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If your appliances aren't working should you repair them or replace them?

If your appliances aren't working should you repair them or replace them?

If your appliances aren't working should you repair them or replace them?

If your appliances aren't working should you repair them or replace them?

Dishwasher leaking? Dryer not drying? If your appliances aren't working should you repair them or replace them. Learn more here…

If you aren't getting the usually reliable service out of your household appliances the question always becomes: Should I repair it or is it time to replace?

The very first thing you want to know is, is the appliance really on the fritz? 

Not to bring up stories of cars that wouldn't run only to be diagnosed as out of gas, or irons that wouldn't heat up because they were unplugged but those stories are out there and you should be aware of them.

For instance a washing machine will vibrate and create horrible noises sometimes with an unbalanced load. It could also cause a water leak not from malfunction but from a faulty hose connection, or a burst hose behind the machine. Some appliances may not turn on at all not because they are broken but because a circuit breaker may have tripped.

If an appliance is still in its useful life span (see below) my gut reaction is to always call a repairman, at least for an estimate. Many a time I have had an un-drying dryer dry with the replacement of a single part which cost me less than $75 installed. 

Here is a listing of common items and how long the professionals say they should last. 

- Refrigerator: 15- 20 years

- Freezers: 15-20 years

- Ranges/ovens: 10-14 years

- Dishwashers 10-12 years

- Washer/dryers: 10-14 years

- Computers 2-4 years

- Televisions: 4-8 years

Of course, your mileage will vary based on care and usage. Appliances will most likely break down when you need them most. Your odds of getting a repairman to the house are in direct proportion to the untimeliness of the break down. Product warranties are inversely connected to life expectancy i.e. your dishwasher with its 10 year life expectancy no doubt only carries an 8 year warranty. A salesman will call. 

Here are some general guidelines for helping you through the repair or replace dilemma.

Electronics: (Phones, cameras, televisions, computers) If the device is less than 2 years old, repair it. If more than 4 years old, replace it; you'll likely get more advanced technology and cool stuff at a (relatively) cheaper price. If your gadget is somewhere in the middle (say between 2 and 4 years), replace it if the repair cost is more than half the replacement cost.

Major appliances:  (Home theater, audio, refrigerators, freezers, washers, dryers) If the device is less than 4 years old, repair it. If more than 7 years old, replace it. For the middle years, replace it if the repair cost is more than half the replacement cost.

The trade-off on these guidelines? If you really like what you have and don't want to send it packing, spend the money on repairs, on the premise that this breakdown (like a broken drive belt or timer) was a one-off incident. If it appears that the breakdown is the start of something bad/worse, employ the 'replace if more than 50% to repair' rule.

Another thing to remember is that broken appliances may have an opportunity loss - food going bad in broken fridge, home business that depends on computers, that sort of thing. These factors will force you into quicker decisions - more likely to replace if you don't have the time for repair.

Another little potentially costly gem that may be hiding in wait for your is this: be sure that the appliance you decide to replace can actually be removed. I have seen an instance when a framing enclosure was added around a refrigerator; when it had to be replaced, the extensive surround required expensive removal.

If your decision is to replace, keep these things in mind…

Energy-saving features on major appliances are important. If the item is Energy Star-certified, you'll save some on your utility bills; if power costs you less at night, opt for a washer or dryer that has a delayed start option. Over time, you'll save money.

The more complicated a machine is, the more that can go wrong, and the more it will cost to repair; do you really need 8 wash cycles or 6 dryer cycles to get your clothes clean? To minimize cost, get the least you need to do the job.

Can you accomplish some of the repairs yourself? The biggest cost component of a service call is usually the labor -- if you can change a drive belt or a lint filter yourself, find an appliance that makes it easy to do so. Preventive maintenance, by you or a service rep, may pay dividends in the long run.

Finally, one more thing about repair services. There are 3 general types: factory repairs by the manufacturer, authorized repairs by a contractor who likely has undergone factory training, and independent repairmen who may not be much more than a handyman with a pickup truck. Know what you're getting.

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