Should You Repair or Replace Old Appliances?

If you haven’t checked the prices on new washers, dryers, refrigerators and so on lately, prepare for sticker shock.

For example, the cheapest top-loading washer available at Lowe’s is on sale for $449. A front-load machine will run you at least $800.

Best Buy advertises French door refrigerators “as low as $1,099.99.” Even their cheapest top-freezer refrigerator is $259.99.

And that’s if you can even get them. So BILLSHARK wants to suggest an option you might not have thought of: appliance repair.

Major appliance shortages

At the beginning of the pandemic, most manufacturing plants of major appliances both here and around the world shut down for months. Shipping was impacted, too, leading to shortages of goods from Korea and China, where much of our imported appliances and the raw materials to make them originate.

In addition, homeowners cooped up in their houses with time on their hands undertook major home renovations, including in their kitchens, leading to a surprise demand for new appliances that retailers hadn’t planned for.

All these factors have led to widespread shortages of major appliances. It began with freezers, when people started cooking and storing more food at home, and has rippled throughout the appliance market.

Even if you can find them on various retailers’ websites, check the delivery dates carefully: Sears has a refrigerator that promises three-day delivery, but closer inspection shows it isn’t available until later this month; a popular Whirlpool refrigerator at Lowe’s won’t be available until Dec. 10; and a refrigerator at Best Buy says only “coming soon.”

Newer isn’t necessarily better

In addition to costing more, newer appliances just don’t last as long as the old ones. Both those made overseas and those made here are using cheaper components these days to keep prices down: thinner hoses, aluminum instead of copper, plastic versus metal, and so forth.

And, because we love everything digital, most major appliances now feature “smart” electronic panels and display screens to control temperature, water level, etc. It’s become almost impossible anymore to find appliances with old-fashioned analog dials and switches.

But we pay a price for that, because as we all know, computers can be finicky and tend to fail far more easily and cost much more to replace than a simple knob or button.

So should you opt for appliance repair instead?

Is your washing machine vibrating like crazy during the spin cycle? Do your clothes take longer to dry? Maybe your refrigerator doesn’t cool as well as it used to, or the automatic ice maker quit working years ago.

For the reasons we’ve cited above, it may be worth having a repair technician at least take a look at it before you (try to) buy a new one. The cost of a service call generally ranges between $80-$125, but if it’s something that just takes a minor adjustment or a few inexpensive parts, and the appliance is otherwise still operating well, it could be well worth the expense if you can end up saving hundreds of dollars.

On the other hand, the older an appliance is, the harder it will be to find parts for it. This is something a repair person can tell you.

“If you’re not sure why it’s not working, it’s worth taking a gamble and having someone come out,” Daryl Wooten, owner of Wooten Appliance in Ellicott City, Maryland, told Angie’s List. “You may have to pay a service fee, but at least you’ll find out what’s wrong with it. Chances are, it will be repairable and cost-effective.”

The general rule of thumb is, if it takes more than half the cost of a new appliance to repair, it’s better to replace it. Don’t forget to factor in not just the cost of the new appliance, but taxes, installation, and removal of the old one.

Another option

One thing many people don’t think of when wondering whether to repair or replace is a possible third alternative: buying used.

If you’re really strapped for cash and your old appliance has died a sudden death but you just can’t swing the cost of a new one, most areas have reputable dealers who sell reconditioned appliances. Of course, you can also find used appliances through peer-to-peer sales, but we recommend you shop from a reputable dealer who will offer at least a one-year warranty.

In addition, Habitat for Humanity sells used home appliances at reasonable prices, most of which are less than five years old. They will also pick up used appliance you’re replacing if you want to donate it them.

And if you’re eco-conscious, repairing or buying used has the extra payoff of helping support the environment, beyond just the cost savings. It will mean one less appliance piled up in a landfill.

Don’t forget to turn to BILLSHARK if you need extra cash for appliance repair or replacement, or for any other use. We have saved our customers hundreds of dollars off their Internet, wireless, pay TV and satellite radio bills by doing all the hard work for you!

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