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Repair or Replace Your Faulty Appliance? – A Short Guide to Help You Decide

Last updated on June 26th, 2023

As the old saying goes, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.  Is one appliance in the hand worth two in the bush?  While I may have pushed that proverb a little far, the answer is not black and white.  Whether you will end up ahead financially by repairing your appliance instead of purchasing a replacement is in many ways dumb luck.  Whether you will save money on your next appliance purchase, or instead opt for repairing your appliance does depend on some factors within your control to skew the odds in your favour.

Repairing your appliance instead of making your next appliance purchase?

There’s two different approaches you can take in repairing your appliance to avoid your next appliance purchase.  You can attempt the repair yourself, or you can call out a professional repairer to help out by repairing your appliance for you.  If you decide to try repairing your appliance yourself, they are for the most part modular, and for popular brands and models like LG, Electrolux, Bosch, Samsung, LG, Miele, Hisense, Haier and Asko, you can often find guides to help you on Google, Youtube and in forums.  If you’re working with a cheaper less reputable brand, you’ll struggle to find guides and videos, and you’re likely to also have a hard time finding any parts.  Having a go at repairing an appliance yourself is not a bad way to go if you have a level of mechanical aptitude and understanding of electrical safety.  It goes without saying that you need to unplug the appliance before repairing your appliance, and you need to watch out for capacitor discharge even when unplugged – especially with microwaves.  Remember – there’s no point to save money on professional appliance repair if it comes at the expense of your life.  Another downside to repairing your appliance yourself is that you have to figure out how it all comes apart, which screws go where, and try not to break things.  You won’t know how much force to apply in many cases, and what’s normal, so the probability of breaking something while trying to access the part you need is pretty high.  Finally if you attempt  repairing your appliance and then give up on it, and decide to get a professional for repairing your appliance, they’re going to charge you more to work on the shambles you’ve left the appliance in, and you’d want to hope they’re damn good at their job.  If you’ve unplugged a whole bunch of wires and don’t know where they go anymore (always take photos before you unplug and disassemble!) you’re going to need a model specialist to put it all back together.  $$$.  That said if you’re staring down the barrel of your next appliance purchase and you intend to send this appliance to the scrapheap you don’t have a lot to lose by working on it yourself, provided you are competent enough not to kill yourself trying to save money on appliance work.  Most of the time an appliance fails it is usually just a minor part that’s a quick job to fix, and once the diagnostics is done correctly it’s often not that hard to replace the part with a Youtube guide.

Now if you’re thinking about calling a professional in, there are some downsides, particularly if you live in a country with high wages like Australia.  For starters you’re usually going to pay a callout fee of at least $150.  A technician will come out and evaluate the appliance and provide an assessment on repairing your appliance.  If it’s an expensive repair or not worth doing, that’s the end of your money and onto your next appliance purchase.  If you have a common brand you might be lucky and the repairer might have the part in their van.  If not, another visit and more money.  Sometimes parts can take weeks to arrive as well, so prepare to be without for a while.  For fridges it’s also worth noting that they may need to be turned off completely for a few days to return normal function as part of the repair, so if having a faulty fridge completely offline for a few days is out of the question, time to move onto your next appliance purchase.    You also want to make sure your appliance repairer guarantees not only their work, but that their work will mean the trouble free operation of the appliance for at least a few months.  Many don’t offer this, and if the appliance is misdiagnosed or needs further work, not only are you on the hook for more money, you’re pot committed at this point and more likely to throw good money after bad.

A big consideration in deciding on repairing your appliance or going ahead with your next appliance purchase is in its value.  What’s it worth?  Anything worth less than the callout fee of the appliance repairer plus the cost of parts, is not worth repairing.  Newer brand name appliances like Fisher and Paykel Electrolux LG and Samsung, and certainly most Mieles and Askos less than 5 years old can be worth repairing.  You want to be careful that your appliance is not at the end of its useful life as well.  I once had a Miele washing machine I loved, and every few months something would break – the machine was just past its designed life.  I had to let it go.  Appliance failures all follow the bathtub curve, there’s a lot of failures in the first few months, then they’re very reliable for many years, then they start reaching the end of their life and need major overhaul to continue in service.  The design life for most brand name appliances is at least 10 years.

