Are Laptop Screen Repairs Worth It

A common call we get here at DoctorDave Computer Repair is “Can you repair my laptop screen?”  The short answer is yes, the long answer is no.  Yes, we can repair them.  We’re computer repair professionals. However, we don’t recommend screen repairs and here’s why.

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There’s Usually More Wrong Than the Screen

The typical reason a laptop screen breaks is because it’s been dropped.  When we get inside the laptop we see a whole heck more wrong than just the screen.  Here are the top problems we see:

  • Cracked case:  once we attempt to remove the screen, other parts that were cracked separate. It never quite goes together the same and we have to replace the case.
  • Cable tears:  the insides of a laptop are delicate and the drop causes damage to these.  Often times damaged plastic inside the case tears these.
  • Cracked components:  if it’s dropped hard enough to crack the screen, other things are cracked inside and will get worse.
  • Hard drive: 50% of the cracked screens we see have damaged hard drives.  The hard drive is what stores all your important stuff.

While we can repair each of these, the cost of the repair keeps going up.

It’s Difficult to Find Components

Kansas is one of the states fighting for a “Right to Repair.” That gives everyone the ability to buy components to fix their computers.  Right now, the only way we can get screens is used or counterfeit.  Each manufacturer won’t sell original screens, partially to protect their own revenue stream.

Our policy is to fix things right, the first time. In our tests the failure rate of these screens is 10%-30%.  That’s unacceptable to us.  We don’t like clients to go through the hassle of waiting until we get a working screen.  Honestly the other reason is our time.  When we get a bad screen, it causes double work for us.  Most computer repair companies figure that into the repair costs.  I don’t like overcharging customers to compensate for these situations. As a business owner, I believe you should be charged for the work done.  If it takes an hour to repair, you should be charged an hour. You shouldn’t be charged more because someone else’s repair took more time.

If we are able to get original screens from the company, we’d revisit this policy for sure.

Generally, it’s Not Worth Repairing

Even if we can get quality screens and we don’t find other damage inside the laptop, laptop screen repair may not be worth it.  Other computer companies probably will hate me for saying this.  After all, we don’t sell computers and we’re talking ourselves out of work.

Here’s why.  If the computer is less than a year old, then it’s still under warranty.  If you don’t get the computer repaired by the manufacturer, they’ll void the warranty. That means anything that’s wrong with it, you’re on the hook for. If they fix it, they’ll keep your warranty intact. With so many things that can go wrong with a computer, you want to keep your options open.  The company that makes the computer will charge a hefty fee for the replacement, but your protection remains intact.  We think it’s worth repairing, just not through us.

Year two of a laptop is tricky.  It’s probably not under the original warranty, but your credit card generally extends the warranty an extra year.  So if lets say your keyboard goes out in year two, your credit card will cover it.  Consumer Reports did a study on laptop repairs.  They don’t recommend a repair in year two of computer ownership if repair costs would exceed 50% of the cost to replace.

I tend to use an alternate rule of thumb, but it’s the same conclusion as Consumer Reports.  Their formula is hard to use sometimes because people aren’t sure how much an equivalent laptop costs today.  Generally a laptop depreciates about 30% each year.  A good rule of thumb is a laptop repair isn’t worth it if it’s 25% of the original cost.  If you paid $500 for a laptop, if the screen cracks in year two, you shouldn’t pay more than $125 for the screen to be repaired.  Anything higher than that, it isn’t worth it.  Another tip is to check how much the computer sells for used on eBay.  Look for completed purchases, not what people are asking.  People often ask too much for a computer on eBay.

In year three, a laptop repair is never worth it.  In the third year, we start seeing all the typical problems.  Hard drives, batteries, keyboards, trackpads, and power jacks all go out in the third year.  Even without those verified numbers, three year old laptops generally sell for about 10% – 20% of their original cost.  We’ve had clients tell us they are unable to sell three year old laptops at garage sales for $25.  Most people realize stuff starts failing after a few years and would rather have something new and reliable than buying someone else’s problems.

Why We’re Honest About Laptop Screen Repairs

Other computer repair business owners chastise me for this.  If the person wants the repair, why say no?  Hey, we’re in this for the long haul.  We’ve been doing this since 1990.  Moreover, I know the frustration of putting money into something when it isn’t worth it.  I’ve had too many used cars that turned into money pits.  I don’t want to inflict that pain on anyone else.  While declining many of these repair hurts our computer repair profits, we know it creates loyalty and trust.  Ultimately, I’d rather you trust us than pay us and regret your decision.

Photo by BruceTurner

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