Is it time to replace that old home appliance?

It happens when you are least expecting it. One day your appliances and mechanical systems are working fine, and the next day your washer won’t spin or your air conditioner stops cooling. Now you face a dilemma: repair or buy new?

Or maybe nothing is broken, but you have an aging appliance and wonder if replacing it might be a good idea. You may prefer improved functionality or greater energy efficiency. Or you might simply want to avoid the headache that comes with a furnace that stops heating in the middle of winter.

Modern home appliances and mechanical systems are more sophisticated and expensive than ever before. If you’re on the fence about whether replacement makes sense, here are some things to consider.

Know the average life spans

While there is always an exception to the rule, the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors® provides the following longevity estimates for common household appliances.1

  • Dishwasher — 9 years
  • Refrigerator — 9 to 13 years
  • Electric range — 13 to 15 years
  • Gas range — 15 to 17 years
  • Microwave oven — 9 years
  • Washing machine — 5 to 15 years
  • Clothes dryer — 13 years
  • Furnace — 15 to 25 years
  • Air conditioner — 7 to 15 years
  • Sump pump — 7 to 10 years2

Look for common red flags

While it’s always best to consult with an expert repair person, there are instances when replacement is probably unavoidable, such as a rusted-out oven, a washer that won’t spin or a refrigerator with a broken compressor.3

Weigh the advantages of replacement versus repair

Some experts recommend replacement if the repair will cost more than half the price of buying a new one — especially if the unit is more than 6 or 7 years old.4

Check the warranty

You may be surprised to discover that your appliance has a long-term manufacturer’s warranty, which certainly offers peace of mind if you decide to hold on to your current unit.4

Factor in the hidden costs

In addition to the actual cost of a new appliance or operating system, you may have to pay for installation, taxes, and the removal and disposal of the old appliance.4

Consider the benefits of newer features

You might be ready for more up-to-date conveniences, such as Wi-Fi connectivity, a space-saving counter-depth refrigerator or a dishwasher with LED lighting.

Do the math

Determine whether a new appliance or mechanical system with greater energy efficiency could save you money in the long run. You may even be eligible for tax credits when you purchase a new, energy-efficient appliance.4

Talk to a reputable repair expert

Someone who is trained in appliance repair and replacement can make recommendations about whether it’s time to buy new. You will need to pay this person for a service call.

Maintenance matters

It’s important to keep in mind that the life span of any appliance depends on the brand and how well it has been maintained. Much like an automobile, appliances and home operating systems, such as HVAC systems and even elevators require routine maintenance. A lack of proper maintenance can lead to premature breakdown.

Sometimes the maintenance requires the expertise of a repair person, especially when it involves regular service calls for major mechanical systems, such as an air conditioner or furnace. But the homeowner plays a crucial role as well. Replacing HVAC filters, cleaning out the dryer vent and vacuuming refrigerator coils are examples of routine maintenance that any homeowner can and should do.3

Major mechanical systems that are exposed to the elements, such as air conditioners, will probably have a shorter life span. Likewise, water quality affects the longevity of water heaters and water pumps. Acidic water can shorten their life span.5

In the end, the decision about whether to replace a major appliance or mechanical system may not be up to you. If your system is broken and too costly or impossible to repair, replacement may be your only option. On the other hand, if you simply want the latest features, you may decide to buy something new.

1 InterNACHI’s Standard Estimated Life Expectancy Chart for Homes, (accessed August 20, 2021).
2 “How Long Should My Sump Pump Last?” R. C. Worst Co., Dave Nelson, (August 23, 2018).
3 When to repair vs. replace those pricey home appliances,” The Washington Post, Elisabeth Leamy, (May 26, 2017).
4 “Should I Repair or Replace My Broken Appliance?” Angi, Angie Hicks, (July 30, 2015).
5 “How Long Stuff Lasts,” This Old House, Scott Gibson, (accessed August 20, 2021).

The information used to create this article was obtained from sources believed to be reliable to help users address their own risk management and insurance needs. It does not and is not intended to provide legal advice. Nationwide, its affiliates and employees do not guarantee improved results based upon the information contained herein and assume no liability in connection with the information or the provided suggestions. The recommendations provided are general in nature; unique circumstances may not warrant or require implementation of some or all of the suggestions. Nationwide, the Nationwide N and Eagle and Nationwide Private Client are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company.

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