Helpful advice on when it's worthwhile to repair an appliance and when it's time to buy new

When the refrigerator stops cooling or the clothes washer stops agitating, you have to ask yourself: Should I repair it or replace it?

In many cases, having an appliance repair technician inspect the appliance can result in a quick answer and could save you dollars depending on the age of your appliance.

Many skilled appliance repair technicians say the cost of repairing an appliance is often less than 30 percent of the cost of replacing the appliance.

"A repair person can come over to the house and fix the problem at a good cost," say most technicians. "It will also save you the time of having to shop and compare prices [for a new appliance]."

Know your appliance's life expectancy

In many cases, if a repair will cost more than 50 percent of the cost of a replacement appliance, and the broken appliance is more than six or seven years old, it could be time to buy a new appliance. If the repair cost is at the borderline, and the replacement appliance has a better Energy Star rating, the energy savings can make the replacement the best choice.

The National Association of Home Builders provides the following estimates for the longevity of common household appliances:

Dishwasher: 9 years
Refrigerator: 13 years
Freezer: 11 years
Kitchen range/oven (gas): 15 years
Washing machine: 10 years
Dryer: 13 years

Ask the right questions

Before calling for a repair, or shopping for a possible replacement, here are a few steps you should take and questions you should answer:

Begin by finding the paperwork for the appliance.

Is the appliance still under warranty? If it is, a repair or replacement may be covered.

Is the appliance actually broken? Or are you seeing the symptoms of some other problem such as a short circuit in the electrical plug; a tripped circuit breaker in the breaker box; or a bad surge protector outlet?

Is this a new problem with the appliance? If the appliance has always been trouble free, it could be worth fixing instead of replacing it with something unproven.

What would a replacement appliance actually cost? Check with your favorite retailer and get pricing not only on the appliance, but on the removal and disposal of the broken appliance, any installation costs, and any taxes. Does that total replacement cost fit in your budget?

Would a replacement appliance have new features your broken one does not? Are these features you would like and use, but do not have with your broken appliance?

Would the replacement appliance be more energy efficient? If so, would the energy savings be enough in the long run to offset the price of a new appliance? Also check and see if any tax credits are available for the replacement appliance because of the energy savings.

Still unsure? Call an expert (Call 770-604-1699)

An experienced appliance repair technician can make recommendations about the repair verses replace question.

"If you're not sure why it's not working, it's worth taking a gamble and having someone come out," says Daryl Wooten, owner of Wooten Appliance in Ellicott City, Maryland. "You may have to pay a service fee, but you'll at least find out what's wrong with it. Chances are it will be repairable and cost-effective."

Consider other options

Sometimes, it's tempting to replace an appliance that works, but looks outdated — but you still have options.

Rick Guthrie, owner of Alpine Painting Company in Indianapolis, gets calls from prospective customers looking to spruce up their old appliances that still work well, instead of replacing them.  Companies like Guthrie's will refinish and/or repaint older appliances, making them look as good as new and matching them to any desired color scheme.

"It's a heck of a lot cheaper than replacing," Guthrie said.

Call (770) 604 1699 to schedule an appointment.