Consumer Reports: Repair or replace?

July 5, 2011 2:06:26 PM PDT
Repairman Anthony Attanasio tells clients when an appliance breaks down, don't just rush out to buy a new one. A simple repair may do.

But it isn't always easy to know when to repair something. Consumer Reports National Research Center surveyed more than 27,000 subscribers who had repair problems, including appliances, to find out if you should repair or replace it.

"While most of the products we asked about don't break too easily, when things do go wrong, they can go horribly wrong," Anthony said.

Consumer Reports found 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 repairs.

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

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

"If you're trying to safeguard against your appliances breaking down, an extended warranty may sound like a good solution. But in our experiences, they have generally not been worth it," Consumer Reports' Dan Diclerico said

So when should you repair, and when should you replace?

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 replace it.