The survey, along with the publication's Repair or Replace Survey, showed that the 33 surveyed products -- from appliances and electronics to lawn equipment -- actually aren't breaking down more frequently than they did in the past. When they do fail these days, however, more than half of the products stopped working completely, while another 30% continued to work, just poorly.The Repair or Replace Survey reflects the feedback of 27,404 Consumer Reports' subscribers on the problems they encountered with broken appliance, electronics, lawn equipment and other products used in the home.
"How do you avoid a lemon? Use our Repair-or-Replace Timeline charts to find out which [products] are worth fixing and which ones aren't," Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, deputy home editor of Consumer Reports, told WalletPop.
But if you don't have a subscription to the consumer watchdog bible, here's some free insight into how to handle a few temperamental products and what to know when it comes to repairing vs. replacing everyday goods.
About one in three laptop and desktop computers break by the time they reach the four-year mark, often due to "malicious" software (malware) or hard-drive failure. Installing antivirus software is your best pre-emptive move. You should also always shut down the device before traveling -- even for a short distance, Consumer Reports advises.
Oh, those front-loading washers: They're more susceptible to needing repair than top loaders, and often, it's the large rubber gasket that forms a watertight seal around the door that's causing the problem. So what can you do? Periodically clean the gasket with a bleach solution, and keep the door ajar after each wash to ventilate the machine, Consumer Reports says.
Apply the 50% Rule
How do you know when it's cost effective to replace a product? Here's a quick rule of thumb: A replacement should be purchased if the repair will cost more than half the price of the new product, Consumer Reports advises.
For example, replacing electronics might be less expensive than you might think because prices for some products are dropping. By contrast, major appliances are getting pricier, so it's often wise to have your faulty appliance fixed, the publication says.
Some Products Are Just Crankier Than Others
Those gas cooktops, built-in refrigerators and home-theater systems can make you want to pull your hair out because they can take an excessively long time to fix, or because they're expensive to fix -- or because the item calls for further service calls, Consumer Reports says.
The opposite is true of dryers, electric cooktops and digital cameras, which boast the highest success and customer satisfaction rates, according to the publication.
Knowing in advance which consumers products will be naughty or which will be nice can save you some aggravation -- and some cold, hard cash.