Repair It or Replace It: Appliances

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Repair It or Replace It: Appliances
When a major appliance breaks down, we're all faced with the same dilemma: Do you pay to have it repaired, or do you just buy a new one and replace it? Here are a few guidelines to help you make the right choice for your budget.

To start, always check the manufacturer's warranty before you do anything. This may seem obvious, but it's commonly overlooked. Read through the terms and conditions of your warranty in the owner's manual. If you don't have one, you can usually find the document online by searching under the make and model of your product. Most appliances should be covered between one and two years, but some of the more critical parts can sometimes be covered much longer, so it's definitely worth a look.

The next thing to do is make a call to the manufacturer's service department. Sometimes, the technician can help you troubleshoot the problem for free over the phone. If an in-home service call is needed, always remember to focus on how much the total appliance repair is going to cost you, not the service call price.

Some companies try to entice you with a low service call rate, only to overcharge when it comes to repair costs. Whenever possible, try to go with a business that will waive the service call cost if you choose to have them repair your item.

Still unsure of whether you should repair or replace? One last thing to consider is The 50 Percent Rule. If the cost of your repairs are going to be over 50 percent of the cost of buying a new product, don't do the repairs, especially if your item is more than 50 percent through its lifespan.

Dishwashers, microwaves, washers and air conditioners should last you about 9-10 years. Gas and electric ranges, refrigerators and dryers can last up to 13-15 years. So, if your appliance is already past the halfway point, replacing it might be the best way to save.

A broken appliance can be frustrating, but it doesn't always have to cost you an arm and a leg. Follow these guidelines to keep your household running without short-circuiting your budget!

10 Overhyped Kitchen Products
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Repair It or Replace It: Appliances -- Savings Experiment
Whether you're updating your appliances or planning a full remodel, seeing past the hype can be tough when everything looks so good.

Here are our nominations for the 10 most overhyped kitchen products and the smarter options that beat them.
Pro-Style Ranges: Viking claims its range "captures the professional performance of a commercial range and places it at your command and in your home." Yet our tests find that $4,000-plus pro-style ranges perform no better than cheaper, conventional models.

Smarter Option: Faux-pro-style ranges from mainstream manufacturers combine stainless-steel style, performance and reliability for thousands less.
Speed Cooking: Speed cooking combines microwaving with convection or baking and broiling to cut cooking time. But performance was spotty in our tests. Some foods came out great, while others were undercooked.

Smarter Option: Ovens and ranges with convection use a fan to circulate hot air, so you can bake and roast at lower temperatures for shorter times.
Steam Ovens & Ranges: Sharp claims that in its oven, "super-heated steam cooking melts away fat" and is "simplicity itself." Using the countertop model we tested was simple enough, as was a KitchenAid range with a steam option. But the built-in steam oven from Miele was less user-friendly. We also found that food cooked in some of those ovens had just as much fat after steaming as before.

Smarter Option: Skip them.
Multimedia Refrigerator: Side by sides with TVs and calendars promise to help you organize your life. Samsung says its Wireless ICE will help as your family "plans their schedules, leaves messages, posts pictures, watches TV, and shares meals." But none of the multimedia fridges we tested out-cooled the best conventional fridges.

Smarter Option: Buy a top-rated refrigerator and a capable flat-panel TV.
Turbocharged Dishwasher: Kenmore claims its TurboZone's spray jets blast "into every corner of dirty, baked-on dishes to get everything clean without soaking or scrubbing." But we found that most regular dishwashers do a very good job of cleaning dishes, even with baked-on food.

Smarter Option: Pick a cheaper dishwasher that blends top cleaning with quietness and shorter cycle times.
Appliance Drawers: These drawers are touted as flexible and stylish. Our tests of various models show that their lower storage capacity, efficiency and performance, coupled with their high prices, negate their perks.

Smarter Option: Choose a good French-door fridge for style and accessible storage. Run the rinse-only cycle on a regular dishwasher for small loads. Free up counter space with an over-the-range microwave.
Pricey Faucets & Sinks: American Standard gushes that its faucet "provides a lifetime of smooth handle operation," while Kohler claims its thick, 18-gauge stainless sinks provide "exceptional resistance to stains." We found few performance differences between the least and most expensive versions.

Smarter Option: Faucets in chrome or with physical vapor deposition finishes performed best regardless of price.
Trendy Counters: "Practical artwork" that requires "virtually no maintenance other than normal cleaning," heralds Trueform Concrete. Limestone is "velvety smooth" says another company. Our tests found concrete to be fragile and susceptible to scratches, chips and hairline cracks. As for limestone, our wear tests left it scratched and stained.

Smarter Option: If you crave the stone look, go for granite or quartz.
'Green' Flooring: Bamboo, cork and linoleum are all considered renewable alternatives to standard hardwood and vinyl flooring. But some in our reviews didn't hold up to the usual spills, scratches, dropped plates, and sunlight in a typical kitchen.

Smarter Option: Solid wood floors can be sanded and refinished several times, while plastic laminate and vinyl proved toughest overall.
Home Depot and Lowe's tout services that simplify kitchen remodeling process. But our surveys show that no one retailer was impressive for design help, product quality and price.

Smarter Option: Check our ratings for the stores with the attributes that matter most to you. Consider local independent stores and personal references as highly as any preconceived notions about price, quality and convenience.
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