Dealing with Your Broken Appliances

by Marcus Pickett

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Appliance repair is an area that lends itself toward shady characters. Since the business doesn't require a lot of start-up capital, it's easier for people to forge a temporary business that can take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners. Inventing additional appliance problems, forcing homeowners to get unnecessary repairs or simply overcharging can all be common practices from disreputable appliance repairmen.

Before you talk to a repairman you should know the manufacturer and model of your appliance. This simple information will aid the repairman and show you have some knowledge of the situation. You should also ask your repairman if he or she is insured. Problems can arise with even the most expert and honorable contractor, and insurance can take care of larger expenses if something major does go wrong.

To Repair or to Replace?
There's no quick and easy answer for this common question. Each situation and appliance is different. What makes this question especially tricky is that you may not be able to diagnose your appliance problem yourself and are left hiring an appliance repairman just to find out whether or not the appliance can be justifiably repaired. While there probably isn't an easy or definitive answer, keep these things in mind when attempting to decide to repair or replace your appliance.

New Models—One of the hidden reasons to go ahead and replace an appliance is new technology. Newer models are continually pushing new standards of energy-efficiency, but new features and capabilities can also be a reason to purchase a new appliance. You may still want to look into repairing the older model. Some appliances, such as refrigerators, can become secondary appliances in places like the basement or garage. In some circumstances, you may also be able to repair and sell an old appliance to recoup some of the expense of a newer model.

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New Life Expectancy—Try to figure out how much longer you can expect your appliance to last if you go ahead with the repair. Part of this determination is simply looking up the manufacturer's warranty and the life expectancy of your particular model and appliance. You should also talk to an appliance repairman on the phone and ask what the common problems are for that particular model. The average appliance can break down after only 10 to 20 years of service. A low-end water heater or microwave can fall into disrepair after only 5 years. Due to concerns with liability and professionalism, a repairman is going to be reluctant to try to diagnose what's wrong with your appliance over the phone, but he or she should be able to discuss the general characteristics of that appliance.

Auxiliary Costs—Make sure you have a comprehensive list of costs for both appliance repair and replacement. Many hidden costs may exist before, after, or outside of the initial estimate. Extra energy costs for continuing to run an older appliance is common, but may not be nearly as expensive as you imagine. If you decide to replace your appliance, removing the old appliance and disposing of dangerous chemicals should be part of your replacement costs. Remember, too, that not all expenses are financial. The peace of mind of knowing you have a new, reliable appliance that is under warranty for several years can ease the concern of future headaches.

Marcus Pickett is a professional freelance writer for the home remodeling industry. He has published more than 600 articles on both regional and national topics within the home improvement industry.