Should You Repair or Replace Your Broken Clothes Dryer?
CR’s interactive tool leverages product costs, depreciation rates, and survey data to help you make the right choice. Plus, expert advice on what to do next.
Manufacturers generally design dryers to chug along for a decade or so, tumbling clothes and spewing heat like a trusty old steam engine. And that usually works out: After all, dryers aren’t as complex as washers. They’re simple machines, with fewer parts.
Still, sometimes they break down. And as our 2021 survey data—reflecting the experiences of almost 80,000 dryer owners—suggests, an array of issues can occur, with the most common complaint (at 12 percent) being that the dryer simply stopped drying.
When problems arise, it’s typically better for the environment if you try to resuscitate your dryer and save it from the landfill; that’s where 37.4 million tons of waste, generated by large appliances, ended up in 2018, according to the most recent Environmental Protection Agency data available. But not everything can be fixed, and not all fixable situations make economic sense. Here are the tools and techniques you need to navigate your options.
Factors to Consider
Whether you should repair your dryer depends on its age and its potential repair cost vs. the cost of a new dryer.
Our interactive tool, below, takes this information into account to help you figure out whether it’s worth paying a pro to repair your dryer or if you’re better off buying a new one.
As an example, if you spent $600 on your electric dryer nine years ago and you’re pushing it to the limit (say, seven loads per week), a new dryer purchase may be worth it. If the machine is 3 years old and you spent $1,100 on it, a repair is more logical, depending on the problem.
Naturally, if your machine is under warranty (as is typical within a year of purchase), it makes sense to simply repair your machine.
Even if your warranty has lapsed, take a moment to look up your model on the manufacturer’s site. This way, you can check to see if your issue is related to a recall and therefore covered for parts and service, or a replacement.
DIY or Hire a Pro?
Most dryer issues require a technician, but a few problems can be fixed on your own. For instance, if you notice your dryer’s performance is lagging and clothes take longer to dry, double-check to ensure that there’s no lint buildup. “Anyone can clean the lint screen and check the external ducting to ensure proper air flow,” says Dean Landers, president of Landers Appliance, a certified service center based in Baltimore.
CR members were more tolerant of issues related to poor dryer performance, like tangled clothes, overdried clothes or clothes not drying thoroughly. Only 21 percent or less of dryers with these particular problems were taken for a repair.
Finding a Dryer That Will Last
If it turns out that repairing your dryer isn’t worth it, try to locate a nearby recycling center at Earth 911. And replace the old model with one that not only serves your needs now but also avoids breakdowns in the future and ensures a smooth repair process if problems arise anyway.
Below is a big-picture look at the data that fuels our tool above. In general, premium dryers are worth repairing for a longer period of time because the cost of a typical repair is a smaller proportion of the machine’s value. In other words, a $172 repair on a $430 dryer makes little financial sense after the first few years. You’re better off flipping that money for a new $850 dryer with excellent reliability and Energy Star certification—because it has a longer shelf life and saves energy costs with each load. However, if you own the $1,735 LG DLEC900V (the top-rated option in our ratings), that $172 repair is worth it for at least a decade.
When you’re ready to shop, start by narrowing your choices to only those that are a good match for your washer. For instance, if your washer doesn’t spin excess moisture from your clothes well, look for a high-performing dryer. (Check out our clothes dryer buying guide to learn more about your options.)
CR members can read on about top-rated models in our clothes dryer ratings. Here, we highlight electric, gas, and compact dryers that are not only high performers, according to CR’s tests—they’re also made by reliable dryer brands, according to data from our member surveys. All earn Excellent ratings for reliability, except for the Samsung, which receives a Good score. Some are also Energy Star certified—meaning they use 20 percent less energy than conventional dryers—which will save you money over the long term. About half the electric dryers in our ratings are Energy Star certified.