An aged wiring study from UL (Underwriters Laboratories) tests the performance of aged fuses and aged circuit breakers. The fuses were more reliable than the circuit breakers. All of the aged fuses tested, performed according to criteria for a new fuse. Circuit breakers tested were not as reliable.
Based upon this information, my opinion is that fuses provide better protection against fire than circuit breakers due to an overload condition.
Further information includes tampering with fuse/fuse holder to defeat the overload protection. When a penny is placed in the fuse holder, the overload protection of the fuse is by-passed. A circuit breaker is not by-passed as easily.
Another significant difference is the risk of shock. When resetting a circuit breaker, the electrical contacts are concealed from accidental contact. Simply slide the switch back and forth. When replacing a fuse, the electrical contacts are exposed, increasing the chance for accidental contact (shock).
Contact a home insurance provider to compare policy prices on a home with fuses versus a home with circuit breakers.
Feel free to contact us if you have questions about the common safety concerns with electric panels.
In addition, you might want to get an estimate to upgrade the panel from a licensed electrician, so at least you'll know the potential cost.
Call the agent that willbe insuring the home and see if any issues will arise.
As far as the panel itself you could ask the seller to replace before closing or if you feel it is a deal breaker get an electrician to give you a quote on replacement so you know what you are getting into.
Either, adjust the price to reflect an upgrade to circuit breakers (have it written in the P&S) or be prepared to pay a bit of a premium for the fuses and may be even be required to prove that you'ved changed to circuit breakers within a short period of time (I've heard deadlines as short as 30 days) after close.
This seems to be a relatively recent crackdown ... I've encountered agents convinced that they could get an underwriter to cover fuses, only to come up empty or with heavy fees. Check with your insurance agent first ... no insurance binder, no loan.
I doubt you will be able negotiate an update to the fuse box as part of the sales price, but stranger things have happened. You may want to consider a streamline 203K loan as a way upgrade the electric service as part of your purchase.