Should You Get a Vintage Range or a New One?

published Jun 23, 2017
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(Image credit: Julie Steele & Emily Billings)

Some things just get better with age — a good bottle of red wine, a leather handbag, and that Chevy that your dad used to drive with such pride. When you’re buying kitchen appliances, the general wisdom seems to be that newer is better, right?

Not always. Sure, there can be some “Can you believe it does this?” features in the newer models, but there’s one appliance that can be just as functional if you buy it vintage. No, it’s not an OG Smeg refrigerator — it’s a range! Here’s what to think about when you’re considering a vintage version.

(Image credit: Julia Steele)

The Pros and Cons of Buying a Vintage Range

Your grandmother is right: They don’t make things like they used to. Those old ranges have serious staying power, not to mention plenty of charm. They’ll also cost a pretty penny, both to buy and to fix if something breaks.

Pro: They stand up to the test of time.

Let’s put it this way: Julia Child’s six-burner Garland gas stove was purchased in 1956, and it’s still in working condition in the Smithsonian, where it currently lives. (It’s not hooked up to gas or being cooked on, but you get our point!) The quality of a well-made vintage stove should be something that lasts, and there are very knowledgeable pros who can handle necessary repairs. Plus, you can find a completely refurbished one that’s 100 percent ready for you!

Pro: They’re more energy-efficient than you think.

They might not have the fancy Energy Star rating that new ovens have, but they’re not as much of a hog as, say, older refrigerators, which can really suck up a lot of juice. This is mostly because of how hot they get; we’ve heard of people who turn off the gas halfway through a cook time because the oven stays so hot.

Pro: You can use them as a centerpiece of your kitchen.

New models typically only come in stainless steel, white, or black, unless you want to drop a cool five or 10 grand on something from Big Chill or La Cornue. (If you do, we’ve got you covered with this story on colorful appliances.) A vintage model from the ’50s, though, might come in a sage green, a cherry red, or powder blue. Adding a little jolt of color to your kitchen can be a major personality-builder.

Con: They lack the bells and whistles.

Vintage ranges heat up super well (and tend to stay hot), but they don’t do much more than that. There’s no convection or induction option and there’s certainly no WiFi connection. Although some might have a timer or a clock!

Con: The burners and ovens are usually on the small side.

While they often have a large footprint, stoves made before the 1950s tend to have much less cooking space than the ones we’re used to cooking on and in now. And you might not love precariously balancing your Dutch oven on an under-sized burner. The size also affects what you can put in the oven, which is often broken up into smaller compartments.

Con: They can be pretty expensive.

Newer ranges often have cheaper parts, which drives the cost down. Vintage ranges are built with that heavy cast iron and steel. The quality may shine through, but it’s hard to ignore the price. That said, if you’re choosing between a vintage stove and a top-of-the-line modern version, you might not face as much sticker shock.

(Image credit: Emily Billings)

The Pros and Cons of Buying a New Range

When you’re putting money into a new kitchen, some people like to have something that’s new — and under warranty! There’s nothing wrong with that. Plus, a new range will match that new fridge and new dishwasher.

Pro: It matches your other appliances.

If you’re renovating your kitchen and investing in new appliances, part of the vision might be that you have a matching set of stainless steel Whirlpools. When you opt for a vintage stove, you might end up having a mismatched fridge and dishwasher. Some might say it adds character, while others will think it just looks messy.

Pro: You can get all sorts of burners.

Most vintage stoves have gas (or sometimes electric!) burners, but when you’re buying something current, you have all sorts of options. Maybe you want induction burners? Or you want six burners and a griddle? Or gas burners with an electric oven? You’re going to find far more options and configurations with a newer version.

Con: They’re pretty cookie cutter.

If you see one more friend renovate their kitchen to feature stainless steel (or even black stainless), you’re going to scream. You just can’t anymore. You don’t want to have the same style range as everyone on the block.

Con: They can be pretty expensive.

New ranges can also be pricey. If you’re getting all the bells and whistles, chances are you’ll end up paying just as much as you would for an antique.

Do you have a vintage range? Do you love it?