We bought our first slow cooker, a Rival Crock Pot, a couple of years ago. I got some great recommendations for cookbooks here on chowhound (Slow Cooker Ready and Waiting, and Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook, both are excellent). We love the thing and have been happily slow cooking every since. The problem is, the plastic handles and knobs on the Crock Pot have simply disintegrated -- I think because they are brittle plastic which gets more brittle with heat and time. At this point we use a pair of pliers to lift the lid and turn the temperature switch, and the side handles are going.
It's not a big deal to replace it, at a half price sale at Macy's I think I paid $15 for it. But I hate the idea of disposable appliances. Yet browsing through reviews of the expensive machines (Kitchen Aid, Cuisineart, All Clad) it seems like people experience the same problems with those. I get the feeling that expensive slow cookers are something of a boondoggle, it's really a very simple machine. But I'm wondering whether others here have had the same problem, or hopefully recommendations for models that last longer. Is there any particular difference among the less expensive brands like Hamilton Beach, Aroma, West Bend? Any comments on "programmable" models? I look at 'em a little squirrely, seems like another thing to break. Do they work well and last long?