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Should you repair or replace your faulty appliance?

By Rebecca Milligan

We’ve all had moments when faced by the repair bill for a washing machine or vacuum cleaner we wonder whether it’s actually worth it. Here we explain how to work out the best course of action next time one of your appliances breaks down.
repairman fixing a washing machine

It seems we are a nation of repairers – 61% of the 1,157 Which? members we surveyed in June 2016 whose appliances broke within the last three years got them repaired or fixed them themselves, rather than replace them.

Whether or not you should repair or replace your appliance when it breaks down depends not just on the cost of the repair, but on how old the appliance is and how long you’ve had it for.

A good rule of thumb for working out how much value an appliance loses in a year is to divide its original cost by how long you expect it to last. So a £100 appliance that you expect to last for five years would lose £20 of value per year.

If a repair costs more than your appliance is currently worth, then it’s going to be harder to justify paying for. You should also consider how the repair is likely to add to the product’s lifespan. Repairing it might fix the current fault but, if the appliance is old, it’s still more likely to develop another unrelated fault in the future.

Of course, this is just one approach. In reality there will be many other factors, such as whether it still meets your needs, or the environmental impact of throwing it away.

Which? Trusted Traders has plumbers, electricians and computer repairers in your area, who can help you with repairs of domestic appliances.

How reliable are appliances?

Every year Which? surveys thousands of appliance owners about the faults they’ve encountered with their machines, enabling us to award reliability scores to the different types of appliance, plus each of the main appliance brands.

Some types of appliance are significantly more reliable than others. Hobs  and tumble dryers for example are among the best, picking up overall reliability scores of 92% and 88% in our most recent reliability survey carried out in September 2015.  

However, within these categories, some brands are much more likely to develop faults. Our reliability data shows that there is a difference of 13 percentage points between the most and least reliable brands in both these categories.

Other facts from our research include:

Washing machines: these are also one of the more reliable home appliances - only one in five will develop a fault within five years.

Built-in ovens: a quarter of built-in ovens develop a fault within five years.

Upright vacuum cleaners: this type of vacuum isn’t especially reliable – 30% of them will develop a fault within five years.

Dishwashers: one in five dishwashers develops a fault within five years – so they’re fairly reliable compared to other appliances.

Fridge-freezers: almost a third of fridge-freezers will develop a fault within five years of ownership.

Washer dryers and freestanding cookers are among the least reliable types of appliance.

You can maximise your chances of owning an appliance that remains fault free by buying appliances that our research shows are among the most reliable. Our home appliance reviews area charts the most and least reliable brands for all the key appliance types.

What to do when your appliance breaks down

We surveyed traders about common faults with appliances, to see which faults are worth repairing yourself, and which are better handled by professional repairers.

Some fault repairs are certainly worth attempting to repair yourself, particularly if you’ve got the manual to hand, for example, replacing a blocked filter on an upright vacuum cleaner or clearing a blocked drain-hole in a fridge-freezer.

But for the vast majority of faults, professional help is recommended. This is absolutely the case for anything to do with gas or electrical fixtures and fittings. As one repairer said, ‘Plain and simple, it is dangerous to carry out any electrical repair if you are not qualified.’

The good news is that repairs do not have to be expensive. There are regional variations in what you can expect to pay, and labour and parts costs will vary according to the complexity of any repair job, but many common faults that we looked into could be fixed for in the region of £50 - £70 – usually significantly less than the cost of replacing appliances.

Which? Trusted Traders’ top tips for keeping your appliances going

1. Don’t give up: if you haven’t had the appliance for long, it’s worth checking any warranties or guarantees or trying to fix it yourself or get someone to look at it for you, rather than shelling out for a replacement.

2. Trust the professionals: if it’s a fault with the electrics, or with a gas appliance such as an oven, call in the professionals who know how to handle appliances that could potentially be dangerous.

3. Get the best deal: get three quotes from various repairers and compare, to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

4. Find someone you can trust: to find a reputable trader in your area, check the Which? Trusted Trader website.

Recycle effectively

No appliance lasts forever. But we can minimise the environmental impact by choosing to repair when possible, and doing our best to ensure our old appliances are recycled.

A WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) study of electronic goods[1] found that the average household in the UK spends £800 on new electrical and electronic goods. That’s over 1.4million tonnes of appliances a year. We dispose of a similar amount, of which nearly 40% goes to landfill.

It’s really important to ensure that any appliance that has reached the end of its useful life is recycled effectively. All shops, including online retailers, have to provide a way for you to dispose of your old appliance when they sell you a new one. Alternatively, your council may offer recycling services and some repairers may want to buy old appliances for parts.

More on this…


[1] http://www.wrap.org.uk/sustainable-electricals/switched-on-to-value

 

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