Replace or repair: How to tell when it’s time to upgrade your home appliances


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Getting new appliances to replace broken ones can most certainly be a thrill, but to save money you may want to think about keeping up with regular maintenance rather than replacing an appliance. It may make more financial sense to pay for repairs, whether it’s a DIY or professional job.

Related: When should you make big purchases?

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Before Replacing Anything

Before a homeowner replaces any appliance they believe is beyond repair, they should make certain the appliance is no longer under warranty. Calling the manufacturer before shelling out cash for something new when the old one might still be under warranty is a good place to start.

Beyond the manufacturer’s warranty, there may be other options for appliance replacement. Some homeowners may have a home warranty, which acts as a sort of supplemental insurance on appliances in the home that homeowner’s insurance doesn’t typically cover.

It’s important to understand the details of the home warranty to make sure all the rules are followed to have the repair or replacement covered. Another option may be to have a small amount of money saved to cover any potential repairs or replacement that will certainly come up sooner or later.

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Replacing Common Home Appliances

Below is a list of home appliances and when you should consider replacing them.

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1. Dishwasher

  • Typical lifespan: The average lifespan of a dishwasher should be about 10 years. However, that doesn’t mean everyone will get a decade of bliss with their appliance. About 30% of all newly purchased dishwashers are likely to develop problems or break within the first five years.
  • Cost to replace: The average cost, with installation, of a new dishwasher is $970. Low-end models average $370, while higher-end models can cost as much as $3,500 on average.
  • Signs of wear and tear: Typical signs a dishwasher is in need of a little care include leaking, door-latching problems, dishes coming out spotty, or the machine making unusual noises, among other things.
  • How to make it last longer: Reading the instruction manual and heeding the advice on cleaning the appliance and replacing the appropriate filters is the recommended best practice to get the most years of use out of the unit.

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2. Refrigerator

  • Typical lifespan: The average lifespan of a refrigerator is similar to that of a dishwasher—about 10 years. However, like dishwashers, fridges also tend to come with some issues at the five-year mark. It’s estimated that 40% of refrigerators purchased between 2008 and 2018 will develop problems or possibly even break within the first five years.
  • Cost to replace: The average cost to replace a refrigerator is $1,500, including installation cost. Again, this cost can vary greatly depending on if a person goes for a higher or lower-end model.
  • Signs of wear and tear: Signs of typical wear and tear include a fridge that is hot to the touch in the back, visible condensation—inside or outside of the unit, excessive frost in the freezer, and unusual noises.
  • How to make it last longer: Refrigerators should be cleaned regularly to keep them in tip-top shape. This means going deep by keeping door gaskets and condenser coils clean. Since a refrigerator needs space around it to operate efficiently, keeping the top of the unit clear of clutter is important. If the fridge has an ice maker or water filter, cleaning them regularly will keep them in good working order.

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3. Range

  • Typical lifespan: The typical lifespan of a kitchen stove and oven—sometimes simply referred to as a range—are dependent on whether it is electric or gas. Electric ranges typically last 13 years, while gas ranges should last 15 years.
  • Cost to replace: The price of a new range can vary in a big way, averaging $410 to $7,500, depending on how many bells and whistles it has. And, of course, the installation will likely cost extra.
  • Signs of wear and tear: Usual signs of wear and tear on a range can include visible cracks in the top, lack of heat on either the cooktop or in the oven, and control panel issues.
  • How to make it last longer: Making a range last longer through regular cleanings is a consumer’s best bet (are you seeing a theme yet?). Beyond the exterior, also make sure to clean the fans, filters, and oven interior.

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4. Washing Machine

  • Typical lifespan: On average, a washing machine should last a good decade. One manufacturer, Speed Queen, claims its washer should last a whopping 25 years. Still, about 30% of all newly purchased washers are likely to develop problems or completely break within the first five years.
  • Cost to replace: The cost to replace a washing machine can swing from $685 on the low end to $1,500, on average, on the higher end. Like the other appliances listed, the cost to install a new washer will likely cost extra.
  • Signs of wear and tear: Typical signs a washing machine is on its way out include leaks on the floor, unusual sounds, and water no longer filling the internal drum.
  • How to make it last longer: Beyond the normal cleanings, it’s also important to ensure a washing machine stays balanced, meaning make sure it stays level. After years of loads, it might toss and turn a bit, so leveling it every now and then can pay off. And, of course, regular maintenance like checking hoses and connections, checking for clogs, and ensuring filters are clear are recommended maintenance tasks.

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5. Dryer

  • Typical lifespan: Like the washer, the dryer, too, should last about 10 years. However, like other appliances, about 20% of all newly purchased dryers are likely to develop problems or break within the first five years.
  • Cost to replace: An electric dryer can cost between $200 and $400 on average. Like everything else on this list, dryer prices can vary greatly depending on size and features. Gas dryers can cost about $50 to $100 more, while basic compact dryers may be on the lower end of the average cost.
  • Signs of wear and tear: Some signs it may be time to look into either fixing an existing dryer or buying a new one include excessive or unusual noises while in use, clothing coming out damp or not drying at all, or any burning smells coming from the machine.
  • How to make it last longer: Some helpful tips on making a dryer last longer including dividing laundry by fabric weight, keeping a dryer clean and free of debris, regularly cleaning the lint trap, and reducing heat whenever possible. Not every load needs to be dried on high heat—the fabric type should determine the setting used. Air drying is better for some fabrics and will give both the dryer and the electric bill a break.

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6. Garbage Disposal

  • Typical lifespan: The average garbage disposal should last about 12 years with normal use. If a household uses their disposal more often than average, their disposal may not last quite as long.
  • Cost to replace: The most common type of garbage disposal, a continuous-feed disposal, costs on average $170. Some homeowners who compost frequently and may not have as much waste may opt for a batch-feed garbage disposal. This less-common type of disposal also costs more on average, at around $220. Installation costs will vary based on factors such as how extensive the electrical wiring for the unit needs to be and what type of septic system the home has.
  • Signs of wear and tear: Signs of wear and tear on a garbage disposal include excessive noise while in use, abnormal clogging, bad odors, and power failure.
  • How to make it last longer: To ensure a garbage disposal lives a long and useful life, homeowners are advised to be careful about what they put down the drain. Things like coffee grinds, pasta, or other starchy foods in large quantities shouldn’t go in the garbage disposal as they can clump together causing clogs and other issues with the blade. Using cold water when running a garbage disposal can make it easier for the disposal to break up solids, especially if there is some fat on them, and reduce the chance of a clog. Non-food items should never be put in a garbage disposal. Reading the owner’s manual that comes with the unit is recommended.

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The Takeaway

Things break. It’s just a part of life. But when they do it’s important to know all your financial options so you can easily replace them and move on with your day.

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