After months of fighting with your fickle water heater, you're ready to give up-you can't stand another ice-cold morning shower. Perhaps your dishwasher won't stop leaking, but you don't know if a good repairperson could solve this problem, or if it would be simpler to find a new appliance.

No matter what, though, you know you want to make the most cost-effective choice. You don't want to invest in extensive repairs only to have your appliance fail a few months down the road, but you also don't want to waste money on a brand-new appliance if your old one just needed a little TLC.

In our blog below, we'll give you some pointers about when you should invest in repairs versus when it's cheaper to purchase a new appliance.

1. Make Sure It's Really Broken

Before you do anything else, check that your appliance really is malfunctioning. This seems like a simple step, but you'd be surprised at how many problems this piece of advice solves. Check the following things before you start to budget for that new HVAC system:

  • Check the thermostat. Someone could have brushed up against it and accidentally switched the settings.
  • Check the circuit breakers to ensure you didn't trip them.
  • Make sure you've plugged in the appliance, especially if you have loose, older sockets.
Double check the instruction manual to make sure the appliance is set up correctly, especially if you installed it recently. Most manuals also have a troubleshooting section. If you've misplaced your manual, you can usually find a copy online. Run through the list of recommended troubleshooting options before you proceed.

2. Assess the Appliance's Age

After a certain number of years, some appliances simply fall apart. At this point, it's easier to invest in a new or gently used appliance instead of investing time and money into fixing the old, failing appliance. Here's how long you can expect your household appliances to last:

  • Air conditioners: 10-15 years
  • Dishwashers: 9 years
  • Furnaces: 15-20 years
  • Refrigerators: 10-15 years
  • Washers and dryers: 10-13 years
  • Water heaters: 10-15 years (electric heaters last longer than gas models, and tankless ones last longer than traditional models)
Typically, if your appliance has already lived through half of its expected lifespan, and the repair costs equal half the price of a new appliance, you should buy new. Talk to a technician to get an estimate on repairs and learn about affordable replacements.

On the other hand, if your fridge, dishwasher, or HVAC unit is only a few years old, it's usually better to fix than replace. In fact, the unit could still be under warranty-talk to the manufacturer or the store you purchased the appliance from if you don't have a record. Some credit card companies offer free warranties as well.

3. Learn About Energy Efficiency

Today's appliances are much more energy efficient than their older counterparts. This means they use less energy to perform the same tasks at the same quality, which theoretically saves you on energy bills. However, you won't make your money back immediately, especially if you put a thousand dollars down on a brand-name top-of-the-line appliance. It can take several years to make a dent in the original cost.

If you plan to stay in your current home for at least another decade, upgrading the appliances to energyefficient models will give you a better return on investment.

If you plan to move before then, it's still okay to outfit your home with more energy-efficient appliances: they add to your home's value, save you money, and help the environment. But take the possibility of moving into account when you pay for the appliance-you won't be in the home to reap the full monetary rewards.

4. Consider Hidden Costs

Once you decide to purchase a new appliance, make sure you take all the costs into account, not just the upfront cost of the purchase. For instance, your new fridge might stick out further from the wall, which means you need to shift your cabinets or island. If you switch from a gas appliance to an electric one (or vice versa), you might need to add gas lines or new wiring.

Make sure to take each cost into account before you make your final decision.

5. Consider Your Family's Needs

As your family grows, your appliances take on more of a burden. Maybe your water heater worked fine when it served just you and your partner, but now that you have three kids, the hot water runs out constantly. Your old washer and dryer might be too small to meet your current laundry needs, or you might want to replace your small gas stove so you can serve an increasing number of house guests.

While no one wants their appliances to break down, a malfunctioning one could give you the perfect opportunity to finally get the tankless water heater or front-loading washer you've always wanted. If you can afford a newer, bigger, or better appliance and think it will meet your family's needs better in the long run, the investment could be worth it for peace of mind alone.

Talk to a Technician

If you're still unsure about replacing or repairing your appliance, don't hesitate to call your repair company. The technicians can evaluate the problem, give you an accurate assessment, and help you make the final call.