Computer repair vs replacement and why my accountant’s gonna hate me for this

Repairs

In the August 2011 issue of Consumer Reports (full article available by paid subscription only), they use surveys and their own research to determine the answer to the question “Should I repair or replace my computer?”

Their answer:

In the first and second year of ownership, repair makes the most sense.

In the third and fourth year of ownership, they recommend considering replacement.

In the fifth year and beyond, they recommend replacement.

Moreover, they determined the average repair on a desktop or laptop computer to be around $160.

Our answer:

We agree 100%!

With our experience we find that computers start failing between 3 and 5 years. On a laptop we typically see the battery fail first. The battery is a “consumable” part just like in your car. It has a limited cycle and must be replaced. Next up on either a desktop or laptop is typically the hard drive. Unless you have a newer (and very expensive) Solid State Drive, the hard drive has moving parts and will eventually wear out. When it wears out, not only do you have to replace the drive but potentially lose your data.

Hard drive replacement is expensive because we not only have to replace the drive, but generally reinstall all your applications and data. If the computer is more than 3 years or older and the hard drive has failed, we advise against repair. Completely consistent with Consumer Reports, generally our costs to install a hard drive and operating system is right around $160 for parts and labor.

On laptops, we often find that after 3 years parts like the keyboard, mouse, and power jack start wearing out. On a desktop replacing a keyboard or mouse is a small cost and involves no labor. On a laptop it’s a more expensive proposition.

So why will my accountant (and some “competitors”) hate me for this? The simple fact is that technicians make more money when you repair something rather than replace it. Profit margins are extremely slim on new computers and therefore it’s in their best interest to tell you to repair. As a general rule, we recommend not repairing computers that are over 3 years old. That make us less money of course, but it’s the right thing to do and it’s nice to see we are aligned with Consumer Reports on this.

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