How to find a reliable and low-priced appliance repair service in the Washington area

Until November 30th, at Checkbook.org/WashingtonPost/Appliance-Repair, you will find reviews of repair services for local devices, advice on choosing and handling a service, repairing and replacing devices, and tips on repairs that you can do yourself .

Checkbook has asked consumers in the region (mostly Checkbooks and Consumer Reviews subscribers) to rate device repair services based on factors such as “work properly on first try”, “start and finish work immediately” and “overall quality”. The ratings varied widely – some companies were rated “superior” by more than 90 percent of their customers surveyed, others received “superior” ratings by less than 50 percent.

Checkbook researchers collected prices for carefully specified repairs and found that it pays to choose a service wisely, as local services charge very different prices for the same repairs. For example, prices to replace the control board for a Maytag tumble dryer at various local stores ranged from $ 335 to $ 614, and prices to replace the inner glass on the door for a hot tub oven ranged from $ 156 to $ 361 -Dollar.

When looking for a repair shop, the first thing to do is to check whether the device is still under warranty. If so, you are limited to factory authorized repairers. Unfortunately, manufacturers don’t necessarily choose the best companies to do their warranty repairs. Manufacturers rarely, if ever, check the quality of their authorized stores and those who only conduct cursory checks on occasion. Checkbook found that stores that do warranty repairs receive far lower ratings from their customers than stores that don’t.

When calling stores, be prepared to describe the symptoms of your device and its make and model number.

• Make sure you find out how the company charges service calls. Ask about the minimum fee and how much time is included in the minimum fee.

• Ask how the shop calculates repair costs. Around half of the services reviewed by Checkbook use a flat-rate plan. They calculate the labor cost of a job by multiplying the hourly rate by the time allotted for that job according to one of several published manuals. Others charge on a time and material basis for the work in excess of the time covered by their minimum service call charge. The checkbook found that hourly rates vary dramatically. So be sure to ask how high this rate is.

If you receive a diagnosis, request a written estimate before proceeding with repairs.

And then you may have to make a decision: repair or replace? It’s not always a straightforward choice.

For example, the “average life” reported for devices can be misleading. If you have a device that is seven years old and has an average lifespan of 12 years, chances are it will work well beyond that average. Also, don’t assume that one component of an appliance will break and others will soon follow suit. The device can last for years without any further problems. Also, consider your usage – if you only do a few laundry loads per week, the washer / dryer may last longer than average.

On the other hand, you might be craving new features, a new look, or higher energy efficiency. (Keep in mind that some devices, such as clothes dryers, aren’t much more efficient today than they were years ago, and even with devices that have made progress, doing just a handful of charges a week won’t change energy usage .)

• Ask about part and labor warranties.

• Ask to save or at least see replaced parts. You have a right to it.

• Obtain a dated invoice before paying. It should list the cost of labor and parts, and include all warranties.

• If you can, pay by credit card. If there is a problem, you can dispute the transaction with your credit card issuer.

Kevin Brasler is the Editor-in-Chief of Washington Consumers’ Checkbook and Checkbook.org, a nonprofit that aims to offer consumers the best service and the lowest prices. It is supported by consumers and does not take any money from the service providers it evaluates. You will have free access to Checkbook’s reviews of repair services for devices in the area through November 30 at Checkbook.org/WashingtonPost/Appliance-Repair.

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