Repair or replace?

The fan on my computer’s video card is dying loudly.   DH says my options are a $90 video card or a new computer for $1-2K.  My current computer is from 2012, but I have a more recent laptop.  There are some other problems with the desktop, which is still running the old version of windows.  Dropbox no longer plays with it, for example.

We often have the choice to repair an appliance or replace it entirely.  Long-time readers have seen plenty of discussions about whether or not I should just give up on repairs and buy a new car.  DH has also used his mad engineering skills and youtube videos to fix our clothes washer to replace the dishwasher and freezer motors.

I also recently got around to mending my pile of slightly torn clothing, mainly because I was running out of pants to wear.  Before doing this I (uncharacteristically) impulse bought a pair of pants online from Nordstrom.  Magenta.  Because… the magenta versions were on sale for $35 and the black pants were $60… and I did kind of need another pair of pants if I wasn’t going to mend.  (It turns out they’re polyester.  1940s style pants in a 1970s fabric.  So when I wear them, whenever I look down I get this disconcerting feeling that I’m attached to my grandma’s torso and legs.  I’m pretty sure she had a pair of pants in this exact color and fabric.  They’re very comfortable though!  So far I’ve worn them to work twice but only when I know the more fashion conscious of my colleagues will be out of town.)  Now that I’ve mended a couple of hems I no longer need to wonder whether to wear jeans or bright pink pants or dig out the least dirty pair of nice pants out of the laundry every couple of weeks, give or take.

Generally when we try to decide whether or not to repair or replace, we do a cost benefit analysis.  How much will it cost to repair?  How much will it cost to replace?  How guilty will we feel about the environment?  How difficult is it to figure out how to get rid of the broken thing?  How long will it take to figure out how to do the repair vs. how long will it take to actually pick out a replacement?

Generally in this household it’s that last item that is the deciding factor.  I hate shopping.  DH takes FOREVER when he picks something out (see:  slow kitchen renovation process).  If I need something sooner rather than later, ironically it generally takes less time to repair it than it does to get a new one.

So I decided to go for the video card option because picking a computer could take months and I need that noise to stop now.  (And DH satisficed and picked a video card without spending forever, but then the one he picked had a loud fan even when it wasn’t broken, so he sent it back (yay Newegg) and got one without a fan and now my computer is quiet and he wishes he’d made this switch ages ago.)  I’m thinking if we’d decided to pick out a new desktop he’d still be on the computer comparison shopping and my video card would be cachunking along if it hadn’t yet given up the ghost.

How do you decide to repair vs. replace?  Which are you more likely to choose?

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32 Responses to “Repair or replace?”

  1. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    I’m definitely on the side of “replace”, mostly bcs I value my time & mental effort much much more than money & I am a satisficer, so pick new shittolio very quickly & easily. (My wife takes FOREVER to pick out shittio, but we have learned not to try to confront the other with our opposite choosing styles.)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      DH also takes FOREVER. Add to that that I hate shopping, and you get me buying new NAOT inserts instead of new NAOT shoes. (Since buying new shoes involves going to the city, finding someplace to park, and trying to find someone at the Euro store to pay attention to me. Because not all NAOT shoes fit me… One of the reasons I have more shoes now than I used to is that I’ve had an annual conference trip in a city for the past few years where there’s a fantastic shoe store with great salespeople.)

  2. chacha1 Says:

    I tend to make things last a long time but more through light & careful use than through repair (with the exception of cars. Cars are annoyingly expensive in every direction, but keeping one running (as long as it is not a true lemon) is always less expensive than buying new). Like four pairs of work-appropriate shoes so that I can (and often do) wear each pair only once a week, with sneakers on Fridays. Or four pairs of work-appropriate pants likewise, with jeans on Fridays. My pants can go for quite a long time between washings, which means my oldest pair is more than three years old and looks brand new.

    My laptop – which serves as a desktop now that I have a Chromebook – is six years old and I am fairly certain it would not have lasted this long if I did not have it permanently parked on a cooling/fan platform. I don’t want to replace it because I’m used to it, and because I hate shopping for/spending money on things like that, and a replacement won’t be less than $1K, so generally I treat the thing with kid gloves. And back up constantly via BackBlaze.

    And that said, if a pair of shoes dies I chuck it, I don’t try to repair. :-)

    • Debbie M Says:

      I like this strategy, though it’s often hard to realize and learn about specific ways to maintain things in our throw-away culture. Although if we think to do it, the internet can really help.

      Another good strategy, for items you plan to use a lot and/or for a long time, is to try to get a super-reliable version, a super-durable version, and/or one in a classic style. Again, internet research can really help.

  3. Cloud Says:

    We just replaced out 10 year old dishwasher. The repairs were beyond what my husband could (or wanted to) do and while the quote we got wasn’t too bad, we also weren’t convinced the repair guy’s diagnosis was correct and we were sick of losing time dealing with it. So now we have a brand new version of our old dishwasher. (Bosch. I loved the old one right up until the bottom rotor arm stopped sending out water, and I love the new one just as much. So quiet! So efficient! So good at cleaning caked on stuff off of my dishes!)

