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Consumer Reports: What to Repair Vs. Replace

Maybe it's because I have small children, but a lot of things break around my home. When I'm not threatening to throw broken objects out the window, I try to figure out what items are worth fixing and which ones I should replace. Thankfully, Consumer Reports has an opinion on what appliances and electronics are repair worthy.

In the August Consumer Reports issue, you'll find the most recent Repair or Replace survey. The data is based on reported troubles from more than 27,000 subscribers. While some results won't surprise you -- we all know laptops tend to break -- other information might. For example, side-by-side refrigerators are more likely to have problems than more traditional fridges.

When a household item breaks, the main thing to consider is how much money you'll have to spend to fix the problem, says Consumer Reports. As a general rule, folks should repair an appliance or electronic gadget if the service bill is less than 50% of what it will cost to replace that item. With this rule in mind, it generally makes sense to buy new electronics since prices keep falling. But, it's often a smarter bet to repair expensive appliances since their price tags keep moving higher.

So what items tend to cause consumers the most repair headaches? Gas cooktops, built-in refrigerators, digital camcorders and home-theater systems since they often require multiple service calls or are expensive to fix, says Consumer Reports.

On the flip side, dryers, electric cooktops and digital cameras have the highest repair success and satisfaction rates from owners.

As for replacing appliances and electronics, choosing brands that tend to break down less is always helpful. In the August issue (or online), Consumer Reports has a list of the most reliable manufacturers for different products. Since the cheat sheet is just for subscribers, I'll point out a few helpful examples. If you must have a side-by-side fridge, go with a Whirlpool or Kenmore. If you're in the market for a front-loading washing machine, consider an LG. And if you want a new dishwasher, purchase a Whirlpool, Kenmore, Bosch and Hotpoint.

As for electronics, Toshiba and Acer laptops break down the least and Apple desktops are the most reliable. If you're in the market for an LCD TV, consider Panasonic, Sanyo or Sylvania. For a plasma television, go with a Panasonic, Samsung or LG.

What household items do you find break down the most?

Stacey Bradford is the author of The Wall Street Journal Financial Guidebook for New Parents.
Tk image courtesy of Flickr, CC 2.0.
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