En español | Boy, it feels like just yesterday you were breaking that new laptop out of the box. But it's been four years and now you can't turn it on without strange windows popping up on you. And why does it shut down without warning lately?
You could pay your local tech person to fix it. But are you better off simply buying a bug-free new one? It's a question all people grapple with from time to time — whether it's the dishwasher, the fridge or an electronic gadget.
"The common thought is that 'they don't make them the way they used to,' but we found that's not true," says Celia Kupersmid Lehrman, deputy home editor for Consumer Reports. True, appliances die more "dramatically" today, she says. But that's because they've become more complex than past models. Refrigerators have electronic components now, for example. They don't fail any more often, but when they do fail, they stop working altogether.
When the moment to decide arrives, consider the following three factors before you fix or fork over money for something new:
Cost: By far, the price of repair plays the starring role in this drama. How much would you spend repairing the item versus replacing it with a new version? In the case of electronics, it's often not practical to go the repair route. Typical repair jobs with small gadgets such as iPods and iPhones, for example, include cracked screens, which could cost roughly $100 to replace, says George Otte, founder and president of Geeks on Site computer repair. For your desktop or laptop computer, it could be a bit trickier (and pricier). "Usually, it's not a hardware problem," Otte says. "More often, there's a glitch with the operating system or a virus." If the item is more than 5 or 6 years old, and the repair is a few hundred dollars, he recommends backing up your data to install on a current model, which could cost as little as $300 for a PC or $500 for a laptop. Also, add on the costs associated with paying someone to transfer your data and configure your device to the way you want it, he says.
Lehrman likes the 50-percent rule: If the repair will cost you more than half of the price to replace it, don't repair. Consumer surveys show that some products are tougher and more frustrating to repair, such as built-in fridges, gas cooktops and home theater systems, she says. Dryers, electric cooktops and digital cameras are easier, which may mean a less-expensive fix.
Weigh your options by getting an estimate from an authorized repair person or other qualified professional, but do a little cost-free troubleshooting on your own first. Check the back of your owner's manual (if you can find it) or search for your problem online at websites such as repairclinic.com or howstuffworks.com.