Another big consideration is in the symptoms you are having, and below we have a very general guide to inform you before you potentially waste money on a needless call out fee to tell you the appliance is dead.

  • Dryer:  If the drum struggles to start spinning or doesn’t spin heavier loads its usually the motor capacitor, a very cheap part, $3 for an aftermarket one at trade prices, usually marked up to $50 by the technician.  For dryers if you just have a cheap vented one, even a brand name like Simpson Fisher and Paykel or Electrolux, they’re not worth repairing as they are pretty cheap new.  You’re often better off saving money on appliance repair and buying refurbished appliances from a reputable seller.  If the appliance is a heatpump or condenser dryer, they are usually worth fixing, but bear in mind you can usually get a good price for them broken on Facebook marketplace or as well. Resellers are always looking for broken to stock to buy to repair or as parts, a broken brand name condenser or heatpump dryer is worth $50-$200 broken.
  • Fridge:  First check your thermostat is set on coldest and not warmest.  I can’t count how many fridges I have seen where the customer thought it was too hot, but they had set it to its hottest setting thinking it was its coldest setting.  If the fridge is too warm but the freezer is cooling adequately the problem is generally a defrost or fan fault and easily fixable.  Or you’ve left the doors open and need to defrost the appliance by turning it off a few days and waiting for the ice to melt out.  It doesn’t hurt to turn it off a few days if you can with the doors open and see if the problem resolves.  If it does, and the issue doesn’t repeat in the next month, problem solved.  If it does repeat after a week or a few weeks have passed its likely an issue with the defrost heater or defrost timer.  If it doesn’t fix the issue its usually a fan.  Now if the freezer is too warm and the fridge is too warm, its either a faulty compressor overload or start switch, which is relatively easily fixed, but could also be refrigerant loss, compressor failure or a blocked refrigeration system which is expensive to fix and usually not done.  A broken fridge is worth $0-$200 broken depending on symptoms, brand and model.
  • Frontloader washing machine:  If the water isn’t draining often the filter is clogged, most of the time with money.  Get paid to fix your own machine!  Check the filter.  If that doesn’t resolve the issue its often the drain pump.  Most machines accept a universal pump that trade buys at $10, retails at $25.  Cheap and easy.  If the drum isn’t spinning and the machine is a direct drive it could be a number of things but probably the motor controller – a relatively rare issue.  If the machine is much louder on spin than usual, it’s usually the drum bearing and not worth repairing.  If the machine is a cheaper machine and not direct drive or inverter and the drum has stopped spinning (especially if it spins but just won’t spin at the spin cycle part) it may just need motor brushes which are cheap and easy to replace.  If it leaks water from the detergent drawer it’s usually a water valve, cheap and easy.  If it overfills its usually pretty easy to fix as well, a problem with the sensor or sensor tube, or it can just be an air bubble where it shouldn;t be especially if you’ve just moved the washing machine.  If the machine is taking too long to wash you’re usually overloading it, and it’s trying to balance the load for ages before it spins.  If it vibrates a lot the shock absorbers may need replacement, which is relatively cheap and easy.  If it’s not spinning things dry as well as it used to 9 times out of 10 the customer has set the spin speed lower.  A  broken frontloader is worth around $100-$200 broken depending on symptoms, brand and model.
  • Toploader washing machine:  The same as for frontloader washing machines except if the machine isn’t draining there usually isn’t a filter to check.  If the machine is going out of balance a lot, either you are overloading it, or it needs new shock absorbers.  Toploaders are worthless broken in most cases, and of all the appliances hold onto their value the most poorly.
  • TV:  If its not one of the PCB control boards its usually not worth repairing.  If you really know what you’re doing you can find the exact component on the PCB that’s faulty and replace that for just a few dollars.  Broken screens and LEDs are usually not worth replacing, or glued in, and not replaceable.  Worthless broken in most cases.
  • Microwave:  Not worth repairing, too cheap to buy refurbished or new.  Especially dangerous to work on because of capacitor discharge even when unplugged.  Worthless broken in most cases.
  • Dishwasher:  Very difficult to work on, and in most cases not worth repairing.

