Broken Appliances: Repair or replace?

July 18, 2011 8:48:41 PM PDT
It isn't always easy to know when to repair something. Consumer Reports National Research Center surveyed more than 27,000 subscribers about the troubles they'd had with their appliances.

Consumer Reports found that with 3- to 4-year-old appliances, one of the most repair-prone is a side-by-side refrigerator with an icemaker. One in three had required repairs, according to the survey.

Front-loading washing machines were also more likely than top-loaders to break down. One in four needed repairs.

And Consumer Reports found that you can't go by brand alone either. GE has made very reliable cooking appliances, but its refrigerators with icemakers are repair-prone. LG has made reliable plasma TVs and clothes dryers but not side-by-side refrigerators.

You may think it's worth safeguarding against your appliances breaking down by buying an extended warranty. But Consumer Reports has found that they almost always are not worth it.

So when should you repair, and when should you replace? Consumer Reports says that depends on the product and how old it is. But here's a rule of thumb: If the repair will cost more than half the price of a new product, it's time to buy a new one.

Consumer Reports says one way to help stave off repairs is to keep your appliances in good shape. If your home has hard or sediment-filled water, using a whole-house water softener or water filter can help keep your dishwasher and your refrigerator's icemaker in good working order.