December 1, 2011

Appliance and Electronics Repair Rates

Here is a table of repair rates in 3 years for various common household appliances and electronics.

Repair rates for products in first 3 years %
Desktop PC 37
Laptop PC 33
Refrigerator: side by side (w/icemaker ) 28
Washing machine 22
Refrigerator: top / bottom freezer (w/ icemaker) 17
Projection TV 16
Clothes dryer 13
Dishwasher 13
Vacuum cleaner (excluding belt replacement) 13
Microwave oven (over-the-range)  12
Electric range 11
Refrigerator: top / bottom freezer (no  icemaker) 8
Digital camera 8
Camcorder 8
TV: 30- to 36-inch 7
TV: 25- to 27-inch 5

Source : Consumer Reports 2006

Repair rate means that the product needs some sort of repair and does not necessarily mean total failure.  It could be a minor or major repair.

You can tell its a fairly old list because they list 25" TVs and projection TVs but no flat panels.   This is the only such list I could find with the searching I did.   I would assume that the repair rates would be similar 5 years later so I think this list is good enough to give you an idea.

Computers break down a lot apparently.    Thats not too much of a surprise as they are extremely complicated systems.  However what is considered a 'repair' for a computer could be something like a virus infection or an operating system or software problem that requires a technician to resolve.  Thats not the same as a electronic hardware failure.   I'm in the high tech industry personally so this kinda thing matters to me, but to the typical consumer it doesn't matter as long as the thing is broken.

Refrigerators with icemakers break down a lot more frequently.   Presumably that is due to the icemaker itself breaking down but it could also be related to failures that are related to the icemaker in some way. 

How Would You Use the Information?

Lets say that I'm buying a new digital camera and I'm offered an extended warranty.   The camera costs $89 and they offer me a 2 year extended warranty for a mere $12.95.    Generally I know that extended warranties are not a good financial purchase.   But you might be tempted to buy one based on the security that it could bring you.   Is covering the life of a camera for 2 years worth $13?   That really depends on how often such cameras break down or otherwise need replacing.   The repair rate for digital cameras in the first 3 years is just 8%.   That means you only have about 1 in 12 chance of using that extra 2 year warranty.   Since the camera cost $89 to begin with then a 1/12 probability would value the warranty at about $7.42.  

Now consider if you have a few rental properties and you want to plan for and estimate the cost of repairing and replacing the appliances in your units.   You have 8 separate units so you have 8 stoves and 8 refrigerators.    It would be useful to know on an average year the chances of one of those 8 stoves or 8 refrigerators breaking down.   If there is an 11% failure rate for electric ranges in a 3 year period then we could estimate that for a typical 3 year period that you'll have 1 of your ranges need repair.   That assumes you started with all new appliances however.   So it would get more complicated if the stoves are of varying ages.   But this gives us a starting point to help estimate the failure rates.  Best case you can assume you'll need to repair 1 stove in a given year but its likely more than just one. 

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