By: Sandy Adams
Sometimes the cost of repairing an old appliance just doesn’t make sense. But when is a good time and what brand should I consider buying? Last week I sat down with Chris Boucher from De Anza Appliance, Service and Repair, to ask him a few questions about purchasing a new appliance.
WHEN IS IT TIME TO REPAIR VS. REPLACE MY APPLIANCE?
There are a lot of factors to consider but the general rule of thumb if your appliance is less than 10 years old have someone take a look. If it’s over 15 years old I suggest you consider replacing it. New appliances will be more efficient and you’ll start fresh with a new useful life. That middle ground in-between depends on a couple items: 1) Is the appliance in otherwise good shape? 2) Is it built-in to the cabinet and harder to install? 3) How long will it be before I remodel the kitchen again? With some appliances, like built-in double wall ovens, professional style ranges, large Sub Zeros or other built-in appliances, it may be worth fixing an older model since the replacement cost could be in the thousands of dollars. I would estimate the useful life of most current washers, dishwashers, and refrigerators to be between 12-18 years; and dryers, ovens, and cooktops between 15-25 years.
WITH SO MANY BRANDS OUT THERE, HOW DO I FIGURE OUT WHICH ONE IS BEST FOR ME?
Whirlpool is a manufacturer that owns several brands. Currently Amana, Maytag, KitchenAid, and Jenn-Air appliances are all built the by the Whirlpool company. Swedish based Electrolux owns the Frigidaire brand and was recently purchased General Electric home appliance division. Whirlpool also builds the Kirkland brand you see in Costco and many of the appliances you find at IKEA.
There’s a lot fewer brands than you might think. For instance Kenmore at Sears is built by other manufacturers. Most of their current models are built by Whirlpool, Electrolux, Samsung, or LG. Sears carries the most brands of any of the big box retailer, but their sales team might recommend Kenmore since it has the best profit margins.
Other big box chains have Electrolux, LG, Samsung, and Whirlpool brands. Check out local independent dealers like University Electric or Airport Appliance if you’re looking for commercial or boutique brands, such as Dacor, Speed Queen, Sub Zero, or Thermador. Although you might pay a bit more we always recommend our customers start there. You’ll get better selection, a more knowledgeable sales staff, and full-service installation options. Price is sometimes negotiable at the independents, especially if you’re buying a laundry pair, doing an entire kitchen remodel or revamping multiple units.
Checking out consumer reports for repair rates and efficiency ratings doesn’t provide a complete picture. If you have an appliance repair company you work with talk with their technicians and ownership team about brands they service, ones that last the longest, brands that have lower costs of repair. Finding a good servicer you can trust that can handle your appliances is as important as having a quality appliance. Even the best rated machines can break down and you’ll be in a pickle if you don’t have a good servicer.
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP MAKE THE SALES PROCESS EASIER?
Size matters. If you have a technician on site and you decide it’s better to replace rather than repair have the tech measure both the appliance and the opening around the appliance. The “cut-out” dimensions will help guide the sales professional in finding an appliance that will come closest to fitting the existing opening. If the new built-in appliance is bigger or smaller knowing the dimensions helps the installation team provide an accurate quote that includes cutting into the cabinets or countertop or building a trim to fill in the gaps.
What’s important to you; time-saving features, energy efficiency, or price. With today’s units you usually can’t have it all. The least expensive appliances will last the longest but won’t be as efficient or have as many options as their more expensive counterparts. Energy efficient laundry and dishwashers can save you money but sometimes have longer cycles than you are accustomed to. Feature laden appliances, especially refrigerators with ice makers, computer controlled crisper bins, and other additional electronics provide a lot of convenience but you sacrifice energy efficiency and pay a higher price tag.
Be prepared to answers questions like; how many people are living in each unit or home, how many loads of laundry do they do, do they wash king size bedding, do they cook frequently, do they like to bake, how often do they go grocery shopping and what appliance features are important to most people.