Repair or Replace the Fridge?

A few days ago, my fridge stopped working.  First the freezer stopped freezing things reliably, then the whole fridge had cooling issues.  All this while Vancouver had temperatures in the mid-to-high 20s!  Needless to say, Brian and I lost most of our food stash and the stuff that we did cook didn’t taste quite right.

Photo Credit: hankinsphoto via Flickr

Photo Credit: hankinsphoto via Flickr

While we were waiting for the technician to arrive, Brian and I discussed whether we wanted to repair or replace the fridge.  It is a stainless steel LG refrigerator that the condo’s previous owner purchased a year and a half ago for about $800.  This model has generally good reviews and (more importantly), it’s one of the few attractive fridges that fits in our little space.  However, I was worried that since the fridge was having problems already, we would only run into more problems later on if we tried to fix it now.  At what point would it make sense for us to simply replace the fridge?

Brian and I are big fans of taking care of our stuff and repairing things whenever possible.  It is so much more environmentally friendly to repair something rather than simply throwing it out and buying more stuff.  For example, I have paid $20 each year to have my boots repaired for the last 3 years or so.  New leather boots would cost me over $100 and there’s no guarantee that I would love them as much as I love these boots.  Paying the shoe guy to put a new heel or sole on them keeps the boots out of the garbage and keeps my feet in oh-so-comfy broken-in leather.

But I was at a loss when it came to the fridge.  I’ve never had an appliance fail before.  My appliances at the rental condo are still working fine, as far as I know, and while my parents have had appliance failures at their home, I have not been present during the thought process of deciding whether to repair the item or replace it.  My dad is pretty handy though, and I know he’s repaired the washer and dryer by himself more than once.  For us, I don’t think we could have DIY’d it.  From the intermittent cooling failures and the apparent functioning of all the lights and switches, I suspected that the hardware control board had failed.  Damned computery things!  So we were stuck waiting for the repair technician to take a look at it before we made a decision.

According to Consumer Reports, you should replace an item (appliance, electronics) if the cost of the repair is more than 50% of the cost of a new purchase.  Of course, this is just a general guideline, and the website helpfully informed me that more detailed charts were available if I’d like to subscribe.  :p  In my own opinion (completely uneducated but hopefully backed by some degree of common sense), this seems financially reasonable as well.  If something costs 75% of the new cost to repair, it makes far more sense to get the new item and benefit from completely new, unworn parts and a fresh warranty.

In the end, the technician informed us that the control board had indeed failed (damned computery things!) and that the replacement part was $50.  Of course, his labour for installing said part was $150.

Since a new fridge would have cost us $800 or more, plus tax, we decided to let the technician repair the fridge.  Luckily, he had the part available with him and it only took him a few minutes to install it.  Twenty-four hours later (and $200 lighter) we had a working fridge again.

I’m happy to be able to chill and freeze foods again.  I was really at a loss for meal planning without the ability to store foods. I also feel a little cautious however – If the fridge were to fail a second time, I think I would put serious thought into replacing it.  I do not want to deal with lost foods and repairs over and over again!

Have you ever had to repair or replace a major appliance?  What did you choose to do?  

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