We've all been there. Your dishwasher breaks for the eighth time in as many months, and it's the moment of truth: Do you pay to fix the darn thing, or do you replace it altogether? It's tempting to just save yourself the trouble of paying for labor, but sometimes it's wiser to make a repair. So next time something breaks, don't be caught off guard and make the wrong call. Instead, know which items are worth the trouble, and which are simply worthy of the trash.
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If one of your kitchen appliances is making that awkward whirring sound again, then you know it's time to see about a solution. But oftentimes, repairs are expensive. In general, if a kitchen appliance is still within warranty, then it's worth having it fixed. Depending on your warranty specifications, the manufacturer will make the necessary changes for free or for a very small service charge. If your product is out of warranty, then skip any repair that would cost more than half the price of a new product. In general, a newer product is the better long-term investment. If your appliance is more than eight years old and is having problems, then it may be best to replace it. (For related reading, see Extended Warranties: Should You Take The Bait?)
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Carpet is a tricky contender. While a carpet's age plays into the decision of whether to clean or replace it, there are many other factors to consider, as well. The typical lifespan of a wall-to-wall carpet is five to 10 years. Any carpet under five years old is worthy of professional cleaning. Past that, you should evaluate its condition. If there are any heavy stains, mold underneath or heavy odors, then you should replace it immediately. Consider having the ground underneath professionally cleaned, as well. However, if you are moving out soon, then don't bother replacing the carpet. Chances are that the next residents will want to remodel for themselves, and that's an investment not worth wasting on someone else.
Very rarely is quality furniture trash-worthy. With the exception of broken plastic furnishings, almost everything can be fixed, and for a reasonable price. Upholstery shops, for example, offer great deals and will do custom work, ensuring you get exactly what you want out of the update. If you'd rather do it yourself, then reupholstering is a relatively simple home project, and actually a pretty common DIY hobby. Broken furniture can usually be fixed with some nails, glue and time.
As a general rule, energy-efficient appliances are pricey. One of the many reasons for this is their investment value. Over time, energy-efficient appliances save you money on utilities. They're also made to last, so for the most part, their problems are fixable. Deciding between repairing and replacing something is all about the value of your investment, so take comfort in knowing that every penny going into your energy-efficient appliance is another you get back in savings later. Repair as much as you can with these.
Technology is a funny thing. It seems to evolve daily, making it gradually more difficult to find the right replacement parts or repair shops. For this reason, though, it makes the trash vs. replace decision an easier one. If your computer hardware is still under warranty, then use that warranty to have it repaired, making the most of what you paid for it. If not, then replace it. Chances are that by this point, a newer computer part will serve you better, anyway.
The Bottom Line
Dealing with repairs is never fun. But when you're a little more informed about the value of your belongings, the process doesn't have to be quite as stressful. By simply evaluating the value of your investment, and by following the simple tricks above, you'll be on your way to making sound financial decisions for many years to come.