You’re worried the washing machine may be on its last spin cycle. It makes a horrible screeching sound and needs a lot of coaxing to make it all the way through a full cycle. Should you spend $319 to fix this inefficient appliance or replace it with a $999 new model that will use less electricity and water?
Deciding whether to repair or replace your broken appliance — especially when trying to save money in the long run — can be challenging.
Consider these basic guidelines, based on costs and advantages of both options, to help you decide.
If you cannot pay cash for the new replacement. You should get it repaired to buy yourself time to save up for the replacement. Even if the repairs will only keep this appliance going for a year or two, you’re far better off repairing and then saving for a new machine than paying double-digit interest for the next three to five years.
If you have some cash but not enough. Consider replacing your clunker with a older-model, lightly used, high-quality machine. Check for well-cared-for, used appliances. Spread the word to friends and neighbors. People are constantly relocating — which means needing to sell perfectly lovely, near-new appliances.
If the appliance is 8 or more years old. Once an appliance becomes elderly, it usually makes sense to buy a new one. However, if you have a high-end, older appliance, you may want to repair it.
If repairs are really expensive. If the repair bill is more than half the price of a new product, you should consider buying new rather than repairing it. But again, the deciding factor will be whether or not you will have to go into debt to buy new.
If the appliance is under warranty. Even if repairs will be only partially covered by a warranty or service contract, repairing is the way to go. If it’s under warranty, call a factory-authorized repair shop. If not, an independent contractor is likely to offer better service at a lower cost.
The costs for diagnosing problems and making repairs on home appliances have gone up considerably in the last few years. This has made replacements with new models more common.
A word to the wise. Home appliances have intentional obsolescence. By design, life expectancy has gone down slowly over the years. Take refrigerators, for example. They used to last for 30 years or longer. They were specifically designed to do that! These days, you’ll be lucky to get 10 years. And, that’s with excellent maintenance and timely repairs.
Anticipate so you are not caught off guard. Anticipate costs to repair and eventually replace major home appliances. Create a special account designated just for future appliance replacement. Setting aside a small amount of money every month will give you cash options to make wise decisions when the time comes.
Mary Hunt writes this column for Creators Syndicate. She is the founder of www.EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of “Debt-Proof Living. Submit comments or tips or address questions on her website. She will answer questions of general interest via this column, but letters cannot be answered individually.