Should You Repair or Replace Your Broken Dishwasher?
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.
A broken dishwasher might not turn your life upside down like a busted fridge—you can always hand-wash, after all—but it’s still a frustrating hassle. And then there’s the uncertainty about what to do next: Should you replace it, or navigate the challenges of getting it fixed?
Our interactive tool can help you figure out whether it’s worth paying a professional to repair your dishwasher or whether you’re better off buying a new one. Below, we’ll also share tips on how to breathe new life into your dishwasher without the help of a pro—and if necessary, how to responsibly dispose of your dishwasher and pick a new model that will last.
Our repair-vs.-replace advice is based on data from CR’s exclusive member surveys along with product-specific depreciation rates. The product’s age, the cost of repairs, and the cost of buying new are also taken into account.
Factors to Consider
With dishwashers, the data typically leans toward replacement. They lose their value faster than you might realize, and professional repairs can be surprisingly expensive.
Here are the important numbers: Many manufacturers have told us that they design their dishwashers (and other appliances) to last for about 10 years, so we estimate that dishwashers lose 10 percent of their value (based on their purchase price) every year. The median repair cost is around $170, based on our surveys of more than 125,000 CR members.
DIY vs. Hiring a Pro
Say your dishwasher still works—just not as well as you remember it working in the past. Sometimes, your dishwasher just needs some quick maintenance to get back into top shape.
For example, a dip in your dishwasher’s cleaning performance could simply be from a clogged filter, or food and mineral buildup somewhere else in the dishwasher. Those are easy problems to fix, no tools required. We’ve got plenty of other advice on more tips on keeping your dishwasher running well.
If your issue seems to be more complex, start by checking if you’re entitled to free service under the terms of your product warranty (usually for the first year of ownership), or perhaps under a product recall or class-action settlement.
The first step is to find your dishwasher’s model number. It’s typically printed on a sticker somewhere along the side of the dishwasher door, and will almost always be a mess of seemingly random numbers and letters. Next, punch that into Google with “recall” or “warranty” and you should get the info you need.
Generally, if your appliance is under warranty, get in touch directly with the manufacturer to make a claim. But some appliance dealers have in-house service teams, so if you bought your dishwasher from one of these retailers, contact them first.
If you aren’t entitled to free service, try to diagnose your dishwasher’s woes on your own. You might learn that you can easily fix the problem by yourself or at least get a sense of how difficult and expensive the fix might be.
Many appliances have a diagnostic mode. Certain LG and Samsung appliances (including dishwashers), for example, have an easy-to-use self-diagnosis feature that can send troubleshooting instructions to a smartphone app. Most brands have a diagnostic mode meant specifically for repair technicians, but you can often access it yourself with timed button presses. Search for it on Google or YouTube by typing in the brand and model number of your dishwasher along with the words ”diagnostic mode.” The most reliable posts generally rise to the top of your search results.
Most dishwasher product manuals (and brand web pages) also have a troubleshooting section that might give you some clues. Customer service might be able to point you to a helpful site or video online, or guide you over the phone or an online chat directly, though some are more helpful than others.
Whatever the issue turns out to be, you’ll likely save more money by fixing it on your own. Repair Clinic is a good place to start, because they carry spare parts for loads of dishwashers and have tons of useful tutorials, vetted by experienced technicians.
Still, some tasks are better left to the pros, "including pump repair and any electronic controls,” says Larry Ciufo, CR’s head of dishwasher testing. In this case, you’ll probably save money by choosing an independent repair shop. Here are the average repair costs for each type of technician, according to CR’s member surveys. (To get an idea of average repair costs in your local area, you can check sites like Angi or Home Advisor.)
- Independent tech: $165
- Appliance retailer: $173
- Manufacturer: $198
You can search for technicians on Angi and Thumbtack. Of course, it’s always also a good idea to ask friends or neighbors in your area for trusted recommendations. Most independent contractors will work on most appliance brands, but there are exceptions (service for Miele can be hard to find, for example).
You’ll often have to pay a technician just to travel to your home, before they can diagnose the problem and offer a quote. This kind of service fee typically costs $50 to $100, according to Home Advisor, and it will usually count toward the price of the repair if you follow through with the job. But if the repair turns out to cost more than you’re willing to pay, then—well, you’ve blown some money that could’ve gone toward a replacement. So it’s important to do some research before you call a pro, and review the service’s costs and terms carefully before you hire one.
According to our surveys, about 68 percent of CR members who had a malfunctioning dishwasher attempted to repair it. The non-repairers often cited the high cost of repair as a key reason why they decided not to go through with it.
Those who hired a professional technician generally saw success, but not always. (These figures don’t include people who chose not to follow through with a professional repair, whether that’s because they couldn’t find someone to do the work, or the necessary parts weren’t available, or some other reason.)
- 73 percent succeeded with the first attempt
- 18 percent succeeded with subsequent attempts
- 9 percent were never able to fix the problem
Finding a Dishwasher That Will Last
If it’s time for a new dishwasher after all, you could try to recycle your old one. However, appliance recycling isn’t easily accessible everywhere, and even if you live somewhere with an appliance recycling program, it can be a challenge to get your old machine to the recycling site. Retailers commonly haul away your aged appliance when they deliver and install your new machine, but it’s not always clear what they do with the old one. You can look for a nearby recycling center (by zip code) with Earth 911’s search tool.
Here’s a big-picture look at the data that feeds the tool above. In general, dishwashers that cost more are worth repairing over a longer period of time, because the cost of a typical repair is a smaller proportion of the value of the dishwasher. In other words, a regular $170 repair on a low-end dishwasher rarely makes financial sense—you’re better off putting the money toward a new $500 machine. But for a $1,000 dishwasher, the $170 repair is often worth pursuing for the better part of a decade.
Top-Rated Dishwashers From Reliable Brands
To increase the chance that you’ll end up with a new dishwasher that’s built to last, explore our comprehensive dishwasher ratings, which includes more than 100 models. CR members can see the strongest performers from the most reliable dishwasher brands. Below, reviews for five models from three brands with our top predicted reliability rating.