642: Repair v Replace

A Thousand Things to Talk About
642: Repair v Replace

In 2014, Consumer Reports wrote, quote:

The repair rates of most products in our latest survey are similar to what we found when we conducted the survey in 2010. Some products are breaking less often. Laptops had a repair rate of 24 percent, down from 36 percent in 2010; the LCD TV repair rate is 7 percent, down from 15 percent. So why does it seem like things don’t last as long as they used to? Because when products do break, it’s memorable.

Repairing something is a skill, be it a pair of pants, a computer, or the steering column of a vehicle. And those skills are ones that, frankly, not all of us have for everything that we own or that we use throughout our lives (despite, perhaps, the desire to do so thanks to YouTube).

But – the right to repair something you own hasn’t always been assured. Starting in 1956, there have been a number of laws and legal fights in the United States that outline exactly the rights a company may have to restrict repairs, or the rights an individual has to carry out repairs on things that they have purchased.

For the most part, the right to repair is fairly well protected in many situations — then the challenge just becomes figuring out how to actually do it, and if you should anyway.

Places called Repair Cafes, staffed by volunteers — or Remakeries, which are staffed by paid volunteers and freelancers — are popping up across the US, UK, Australia, and more to help individuals repair whatever it may be they have that is broken.

But – should you repair it in the first place? Consumer Reports suggests using a 50-50 rule – don’t spend more than half of the cost of buying a new thing on repairing an old thing. That rule, however, according to, is a bowl of malarky. In an over 8,500 word takedown, the author outlines exactly why no matter how you slice it, a 50% rule of thumb is probably one of the least useful measures when it comes to a decision of repairing or replacing. We’ll link in the show notes if you want to see his particular mathematical formula for repair vs replace.