Replace It or Repair It? How to Decide for Any Item in Your House

Reader Contribution by Kayla Matthews
article image

Whether it’s your laptop, your sofa or your washing machine, something in your home isn’t working right — and you want to fix it ASAP.  The only problem is, you can’t figure out whether it’s worth the effort of repairing. Sure, you could save yourself some money by doing it yourself, but the item itself might not be worth salvaging.

Stress no more: The following guide should help you decide whether to replace or repair every item in your home once and for all. Read on to figure out what to do with your broken fridge, drafty front door and everything in between.

Large Appliances

Before we begin, it’s important to remember your refrigerator, washing machine or trash compactor might’ve come with a little slip of paper that can solve your dilemma for you. A warranty means a qualified repair technician will repair any dysfunction for free, within a specified window of time. If you’re not lucky enough to have your problem fall within that window, here’s what you should do.

Repair: The lifespan of your home purchases will vary, of course. But large appliances are designed to last: Your fridge should function for around 13 years, while your gas cooktop will likely be around for 15 years.

Still, these guidelines don’t tell you when you should be repairing your large appliances without any doubts. Most people stand by the 50-50 rule: If your item is more than halfway through its lifespan, and the proposed cost of the repair is more than half the price of a new one, forego repairs. Otherwise, it’s worth a shot.

Replace: With that wisdom in mind, you can surmise when it will be time to replace your large appliances. When they’re near the end of their lifespan(s) anyway, you might as well invest in a new one instead of spending time and, potentially, money on repairs that won’t last long.

Automobiles

OK — your car isn’t technically in your house. But it’s somewhere on your property, it’s a considerable investment and it’s likely to need repairs throughout its lifetime. It’s up to you to decide when it’s time to stop fixing it up and start fresh.

Repair: As you’re already handy and self-sufficient, you can add some car maintenance to your DIY list.

Of course, your auto problems won’t start and end with faulty windshield wipers or an engine in desperate need of oil. If you can’t handle repairs on your own, think about how much you use your car. If it’s a necessity to get your kids to school, for example, paying for repairs is a must. 

Replace: Regular repairs will undoubtedly add up in price, and that could lead you to wonder whether it’s time to buy a new vehicle. Ask your mechanic to provide you a list of the upcoming repairs you will undoubtedly need. Tally up the cost and decide whether

that’s worth it against the value of your car. If not, you should be in the market for a newer vehicle.

Furniture

Furniture is a broad category. Everything from your sofa to your mattress to your dining room chairs can and will need replacement at some point. It’s important to know when, too, since your home design can play a significant role in your overall happiness in your abode. 

Repair: You can repair or refinish most of your furniture when it begins to lose its luster. These may not be repairs in the traditional sense, but they can revamp the entire look of your home and your furniture, thus keeping you satisfied with it for a few more years. For example, consider recovering your sofa in new fabric, or sanding and painting your dining room table, before buying new pieces.

Replace: There will come a time when your cosmetic repairs aren’t enough. Your mattress has become lumpy, your sofa frame is squeaky and the legs on a few of your dining room chairs have split. At this point, it’s time to cash in your chips and buy newer furniture. As general rules of thumb, your sofa should last up to 15 years, while you should replace your mattress within five to 10 years of your initial purchase. Tables, dining chairs and dressers made of high-quality, durable materials can last a lifetime — and still look good enough to be passed on as heirlooms in the far-off future.

Clothes

They fill your closets and dressers, so clothes are very much a part of your home, too. What’s had its day, and what’s worth salvaging? Here’s how to tell.

Repair: Your favorite pair of jeans have a broken zipper. The cocktail dress you wear to every fancy wedding is just a little too long. Your trusted winter boots are showing wear on the soles. And you can repair all these signs of wear on your own — or with the help of a local artisan. Whether you whip out your sewing kit or enlist the aid of a nearby tailor, you can make your old clothes look new again with a few quick, cheap repairs.

Replace: You’ll never be able to replace some keepsake items, even if you can repair them. And, even though you’ve stored them safely as momentoes, you still have some worn-out items that do not appear salvageable. Holes, dull fabric colors and unraveling threads are a sign a piece of clothing is beyond its heyday. If you cannot live without something that falls into the “replace” category, see if the original manufacturer still sells it and buy it again, or have a tailor recreate it with new fabric.

Small Electronics

Much like large appliances, your small electronics will probably come with a warranty that’ll cover you for their first year or so of life. After that, though, any updates are in your hands.

Repair:According to Consumer Reports, fewer and fewer small electronics like laptops have needed repair in recent years. Still, you might be unlucky and need a repair for your small electronic device. In these cases, CR recommends a system quite similar to the one suggested for your large appliances: If the repair costs more than 50 percent of the item’s purchase price, don’t bother. If you do need repairs, you’re better off sending your item to a local, specialized repair shop than to the factory repair center. The work will be cheaper and better, in most cases.

Replace: As you probably gathered from above, you should replace electronics when repairs become too expensive. More than half the initial cost for repair of any item means it’s time to go shopping.

When in Doubt, Try It Out

If you’re still not sure what to do, here’s your final rule of thumb: When in doubt, try it out. You have the maintenance skills to give the repair a shot.Unless the task is dangerous, you might as well do your best to repair something before paying someone else to do it or buying a replacement item.

With these guidelines in mind, you’re more than ready to decide what stays and what goes from now on. And, with that decision-making authority, your home will become more efficient and you will, too.

Photo credits: Credit: Fancycrave


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Need Help? Call 1-800-234-3368