Money Basics Tips

Repair or replace

March 1, 2020

Appliances are the backbone of today’s modern homelife. So when one breaks, it can be a major inconvenience. How do decide between repairs or buying something new?


First, you should know what the expected lifespan is for your appliances. That 15-year old microwave is likely on its last leg, so it might be worth it to replace instead of repairing. But a refrigerator has a nine to 13-year lifespan and you should take that into consideration.

According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, you can generally expect the following years of use from your appliances:

Air Conditioner (window) 5 to 7
Compactor (trash) 6
Dehumidifier 8
Dishwasher 9
Disposal (food waste) 12
Dryer Vent (plastic) 5
Dryer Vent (steel) 20
Dryer (clothes) 13
Exhaust Fans 10
Freezer    10 to 20
Gas Oven 10 to 18
Hand Dryer 10 to 12
Humidifier (portable) 8
Microwave Oven 9
Range/Oven Hood 14
Electric Range 13 to 15
Gas Range    15 to 17
Refrigerator 9 to 13
Swamp Cooler 5 to 15
Washing Machine 5 to 15
Whole-House Vacuum System 20

50% rule

A good rule of thumb is to replace if the cost to repair is 50% or more of the cost of a new appliance.  Upgrading may cost more initially, but newer models are often more energy efficient, saving you money on utilities. Or you may even qualify for a rebate, bringing the overall cost down.


Sometimes, you can delay repairs or replacements with proper appliance maintenance.

  • Refrigerator: clean the coils with a vacuum cleaner at least once a year
  • Dryer: clean lint from the dryer vent and lint trap regularly
  • Washer: clean your washer on a regular basis to get rid of residue left behind by detergent or fabric softener

Repair savvy

If you do decide that it’s better to repair than replace, be smart before handing over any money. Check your warranty to see if the repairs are covered – even if your appliance is a few years old.

Only do business with reputable companies. Be wary of companies who ask for payment up-front; this could be a scam and they may not show up to do the repairs you paid for.

No appliance lasts forever, and you will find yourself making the repair or replace decision at some point. Lessen the financial burden – no matter what you choose – by having an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses like these.

This information is presented for educational purposes only. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

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