Appliances: When to Repair and When to Replace

by Matt Solis


Household appliances generally last 10 to 15 years before they need to be replaced. Photo: Tom’s Appliance Service, Inc. ©2021

We rely on our household appliances to make life easier. So, when your dishwasher no longer rinses as well as it used to or your stove top won’t turn on, your efficiently run home can screech to a halt. Determining whether to repair or replace a broken appliance can be tricky. In this article, you’ll find some guidelines to help you decide whether to call a local appliance repair technician or head to an appliance showroom to find something new. 

How old is the appliance?

In general, appliances last 10 to 15 years depending on how frequently they’re used. Larger appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines tend to last a little longer, and smaller ones such as microwaves usually need to be replaced sooner.

How much will it cost to repair the appliance?

Appliance repair technicians usually charge a flat fee for an appointment with additional charges for labor and materials, depending on the scope of the repair. For an appliance that’s not at the end of its life cycle, consider the following formula: if the cost of the repair is greater than 50 percent of buying a new appliance, it’s time to replace. 

Do you need a working appliance right away?

If you need a working appliance quickly, your best bet is to call a repair service. Most companies can send a technician by the next day, and technicians’ trucks are stocked with parts, so they can make repairs on the spot. Alternatively, ordering a new appliance can take several weeks, depending on the model and availability.  

What will be the environmental impact?

The thinking goes, it’s better for the environment to repair something rather than throw it out and buy something new. With appliances, it’s not as clear cut whether repairing or replacing will have a greater environmental impact. New appliances use considerably less water and electricity than their older counterparts. Also, the metal components of old appliances are usually recycled.  

Who can repair appliances?

Homeowners should know that while national appliance brands often have repair technicians on staff, there are no disadvantages to calling a local, independent repair service. A highly qualified independent technician will take classes to keep up-to-date on the latest appliance features, which means they’ll have broader general knowledge about appliance issues and repair options. 

Common Appliance Issues

Washing machines

If your washing machine is making excessive noise or shaking more than usual, it could simply be off balance. If the washer is providing too much or too little water, a damaged hose could be the culprit. A cracked drum is a serious problem for a washing machine—since repairing the drum requires significant disassembly, replacement is usually recommended.  


A refrigerator that fails to keep cool might have issues with the condenser coils located at the back or bottom of the unit. Sometimes just vacuuming the coils to remove excess dust can solve the issue. A refrigerator that leaks or won’t dispense water may have a frozen water line that’s causing a blockage. If you notice that your refrigerator’s exterior seems hot, this could be an indication that the motor is on its last legs and the unit needs to be replaced.


Dishwashers are susceptible to issues caused by the accumulation of food particles. Failing to clean the dishwasher filter can prevent water from properly draining, leaving a puddle in the unit at the end of the wash. However, if a dishwasher still fails to drain even after the filters are cleared, this could be a sign that it’s time to find a replacement. Likewise, if there are any cracks on the interior of the dishwasher, replacement is the best option. 


The heating element can sometimes fail in electric ovens, leading to improperly cooked food. Thankfully, an appliance repair specialist can easily replace the heating element in most cases. Gas ovens will fail to ignite if there’s too much food debris clogging the igniters. If a thorough cleaning doesn’t eliminate the problem, you should call a professional, as identifying faulty gas lines is specialized work. Ovens should run silently, so contact a qualified technician if there are any unusual buzzing, ticking or rattling noises. 

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