5 On Your Side

Save money buying, repairing appliances

Posted November 3, 2008

From washing dishes and clothes to cooking dinner, appliances are a necessity. But when a machine breaks, it's tough decide whether to repair or replace it.

According to a Consumer Reports survey, getting a good repair is not always easy, and electric cooktops and wall ovens were the toughest appliances to repair.

"The parts were very difficult to find, and the repairs often took two weeks or more to get done," Consumer Reports staffer Celia Lehman said.

Once the warranty for washers, dryers and other large large appliances runs out, it's best to contact an independent shop for repairs, the survey showed. Respondents had a better experience with them than with factory-authorized service centers.

However, sometimes, an appliance just isn't worth fixing.

"You should replace it if the repair is going to cost more than half the price of a new model," Lehman said.

As a general rule of thumb, appliances that are eight years old or more should be replaced.

A newer model will likely be more energy efficient and save money – especially if a buyer forgoes expensive and often unnecessary features.

Take new dishwasher cycles with names like "turbo zone" and "power scour." The dishwashers have special nozzles for tough jobs and often get the job done. But Consumer Reports found that many dishwashers on regular settings did just as well.

Buyers can also save by skipping on dishwashers with pricier stainless steel tubs. Testers found that plastic tubs held up fine.

Washing machines are full of extra features, such as special cycles, but Consumer Reports says to pass on them.

Instead, go for a front-loader. Those washing machines use less energy and water and wring more water out of clothes, saving on drying time.

As for dryers, don't be wowed by manufacturers' claims of super capacity. Testers found that most dryers held plenty, whether or not the machine said super capacity.

When considering where to buy, look at Costco. In a Consumer Reports survey, it got the highest marks for price among major appliance retailers.

Independent stores topped the rankings for service and selection, although respondents generally reported higher prices at these stores.

When searching for a bargain, don't forget to look on the Web. Many manufacturers offer online promotions.

Consumer Reports recommends skipping extended warranties. Repair costs rarely exceeded the price of the extended warranty.

You can also save money during North Carolina's sales tax holiday for Energy Star appliances Friday, Nov. 7 through Sunday, Nov. 9.

Appliances exempted from the state sales tax next weekend are: washers, freezers, refrigerators, central and room air conditioners, air-source and geothermal heat pumps,  ceiling fans, dehumidifiers and programmable thermostats.


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  • NCishome Nov 4, 2008

    I had my electric oven to stop working. Called a local repair business, cost me $70 bucks to turn a few knobs and make a phone call to locate a $250 board.

    I was able to find a new in the box gas stove on craigs list for $200. Now, I am cooking with gas.

  • 68_polara Nov 4, 2008

    Ya, I find that paying a little more with the independents is usually well worth it. It's not surprising considering that the large bigbox stores are competing in the same labor pool as McDonalds and Walmart.

  • drebold Nov 3, 2008

    They could have at least provided the following link to the official announcement -


  • drnc Nov 3, 2008

    I buy a lot of appliances. If you want service, pay a few extra bucks and go to a locally-owned store. Lowe's, Best Buy, Home Depot, HH Gregg, etc. are OK until something goes wrong. And face it, something always goes wrong.