When to repair and when to replace?

January 13, 2014

Consumer Reports surveyed more than 29,000 of its subscribers and can tell you what types of products break most often and how to decide whether to fix them or buy new.

Side-by-side refrigerators with icemakers are among the most problem prone appliances, according to a Consumer Reports survey of its subscribers. 31 percent needed repairs by the time they were four years old.

Celia Lehrman of Consumer Reports says, "Bottom freezer refrigerators with icemakers needed repairs almost as often - 28 percent of them."

Other products that tend to break within four years? Dishwashers - 20 percent; self-propelled gas mowers - 23 percent; and lawn tractors - 28 percent.

So when is a repair worth it?

Celia says, "Our general advice for newer appliances and electronics is to fix them rather than ditch them if the cost of the repair is less than half the cost of replacement."

Consumer Reports did find some products are getting more reliable. LCD televisions now have a seven percent repair rate, compared to 15 percent in 2010. Even laptops are improving. It's 24 percent now. It was 36 percent.

"It's annoying when something breaks. And more than half the people in our survey opted to not go for repairs," said Lehrman.

Still, if it makes sense to fix it, Consumer Reports says go with an independent shop. Those surveyed found independents better and cheaper than authorized repair centers.

Consumer Reports also says, don't be afraid to haggle over the cost of the repairs. Those in the survey who asked for a lower price got it nearly 40 percent of the time.

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