Home Electronics: Deciding When To Pitch or Repair An Old Appliance To Save You Money

"GMA" investigates when an old appliance is worth a fix, or time to pitch.

July 7, 2011 -- Appliances are big ticket items, and they break!

So how do you know when it's time for a new one, or if you can eke a few more years out of the one you already have?

Do you keep a device that's on the fritz and hope a $100 repair can buy you more time, or do you buy a new model to stop the service visits?

A newly released survey from Consumer Reports magazine examined more thah 53,000 broken appliances to help you, the consumer, find out which products to fix and which aren't worth the effort and expense.

"Good Morning America" contributor Becky Worley put the advice of Consumer Reports to the test in her own game of "Repair or Replace It?"

Read below for tips you can use to save you money, and perhaps time waiting for that repairman!

First up, a 12-year-old refrigerator that won't make ice and has a hard time keeping the fridge cold during the summer months. Should you repair or replace?

The verdict: Replace!

"You'd probably want to replace it, especially if it's had multiple problems," Celia Lehrman, deputy home editor at Consumer Reports told "GMA." "It's going to be be pretty expensive to repair and you can probably get a new one for a similar cost, or even less."

Lerhman also notes that newer refrigerators have much simpler ice makers that are less prone to breakage.

And another added benefit of replacing your old fridge and other appliances is that newer models are much more energy efficient.

This is especially true of dishwashers and refrigerators. If those appliances are less than 10 years old, they can save you up to $100 in electricity costs over their lifetimes. Newer dishwashers also use less water and are much quieter than older models.

Next, my 8-year-old dryer has gotten really loud and is taking an exorbitant amount of time to dry clothes even though I just cleaned out the vents. Repair or replace?

The verdict: Repair!

"When we did our survey, we found that the typical dryer costs about $140 to repair on median," said Lehrman. "So it's not that expensive a repair because a new dryer is usually going to cost you anywhere from $400 to $1000."

When it comes to repairs, Consumer Reports says the rule is that if the repair costs more than 50 percent of the replacement price, you should buy new.

In the case of my dryer, a repairman discovered that, sure enough, a dryer sheet had slipped into the blower and a gap filter screen had allowed dryer sheets, lint and other debris to slip into the blower and block the air flow. The technician vacuumed the debris, closed the gap and my dryer was good as new. Total cost of repairs: $129.

Finally, computers. They break a lot. The Consumer Reports survey found that around one in three laptops and desktops break by their fourth year, and warranties are getting less generous, meaning you may have to fork over even more cash to have your computer examined or repaired.

The verdict: Replace!

"Computers and all electronics usually have a shorter shelf life because the innovations are so much more rapid," explained Lehrman.

"If it's three or four-years-old, you might want to replace it just because that's going to give you more memory," she said. "The newer model is going to do more for you, and the costs of the new computers are coming down too."

Lehran also cited viruses and malware as a cause of early computer troubles, reiterating the need for antivirus protection. PC World Magazine recommends Avast and AVG as two free options for protecting your machine, and also warns all users to be skeptical and suspicious when clicking unknown links.

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