Washing Machine Repair, Part Deux

Well, it turns out that I was wrong about our washing machine… The motor was shot, and the repair estimate was $270! Actually, we had already incurred $70 of that for the visit plus the repairman’s time diagnosing the problem. This left us in a bit of a quandary — lay out an additional $200 to get the motor replaced, or cut our losses and buy a new machine? This decision was made all the more difficult by the fact that our washer was barely three years old when it died. Thus, it’s not like we’d be patching up an old, decrepit piece of junk. Of course, another possibility would be to repair it myself. However, the motor alone runs around $150 and, as I mentioned before, I’m facing a bit of a time crunch right now. What to do?

We opted to bite the bullet and replace it. After a whirlwind afternoon of shopping, our new washer will be delivered today. In the end we decided to upgrade a bit size-wise, going from a ‘super’ capacity unit (3.2 cubic feet) to one with ‘king’ capacity (3.5 cubic feet — big family = big washer).

Although I saw a number of good ‘scratch & dent’ deals at the Sears outlet, I couldn’t get one home on my own, and they don’t offer any delivery deals at their outlet. Thus, the delivery charge would’ve eaten up a good bit of the difference in price. So… I ended up at Lowe’s, where they offer free (after rebate) delivery, next day availability, and free haul away of the old unit. (Note that both Home Depot and Sears offer similar deals on delivery, although prices at Sears are generally a bit higher than Lowe’s and Home Depot.) Since the model that we wanted was out-of-stock, and since we needed it pronto, they agreed to give us the next better model for the same price ($467 –> $437). Add to that a $20 rebate coupon that the repairman gave to us, and we ended up reasonably happy — we would’ve been even happier if this hadn’t happened in the first place, but that’s water under the bridge.

Anyway, all of this got me to thinking. Are there any general rules for how much you should be willing to spend to repair an appliance? At what point would you throw in the towel and replace it? Ignoring for the moment the $70 that we incurred for the initial visit, the balance of the repair estimate (~$200) was a bit less than half of what we ended up spending on the new washer. Actually, if we had replaced our old washer with the current equivalent, it probably would have cost somewhere in the low- to mid-$300 range. Thus, the estimated cost of the repair was closer to 2/3 of the actual replacement value. At that point, it’s pretty hard to justify making the repair, even for a newish appliance.

Whether or not we made the right decision, I’m hoping that this one will end up lasting considerably longer than the last.

5 Responses to “Washing Machine Repair, Part Deux”

  1. Nickel

    The one that we bought wasn’t so much better as it was bigger. Since our family has grown since we bought the first one, we really can use the extra capacity. Aside from that, there aren’t really any features available on a washer that would make me pay extra. If our clothes get clean, they get clean.

    And no, we didn’t get a front-loader. While I’m aware of the advantages, I just don’t like them very much. To me, they’re kind of like refrigerators with the freezer on the bottom. Clever and functional, but just not my cup of tea. I guess I just can’t handle change. 😉

  2. Anonymous

    When the cost of repair approaches the cost of replacing, I usually replace. Something hard to avoid, however, is “replacing” a product with a better version (read, more costly). It’s tempting to buy a better washing machine when you’re old one dies, but you should always ask yourself if you really need a fancier one.

    Also, you can’t really say the cost of repair was 2/3 of the replacement value, because you didn’t replace it with that one, you went with a better one.

    In the end, I probably would have gotten the better one too, lol.


  3. Anonymous

    Did you get a front-loader? The potential water and energy savings would make the replacement expense go down smoother, though it’s more money up front…

  4. Anonymous

    Smart move. There’s very little sense in replacing the motor; that’s one of the most expensive parts to fix. If the machine is that old, odds are you can do much better with a new machine anyway.

    Suggestion for the future: Try diagnosing the problem yourself to save the repairman’s visit. Common tools and a $30 multimeter and a troubleshooting book for major appliances should at least lead you to which part is bad — including the motor. I’ve fixed my freezer, my dryer, and dishwasher this way, and I diagnosed a problem with our water heater well enough so that I knew it was worth it to call in a claim on my home buyer’s warranty.

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