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BRAND REPAIR HISTORIES FOR HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS
Lawn mowers, push, & self-propelled
TV sets, 25- to 27-inch
TV sets, 31- to 36-inch
TV sets, projection
In general, products today are pretty reliable. But CONSUMER REPORTS surveys have found that some brands are more reliable than others. By buying the brands that have been the most reliable, you can improve your chances of getting a less repair-prone product. We know about trends in product reliability because every year, CONSUMER REPORTS asks its readers to report on repairs and problems they encounter with household products. From responses to the Annual Questionnaire, we are able to derive the percentage of each brand's products that have been repaired or suffered a serious problem.
Some product categories are more repair-prone than others, as the chart on page 314 shows. Desktop computers top the list--nearly half have needed repair in their first five years. Other products that have a relatively high number of problems are self-propelled lawn mowers and lawn tractors--largely mechanical devices that require a lot of maintenance.
Products with complicated mechanisms typically need more repairs than simpler devices. Gas ranges break down more than electric ranges. Self-propelled mowers fail nearly twice as often as push models. The presence of an icemaker or a water dispenser in a refrigerator increases the chances of needing a repair.
These reliability findings can shed light on the dilemma that you face when a product breaks. Should you fix it or replace it? Two factors conspire to make obtaining repairs difficult. Prices are plummeting for many products, notably electronics and computers, often making repair the more expensive option. Also, repairs may be harder to obtain--parts and repairers may be scarce, their fees are high, and repair times are long.
Many people decide to get a model with new features when a product breaks. And you can sometimes get a lot more for less. Electronics products are the best example. For instance, a typical 27-inch TV set currently costs about $400 and has more features than did TVs that cost $560 five years ago. With appliances, you might reap cost savings due to newer models' greater efficiency. Appliances have greatly improved efficiency over the years, especially refrigerators and washers. The most frugal cost the most, but they can save enough in energy over the long term to make replacing a broken older model a …