Repair or Replace?

Amber Randhawa Homeowner and Homebuyer Tips

Photo Credit: Blaz Erzetic @www_erzetich_com

When you have a large ticket item that is starting to show signs of age, or is no longer functioning the way it is supposed to, it can be difficult to decide if you should sink money into repairs, or if it is a better idea to cut your losses and replace the item completely. While this has always been a tough call in many situations, the current pandemic world we live in can make the decisions even more difficult. Is a replacement product readily available, or will you need to wait a long time for the item to be shipped? On the other hand, can a professional find the parts needed to perform a repair, or are those necessary items also a victim of our current supply chain woes? Is your local service company understaffed due to job disruption or even as a result of Covid. Whether you will be waiting for a replacement or simply a part needed for a repair and someone to do the work, you will likely need to maintain your patience and composure more now than ever before.

Even without taking the current supply chain issues into account, there are still several factors that need to be considered when deciding to repair or replace an item, such as cost, convenience and quality of the finished product. While we can’t fix the shipping industry, we can give you some sound advice regarding what you should fix and what you should replace.


Photo Credit: Kate Ibragimova

Most of us wouldn’t think about replacing our vehicle the first time it needs a repair, but if your car is getting older and several parts have already needed to be replaced, you may begin to wonder if its worth continuing to sink money into the car, or if instead you should trade it in on a newer model. There’s actually a standard calculation financial experts use when advising someone whether to sell or repair an automobile. First you need to know your car’s current value, which you can find on sites such as Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds. Try to find the value of your car both with and without the repairs. If the amount of value increase from getting the work done exceeds the cost of the repairs, then you should go for the fix rather than a replacement.

For example, if your car in it’s current state is worth $10,000, but it would fetch $14,000 if it were in proper working order, your magic number for a repair estimate would be $4,000. Any repair cost under $4,000 makes the fix worthwhile. If repair costs go over $4,000, you would be better off simply trading in or selling your car even though minor work on it is needed, and purchasing a new one. This is a simple calculation though, that doesn’t actually take into account current upheavals in the automobile market. Used cars are worth a lot more currently than they usually are, and the supply of them available to potential buyers is running perpetually low. For now, you should also take into account how easy it would be to find another car right now if you prefer to buy used, and how much your used car would bring under these conditions.

Mobile Phones and Tablets

Photo Credit: Insung Yoon @insungyoon

Remember the early smart phones? If you got just a little bit of rain on them, you might find yourself praying over a bowl of rice that the phone would somehow turn back on after the rice had magically dried out all of the components. Now that the majority of our phones are at least water resistant, the main problem most of us face is a cracked screen or a phone or tablet that no longer holds a charge. Can these issues be remedied inexpensively, or are you going to need to replace your device?

Unless you are using a device that is already several generations old, or you are due for an upgrade with your carrier’s contract, you should probably consider getting a phone or tablet repaired if you have something simple like a busted the screen or if you are experiencing issues with charging. Independent repair shops are easy to find, and may appear to be less expensive than chains such as uBreakiFix, but make sure you read online reviews or ask around to see if anyone has had a good experience with the location you are considering. Corporate chains sometimes charge more for repairs, but they are more likely to guarantee their work and use only authentic parts. For any issues that go beyond a simple screen or battery replacement, you will likely save money in the long run by upgrading your device instead. Luckily, most reputable repair shops will give you an estimate up front and you can use this to make an informed decision about how to proceed.

Is it ever an option to attempt a repair yourself? This depends on the brand of the device and how handy you consider yourself with such matters. Replacing the screen on any of the more recent iPhones is rather straightforward and is a job most of us can accomplish after a quick YouTube tutorial, and with the aid of a specialized iPhone screwdriver. While you have the device open replacing the screen, it’s also easy to pop a new battery in, so you might want to consider doing this even if you are currently seeing any power issues. Android devices are not as easily fixed, and usually should be taken to a professional for an estimate and/or repair. Also, repairing iPads is significantly harder due to the way they are glued together rather than using screws. These repairs should be undertaken by professionals only.


Photo Credit: James McKinven @jmckinven

Based on the ease of replacing a battery in an iPhone, you might assume this rings true of all Apple products. However, the rule is reversed for Macs versus Windows machines. On the newer Macs, the battery is actually glued in, and you need a specific solvent to dissolve the glue in order to remove the old battery. On other laptops such as HP and Dell models, you can easily replace a battery yourself. If you have an issue that reaches beyond a simple battery replacement, all brands of laptops should go to a professional for an estimate so that you can decide if replacement is a better solution than a repair.

Household Appliances

Photo Credit: JOSBRA design @josbra

There’s never a good time for your oven or refrigerator to stop working, but these household necessities always seem to have a knack for giving out just when they are needed the most, such as before a planned family gathering or dinner party. Before you make the decision about whether to replace or repair, make sure that something else isn’t to blame – check to make sure that the circuit to your kitchen hasn’t been tripped, or that your appliance isn’t on uneven footing – sometimes simply not being level can cause an appliance not to turn on. Another common issue is that a vent is clogged or a filter needs to be replaced.

If you have done some basic troubleshooting and can verify that the appliance itself is truly to blame, your next step should be to check and see if your appliance is still under warranty. If you are within the coverage window, contact the manufacturer to schedule a repair with one of their local contractors. Most of the time you will be well outside of the 1-2 year warranty periods when an appliance begins to act up. If so, you can follow the 50% rule when deciding whether to replace or repair household appliances – if an appliance is more than 50% through its expected functional lifespan, and if the cost of one repair is more than 50% of what you would spend to purchase a replacement, then you should replace rather than repair.

What is the lifespan of an average appliance though? While these are all estimates, you can normally expect the following:

  • Dishwasher – 9 years
  • Disposal – 12 years
  • Dryer – 13 years
  • Electric Range – 13 years
  • Gas Range – 15 years
  • Microwave – 9 years
  • Refrigerator – 13 years
  • Washing Machine – 10 years

Remember though, these are merely estimates. The longevity of your particular appliances rely heavily on the quality of the brand you have purchased, and on how well you have cared for the appliance since you’ve had it. The better you treat your appliances, including regular inspections and thorough cleaning, the closer they will come to achieving the longevity listed above.

To fully apply the 50% rule as recommended above, you’ll also need an estimate for how much your repair will cost. Most repair companies charge a fee to come to your home and diagnose the problem, though this fee will usually be waived should you go forward with the repair. If you are certain you know what the problem is, you can research online to find out how much the repair will likely cost. Compare a few sources that specifically outline the cost of such repairs in or near your neighborhood, so you can make a well educated decision.