It used to be electronics and appliances were so ridiculously expensive that when something went haywire you headed to the repairman and spent a small fortune to fix the darn thing. As technology shot through the roof, prices went the opposite direction. So how do you know when to fix or ditch that broken tech or appliance that's hardly a few years old?
Consider a brand new 50" flat screen TV can be had for perhaps $500 when years ago that would have been several thousand. We once brought a $3,000 DLP (now worth perhaps a quarter of that price, if even) with a black band showing on the screen to a repair shop and it took them 2 months and $1,000 in wrong parts to come back and tell us, "this isn't worth fixing." Not to advocate wasting money and tossing TVs left and right, but chances are it really isn't worth fixing. Some smaller repairs (like an interior component on our Pioneer Kuro plasma that went bad 6 months into ownership) was an easy enough repair - $250 under warranty (which we had to fight for since the set wasn't bought at an "authorized reseller"). If you can get a free estimate then by all means to do so, but if the cost to repair is close to the price of a new set, you should at least consider buying a new one with a warranty. That repair may be warrantied for a very short period of time, but you're sinking an awful lot of money into an old set that have no more warranty after that.
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If you're stuck in a two-year contract with an expensive subsidized phone (the iPhone, let's say), your options to simply replace the phone might be limited due to the expense of said phone. Some repairs such as replacing a broken screen aren't too terrible to tackle on your own, but if you drowned it in a pool and it won't dry out well then you may be SOL.
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If you're computer savvy enough to swap out components then by all means replace that broken video card or fan. If your screen's cracked we recommend replacing the monitor as those can be much more trouble than it's worth to repair. A little research can go a long way though as sometimes you can find common issues that are readily repairable.
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More likely than not it's much simpler to just replace broken peripherals such as a computer mouse, webcam, DVD burner, etc. Especially with so many online retailers battling it out for your dollars, pricing have gotten insanely low.
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If it's a low-end $100 camera, chances are the repairs will run you the same as getting a new one. If you've got a fancy thousand dollar plus digital SLR then by all means find out the problem and see how much it costs to repair. Chances are it'll be expensive but still a fraction of the cost buying a new one - not to mention your expensive peripherals, batteries, lenses, etc. that you've carefully paired.
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When was the last time you bought a telephone set for your home? They are dirt cheap! No need to think twice about this one.
If it's a really nice set, you can find a reasonably priced repair shop to take a look at the issues. Before spending your dough try to spot the problem yourself. Many speakers disassemble fairly easily and you can spot any severed connections or other which you can fix yourself. If it's a broken tweeter or other, see if you can find a replacement part online - it's fairly easy to swap out components in a speaker system. Many all-in-one sound system owners may be out of luck though as manufacturers usually charge an arm and a leg for parts.
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We once tried to replace a door handle for a microwave and searches on the internet showed the part at almost $100. Cheap microwaves start at around $50 and aside from the fancy ones don't get much more than a few hundred bucks. Save yourself the money unless it's an easy DIY fix.
When we were quoted a hundred bucks just for the repairman to come by and take a look with no guarantees, we decided to cheap out and go another route. A handyman had an older unit they just removed from someone else's kitchen renovation and we bought installed for $150. Nice new units can run close to the thousands though so if you've got yourself a fancy diswasher, it's probably worth repairing for a few hundred. There are many solid dishwashers around $500 or so though so if your repair estimate shows the bill inching closer to there, it might be worth considering a new warrantied dishwasher.
Some component on our washing machine broke and the unit kept filling with water even when it reached the top, pouring out the sides and coming downstairs through the ceiling - right onto our friend's open laptop. Doh! The washing machine itself might have cost perhaps $100 or so to repair, but the damages to the house and laptop were in the thousands. That being said, the repair cost was only a fraction of a nice new unit. Get the thing repaired if it's a fairly inexpensive issue unless you already had grand plans to upgrade from that clothes-chewing washing machine you've got now. As with dishwashers, a nice new unit can be had for as low as $500 so it might be worth the coin to upgrade from that builder's grade unit you've got now.
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