Get this: Other than houses and cars, home appliances can be the biggest investments we make. Not nearly as glamorous either. First, I’ll give you the over-arching rule of thumb: If the repair will cost more than 50 percent of the price of replacing the appliance, you should get a new one. I could end it there, but that would be a pretty lame segment. Plus, I know you may be in denial that you actually have to pay to replace one of these big machines in your house. I went through it myself with my dishwasher.
So here’s the other info that can help you say sayonara to old appliances: their average life span. That’s right, the National Association of Home Builders did a study and actually figured out how long most appliances typically last before they conk out for good. Here goes:
Air Conditioners 15 years
Dishwashers 9 years (mine lasted WAY less)
Dryers 13 years
Furnaces 15-20 years
Garbage Disposals 12 years
Microwaves 9 years
Refrigerators 13 years
Stoves 13-15 years
Washers 10 years
Water Heaters 10-20 years
Where your appliance falls in those ranges will depend on the brand and how well you maintain it. Think of your appliances like a car. They need tune ups. The number one steps you can take for a few key appliances are to: never overload your washer, remove lint from your dryer trap AND vent, keep your dishwasher drain and filter clear, and vacuum your refrigerator coils (I need to do that —or nag my husband to!)
OK, so you can save by biting the bullet and replacing instead of repairing.
And there are ways to save on the repair itself. First of all, be sure to check your warranty before paying for repairs. My furnace went out recently and the technician told me it was going to be a $600 repair. But I had this fuzzy memory that we had somehow extended our warranty just by registering the unit with the manufacturer when we bought it. I insisted that the local company check and, sure enough, we got the repair for free.
If you do need to pay for a repair, be the hunter, not the hunted. In other words, do business with a repair company you seek out, not one that goes door-to- door offering free inspections. That’s a come-on to get in your door and find expensive faux problems.
Next, insist on a written estimate. Reason being, some states require the company to get your permission if the cost is going to go up more than 10 percent.
Finally, pay little or nothing up front. Fly-by- night appliance contractors have been known to get their money in advance and then disappear without doing the work. Established firms will be happy to get paid at the end of the job.
Know these rules of thumb and you can avoid overpaying for appliance repairs or repairing them this year only replace them next year.