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Video: Should you replace or repair that broken iPod?

updated 6/19/2006 11:37:47 AM ET 2006-06-19T15:37:47

The TV just broke and your warranty has expired. What do you do? Should you repair it or replace it? AOL's consumer advisor Regina Lewis offers advice on whether to buy or fix common consumer electronics.

PCs and laptops
Common problems:
The problems vary from a bad hard drive to a computer clogged up with so much spyware/adware that it cripples the computer.

Cost: Out-of-warranty repair costs are anywhere from $80 to as much as $400. Simply buying a new battery for a laptop can run well over $100. Five years or older desktops tend to break at a slightly higher rate than laptops.

Repair or replace?
I would toss any computer when the repair costs more than half the price of a new one. You can buy a new desktop system, including monitor and printer for under $500 at certain places. Laptops are more, usually around $1000. And if the item is more than three years old, it's a no-brainer, definitely replace. New computers with the latest features come out and prices drop — it may make more sense just to buy a new one.

If you're set on repairing, there are two ways to go about it. One is to go through the PC maker. All major PC manufacturers offer what is called an out-of-warranty service. You call their 800 number, they'll diagnose the problem and they'll walk you through how to fix it, but all at a fee. This would also take a lot of time.

You can also call places like “Geek Squad” or your local repair tech and they can make a housecall or you can ship it in. Again, there are time and fees involved.

Common problems: Two main problems — batteries and a cracked LCD screen.

Cost: Apple offers a one-year warranty. After that, you can add on to the warranty for an extra $59 or cheaper in electronic stores like Best Buy. A battery tends to run around $65 for the repair, while a cracked LCD screen can cost over $100.

Repair or replace?
The basic rule is that when there is one thing wrong with the iPod it makes sense to have it repaired. If you have a combination of issues, you have to think twice about justifying the repair. Remember a brand new iPod nano, with the best features, starts at $189, so your repair has to be way cheaper than the cost of a brand new one.

Cell phones and Blackberrys
Common problems: Every month over nine million phones are retired. People sign new contracts and get new upgrades. So the life of a phone to a person isn't very long. Technically the main problem is also the battery.

Cost: A new battery is usually around $25. Most manufacturers give you a one-year warranty on the battery. But you'll be without your phone for at least a few days. As for the actual phone, unless you bought the equipment plan with the phone, you're on your own.

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Repair or replace?
Replace! And strongly consider an equipment protection plan so if you lose or break your phone you're covered. There's really no point in repairing since new phones can be attained with a new service contract at almost every service provider.

Common problems: Display problems are the most common issue as the screen discolors or burns out. The display in a regular LCD flat panel is designed to last 40,000 viewing hours. That's about 20 years for the average TV viewer. But if a problem arises and you're out of your warranty, repairs can cost as much as a new TV.

Cost: Here is where you really want to consider an extended warranty. Retailers offer, for larger electronics like televisions, an extended warranty at usually 15% of the cost of the item. Average TV repair costs are about $500, and when you start repairing the new plasmas that price goes up. When you're paying thousands for a TV to begin with, that warranty might save you money in the long run.

Repair or replace?
TV prices have been dropping almost as fast as PC prices. The overall rule of thumb, as is the case with any product, is to nix any repair that costs more than half the price of a new one. Remember that you can get a cheap TV or a really expensive plasma TV. Whatever the product, you want to make sure your warranty covers the worth of the TV. If it's easily replaceable then replace, but for the big plasma, really get that extra warranty!

Other repair tips

  • Free repair is an internet search away. Whatever the problem you're having, odds are someone else has had it and knows how to solve it. Some problems are fixable yourself.
  • Go online for manuals. Most user manuals are now available online as well as help lines. Manufacturers also have web sites to troubleshoot most problems.  

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