Refrigerator Not Working? Tips to Fix or Replace It

Written by Anita Alvarez
Updated October 14, 2015
inside view of refrigerator with doors open
Regardless of age or efficiency, if your refrigerator remains under warranty it's best to file a repair claim first. (Photo by Summer Galyan)

A refrigerator older than 10 years may require minor repairs, but the repair costs can also increase with age.

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Facing yet another repair for your refrigerator? Don't let repair costs spiral out of control. Learn what signs to look for to know when it's ideal to keep fixing it — and when to cut your losses and buy a new fridge.

Refrigerators, like other mechanical systems, will wear out and break down with time. Here are four factors to evaluate before deciding to repair or replace your refrigerator:

Refrigerator Age

Most refrigerators are designed to last between 10 and 20 years. As your appliance nears the age of 10, it's more likely to break down and require repairs that are often simple to fix. As the appliance ages beyond 10 years and you're facing a costly repair, such as replacing the compressor, it's often wiser to invest your money in a new refrigerator.

Refrigerator Efficiency

While it's important to consider the cost to repair a fridge, your refrigerator’s energy use should also be considered. If it’s an energy drain, investing in a new refrigerator that's energy efficient will cut energy costs.

In fact, Energy Star reports that a fridge that's just 10 years old will consume twice the energy of a new Energy Star refrigerator. Think of it this way: replacing an old fridge with an Energy Star-approved one can cut energy costs by $1,000 during its life.

Refrigerator Type

Some types of refrigerators are prone to break down sooner. According to Consumer Reports, homeowners should almost always repair the appliance if:

• A bottom freezer fridge is less than 7 years old.

• A side-by-side appliance is less than 5 years old.

• A top freezer refrigerator is less than 3 years old.

• The refrigerator is built in, due to costs to remove it.

For bottom or top freezers and side-by-sides, when the appliance is past the above guidelines, homeowners should consider repairing the unit in conjunction with other factors, like efficiency and wear and tear.

Refrigerator Costs

The cost to repair your refrigerator will vary greatly, depending on the problem and where you live. The repair will include labor costs, parts and supplies, so be sure to ask your service professional for an estimate before authorizing work.

In general, more complex jobs will range from $250 to $275.

Refrigerator Repair

Often, when confronted with a refrigerator problem, your first move should involve calling a refrigerator repairman. With the knowledge to properly identify problems such as failing door seals, defrost issues, clogged drain tubes and evaporator fans, the investment in a repair can often be worthwhile.

Refrigerator Wear and Tear

If you've moved the fridge from one home to another or it's had multiple repairs, consider a replacement. However, if you still have a warranty, regardless of age, type or efficiency, look into filing a repair claim first.

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