Appliance Repair or Replace? Tips on When to Fix and When to Flip

The dishwasher keeps leaking and you’re convinced it’s not because you overstack.

Before you pay to fix the warped cabinet base, you must decide: repair or replace the dishwasher. Start by answering a few simple questions:

  • How old is my appliance?
  • It is still under warranty?
  • What’s the cost to service my appliance?
  • How much would it cost to replace it?

Appliances: More Expensive = Longer Life Spans
Consumer Reports estimates an average 10-year life expectancy for mainline household appliances (like Maytag, Whirlpool, Kenmore, Frigidaire), and most have a 1 to 2-year limited warranty covering parts and labor. High-end brands like Miele, Wolf and Sub-Zero usually last up to 20 years and typically offer 2-year full warranties with some components covered up to 12 years.

Why the difference? Higher quality components last longer but come with a higher price tag. In both cases, proper care of your appliance (as outlined in your product manual) can extend its life and save you money.

Service Call vs. Replacement Cost
But even if your appliance is only 5-years old, sometimes it’s still more cost effective to replace it. “With the increased cost of fuel, labor and parts, service fees have also gone up,” explains Joe Klett, manager, Abt Electronics of Glenview. “If your appliance is no longer under warranty, you should consider how much you paid for it to begin with and weigh that against the cost to repair it.”

Depending on the appliance, it may make sense to consider repair. For example, clothes dryers have basic mechanics with relatively inexpensive parts versus a refrigerator with a compressor, coolants and sophisticated electronics—all features that can be more complex and costly to repair.

Without a service call, most of us can’t identify what’s wrong with an appliance, let alone guess how much it would cost to repair it. LG appliances now feature a unique diagnostic system that can transmit a signal to their customer service call center, identifying the problem at hand. Miele and Sub-Zero offer a similar feature as an add-on. But even if you don’t have tech-savvy diagnostic features, you can still catch a break. Before you schedule a call, ask if the diagnostic service call can be applied toward the purchase of a new appliance if the situation dictates replace versus repair.

Start with a Phone Call
There is no crystal ball on repair versus replace, but Klett encourages his customers to pick up the phone. “Sometimes just talking it through with one of our customer service representatives can help you make the decision,” he explains. “The least they can do is provide a preliminary assessment of the situation and explain your options.”

A final note for those of you with a green conscience. If you decide to replace your appliance, for a nominal fee Abt and many other retailers will take your old machine and recycle it. They even recycle all the packaging used for your new machine after they install it.