You're worried that the washing machine is on its last spin cycle. It makes a horrible screeching sound and needs a lot of coaxing to make it all the way through a full cycle. It's not under warranty. You've had it for a long time, and it wasn't new when you got it.
You get an estimate for repair and discover it will cost $319 to get it back into tip-top shape.
Should you give this old, inefficient machine the heave-ho in favor of a new model that will use less electricity and water?
A new, name-brand front-loader is on sale for $899 plus tax and delivery. Should you throw away $319 now for a temporary fix or bite the bullet and buy the new one?
Here are some basic guidelines and suggestions to help you decide, based on costs for replacement and repairs and the advantages of new models.
If you cannot pay cash for the new replacement: You should get it repaired to buy yourself time to save up for the replacement. Even if the repairs will keep this appliance going only for a year or two, you're far better off repairing and then saving for a new machine than charging it and paying double-digit interest for the next three to five years.
If the appliance is eight years or older: Once an appliance becomes elderly, usually it makes sense to buy a new one. If you have a high-end, older appliance, however, you may want to repair it, provided it is not repair-prone.
If repairs are really expensive: If the repair bill is more than half the price of a new product, you are probably better advised to buy new than to replace it.
If the appliance is under warranty: Even if repairs will be only partially covered by a warranty or service contract, repairing is the way you should go. If it's under warranty, call a factory-authorized repair shop. If not, an independent contractor is likely to offer better service at a lower cost.
The costs for diagnosing problems and making repairs on home appliances have gone up considerably in the past few years, which has made replacements with new models more common.
A word to the wise: Home appliances have built-in obsolescence. By design, life expectancy has gone down slowly over the years. Refrigerators used to last for 30 years or longer by design. These days, you'll be lucky to get 15 years, and that's with excellent maintenance and timely repairs.
Anticipate, so you are not caught off guard: Your freedom account is the perfect way to anticipate the cost of repairs and eventual replacement of major home appliances. Setting aside a small amount of money every month will give you cash options to make wise decisions.