Finances & Money

Repair An Appliance vs Buy New: 3 Steps To Help You Decide

repairing an appliance, buying an appliance, purchase or repair an appliance
 

I heard the noise at the exact time I saw the look on my wife’s face. I was exiting the laundry room and we both heard the squeak coming from the dryer I had just started. I dropped my head in disappointment, but I certainly wasn’t surprised. We built our home twelve years ago, and our dryer has operated the entire time without needing a single repair. Given the age of all of our appliances, we assume that repairs or replacements are in our future.

My wife instantly searched the internet to get an idea of how much the worst case scenario would cost. A new dryer can run between $400 and $1500. To buy a similar dryer of the same brand name as we have now, we’re looking at around $800.

My first instinct is to call an appliance repair person. While I want to get a working dryer for the least amount of money, I don’t want to get caught up in an endless cycle of repairs either. So how does a person know whether it’s economic to fix an appliance, or whether it’s time to get a new one?

Here are three steps that will help you make that decision:

Search The Internet

A quick online search revealed the most common cause of a squeaky dryer is a worn out drive belt or bearing. Both are very common repairs, neither signalling the end of the dryer’s life. There are even articles and YouTube videos to help the more adventurous perform these common repairs.

Call For a Rough Estimate

Call a repair person, describe the symptoms, and ask if they have a thought as to what it might be. You can then ask for a ballpark estimate as to what the cost would be to fix it. If their diagnosis differs from the internet, ask about that as well. While a repair person can’t tell for sure what is wrong with your appliance until they physically inspect it, this could give you a rough cost estimate to compare with the price of a new appliance.

Make The Decision

Consumer Reports suggests that one shouldn’t pay more than 50% of the cost of a new item on a repair. Weighing in on this decision should also be how much has been spent on previous repairs. Since this is our dryer’s first repair, I might be more likely to spend more than 50% on a common repair to extend it’s life and delay a major purchase. But if the repair person already knows where I live from previous service calls, it may be time to buy new.

I got a ballpark repair estimate of $250 to get the squeak out of my dryer. Funny thing happened, though. The next day I threw a load in the dryer, and it just quietly hummed along.

I’m sure the squeak will be back. But when it returns, I’ll call a repair person saving the purchase of a new dryer for another day.

How do you determine if you should have an item repaired vs buying new?

Brought to you courtesy of Brock

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Brock Kernin

8 Comments

  • Ours has squeaked occasionally for years. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. Hasn’t affected anything at all either way. It could be something with the weight of the load or how it’s balanced when it’s wet.

  • Great post. I run a website for women in Mexico City. We usually talk personal finances and kind of like frugal living. I’m going to write a post in spanish for our girls based on yours which was amazing and funny.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • My business partner and I have a number of rentals and we provide refrigerator, stove, microwave, dishwasher, washer, and dryer, so we have plenty of opportunities for repair scenarios. Here’s how we handle repairs:

    1) If it is older, we often will replace the appliance. What is older? For us, once it gets out past 5-7 years, it’s getting old. Past 10 years we definitely consider replacing. It just doesn’t make sense to spend even $100 on a repair if it is that old. Now, if we think we know the issue and can repair for a $15 part, then we might give it a shot. Microwaves and dishwashers almost always get replaced – they generally last a long time and are relatively inexpensive, plus the install can be done within 1-2 hours. Given all that it usually doesn’t make sense to try to repair unless a really simple issue.
    2) If the appliance is not older, we’ll take the YouTube route and see if we can diagnose the repair ourselves. There is a site called RepairClinic (dot com) that sells parts, and their warehouse is local to us, so we can often pick up parts instead of waiting for them to come in the mail. They also have repair videos.
    3) If the repair is unknown or a nagging issue and it is not an old unit, we have an appliance repair service which we found through Angie’s List that has reasonable rates, and the repair people have seemed to be honest. We have paid $150-$200 to repair refrigerators and washing machines.

    Dryers seem to last forever for the most part, probably because they are one of the simplest machines.

    One other thing to consider is energy efficiency. If your appliance is 10+ years old, it’s likely there is a more energy efficient model available. Keeping an older appliance that costs more to operate can mean a reapair will be more expensive in the long run than a new appliance.

  • Ours squeaked a little, then the belt broke. $10 at the local Sears, 30 minutes replacing (lots of screws and confusing routing), and the dryer is good as new.

    We have previously replaced the heating element, but I think it was only $40. At these costs it only makes sense to repair for awhile. Granted it’s a bit frustrating with all the screws and sheet metal, but $800 buys a lot of heating elements and belts.

    We have the same models as you, assuming the pic is yours, but a year or two older. The dryer is so simple, but if you take it apart be sure to vacuum every nook. Pet hair and lint get everywhere.

  • @MoneyBeagle – it’s definitely intermittent…I did laundry earlier this week and it squeaked louder than ever. I threw in a load this morning – quiet as a mouse!

  • @JoeS – thanks for sharing the great insights! It’s definitely a different situation when you’re dealing with a unit you’re renting…..as the landlord not only do you have to worry about your own pocketbook, but also the satisfaction of the tenant.

  • @Dan – You’re right…$800 CAN buy a lot of parts – especially if you’re doing the repairs yourself. The picture wasn’t mine……but I’m willing to take it apart and see what I can fix. 🙂

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