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To fix or not to fix

They say nothing is made the way they used to be, and apparently they're right. Even those who make their bread and butter repairing appliances and electronics admit things aren't built to last any more, and all too often, it makes more sense to buy new than invest in repairs.

"Everything today is throwaway," says Chris Pambis, who, along with brother Peter, owns Pambis Appliance Service in Scarborough, Ont. He blames the decline in quality on the mass production that's taken over the business in the past 20 years and points to the interior of a refrigerator to make his point: "It's plastic inside." Gone are the days of long-lasting metal components. These days, with prices on electronics and appliances hitting all-time lows, you get what you pay for. He sees further proof in the move by manufacturers to one-year warranties, when they used to be five or 10 years.

When it comes to deciding what to repair and what to replace, one of the best points of reference is how much you paid for the item. Experts agree quality brands are almost always worth repairing (one reason is they cost so much to replace). However, while it's smart to invest in repairing a Sub-Zero or KitchenAid appliance, when it comes to a lesser-quality brand, sometimes the repair bill will be more expensive than a new unit.

"If you're going to buy an appliance, buy something good, something that you can get the parts for in Canada or the US," advises Pambis, who isn't a fan of European imports when it comes to big-ticket items, such as dishwashers, washing machines or dryers.

Other factors that play into the repair versus replace debate include the age of the appliance and cost of the repair.

"Anything that looks relatively nice and is under 10 years old, there's a possibility of a retrofit or reconditioning," says Cliff Chalmers of Chalmers Appliance Repair in Delta, B.C., adding: "If (the problem) is something major, like a motor, then go new."

Of course, there's no guarantee the new appliance won't start giving you trouble in a year or two and as, Nina Nahroo, co-owner of Apple Appliance Service in Toronto, puts it: "Who wants to replace their stove or dishwasher every couple of years?" She considers anything over 15 years to be an old appliance not worth fixing. Otherwise, "I always advise the customer if it's just one problem, fix it."

Fridges and stoves
One of the smartest things you can do to avoid expensive repair or replacement costs is simple maintenance -- and you don't have to be a technician to do it. For example, prolong the life of your refrigerator by vacuuming the compressor area. "It prevents the compressor from overheating, which means it'll last a long time," says Pambis.

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-- Posted: June 29, 2007
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