If your washer, dryer, dishwasher or refrigerator breaks during these inflationary times, you could be hit with a much larger bill than you may have expected. In line with other items, household appliances increased in price by 7.5% in the past year, according to the Consumer Price Index.
So what do you do when a must-have appliance like a refrigerator — or even a “nice-to-have” like your dishwasher — breaks? If you’re like many Americans (44%), you have less than $500 in your savings account, according to GoBankingRates.com data. That is hardly enough to pay for most big appliances.
And you probably don’t want to cash out investments for emergency spending in a bear market, since you’re likely to lose money.
“We know every penny counts in the current economy, but so does having the right appliances that make everyday life easier,” said HouseMethod.com appliance expert Elisabeth Beauchamp.
HouseMethod.com recently released a study on the rising costs of home appliances. Consumer demand, coupled with supply chain issues and widespread inflation across the U.S. are all factors driving prices up, the study showed.
“The net effect is even more exorbitant if you couple the supply shortages with diminishing rebates and canceled seasonal promotions,” Metin Ozkuzey, president of Designer Appliances, told HouseMethod.com.
In total, the HouseMethod.com study found that each American household will spend, on average, $10,620 on appliances over the next 30 years.
Fortunately, there are better options than doing without crucial home appliances.
Call in the Professional Repair Team
According to HouseMethod.com data, you could save as much as 500% — roughly $1,275 — by repairing an appliance rather than replacing it.
However, the HouseMethod.com study warns, you could still be on the hook for hundreds of dollars. Companies charge as much as $125 for service calls, along with diagnostic fees and preventative maintenance fees that add up, according to HouseMethod.com.
Fix Your Appliances Yourself
If you take on the repairs yourself, you could save even more money, homeowners and experts say. “If you are handy, fixing things yourself can be very cost-effective,” said Steve Biedrzycki, a firefighter in Westminster, Maryland.
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Having the right resources makes all the difference, said Chris Casazza, a retired school maintenance crew leader from West Babylon, New York. Casazza has repaired refrigerators, ovens, washing machines and dryers in his own home and for friends and family. He usually will search on Google for the solution to the problem, including the specific make and model in his search to find specific instructions and videos.
“If you are lucky enough to find a video of the problem with your specific appliance, it should be do-able by an average person,” he said.
Joe Whitaker, the VP of Business Development for Origin Acoustics, agreed. “Almost all common fixes for appliances are all over YouTube. You don’t have to be the handiest person around, but you do have to understand the tools needed for the repair and, also, how to follow step-by-step instructions.”
He warned that skipping steps “can not only harm your home, but yourself.”
Of course, make sure to unplug appliances and shut off water for plumbing repairs, before you begin work.
Shop Online for Parts
You’re already saving a bundle by fixing appliances yourself. But you can cut costs further by shopping online for parts.
Homeowner Christopher Park, a field service technician for International Game Technologies in Rexford, New York, recommended RepairClinic.com as a “go-to resource for obtaining parts and instructions on how to install them.”
Shop “Scratch and Dent” Shops and Clearance Sales
Scratch and dent shops often have deals on new appliances with cosmetic issues. If this won’t bother you, or if you can fix the blemishes or dents yourself, you can find incredible savings. “We bought our fridge at a scratch and dent store for $300 less than we saw it at Lowe’s because of one dent in the French door,” Biedrzycki said.
Shopping clearance sales at big box stores can also give you more bang for your buck. If you can snag a floor model, you’ll have the advantage of not having to wait long for delivery or deal with delays caused by supply chain issues.
Used appliance stores can also help you save money on purchases, but it’s important to know what to look for, since these products are rarely in perfect condition. Park said, “I’ve typically had pretty good experiences buying through a used appliance store.”
He has found a local store with an owner he trusts, who discloses problems and shares exactly what would need to be repaired.
“My recommendation would be to look out for aesthetic things — such as the outer shell of a clothes dryer — because those pieces are going to be more expensive to replace,” Park said. He has been able to save money buying used appliances and replacing stove burners, the heating element in an oven, and parts to a clothes dryer on his own.
Let Habitat for Humanity Help
“Used” doesn’t have to mean “in need of repair,” when you’re shopping for appliances. Habitat for Humanity ReStores, located nationwide, sell new and gently used appliances at discounted prices.
You don’t have to be a recipient of a Habitat for Humanity home to benefit from the prices at these nonprofit home improvement stores. You can shop during your local store’s business hours and your purchases help fund Habitat for Humanity programs. You can also drop off donations of gently used furniture, appliances, and electronics.
Scope Out Facebook Buy / Sell / Trade and Free Groups
Local Facebook buy/sell/trade and even “Freecycle” style groups make it easy to find an appliance in a pinch. Many people sell or donate perfectly good appliances when they re-do their kitchens to make sure all their appliances match. You can keep these items out of landfills while saving money.
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To find these groups, simply search “free appliances,” or the name of the item you’re looking for, along with your town or region. If you’re joining a “give-to-get” group, you should have a few items you are willing to part with and list them in the group for donation before you ask for a big-ticket item.
Check Your Warranty
You may not have to struggle with the hassles of repairing your own appliance or shopping for a new one if you have an extended warranty. But it’s important to know how to file a claim properly.
“We recommend keeping track of warranty information in one place, whether that be in your personal filing cabinet or a digital folder,” Beauchamp said. “When it comes time to make a claim, you can submit one through your provider’s customer portal or call the company’s support line for step-by-step guidance through the process. We suggest including a detailed description of the appliance and its repair needs in your claim submission to help your warranty provider address the problem as quickly and accurately as possible.”
Repair or Buy New: Choose Wisely
Repairing old appliances is not just good for your wallet, it turns out. It’s also good for the environment.
“Repairing appliances helps minimize the sourcing of raw materials and keeps working appliances out of local landfills. It also cuts down on the energy used to source new appliances that cause environmental pollution,” Beauchamp said.
However, it’s not always wise to keep older home appliances. “If your household appliances are not energy or water efficient, replacing them with new technology that will use fewer resources could pay off.”
Of course, if it would cost more to repair an older appliance than to replace it, it may be time to go shopping.
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