Should you repair or replace that refrigerator?

Consumer Reports News: July 11, 2011 03:06 PM

A refrigerator that’s hissing, sweating, leaking or repeatedly cycling on and off is letting you know that it’s badly in need of repair or, worse, should be replaced. Deciding what to do depends on how old it is and how much it’ll cost you to fix it. As a rule, Consumer Reports recommends replacing a product if the cost of the repair is more than half the price of buying a new one. You can make your own call by checking our updated repair-or-replace timelines.

A side-by-side refrigerator with an icemaker is more than twice as repair prone as top- or bottom-freezer models without an icemaker, according to our latest reliability data as well as our most recent Repair or Replace survey, in which 27,404 subscribers told us about the troubles they had with 53,218 broken appliances, electronics, lawn equipment, and more.

Icemakers are “the bane of any refrigerator's existence," says Chris Hall, president of, which gives repair advice and sells appliance parts to consumers. In our latest report the repair rate for side-by-side refrigerators with an icemaker was 36 percent; the rate for top- and bottom-freezers with an icemaker was 28 percent and the rate for top- and bottom-freezers without an icemaker was15 percent.

The configuration and age of the refrigerator are also factors in whether you should repair it, consider a repair or buy a new one. According to our 8-year timeline:

  • Built-in refrigerators are worth repairing;
  • Side-by-sides should be repaired within a 5-year window and considered for repair after that;
  • Bottom-freezers should be repaired within 7-years and considered for repair after that;
  • Top-freezers should be repaired within 3 years, considered for repair within 3 to 6, and replaced if 7 years old or older.

If you have to replace your refrigerator you can take solace in the fact that today's models use less energy than older refrigerators and, since they’re on all the time, a new one can save you money in the long run. At Consumer Reports we rate refrigerators on energy efficiency and also estimate how much it will cost you to run each model for a year. For example, it costs $87 to run the four-door Samsung RF4287HA[RS] for a year and $46 to run the Frigidaire Gallery FGUI2149L[P] top-freezer. Both are recommended models.

Mary H.J. Farrell

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