When your oven starts to serve up dinner more charred than broiled or your washer begins making suspicious clunking sounds, you’ve got a problem appliance on your hands. If the trouble continues, or gets even worse, you'll need to take some action. But what should you do? Is it worth your while to go through the hassle of having repair done, or should you just spring for a replacement? It pays to look at the big picture before deciding whether to patch up or pitch out.
First, determine whether you are still within the warranty period. There seems to be a principle at play in the field of large appliances which guarantees one simple thing: nine times out of ten, your appliance won’t break down until after the warranty has expired.
Keep track of the warranty dates on major household purchases by setting up a spreadsheet to record this information. This will allow you to tell at a glance which items are still covered at any given time.
And if you think warranty periods are shorter than they used to be, you’re not imagining things. A two-year warranty used to be pretty standard, but lately that’s been shortened to just 12 months – unless you’re willing to shell out extra cash for an extended service contract.
If you are one of the lucky few whose appliance throws a hissy fit while the warranty is still in effect, read the fine print before you break into your happy dance. Are labor and pick-up covered, or only replacement parts?
Next, consider the history of the malfunctioning (or non-functioning) appliance. How old is it and what is the typical life expectancy for that type of machine?
Has the appliance performed well in the past? If it’s already required major repairs, especially more than once, then it will likely continue to give you problems in the future.
Try to troubleshoot to find out how serious the malfunction might be. Check sources such as the owner’s manual, customer care and online consumer forums. Also research the particular brand and model number to see how reliable they are generally considered to be.
Determine whether replacement parts are easy to obtain. As a general rule, they will continue to be available for 10 years after the date of manufacture.
Come up with a ballpark figure for the price of repair. Then find the price of a new version (don’t forget to add in charges for delivery, installation and removal of your old machine). If the cost of the necessary repair is more than half the price of a brand new appliance, think twice about calling in a serviceperson … unless a replacement is beyond your financial means at present.
Take into account the hassle element. That means considering the time and wages you may lose waiting for a service call, plus the aggravation you'll face if it turns out that the problem will require additional follow-up visits or can’t be fixed at all.
The environmental impact of your decision is important. Even if the cost is similar to that of buying new, repairing the appliance may seem at first like a greener option than throwing it in a landfill.
Besides, large appliances do not have to end up on a garbage heap at the end of their working lives; they are made up of 75 percent of steel, which makes them excellent candidates for recycling. Many urban centers have well-developed programs in place that will enable you to recycle your appliances.
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