Appliance Buying Guide: Repair It or Replace It?

Damaged and discarded appliancesFor the money-conscious consumer, deciding to repair broken residential appliances in hopes of keeping them operating as long as possible makes a lot of sense. But oddly enough, doing so is not necessarily the best way to save money.

We like the 5-10-15 rule PhD candidate Rachel Adams recommends in her SAGE article “When to Replace Household Appliances: Nitty-gritty.” In it, she breaks down the amount of energy produced by said appliances verses the cost of repair for an extremely logical and reasonable conclusion as to why, though well intended, many of us may be throwing away our money.

We are going to try a different approach.

It doesn’t have to be that complicated. Let’s explore simple guidelines for deciding whether or not you should repair or replace common household appliances.

First, let’s break down the 5-10-15 rule according to Adams:

  • 5 years old, do not replace
  • 10 years old, run the numbers
  • 15 years old, probably time to replace

Sounds like a reasonable method, right? We think so too. But this might not apply to every appliance. Here are some general rules of thumb on the life expectancy of appliances.

  • Gas Range Stoves – 15 years
  • Dryers – 13 years
  • Refrigerators – 13 years
  • Dishwashers – 9 years
  • Microwaves – 9 years
  • Trash Compactors – 6 years

Interestingly, despite popular opinion, studies show that appliances are not breaking down at a faster rate. Typically, when something stops working as well as it used to, the remedy is replacing a smaller part rather than the entire machine. Let’s see if this applies to some of the most used appliances.

Washing Machine

Replacing washing machines can be costly—up to $1200. This seems to be an unreasonable amount of money to shell out when commonly the cause of a nonworking washer is something small and inexpensive to repair, like a broken water inlet valve that costs $50 at the most.


Once the compressor goes kaput, it’s time to shop around for another fridge. Compressors are very expensive to replace, not to mention the cost of labor!


For stoves you need to do your homework. Depending on the brand and how advanced the electronics, prices can vary on repair.


Nine years seem like a reasonable amount of time for a dishwasher to hold up, as long as you keep up on minor repairs.


Minor repairs such as replacing belts and brushes are well worth it. Replacing your vacuum may make sense for a larger problem like your motor going out.

Now, you will be a more informed consumer when shopping around for appliance repair and/or replacement—hopefully saving you tons of time and money in the process.

Bonus Tips from Consumer Reports Magazine

  • If the cost of repairs is 50 percent (and that 50 percent is cumulative) or more of the cost of a new appliance, go new.
  •  Research how-to videos on YouTube, Google searches, and before deciding whether or not to tackle repairs yourself. Some projects are easier than you think.
  • Peruse the owner’s manual for maintenance tips.
  • Be proactive when searching for the cause of the problem. The fix could be smaller and less expensive as you thought!
  • Don’t be afraid to haggle over repair costs. You’d be surprised how many times that has worked in a consumer’s favor.

Woodard Tips

When to Replace 10 Common Household Items

3 Money Saving Home Maintenance To-Dos

How to Stop Refrigerator Leaks

Dryer Vent Cleaning

6 Common Causes of Dishwasher Leaks

3 DIY Toilet Repairs | Quick Fixes for Common Problems

How Woodard Can Help

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Showing 11 Comments

Brandon Roberts wrote on September 8th, 2015 02:09:37pm
I am so glad that I was able to find this! My fridge hasn't been working for a while, and I wasn't sure if I should replace it, or repair it. So I really appreciate you talking about this, and giving me some great insight on when someone should repair their fridge. I think going off of what you talked about, I should try to repair it. I'll call someone up to come and help me out.
deloreslyon wrote on September 9th, 2015 03:09:11pm
Thanks for sharing all of this advice on whether to repair or replace different appliances in the home. I really like your tip on seeing whether the costs of repairs are 50% the cost of replacing it. That, in my opinion, is fairly easy to figure out, so it wouldn't be too hard for me to use it to see whether I need to replace my dishwasher. It sounds like I need to start getting some quotes on dishwasher repairs!
Dolores wrote on September 10th, 2015 08:09:49am
It's an important decision to make between repairing or replacing an appliance. I like your 5, 10, 15 rule. It makes deciding whether you need replacement or repair much easier. It really will help people make their own decisions about their appliances.
Olivia Sherwin wrote on October 13th, 2015 06:10:01pm
This is some great information, and I appreciate your point that appliances can often be repaired instead of needing replacement. My dishwasher is pretty old, and it hasn't been running very well, recently. I was going to just have it replaced, but I'll definitely look into the possibility of simply repairing it instead. Thanks for the great post!
Callie Marie wrote on October 13th, 2015 08:10:31pm
I never would have thought that replacing an appliance rather than repairing it could save money. Your check list for the lifespan of each appliance is really helpful! I will definitely refer to these numbers if anything in my home ever breaks down.
Natalie Darcy wrote on October 20th, 2015 07:10:13pm
I didn't realize that these types of repairs were so quick and painless. In the past I have always replaced my appliances when they started to malfunction, but I didn't feel quite financially stable enough this time. I have been pretty stressed about how I am going to solve this problem, but now I am certain that contacting a repair company will be quick and easy. I will be doing so shortly, thank you!
Michael Lee wrote on October 21st, 2015 09:10:30pm
It is super helpful that the author here actually listed the lifespan of just about every appliance in my household. I really appreciate a short and concise article, especially when it pertains to an interest of mine. This article is definitely getting bookmarked!
Jason Scott wrote on November 9th, 2015 07:11:19am
I like the 5-10-15 rule as well. It just makes so much sense. If your appliance is super old, it doesn't make sense to repair it when you might be able to replace it at a similar cost. When it is brand new though, it doesn't make sense to replace it when you can repair it and use it much longer.
Bennett Fischer wrote on December 14th, 2015 02:12:27pm
My dryer hasn't been working very well lately, and I have no idea how to fix it. I notice you said that most dryers are good for about 13 years. Mine is a little over that, so I think it's about time to get a new one. Thank you so much for sharing this with me. I'll be sure to start looking for one right away.
Shamrenson J. wrote on January 20th, 2016 07:01:33am
This article is really interesting and puts up some daily issues.
But life expectancy of appliances doesn't depend on just the type of the apppliance, it also depends on how it used, how often it is used, and by who uses it. If a household consists of just 2 members, then life expectancy can go even higher than what is mentioned. In the other hand, if it is used by a bigger number of members, that expectancy will be much lower than expected.
Kairi Gainsborough wrote on March 23rd, 2016 08:03:19pm
I've never heard of the 5-10-15 rule when it comes to appliance repair. I'm surprised that you shouldn't consider replacing an appliance that is less than 5 years old. My washing machine keeps filling with water, so something in it is broken. I'll follow your advice and try to have it repaired before I think about buying a new one.