    We are also starting the process of replacing our almost 12 year old Prius. The next big repair would be a battery replacement and we decided it wasn’t worth doing that, partly because the car is old enough now that other little things are going wrong. We’ve been fixing those but the little things are coming up more often now and that is inconvenient. We’ll probably get a plug in hybrid but may surprise ourselves and opt for one of the all-electric cars that has a >200 mile range.

    So I guess the answer is we’ll repair until it starts annoying us at which point we buy something new and reliable.

    • Cloud Says:

      Oh… on the clothes/shoes front: I only do small repairs (hems, etc) on clothes. But I have a pair of black mary janes with a strap that I’ve been repairing for almost 15 years now and am about to get a pair of black oxfords resoled. In both cases it is because I love the shoes and the repairs are pretty cheap.

  4. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    We stretch the life of things as long as we can but we’re bad at repairing. We should probably take things in for repair as opposed to kludging them on our own. New happens when we’re sick of the clunky fixes or it finally just falls apart.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I have pants that I’ve owned longer than DC2 has been alive because I can’t get myself to the place to get them hemmed. Taking things in for repair is kind of a non-starter for me.

      • gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

        I’ve hemmed my own pants—it is certainly faster than finding someplace that would do it for me. I haven’t had to do it lately, as most men’s pants come already hemmed, and my size is common enough that I don’t need to adjust.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Good for you!

        I suck at pants cuffs unless the hem is already made and I’m just fixing it (even then I’m not great). I cannot get a straight line to save my soul and it’s too frustrating to try. I would not even want to attempt lined pants which is the kind that’s been sitting in my closet for years.

  5. Debbie M Says:

    Another good question is how long the repaired item is expected to last. Sometimes the fabric tears because it’s so old that it’s actually breaking down, and a new tear will likely appear very shortly. With computers, there comes a time when you need to move on to newer versions of things that are not supported or will just take up way too much space or processing time. That said, whenever I remember that it’s an option, I generally try to repair first.

    Admittedly, I do have a few items that I am fantasizing about replacing, so I am going to be a little bit more biased to replace those things for better versions when they break down–or maybe even before then if I can afford to. (Specifically, I want a front-loading washer, which I hope will spin dry my clothes better so that they dry faster on the rack. And I want a refrigerator with a drawer freezer so that it’s easier to pack it full of stuff without having an avalanche every time you open it.)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Very true.

      Though in my computer example, I actually got it more ram and more harddrives when it started getting slow and full. (The operating system thing is starting to be a problem though. But I do have my laptop if I need dropbox at home.)

  6. First Gen American Says:

    Like the other commenters, I will always default to repair if it is a much loved item that has no equivalent replacement. I had a pair of boots that I resoled multiple times before they finally died for good.

    Maybe a new computer would make a good Xmas present for someone in your household. That is what we did last year to replace our 10+ year old computer. Then DH can take his sweet ol time to do his research, etc.

    Our TV is dying. The picture is starting to go. I’d like to replace it when it’s a convenient time but before it completely dies. However the technology is changing with OLEDS and I am not a fan of being an early adopter. I’d rather someone else do the debugging, so now we may just wait until it’s totally dead. I’m sure it will die right when we have no time to deal with it. Luckily it’s not a necessity.

    The Honda Element would have been replaced already if they still made it, so that will continue to get repaired indefinitely or til they bring the model back.

    For appliances, my general rule is that if cost more than 1/2 of what it would cost to replace the thing, then I buy new. If it’s less than 1/2, I’ll repair.

  7. yetanotherpfblog Says:

    I’d like to fix things, but have no such skills. That said, we are pretty good about maintenance (except clothes which get downright shredded), so haven’t really seen things break until hitting end of life.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’m so bad about breaking stuff. Though, in fairness to me, I still have clothing from high school that’s only now starting to hit fabric fatigue.

      • Debbie M Says:

        There are strategies to minimize breakage, too. I don’t know very many, but I definitely like vinyl floors more than tile and I don’t want granite countertops. And not using a dryer helps the elastic in clothes to last longer. For cars, defensive driving (and oil changes).

  8. Katherine Says:

    I lean towards repair because I care a lot about reducing waste and environmental impact. That said, I am also lazy, so I sometimes delay the maintenance and keep using the item to a point where it’s no longer possible to repair. Right now, I have a nice leather purse/tote that I use to carry all my stuff back and forth to work, and its handles are wearing out. I bought it (second-hand) to make myself feel like a real grown-up when I was on the job market three years ago, and I want to keep using it indefinitely. The problem is that I live and work in a small town with no shoe/leather repair shops, so I worry that by the time I make time to go into the city on a Saturday morning it will be beyond repair.

  9. Abigail @ipickuppennies.net Says:

    It depends on the item in question. These days, I’ve gotten an alarming tendency to replace rather than repair, so it’s something I’m working on. But I don’t know that I’d ever attempt a washing machine or dishwasher repair. Unless it were really simple. So kudos to your husband for taking on those projects. Still, the pull chain on the light for the ceiling fan went out, and I was prepared to fix that (turned out to just need to be pulled from higher up and a little more firmly) rather than replace the whole dang fan because I’ve fixed one in the past and it was relatively simple… Once you got through the hassle of getting all the screws out and the housing off and such, anyway.

    Point (and I do have one) being that I’m going to try to fix more things myself from now on rather than running directly to a handyman/plumber. We’ll see how that goes.


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