When a small appliance breaks down, it’s usually a no-brainer to throw it out. Sure, some consumers may have the inclination-and the skill-set-to recalibrate the thermostat of a fritzing toaster, but most of us wouldn’t think twice about replacing it for a mere $20. The same, of course, can’t be said for a conked-out oven or leaky fridge-particularly, when the price tags for such items can easily soar above $1,000. Consider these tips the next time you’re considering a major repair.
Not built to last
Your parents’ appliances may have lasted for decades-in fact, they’re probably still going strong-but don’t expect the same from today’s machines. “The old saying, ‘They don’t make them like they used to’ is absolutely true,” says Aaron Cohoon, an appliance technician in Nova Scotia and frequent CBC Radio One guest. “I’ve seen 30-year-old Maytags work like the day they were rolled off the showroom floor, and I’ve seen brand new Maytags get chucked out after four or five years.”
Luckily you can make smart decisions before buying your next appliance to help put off that inevitable “repair it or chuck it” quandary, says Cohoon. For instance, he says front-load laundry machines are more likely to break down than traditional top-load washers, due to the weight placed on the configuration of the washing barrel. Keeping things simple can help too. Today’s fridges come with an abundance of optional features-automatic ice-makers, quick-cooling departments and filtered water dispensers to name a few. But those nifty gadgets not only increase upfront costs, they add to your future repair bills too.
Regular maintenance is another way to increase the lifespan of appliances. Emptying your dryer’s lint filter after each use is self-evident to most, but less obvious tips from Consumer Reports include cleaning your refrigerator’s condenser coils every few months and checking your oven’s door seals to ensure heat isn’t escaping.
(George Peters/Getty Images)
The right repair
Thanks to a plethora of online instructionals, many people can now do simple fixes on their own if they just involve replacing parts, says Cohoon. But when it comes to big repairs, like faulty digital controls, a qualified appliance technician is usually required. Sites like Homestars.ca can point you toward reputable repair companies, as can asking friends for recommendations, says Cohoon. “Talk to your neighbours, or post a message on Facebook. Just stay away from the fly-by-night guys who put ads on Kijiji or Craigslist.”
Bottom line: today’s major appliances have lifespans that only make major repairs worth it if they’re done within two to four years of purchase. That was the finding of a recent Consumer Reports study-particularly when it came to items like laundry machines, dishwashers and ovens. Even then, you shouldn’t spend more than 50% of the cost of a new product on repairing an old one. After four years, you should carefully consider whether to replace the appliance. And, as depressing as it sounds, once eight years have passed, it’s almost always time to chuck it out and move on, the study concluded. The only exception? Refrigerators, which have higher replacement costs-particularly if they’re built-in.