How to find a good appliance repairman

By The Old House Web

By Rosemary Thornton

718b.jpg (4705 bytes)It's Saturday morning and as you are stuffing the first load of theweek's laundry into your trusty old washing machine, you set the dial on the washer andpush in the knob. You wait for the sound of rushing water to fill the tub, but nothinghappens.

There is only a cold and unnerving silence. Mr. Washer is feeling unwell. So you grabthe yellow pages and look up "appliance repairs" only to discover dozens of ads,in all shapes and sizes.

How do you choose? How can you find a good appliance repairman who will be honest andeconomical and intelligent and capable?

A good place to start is by asking friends and neighbors. Who have they called in thepast? Were they satisfied with the repair work? Would they use him (or her) again? Why orwhy not? Were the prices reasonable? Did the service technician look and act like aprofessional?

While you're perusing those yellow pages, look for an appliance tech who accepts creditcards. Small business owners have to jump through a few hoops to accept payment by creditcards. The business owner's credit history (personal and business) must be satisfactory toa bank before they will approve a merchant's application for accepting major credit cards.

And credit cards offer the consumer some recourse for shoddy repair work.

If your appliance is not repaired to your satisfaction, you can contact your creditcard company and request that the cost of the repair be charged back to the merchant.You'll get a credit - the appliance repair shop will get a debit. (This takes a littlepaperwork and patience, but offers a degree of protection to the consumer who's worriedabout getting ripped off.)

Study the yellow page ads. A sizable display ad indicates the company has made aserious commitment and large financial investment in the future of their business. Yellowpage ads are due in monthly installments for the full year the phone book is in effect,whether or not the business is successful. Our average-size display ad in our smallcommunity costs over $500 per month.

Don't shop price by looking for a firm that promises "no service charge withrepair." Call a few appliance companies and ask some leading questions. Such as"How much would you charge to change the water pump in a 1996 direct-drive Whirlpoolwasher? What would be the bottom-line total bill for this repair, including any servicecharges, call out fees, trip charges, parts and labor?"

This is a very common repair and most companies should be able to rattle off a pricepretty quickly. A specific repair is a good way to compare true costs and uncover anyhidden "gotcha" fees.

Don't shop price alone. You don't want the cheapest guy in town working on yourelectric or gas appliances. (Saving $23.87 on an appliance repair doesn't look like such agood value when you're dialing 911 and herding the kids out of a burning house. And thenwhen you call back that guy who fixed your appliance so cheap, you find out he went backto his full-time job delivering pizzas.) Find someone in the middle or on the high end.

Call a major real estate firm and ask who they use for appliance repairs. Real estatefirms have appliance repairmen on retainer. Walk-through inspections, conducted just priorto closing or move-in, often reveal broken dishwashers, disposals, refrigerators, etc. Agood portion of our service calls come from desperate Realtors and rental propertymanagers.

When you call the appliance repair company, ask some questions, such as:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Are you insured, in the event that a repair causes damage to my home? (it can happen to the best of the appliance repairmen...)
  • Is there a written guarantee on the work performed and the installed parts? How long is the warranty?

Ask if the firm's owner does the repair work. Finding a successful and growing businesswhere the owner still runs calls may be challenging, but you'll usually get superiorquality work.

Ask for a corporate reference. We do a lot of work for repeat customers - real estateagents and rental agents, appliance rental companies, warranty companies, etc. These folkshave usually been through a lot of appliance technicians and can speak with authority onwhat makes an appliance repairman good or bad.

Don't hesitate to ask about the training of their techs. Like many vocations, today'sappliance repair work demands a high level of skill and a comprehensive understanding of avariety of mechanical, electrical and electronic systems.

A zinger for the gutsy - "have you ever been taken to small claims court by acustomer?" We had a bailiff who gave us great references and called us to her ownhome.

Her reason? She told us, "You're the only appliance company I've never seen in ourcourtroom."


  • Clear the way for the tech. When repairmen have to clean a path to the appliance before the service work begins, it costs extra. He'll need "scooting" room to move the appliance around a bit.
  • If your washer or dryer died full of clothes, remove the clothes and wring them out. No sense in paying us $50 an hour to fold your laundry.
  • Exercise preventative maintenance. Keep a thermometer in the fridge and observe the operating temperatures and then glance at it from time to time. Get your dryer cleaned every two years or so. Maintenance work (such as a dryer cleaning) is a good way to meet appliance techs and prevent lint fires.
  • Watch the appliance tech work and ask plenty of questions. A great one "where did you learn to do this?" or "how long have you been doing this?"
  • Find an appliance repairman on a good day. A day when you're not stressing about your busted appliance.
  • Never ever never leave an appliance running while you are asleep or away from home. The stories we could tell... (like the one about the woman who stuffed a load of laundry in her brand new washer and left town for several days. Before she was out of her driveway, the water level switch had failed and the washer began to overflow...)
  • When the repair is done, ask for the old parts and ask how and why they failed. Most appliance techs are happy to explain the what and why of their work.
  • Unfortunately, there is no standard of excellence [currently] for the appliance repair industry. In automotive repairs, an ASE [Automotive Service Excellence}certification indicates the tech has attained a certain level of expertise. There have been attempts to establish certification standards for appliance techs in years past, but none are in place now.

Rose Thornton and her husband, Tom, own "Right on Time ApplianceRepairs" in Alton, IL. Tom has repaired over 11,000 appliances in the last 10 yearsand he also teaches (part time) at Belleville Area College in Belleville, IL. Rose is afreelance writer and author of two books.

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