Deciding whether to repair a broken product or replace it is often a difficult decision.
Consumer Reports has studied the issue and created year-by-year advice for more than a dozen home appliances, electronics, and lawn and snow equipment.
“Repairing broken items or keeping them going as long as possible isn’t always the best way to save money,” said Celia Kuperszmid-Lehrman, deputy content editor of home and appliances for Consumer Reports. “Our report spells out how much repairs usually cost, brands that breakdown and those that don’t, and cheap fixes you can handle to save money.”
Tips on how to save
Consumer Reports surveyed more than 29,000 subscribers about their product experiences as part of its 2013 Online Annual Questionnaire. Here’s what the consumer testing organization found:
Products aren’t breaking faster. The repair rates of most products in the latest survey are similar to the 2010 survey results. Some products are breaking less often. For example, laptops had a repair rate of 24 percent, down from 36 percent in 2010. The LCD TV repair rate is 7 percent, down from 15 percent. However, when products break, it’s memorable: They stop working altogether, 53 percent, or work poorly, 32 percent, according to the survey.
Avoiding a lemon. Check Consumer Reports’ “What Breaks and What Doesn’t” lists for the most temperamental product types and – from repair-history surveys – the most and least reliable brands for each. Then use the “Repair or Replace” data chart to help decide whether a repair is worthwhile, questionable, or a bad idea. The chart also gives you an idea of how much a new product costs. (See the February 2014 issue of Consumer Reports, available in bookstores or libraries, for these references. Or, you can access them if you are a member of Consumer Reports online.)
GE electric ranges were reliable, for example, while Jenn-Air and KitchenAid were both repair-prone brands, according to the survey.
Save money on repairs. People who used independent repair shops were more satisfied with the repairs than those who used factory service. That was especially true when it came to large appliances and lawn equipment.
Another way to save on repairs is to do them yourself, as did 31 percent of those surveyed whose products weren’t covered by warranty. How-to videos on YouTube and other sites – such as RepairClinic.com, which hosts more than 1,400 videos – makes repairing even complicated appliances much less challenging.
But if your product is under manufacturer’s warranty, you’ll need to use a factory-authorized repair shop or risk voiding the warranty. Be sure the technician who will be sent to your home has been properly trained on your product.
No matter who does the repair, don’t spend more than 50 percent of the cost of a new product on repairing an old one.
Warranties don’t improve satisfaction. Only 15 percent of products in the survey were covered by the manufacturer’s regular warranty when they broke, and about 10 percent were under a service contract or extended warranty. People who had a service contract or an extended warranty weren’t any happier with their repairs. They were actually more likely to have had repairs done incorrectly the first time around than people without those contracts, and they waited at least two weeks for repairs.
Even the 77 percent of people with those contracts who were offered a free repair or replacement for their product didn’t save much money overall. The median cost for the contract or warranty was $136; the median cost for repairs was $152.