Sometimes it saves money to buy new. Refrigerators can be that case. Repairing a fridge can cost $200 or more, and the energy savings from new fridges can be more than $60 per year. On top of that, prices for new refrigerators continue to drop.
Balancing all these factors can be a challenge, so here’s our best advice:
Less than five years old. Repair if cost is less than $500. If the compressor is having trouble, replace the fridge, as that could be a sign of more pain to come.
5 to 12 years old. Repair if the estimate is less than $400. Replace if the compressor is the issue.
More than 12 years old. Buy a new fridge. The energy savings will be more than $60 per year, and a new fridge will quickly pay for itself.
Built-in refrigerators. Built-ins are a special case because they are more expensive to install and to replace. Repair it if the unit is less than 12 years old, otherwise replace it.
Why replacement makes sense: The repair strategy costs just about the same as a new fridge. Suppose the repair costs $400 and the fridge lasts another five years. A new fridge will save $60 per year or more in energy costs; for a total of $300 over five years. The total cost of a repaired fridge is then $700 ($400 repair + $300 lost savings). A new efficient fridge will cost $700 to $1200. So buying new can make sense.
Look for rebates when buying a new fridge. Many utilities pay customers $50 – $75 to properly dispose of an old fridge.
Wait for the sales. Retailers discount refrigerators heavily during key holidays (Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Black Friday, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, 4th of July).
Check out your local rebates, as well as discounts from manufacturers and retailers here.