Consider buying used when replacing appliances

What’s the better deal for your pocketbook and the environment: a new major appliance or a refurbished one?

Several consumers who recently replaced washers and dryers told our research team that they bought used because those models might last just as long as new ones and that reusing is a good “green” practice.

One couple said that when their 20-year-old washing machine finally died, they were disappointed when the brand-new replacement lasted only five years.

Instead of taking a chance on another new model, they spent $250 on a used model they figure will last at least as long as a new one.

Another consumer bought a refurbished dryer for $200 rather than spend $1,000 on a unit she believed would last no more than the 10 years she expects her used unit to remain reliable.

To these people, and others like them, buying used saves the green in wallets while eliminating the need to use resources to make a new washer or dryer.

Highly rated appliance repair pros tell our team that new appliances tend to have about half the life span of past models.

Reasons they cite include the use of cheaper raw materials and a greater reliance on computerized systems.

So if it’s time for you to replace a major appliance, particularly a washer or dryer, consider whether a refurbished model might be a good value, and find a local shop that’s gotten good consumer reviews on a trusted online site.

Before you buy new:

Consider a unit’s EPA Energy Star rating, but also how long it’s expected to last.

Research possible features and decide before shopping which ones you actually need.

After you buy, whether new or used:

Avoid overloading a washing machine; heavy or off-balance loads can cause damage. Empty pockets of coins, pens and other items that can damage the machine. Be sure to use the recommended type and amount of soap.

Clean the dryer’s lint screen before every load and periodically have the machine’s workings and vent cleaned. If your dryer takes longer than an hour to dry a standard-sized load, vent cleaning — at $100 or less, usually— could make it run like new.

Don’t neglect appropriate maintenance. Find a reputable appliance repair service through recommendations from family, friends and users of a trusted online review site.

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care; www.angieslist.com.

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