If an appliance breaks down, especially at an inconvenient time, it can be a tricky question about whether it is smarter and more cost effective to call an appliance repair company or to just go out and buy a completely new product. Two big questions, when it comes to deciding if it’s an intelligent choice to have your appliance repaired, are: 1) How old is it?  And, 2) How high quality is the appliance to begin with?

Technology has a tendency to become obsolete all too quickly. You buy the latest edition of a product and the next one is on the shelves within a week. With electronic equipment like laptops or stereo systems, it almost never makes sense to have them repaired, unless there is data that you need to recover and, even then, it might be easier to have those files transferred to a newer machine. For most appliances there is less pressure to stay current with new editions, as they come out less frequently, tend to be less revolutionary, and don’t require as much compatibility with other products. The general rule is that if it’s younger than four years old, repair it.

You also need to factor in the quality of the equipment that you bought. If you got the cheapest model on the market, then you will probably wait less time to replace it. If it’s a lower quality appliance, then you probably just want to recycle it and start with a new one. If, however, it is a higher-end appliance, those are usually built to stand the test of time and can last sometimes up to twenty years with only minor maintenance and repairs along the way. Look online for your brand’s history and see how well and for how long the product generally performs, and let that inform your choice. Regardless of what you paid for it, if your item repeatedly keeps breaking down it may need replacement.

Environmentally, it always makes more sense to have your appliance repaired. The amount of energy and raw materials that it takes to manufacture and ship a completely new appliance is dramatically larger than what’s required to fix an old one. If the size of your carbon footprint is something that you are concerned about, you should call for repair until it is no longer practical. Broken appliances, even if they are still functional, can also leak chemicals and waste power, so make sure you repair anything that drips constantly, has a tendency to short out, etc.

The knee-jerk reaction when an appliance gives out is always just to buy a new one. However, that can often be a costly and inefficient impulse. Before you go picking out an expensive new item, consult these general guidelines. Do a little bit of research into the appliance repair companies in your area, and the history of your product and its manufacturer. Whether you choose to replace or repair it, that ten minutes of effort could be worth hundreds of your dollars and hours of your time.