grave.

The moral of this story – don’t buy an Aga. Spend your hard-earned cash on something that does what it says on the tin.

26 thoughts on “A Real Life Aga Saga

  1. That’s really shocking! And such a shame as it looks so lovely and really suits your kitchen. Can’t imagine Aga wants to hear this sort of story either!

  2. That’s absolutely dreadful, I’ve heard similar reports from other people. Something else invented by Brits that’s now gone down the pan.

  3. oh my word. that is a heck of a lot of money! you’d think they’d replace it for you … hope it ends up well. cheers sherry

  4. I always thought the Aga was a Rolls Royce. It killed me not to put one in my new ‘1940’s’ New England home. I could not justify that some months I would have the AC on when the oven was also and always on. I guess my environmental concerns paid off though sorry to know it with your disaster. Good luck Linda.

    • Thanks, Chip. Ours, technically, is a Rayburn and a model that turns on and off easily and doesn’t take the usual 24 hours to heat up or down. However, I think our story is a cautionary tale for anyone considering a similar model.

  5. That’s a real eye opener! I hate it when companies capitalise on the good reputation of a brand but then offer a crap “new” product because they can’t make ’em like they used to. Sorry you went through all that – how frustrating!

    • Thank you, that’s very kind. In all fairness this Rayburn is around 10 years old, but our previous Aga was well over 30 years old and still going strong. Waiting for a response from Aga … watch this space!

  6. Linda, I admire you for putting it out there that Aga is now not what it used to be. Hopefully, your post will be helpful for one looking to acquire an Aga.

  7. Have you contacted the new CEO of Middleby, TIMOTHY FITZGERALD ? He took over in January. I just cannot believe that the company (Aga) allowed this to go on for so long and at such great expense to you. Shocking! Spread as much bad publicity as you can.

    • In all fairness to Aga, most of this has been dealt with at a local level up to now. Waiting to hear back from them on the latest disaster this week. Lx

      • Hi Linda, I recently sent Timothy Fitzgerald at Middleby an unsolicited inquiry about AGA products after failing to get satisfactory responses from anybody in the marketing/sales department (FYI my inquiry was not a complaint and had nothing to do with warrantee or repair issues). He replied very quickly and was interested and courteous. Definitely worth a try, rather than “spreading bad publicity”. They should reimburse you and fix the faulty design of the product.

      • Hi Andrew, this issue is currently in the hands of our solicitor, so I’d prefer to wait for the outcome before discussing this further. But “spreading bad publicity”? I call it fair comment.

  8. Oooh, I’m so sorry about this. We had a second-hand gas Aga for many years and I was heartbroken when we couldn’t take it with us when we moved. It was a rock-solid (though expensive) workhorse and I’m so sorry that things have changed for the so-very-much-worse. With so many handsome range cookers on the market these days, they’re not going to stay in business much longer are they? Except to service the older, decent models.

    • Our ancient gas Aga in London was a dream, never a moment’s trouble. This one has been a nightmare. And with new, high-end range cookers cheaper than a recon Aga, it is beginning to look like a no-brainer. I’ll miss having an Aga (technically a Rayburn) in the house but we can’t keep bleeding money like this.

  9. What a shame, it was a handsome piece of machinery. But I can relate. I don’t think we have a single appliance in our kitchen that hasn’t had to be serviced or replaced in the short five years we’ve been in this house… though nothing quite so dramatic (or expensive) as your experience, thankfully!

    • Thanks, Frank. Handsome indeed but I’d rather have an intact house that hasn’t burned down.
      (Not that it has, just that there was the potential it could have.):(

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