When to Repair and When to Replace Home Appliances

When that old, dependable household appliance sputters to a halt, you may be confronted with this classic dilemma.

  • Home Appliances Expected Service Life
    Use the expected service life of a home appliance to determine the yearly cost of a new replacement. 
  • 087-116-01-im1
    To repair or replace: that is the question.

  • Home Appliances Expected Service Life
  • 087-116-01-im1

Whether you prefer a myriad of electrical appliances in your home or just a few, you'll surely agree that the mechanical aids can be useful . . . until they break, whereupon they become inconvenient, time-consuming, curse-producing headaches. But wait! Don't hastily toss out your ailing gadgets or consign them to the scrap pile for parts. A great number of broken home appliances can be fixed easily, at real savings over the cost of replacement. On the other hand, it's not cost effective to repair a large appliance that's long past its prime. Then how can you figure out whether it's more economical to repair or to replace?

Home Appliance Information

First of all, you'll need the solid information provided by the machine's manufacturer. When you buy a home appliance, you receive—in most cases—a warranty card, an operations/use booklet, a list of repair centers, and a parts list. These should be kept on file with the sales receipt where you'll have easy access to them in the event that the appliance breaks down. (If you've inadvertently thrown away or lost your owner's manual, you can usually get another copy by contacting the manufacturer, identifying the model and serial number of your appliance.) Then, assuming the malfunctioning article's warranty has expired, start studying the owner's booklet. Find out whether the problem lies in the appliance itself or merely in the electrical circuit that provides its power. Sounds silly, but—in my experience, at least—about 10% of the time, the trouble's in the power source: A plug's loose in the outlet, or a circuit breaker has been tripped. (Or perhaps your electrical gadget has an internal switch that shuts it off in case of circuit overload. The service manual will provide instructions for restarting an appliance equipped with such a safety device.)

If this sort of thing isn't the source of the problem, take another good look at your owner's guide. Some manuals provide a checklist of "symptoms" to help you determine what the trouble is, and you may be able to fix the appliance yourself. Otherwise, this information plus a phone conversation with the repairperson can usually help you narrow down the diagnosis to one or two possibilities . . . and will give you an idea of the price range for the probable repairs.

An Economic Decision

You should now determine how many years of service life your machine has left. To do so, consult the accompanying table (see Image Gallery) to compare the age of the appliance with its estimated life span (how long the model normally can be expected to function properly). Although the life expectancy of any appliance will vary slightly among different models and brands, the chart tells you how long an average one should last.

If, say, your room air conditioner is eight years old, it's got only four of its (estimated) 12 years remaining. But an eight-year-old sewing machine should have a lot of good years ahead of it . . . a full 16, to be exact.

In addition to the relative age and the estimated repair cost of your broken appliance, you'll need to know the cost of a new replacement for it. Then you can divide that purchase price by the machine's expected service life to find out the yearly cost of a newly bought appliance. For example, let's say that a new washing machine with the same features as your on-the-blink one would cost $290. Well, according to the table, its expected life span would be 12 years. Divide that 12 into $290, and you come out with a per annum price tag of $24.16.



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