The most common malfunctions on small appliances and costs of repair (USA)

common malfunctions on small appliances

What are the most popular home appliances?

  • Refrigerator – keeping our perishable food at a cool temperature is necessary to not only our health but our wallet. Every home has a fridge because buying fresh foods every day would cost so much.
  • Washing machine – if you have ever lived in student dorms, you know what living without a washing machine in your apartment feels like. Going to a communal or even commercial laundry room is a pain, which is why the washing machine is in most homes across the U.S.  
  • Microwave oven – the microwave was commercially introduced in 1967. They revolutionized how we cook, and for many, allowed us to become slightly lazier by eating prepared food. This is perhaps the least essential appliance on this list – nevertheless, it is extremely popular.

What are the most common faults?

Refrigerators can quite easily have a coolant leak which can be a nuisance to deal with yourself. The coolant is of course required in order to maintain a suitable temperature for the food and drinks stored inside. The coolant can be refilled but the source of the leak should be identified first. Often the coils will need cleaning or replacing entirely by a technician if the temperature problems persist.

Worn out wiring is perhaps the most common general fault that occurs on most appliances. This might be down to the conditions of the house and time, or perhaps pests have chewed through it. This often happens on the washing machine in particular, and dryer, because of the nature in which they rattle about when being used. Such electrical wiring should be left to a professional of course, and without insurance, this can be costly.

Air conditioning is absolutely essential to many lives in the U.S., particularly along with the more southern and western states. A breakage can mean a very urgent and fast response in order to get it back up and working – which is costly. Common faults include the fan breaking, the coolant, a frozen coil, and even the wiring.

Microwaves are also prone to breaking, but this is debatable whether it is worth fixing, depending on how expensive the appliance is, and of course, whether your insurance covers it. Any problem with the microwave is usually too advanced for a layperson to try a DIY fix – and potentially dangerous. Freezers can be defrosted, but a microwave doesn’t give a lot of options in terms of a safe attempt to fix it.

What would it cost to repair them?

Some rough estimates on the average repair costs in the United States are detailed below.

Appliances Cost to repair
Air Conditioning $150
Dryer $180
Freezer $200 – $400
Oven $145
Standard refrigerators $180 – $400
Washing machines $180 – $400

As we can see, some of these repairs range from 10% to 50% of the rough replacement cost – which isn’t cheap. Depending on the age, it may actually be preferable to just replace the appliance if there is no insurance coverage. The average cost can depend on the state, but generally, the prices are fairly universal with the exception of a few anomalies.

What is the probability of a fault in each appliance?

Below is a table using data from an annual report from the U.S. appliance industry.

Life expectancy in years Low Average High
Electric dryer 11 14 18
Gas dryer 11 13 16
Dishwasher 9 12 16
Freezer 12 16 20
Microwave 5 8 10
Gas Ranges 15 19 23
Electric Ranges 13 16 20
Standard refrigerators 10 14 18
Compact refrigerators 4 8 12
Washing machines 8 12 16
Garbage disposal 10 13 15

As we can see from the report, most appliances have an average life of around 10 to 15 years. This may sound like a long time, but given the number of appliances in a home, and if all the purchases were made at a similar time (e.g. during a renovation), then these appliances could all break in a similar time frame of a few years. This can be difficult to deal with, which is often why people may choose to replace some appliances before the end of their life, to spread out the costs.

How an appliance warranty (or more inclusively home warranty) can be a good deal for only $30/month?

The idea of an appliance warranty may seem like a pain at first. A lot of us have the false belief that nothing will go wrong because they look after their home, and many even believe they can fix whatever it is that breaks. An individual item going wrong may not be likely, but if we consider all the factors at play, it seems a bit more daunting:

  • Most people have well over 15 appliances

  • The probability of a fault in one appliance in a given year (before its endlife) e.g. 5%

  • The average lifetime of the appliance is around 13 years

  • The average appliance is over $800 to replace

This paints a very expensive picture, where each year a homeowner has to fork out a lot of money. It is often difficult to see this as an average, as many appliances are bought at the same time, and therefore may break in clusters. But as we can see, for most people, costs can run into the thousands most years.

Suddenly though, we can see why being a homeowner is vastly more expensive than renters may guess. The grass isn’t always greener when you have a landlord who will bear the responsibility of these appliances.

Hedging against faults in appliances is a very smart idea. There are many ways to cover yourself with an all-inclusive warranty for all items in the home. Many of these insurance services are priced at around $35 per month and offer sign up bonuses.