When to Repair or Replace Your Appliance

When it comes to the question of whether to repair or replace an appliance, you should consider the age of the appliance, the cost of a repair, the price of a replacement appliance, the energy efficiency of the old appliance versus a replacement, and whether any changes might need to be made to your home to accommodate a replacement appliance.

It can be easy to decide to replace an appliance when it has become old and is no longer working efficiently. May the old appliance be recycled or disposed of properly.

It is when appliances break down early in their life that makes a repair versus replace decision much more difficult.

Sometimes, there is a shortage of money, and you may have to repair the appliance because of the shortage, and then hope the repair lasts. If lack of money is not a constraint, then replacing the appliance with a new energy efficient one is often the best way to go.

It is all those ifs that can make the repair versus replace decision a challenging one. Here are some additional guidelines that can help with the decision.

Is It Really Broken?

Sometimes when an appliance stops working, we forget to check some of the obvious things before we get into the repair versus replace mode. You will want to check the following:

Double check the appliance is plugged in. If not, visually inspect the plug for any damages before plugging back in.
Double check the circuit breaker has not been tripped. Of course, if you reset the breaker and it re-trips, you will want to communicate that to any repair technician and/or electrician.
Some appliances must be level, so if the appliance is no longer level, then reposition/re-level it.
Vents, drains and filters aren't clogged with lint, debris and/or dust.

Is It Still Under Warranty?

A review of the owner's manual or purchase records can tell if the appliance is still covered under the warranty. Typical warranties on major appliances cover parts and labor for a year; some extent coverage of parts for two years. If the appliance is still covered under warranty, schedule a service call. (Call 770-604-1699 to schedule an appointment.)

Is It Truly at the End of Its Useful Life?

Every appliance has an average useful life. Typically after that average useful lifespan, the appliance is living on borrowed time. As the appliance approaches the end of its typical useful life, or exceeds it, it is wiser to replace rather than repair.

This table has the typical life spans of major appliances.

Average Lifespan (Years)
Exhaust Fan
Range, electric
Range/oven hood

How to Follow the 50% Rule

If the cost to repair an appliance is more than 50% of the replacement cost, and the appliance is more than 50% through its typical average lifespan, then you should probably replace rather than repair.

You can use the chart above to determine if you are more than half way through the expected lifespan of an appliance. You will need an estimate of the cost of the repair from an experienced appliance repair technician. Most appliance repair firm will charge a "trip charge" to come out and diagnose the problem. The cost of a trip charge will vary from company to company, so you will want to ask how much it is when you schedule an appointment. Most companies will waive the trip charge if you do have the appliance repaired; you will want to verify this also when you schedule the appointment. (Call 770-604-1699 to schedule an appointment.)

Do It Yourself Whenever Possible

If you are handy with tools, there are some repairs you may be able to perform yourself, saving the cost of labor from a repair company. There are many videos on YouTube about how to perform repairs. Additionally, there are user manuals online that can assist with trouble shooting a problem.

Having trouble locating you copy of the appliance user manual? Use an online search engine to search for "manual" along with the brand name and model number of your appliance. Many appliance manufacturers have free downloadable PDFs of manuals and there are several websites that specialize in nothing but manuals.

However, there is a downside to repairing appliances yourself.

Many appliance warranties become void if there is a repair (or attempted repair) done by someone who is not authorized by the manufacturer to do repairs.
Most if not all electrical replacement part are non-refundable. If replace an electrical part, and that was not the source of the problem, you are out the cost of that part.
Many kitchen and laundry appliances are bulky and heavy. If you do not know how to move, open, and/or lift them, you could injure yourself.
If you fail to unplug the appliance or properly discharge any charged capacitors, you could get a nasty shock and/or electrocute yourself.

How to Calculate Whether Energy Efficiency is Cost Effective

New appliances often have better energy efficiency and for some water saving features. As an example, a new refrigerator uses about half the electricity of one made twenty years ago.

That said, just replacing an appliance with a new more energy efficient one may not always be a wise move. Going out and spending thousands on a new appliance in order to save a few hundred on your energy bill does not make sense.

Jill A. Notini of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers says if you're planning on staying in your home for 10 to 15 years, upgrading appliances is a good idea. However, if you're planning on moving soon, you'll save money by keeping your older appliances, and letting the new owners upgrade to energy-efficient models.

Are There Hidden Costs When Replacing Old Appliances?

The price tag on a new appliance may not be the only cost of a replacement. Sometimes the price tag is the least expensive part of the replacement cost.

A new refrigerator may be a different size, and cabinetry may need to be modified to accommodate the new unit. If the new frig has an automatic ice maker you may need to add a new water supply line with water filters for it. Any new water filters will need to be replaced on a regular basis to keep them from clogging.

Natural gas ovens and ranges will save you money, if you already have a gas connection. If you need to move or reroute the gas line, you could spend hundreds doing that. If you do not have an existing supply to the house, you might spend thousands of dollars bringing a supply line in to the house.

Also, upgrading from a simple gas range to one with all the bells and whistles may require upgrading your existing electrical or adding additional electrical wiring and circuits.

Call (770) 604-1699 to schedule an appointment.