How to Get a Fair Price on Appliance Repair
Last updated in November 2015
Once you have identified repair services that offer high-quality workmanship, you need to consider price. Our Ratings Tables show our price comparison scores for each company. To calculate these scores, our researchers—without revealing their affiliation with Checkbook—shopped each company for prices on four different repair jobs. The scores show how each company’s prices compared to the average price for all surveyed companies. The scores are adjusted so that the average price comparison score is $100. Prices charged by a company with a score of $90, for example, were 10 percent lower than the average.
As shown on the table below, shop-to-shop price differences can be substantial. For example, prices to replace the drum belt on a Roper clothes dryer ranged from $89 to $200, and prices to replace the bake element on a General Electric oven ranged from $138 to $290. These large differences are reflected in companies’ price comparison scores, which range from $76 to $160.
In addition to price comparison scores, our Ratings Tables report each company’s “minimum charge for a service call” and indicates in parentheses whether this charge covers a complete diagnosis or specified amount of time.
About half of the repair services listed on our Ratings Tables charge flat rates after diagnosis. They compute a job’s labor charge by multiplying its hourly labor rate by the amount of time allotted for that job according to one of several published manuals. If the manual calls for 30 minutes to replace the heat element in an electric clothes dryer, the customer pays for 30 minutes of labor, regardless of the amount of time it actually takes to complete the repair. For consumers, the benefit of this system is that after diagnosis you will know the exact cost of the repairs. But the downside of the flat-rate system is that you might pay more than if the company charged for time spent. For example, if a flat-rate manual calls for 30 minutes of labor for a job and the technician finishes the job in 10 minutes, you still pay for the extra 20 minutes.
Other companies charge on a time-and-materials basis for the work performed beyond the time covered by their minimum service call charge. We found some companies’ labor rates are twice as high as their competitors’. They charge by time units—typically 15 or 30 minutes—and some round up to the next higher time unit; that is, a company charging in 15-minute units would charge two units for a 20-minute job. Others round to the nearest time unit; a company that uses 15-minute units would charge one unit for a job that actually takes 20 minutes.
In this industry—as in so many we have studied—we found no evidence of any relationship between price and service quality. In fact, companies with below-average prices tended to score much higher on our customer survey than companies with above-average prices.
Even if you’ve been unlucky and have a poor track record with unreliable appliances, don’t buy an extended warranty when you purchase a new appliance. As discussed in our article on extended warranties, each year consumers waste billions of dollars on extended warranties (also called “protection plans” or “extended service plans”). Retailers increasingly count on the sales of extended warranties for most—or even all—of their profits, and we believe these warranties are incredibly bad deals for most of the consumers who buy them.
|Low, Average, and High Prices Quoted by Repair Services for Illustrative Jobs1|
|Description of job||Low price||Average price||High price|
|Replace gaskets for upper and lower doors on a Whirlpool refrigerator||$266||$369||$618|
|Replace drum belt on a Roper clothes dryer||$89||$132||$200|
|Replace bake element on a General Electric oven||$138||$186||$290|
|Replace motor and pump on a GE Profile dishwasher||$308||$395||$576|
|1 For each of these jobs, the companies were given additional, detailed specifications.|