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Save money buying, repairing appliances

We want to get broken appliances, from refrigerators to stoves, working again right away. But when getting a good repair is difficult, the choices facing buyers can be overwhelming.

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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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Monica Laliberte, Reporter
David McCorkle, Photographer
Lori Lair, Producer
Anne Johnson, Web Editor

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