When is it time for a new appliance?

HOUSTON A new survey from Consumer Reports reveals certain appliances and brands are more likely to break down. If one of yours has a meltdown, we have advice before you throw it out.

Repairman Anthony Attanasio tells clients when an appliance breaks down, don't just rush out to buy a new one. A simple repair may do.

"It's $100, and they were ready to spend $1,700," he said.

But it isn't always easy to know when to repair something. Consumer Reports national research center surveyed more than 27,000 subscribers who had repair problems, including appliances, to find out if you should or replace it.

""While most of the products we asked about don't break too easily, when things do go wrong, they can go horribly wrong," said Dan Diclerico with Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports found with three- to four-year-old appliances, one of the most repair-prone is a side-by-side refrigerator with an icemaker. One in three had repairs.

Front-loading washing machines were also more likely than top-loaders to break down. One in four needed repairs.

And Consumer Reports finds you can't go by brand alone, either. GE has made very reliable cooking appliances, but repair-prone are its refrigerators with icemakers. LG has made reliable plasma TVs and clothes dryers, but not side-by-side refrigerators.

"If you're trying to safeguard against your appliances breaking down, an extended warranty may sound like a good solution," said Diclerico. "But in our experiences, they have generally not been worth it."

So when should you repair, and when should you replace?

"It depends on the product and how old it is," said Diclerico. "But here's a rule of thumb. If the repair will cost more than half the price of a new product, it's time to replace it."

Consumer Reports says one way to help avoid repairs is to keep your appliances in good shape. If your home has hard or sediment-filled water, using a whole-house water softener or water filter can help keep your dishwasher and your refrigerator's icemaker in good working order.

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