Repair Vs. Replace: Home Appliances Edition

eHow Money Blog

Woman Examining Front Loader Of Washing MachineNo homeowner wants a broken dishwasher or faulty oven. These appliances can cost big bucks to replace — and they often fail at the least opportune time. When that happens, should you call a repair service or cut your losses and replace it? That depends.

We talked to Dean Landers, owner of Landers Appliance in Baltimore and past president of the nonprofit trade association United Servicers Association, about how to decide.

First, Landers considers the appliance’s mechanical and physical condition. When faced with a clothes washer that isn’t pumping out water, he might determine that it needs a new pump, but he’d also ask about other mechanical issues that might need to be addressed. “Has it been dripping water?” he asks. “Is it slow to spin? Is it slow to finish the wash cycle?”

If the washer is otherwise in good mechanical condition, replacing the pump might make sense. But if there are more mechanical issues — along with physical defects such as rust — this could point to replacing the washer, as repair costs for multiple problems add up quickly. Because the appliance’s age is typically reflected in its mechanical and physical condition, Landers doesn’t generally factor in the appliance’s age — unless, of course, the homeowner believes it’s time to replace the decades-old fridge that came with the house.

Interestingly, though, Landers finds that newer appliances aren’t less likely to break down compared to older ones because newer ones contain microcomputers that can fail. Fortunately for people with older appliances, finding replacement parts is generally not a problem because appliance companies used to sell fewer models than they do today. “Twenty years ago,” he says, “every manufacturer made one washer, and they made a big version of it and a little version of it.”

After you’ve assessed the mechanical and physical condition, consider the cost of repairing the appliance versus the replacement and installation cost for a new one. When the cost of repairs (including labor and parts) exceeds 50 percent of the replacement cost, Landers says it’s time to consider getting a new appliance. And if you’re not thrilled with the cost of that new dishwasher, consider this: Buying a newer, more energy-efficient appliance could help reduce your energy bill.

But while you’re shopping, you may want to skip the extended warranty. After all, the real benefit of these warranties is to the manufacturer or retailer, not the consumer, as warranties generate profits but are rarely used. And Landers points out that warranties won’t cover every possible issue. “My experience is that the parts that are in the extended period of time typically aren’t in the high-failure rate,” he says. If you pay for a new appliance with a credit card, your credit card issuer may already double the manufacturer’s warranty, so hold onto all the paperwork and receipts just in case.

Photo Credit: Getty ThinkStock

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