Should You Repair or Replace Your Broken Appliance?

D.P. Taylor
Written by D.P. Taylor
Updated December 16, 2021
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To repair or replace your household appliance? That is the question

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It's incredible how much we depend on our household appliances. In one evening, your dishwasher may be cleaning your dinner plates, the washing machine might be sudsing up your kid's muddy soccer uniform, and all the while, you're enjoying ice cream from your freezer.

So, of course, you want to find a solution when an appliance goes on the fritz. You may wonder whether you should repair your household appliance.

This guide breaks down the signs of a broken appliance, whether you should repair or replace it, and how to extend the lives of your appliances.

Signs That Your Appliance Is on the Fritz

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There are some key signs that you need to repair or replace an old appliance. Here’s what to look for:

  • The appliance stops working altogether.

  • The appliance doesn’t perform like it used to.

  • Water leaks around the appliance.

  • The appliance makes strange noises.

  • It makes a burning smell when it’s on.

When Should I Repair Instead of Replace an Appliance?

Generally, you should get the appliance repaired if it would cost more to replace it. For example, if a washing machine repair costs $50, then it doesn’t make sense to toss a machine you paid $1,000 for. A good rule of thumb is if the repair costs less than 50% of the cost of a replacement, go with the repair. Any price tag above that and you’re better off buying a new appliance.

So, for example, if you bought a $1,500 refrigerator and the repair will cost you $300, go ahead and get the repair. But if you’ve gotten a quote for $800, it’s probably time to shop for a new fridge.

When Should I Replace Instead of Repair an Appliance?

Here are three situations when you should consider a replacement.

1. When Your Appliance Is Nearing the End of Its Life

If you know that your appliance could reach the end of its lifespan at any moment, it’s likely time to replace it—even if the repair isn't expensive. This avoids a situation where it leaves you high and dry by breaking down on you. And if it’s at the end of its life, it’s likely not functioning efficiently.

2. When You Want to Go Eco-Friendly

Appliances consume a lot of energy, so if yours is giving you a hard time, it’s wise to go for an energy-efficient option. The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions estimates that residential electricity consumption, much of which comes from home appliances, accounts for about a fifth of U.S. energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.

3. When You Want a New Style

There's something to be said for simply loving the look of your appliances. If you crave a stylistic update to your kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room, your best bet is to replace your appliances. Keep in mind, though, a coat of paint can go a long way if you're simply looking to refinish your outdated appliances. 

How Much Does It Cost to Repair vs. Replace an Appliance?

It costs an average of $172 to repair an appliance, with a typical range of between $105 and $250. However, the fix could cost more than that if the appliance is more than ten years old, runs on natural gas, or cost more than $5,000 when you bought it.

Appliance installation is a bit more complicated since the cost of appliances varies so widely depending on which appliance you're buying. For example, a refrigerator may cost more than $10,000, but a microwave may cost just $50. Look up the model you want online to determine how much you're likely to pay.

As far as installing a new appliance, expect to pay an average of $193 for that service, with a typical range of between $117 and $270. Add that to the price tag for a new appliance to determine your overall cost, and compare that to the price of repairing the appliance.

How to Extend the Life of Your Appliances

Repeat this mantra: maintenance, maintenance, maintenance. Good practices will go a long way in helping you avoid appliance repairs. Every appliance is different, so consult with the owner’s manual for each of your appliances to come up with a maintenance schedule.

Here is a list of the general maintenance activities you should be performing:

  • Replace filters: This is an essential practice for maintaining kitchen appliances like microwaves, refrigerators, and dishwashers, which use filters that must be periodically replaced.

  • Check vents: Appliances like microwaves that use vents need periodic checking to ensure those vents are clear.

  • Regularly clean: Food, calcium deposits, and just general gunk commonly form in microwaves, dishwasher sprayer arms, and other random places that can affect the performance of that appliance.

  • Check condenser coils: Checked to see if condenser coils on refrigerators have become clogged, which will affect the appliance's performance.

  • Inspect hoses: Your washing machine uses hoses to pump water, which will need to be checked to prevent leaks and to ensure top performance.

When Should I Hire a Professional?

Your best resource for deciding whether to repair or replace an appliance is a professional contractor. Contact an appliance repair pro near you and have them look at your appliance. They can tell you what the problem is, how much it will cost to repair, and whether you should consider replacing the appliance.

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