Making your next appliance purchase instead of repairing your appliance?

So you’ve decided it’s easier to replace your appliance instead of repairing it.  It certainly has its upside, but there are also significant downsides here, and it can be a complex and time consuming operation especially if you try to save money on appliance by looking for refurbished appliances or used appliances for your next appliance purchase.  There are many ways to shop for appliances, but it’s important that you do your research and don’t get caught up in the hype. Before making a purchase, make sure that you know what features are important to you and how long the appliance will last.

Buying new appliances

Usually the most expensive way to acquire your appliance.  The main upside is you should have a reliable appliance from a reputable seller with a reliable warranty that will be honoured – but there are big downsides as well.  Buying a new appliance sees you fall foul of the bathtub curve we talked about earlier.  Brand new appliances are terribly unreliable for the first few months even up to the first year before settling into reliable service.  This is a result of human error largely – manufacturing defects and errors in assembly.  Aside from this the other major downside is the expense, and the immediate depreciation when it leaves the showroom floor.  If you thought buying a new car was bad, try selling a high end fridge you just bought a month ago.  You can expect it to have lost at least 60% straight away, closer to 80% after a year or so.  While this is bad news for those who buy new it can mean you can pickup a pretty new appliance used, on the right side of the bathtub curve for much less than you’d spend buying new.  Seems like an obvious way to save money on appliance purchases.  Right?  Unfortunately, not and it comes down to the main upside of buying new.  You lose the reputable seller with a reliable warranty that will be honoured, and that can quickly end up costing you more than the if you had bought new, and for the most part you can’t be sure how old the refurbished appliance is, and which end of the bathtub curve it will fall.


Buying used or refurbished appliances

The good news when making your next appliance purchase a refurbished appliance is the savings.  The main downside to making your next appliance purchase a used or refurbished appliance is the uncertainty.  Will it work?  Will my warranty be honoured by the seller?  If the appliances are refurbished appliances, are they really?  One tip is to ask the seller if they have the original purchase receipt, then you can have a lot more certainty that it’s pretty new – but expect to pay a bit more.  This tip will only work with a private seller as well, and you’d probably need to be able to move the appliance yourself.  A tip when buying from an appliance retailer or appliance reseller is to always pay with a credit or debit card, as a seller who offers this payment method is unlikely to rip you off, as you could always issue a chargeback for a bad machine.  When buying a used appliance, it’s largely about avoiding being scammed, and we’ve written some articles to help you spot the scams and minimise your chances of being duped. 

Is it cheaper renting?

Which is cheaper renting, or buying?  Traditional rental is usually just money lending at exorbitant interest rates.  And when it isn’t it’s usually geared towards short term, with very high rates. Generally it is not cheaper renting and you won’t save money on appliance acquisition by renting.  Rent to buy is usually the worst way you could possibly acquire your new appliances, and it won’t be cheaper renting appliances on a short term basis either. Other than the very high weekly or monthly payments, where you pay for the appliance two or three times over, if anything goes wrong with it, and it’s out of warranty, well that’s your problem  If it needs repair or replacement, you will still be expected to pay the rental for the term of the contract.  You won’t save money on appliance rental, that is for sure!

Subscription Appliances

Subscription appliances is similar to renting, but there are some major differences.  Subscription appliances combines the flexibility of short term rental with lower pricing and a long term outlook.  Instead of buying or renting, you subscribe to your appliances.  There are usually no lock in contracts so you can return whenever you want, and you can easily upgrade or downgrade your appliances, or upsize or downsize as your life changes.  You no longer have to worry about moving appliances from place to place either, and if they break or develop a fault, that’s not your problem!  In fact you’re paying for working appliances, not faulty ones, and if the subscription appliance business doesn’t deal with the issue quickly enough for you, you can easily vote with your wallet and return them.  Theoretically you could cancel your order and make a new order after pickup.  Subscription appliances reverses all of the risks of faulty appliances back onto the people providing them, the people who are best equipped to deal with these issues.  Instead of repairing your appliance, purchasing a refurbished appliance, wondering whether it is cheaper renting – subscription appliances are a worthwhile consideration for your next appliance acquisition.

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