® Home | The ProSquad | Why Does It Cost So Much To Fix My Appliance

Originally published in 2015. Updated for 2016

This was originally written about television repair, but much is the same for appliances.

That question is usually asked when the owner of a consumer product is presented  with an
out-of-warranty estimate to repair a product. Variants on it are:

  1. I didn’t pay that much for it!  (Usually microwave ovens and dishwashers)
  2. I can buy a new one for that!  (Usually microwave ovens and dishwashers)
  3. That's a design problem, the manufacturer should pay for it!
     (French Door, Bottom Freezer Refrigerators)
  4. It's only 5 years old. It needs bearings! For how much!?

Modern appliances are not the same as those made 15 plus years ago. The reliability of the product is such that we can't tell people any of their appliances will last 20 years. 8 to 10 maybe and the odds are you will have to have at least a couple of major repairs during that time.

There are a variety of reasons for this, and we have referred many customers to view this YouTube video [ Faulty appliances: Repairmen reveal industry secrets (CBC Marketplace)   ]

Virtually no major part or assembly is interchangeable with any product, brand or even between models in most cases. For the most part, stocking parts is ancient history. It's too expensive.
15 or more years ago, a part that worked on a Whirlpool in many cases would work on a GE.
That's seldom the case anymore. An appliance company may carry thousands of dollars of high moving parts, but not all of them.

New computer controlled appliances have software that may change to improve or correct known problems. But none of them offer the broad service network a means of updating software. That means you have to buy an expensive control board. At least with TV's you can download updates and plug in a flash drive.

Some manufacturers have DISCONTINUED making these control boards after 6 or 7 years. A recent comment from of our ProSquad members relates that he had 2 customers, who owned $1200 front loading washers, that the main board was no longer available. Discontinued. Go buy a new washer. Both were a little over 7 years old.

Remember the old TV ad.... “The quality goes in before the name goes on”? Those days are gone.

Why?  

Manufacturers today only want to manufacture. Most have no interest in service and customer support. They don’t care who sells or buys their  products, just as long as someone does buy them and they make a profit. Then they can create more products to manufacture. In many cases they price their parts so high, that it is uneconomical to repair. Even built-in ovens and refrigerators.

Manufacturers of refrigerators, do not put something called shrader valves on their cooling systems. That forces a tech on a no-cooling to open the system up and weld in 2 valves just to check the pressures. Those pressures are critical to diagnosis. They cost less than a couple of bucks.

But we have to charge you a couple of hundred dollars just to recover the coolant, weld in the valves, put a vacuum pump on your system, then recharge it to see what is going on. You have to pay for that.

Dealers are the sellers of those products. They don’t care what they sell, as long as they have something to sell and make a profit at it. Neither manufacturers nor dealers want to talk about a product becoming defective. Why should they? They only want to make the product and sell the product. If a dealer goes back to a manufacturer, that manufacturer does not want to talk about service or support; Just how many products are the dealers going to buy this year. Dealers want to see you in their store every day, with checkbook open. That’s what they are there for.

Big Box dealers actually make very, very little money on the products they sell you. That's why those that are still in business, push extended service contracts or ESP's on everything they sell. Most of the dealer's profits come from those contracts.

In warranty, if you come in with a service problem or defective product  - they will in most cases send you back to the manufacturer. Out of warranty, they send you to the ESP company if you purchased a contract. Again, there are exceptions and generally not the big-box stores but the specialty dealers and you will pay a justifiably higher price for the significant service and support they provide.

When a product is repaired under a manufacturer’s warranty, that cost is charged back to the factory that made the product. That’s an expense they do not want. When parts are needed, they have to divert from manufacturing a percentage for service. That’s an expense they don’t want. They have to provide service literature (schematics), training on that product, a service administration department in their host country - all of which is an expense they don’t want. All of this (in varying degrees of competence) is provided by each manufacturer to independent service companies to service their product.

Add those unwanted costs to the manufacturing and selling of a product drives up the cost of each. The consuming public doesn’t want to pay for service or the quality. The pressure to produce and sell forces the manufacturers to build products cheaper to maintain their production and earnings. Since about 1992,  manufacturers have been deliberately trying to make some products, such as microwaves) cheap enough to be a commodity. They want them cheap enough so you will not call them but throw it away and buy a new one. Quality is low and the product tends to fail more often.

You used to be able to judge a product by the cost of it. No more. The more you pay for the product no longer reflects a higher product’s quality and better warranty service. Computers and technology drive the costs up so you pay a premium for those 20 or 30 options on your washer.

And when those computerized super appliances have a control board failure - you can't use any of the functions. Think of that. No stove. No washer.

Think of knobs and timers and no push buttons when you look to buy. You won't get any bragging rights with your social equals, but you can live with one burner going out on your stove.

Since the manufacturers don’t want to pay for service, they impose all sorts of gotcha’s so they can deny paying for your repair. The biggest is the proof-of-purchase. It is required that the tech either see it or actually send them a copy. When the tech asked you for yours - what’s your usual reply?

Are you polite about it? Or do you ask "what do you need that for?" or perhaps, "I don't have time to look for it." Don’t you want your service tech to get paid for fixing the washer that they neither manufactured or sold to you? Without your POP, you just helped the manufacturer deny payment for labor AND THE PARTS. In every state, YOU are responsible for paying that denied warranty bill. Why won't you see a bill if that happens? Because the manufacturer will cancel the service company for billing you and embarassing them. The service company ends up absorbing that cost, unless he want's to get rid of that brand anyhow.

There aren't that many service companies left anymore, it's a small community. We talk.

The cost of purchasing parts, sitting on the phone waiting for technical assistance, new-defective parts (which have to be sent back and reordered) and training all drive up the cost of every repair that is borne by the service provider.


That is IF the manufacturer has parts available, training, service literature or technical assistance.

When you add the cost of going to your house - costs skyrocket. Service companies pay the same for gas as you do. Pretend your vehicle is on the road 5 or 6 hours each day or; A tech goes to your home for a scheduled call - but you forgot an appointment and didn’t call the tech to reschedule. You become a no-show. That adds to the cost of a repair. The tech changes a part and that leads the tech to another defective part. More often now, the first part that was ordered was defective new out of the box. Either way, that’s a second trip. Who pays for that?

Insurance - for the service companies property as well as yours. Insurance for the vehicle that runs service calls. Health insurance for the service companies employees (maybe). 
Don't forget livable wages for the employees. 

Remember -  that trip charge, estimate fee or hourly repair rate is not what the tech or the owner make. It’s what it costs to ring your doorbell and/or repair your product.

Manufacturers state that their independent service providers are factory “trained” or factory  “authorized” implying that they are a notch above other service companies. That is not true. It simply means that a service company signed a contract for a fixed (reduced) price. And many try hard to avoid paying even that reduced rate.

When there is a delay in service, who should you trust? The people who made it and sold it or the people who make a living servicing it? Whose advantage is it to delay service? Service providers do not make any money if they don't repair your product.

Why does it cost so much to fix your product? Don't blame service providers.

They didn’t make it. They didn’t sell it. They didn’t  buy it.