How long does a refrigerator last? Is it cheaper to repair or replace a refrigerator? How much does a refrigerator cost to repair? Those are all very valid questions, and unfortunately, answer is it depends. But let’s dig in.
In the short term it’s usually cheaper to repair a refrigerator. But in the long run, the older the refrigerator is, the more likely it is to be cheaper to buy a new one.
Is a refrigerator worth fixing?
Let’s get this question out of the way first: Is it cheaper to repair or replace a refrigerator? The answer to this question may depend on the answer to the other questions. If the refrigerator is less than 3 years old, then it probably is worth repairing. But once a refrigerator reaches age 4, repair starts making less sense.
It’s usually cheaper to repair a refrigerator than to buy a new one. At least in the short term. But around age 4, it starts making less sense in the long term.
I am pretty outspoken about repairing other appliances, specifically dryers and ranges. But with refrigerators it tends to be more complicated. The older the unit is, the more expensive parts become. Also, the older the unit is, the less efficient it becomes. And if the unit is over 10 years old, the appliance was never as efficient as a modern unit will be.
You have to factor the efficiency in to the repair versus replace calculus. Not only are you sinking hundreds of dollars into an appliance that could develop another problem, that new refrigerator is likely to save you $100 a year in energy costs.
How much does a refrigerator cost to repair?
How much a refrigerator cost to repair depends on what’s wrong with it, but you can generally expect it to cost between $300 and $1,000 (in 2022 dollars). A traditional top freezer model or a bottom freezer model tends to be less expensive to repair than a side by side model.
The simpler models tend to be cheaper to repair and less likely to break.
But that’s the reason why a refrigerator makes less sense to repair after it’s about 4 years old. Even if it costs $300 to repair, a basic economy brand top-freezer fridge like an Amana or Insignia or Hotpoint costs around $600. Over the course of its life, it will save you $50-$100 a year versus running your old one. So that basic $600 fridge pays for itself over its expected lifetime.
How long does a refrigerator last?
Modern refrigerators generally last 10 to 15 years. If you opt to buy a used one to replace a broken one, consider that into the price you pay.
They don’t make them like they used to. That’s good in a way, and bad in a way. A friend of a friend has a fridge from the 1940s that he is extremely proud of. He posts pictures of it on social media. If I had a refrigerator that was built when Harry Truman was president, I’d be proud of it too.
The thing is horribly inefficient, but it’s simple enough it probably could be repaired fairly inexpensively if and when it ever acted up.
This case is a little less extreme, but my parents had a fridge they bought before I was born. It was avocado green and they bought it at Western Auto for a ridiculously low price. When having an avocado green fridge in your kitchen ceased to be socially acceptable, it moved to the basement. I’m pretty sure that fridge lasted 30 years, and I’ll put about even odds on whether it met its demise because it finally broke or because it was old and inefficient and ugly.
The fridge I bought in 2002 lasted 19 years and 11 months. According to an ancient blog post, I bought it in October and paid $429 for it. I know without looking anything up that it never gave me any trouble until late September 2022.
I don’t expect its replacement to last as long.
How often should a refrigerator be replaced?
What I should probably do is think about sometime around year 9, watching for a sale, and when I get a good deal on a new one, moving my current fridge to the garage where it can hold drinks and serve as overflow storage when we need it. And then we have a backup if we ever have a problem with either of them. Whether it has a year left or five when we move it to the garage isn’t a huge deal, since it’s the backup at that point.
Will I do that? We’ll see.