When an appliance is properly maintained, it can last for several years without any issues, even in adverse conditions, such as proximity to the ocean, which can accelerate rust. However, every machine or system does have a lifespan of usefulness, and when that expiration date is near, the need for repairs increases dramatically.
My Major Household Appliance Broke, What Do I Do?
When your household appliances reach this point and break down, you're faced with two options: either you buy a new one, or pay for the repairs. In order to make the right choice, it's important to consider several things. In the first place, check the appliance's age and warranty period. If it's still under warranty, the repair fee might be zero, or next to nothing. Assuming this is not an option, it's still important to take into account the age of the machine, and how much useful life it still averages.
Begin by obtaining repair quotes from a minimum of four service providers. The National Home Service Contract Association (NHSCA), a non-profit industry trade organization of member companies serving home contract providers, can be an invaluable resource in this, via their handy map tool that allows consumers to find reputable contractors in their area. If the cost to fix the appliance averages around 50% of the cost of purchasing a new one, you should finance the repair. Anything over that percentage probably means you're better off upgrading to a newer model, with its own brand new warranty.
Remember to bear in mind that very old appliances may face additional issues, such as the difficulty of finding hard-to-place spare parts, for which your repairman may charge an additional fee. Substituting original parts with spare alternatives may bring more problems down the road, and the immediate savings can result in costlier repairs. If your situation bears any resemblance to this, it may be a good idea to scrap your ancient appliance, and simply get a new one, which will also probably be more energy efficient and reliable. As an added bonus, this can not only lower your power bills and your carbon footprint, but also pay for itself over time.
How Much Will Replacing or Repairing an Appliance Cost Me?
Appliance repair can be a large investment, especially when it's a major appliance that requires frequent maintenance. Homeowners report that the average cost for appliance repair is $170 and most spend between $105 and $236. Most service providers charge by the hour (with rates averaging between $100-$200), as well as a standard, additional trip fee for home service. Bear in mind that since small repairs may take less than an hour to complete, you may be charged a flat fee.
When researching different service providers (we recommend you ask for a minimum of four quotes), make sure to find out whether their estimates include parts, labor, and a service fee, if it isn't clearly itemized. Ask about payment methods, written guarantees, and whether they cover or pay for any damages incurred during the repairs.
Some things that may factor into your total cost are whether the appliance runs on gas or electric power (gas is more expensive to fix), how easy the appliance is to reach and work on, and finally, if its parts are easy to locate. A good tip for lowering costs is to try and find a local contractor, rather than a repairman who works for a larger company with standardized rates.
Common Household Appliance Repair Costs
Cost of repairing a refrigerator - This is one of the most essential kitchen appliances, and repairs are quite often time-sensitive. When you have a refrigerator/freezer combo in need of fixing, it will generally take between 2-3 hours, and cost approximately $200-$400. Repairing an icemaker usually runs homeowners around $330. Other common repairs include rattling sounds from the drip pan ($0-$50), your defroster ($100-$200), and the freezer ($200-$250).
Factors to be taken into consideration:
- Age: If it's less than 8 years old, repair. More than 15, purchase a new one.
- Type: Built-in fridges are less expensive to repair if they're less than five years old, side-by-side ones are more expensive when over 5 years old.
- Efficiency: If you think your fridge is increasing your electrical bill, replacing it for a more energy-efficient model can be a great idea, despite the initial upfront costs.
- Noises: Is your fridge humming or buzzing, and failing to keep your food cold? It's probably an issue with the compressor, which can run you between $20-$200.
Cost to repair a washing machine - This is another appliance that can be costly to repair, especially since waiting may mean expensive trips to the laundromat. Average costs are between $50-$150, depending on the gravity and extent of the issue.
Some common problems include:
- Failure to drain: This may be due to a faulty pump (the part that moves water out of the washer and through the drainpipe) or simply a clog. To check, disconnect it from the washer motor and check for any obstructions.
- Wobbling: This may be due to an imbalance in the laundry itself, which should balance itself out, or in the four stands that support it, which may need to be replaced.
- Leaking: Washers have three hoses (two supply ones, and one that drains). Check connections to make sure they're secure, and then see if there are any holes.
- Underfilling: This usually indicates an issue with the water control or inlet valve. There's a good chance your hose may just be kinked, so make sure to verify before calling in a professional.
- Standing Water: This may occur because of a clog in the drain. Check before calling in a repairman, and make sure to include this in your washer's maintenance.
- Mechanical Failures or problems with the Drive Belt: This sort of problem requires professional intervention.
Cost to repair a dryer - Depending on the type of repair, a dryer can cost between $100-$400, with additional labor prices between $30 and a $100 per hour. Gas dryers cost more than electrical ones when you buy them, but more than make up for the extra $50-$150 by being far cheaper to run. Common issues include the igniters, flame sensors, gas valves, or thermal fuses.
Common issues include:
- Dryer belt replacement: This can be done yourself, by first removing the lint filter, and then popping off the dryer top. Remove the screws and detach the front. Remove the old belt, vacuum the area, and replace with the new belt. Professional installation can cost up to $200.
- Dryer coil replacement
- No heat: This can be caused by a number of things, including a bad thermostat or a bad timer; or bad fuses, temperature switches, or heating coils. Costs vary between $80-$200.
- Drum issues: These are typically due to a broken belt, but can also be your roller, motor or idler pulley. Costs vary between $50-$200.
- Overheated dryer: Clogged vents, a bad thermostat or faulty heating coils can cause this, and should be addressed immediately. Costs vary between $50-$100.
- Faulty dryer: The reasons for this are manifold, from lack of power to a bad timer, thermostat, terminal block or start switch. Costs vary between $50-$1,000.
Cost to repair an oven/range/cooktop - Without an oven range, you're basically doomed to eat either cold or microwaved food. Depending on the extent of the issue, repairs can be anywhere between $100-$200 per project, and since this generally takes about an hour of labor, that'll be an additional $50-$100. Common issues include a broken burner, burner running too hot, indicator light, stuck oven door, spark electrode, poor heating, bad temperature readings, and faulty baking or broiling.
Cost to repair smaller appliances - The cost of repairing things like your garbage disposal, toaster oven, and microwave depends on the parts you need, and on whether you hire a pro or take on the project yourself. An average cost range can be between $100-$150 for smaller appliances. Bigger ones, such as dishwashers, can add anywhere from $50-$100 to that.
Some Last Helpful Tips
In the first place, please make sure you check the warranty on any appliance before calling in professional help. The money you can save on repairs is invaluable—it may even pay for them in full. Speaking of warranties, get an extended one for the next appliance purchase you make, especially if it's a major one, (refrigerators, stoves, wall ovens, and front-loading laundry machines). These all require substantial initial investments, and will cost a lot to subsequently maintain. On average, appliances are now built to last 6-9 years, compared with 8-12 years thirty years ago. They're also equipped with more expensive parts, which results in a higher-than-average repair cost. However, they are more energy-efficient than their older counterparts. Finally, we cannot emphasize enough the crucial importance of maintenance. Keeping your appliances clean and in good condition can translate into much less breakage and repairs in the long run.