What to do when gadgets break

January 1, 2008 2:28:29 PM PST
If you're one of the millions of Americans who got an electronic gift this holiday, you might want to know first how to use it. Second, what do you do if something goes wrong?

Electronic devices can come with a hefty price tag, but when they break, and they do, repairs can cost almost as much as the original price of that item. So if your favorite gadget breaks, should you get it fixed or just buy a new one? We went out and got some answers.

"Me personally, I'd probably just buy a new one because I don't want to go to the trouble of having it fixed," said Brenda Wu.

"There's a very high likelihood that in a year or so if something happens to it, I'll probably just go out and buy another camera," said Bridget Lotter.

"The way technology is going it's moving so quickly that by the time it's either broken or you need it repaired, it's better to go pick up something else," said Trent Landon.

Lots of consumers say they don't bother to repair electronics when they break. So we wondered what an expert would say.

"See if you can fix it yourself, find out if there's a warranty still active where you can send it in and get it repaired for free," said Tom Merritt from CNET.

He says always try to get a free fix. Or go online to get advice from fellow consumers on how to do it yourself, but it's not a good idea to spend too much for a repair.

"I'd say in general, if it costs more than half the replacement price, go ahead and replace it," said Merritt.

That's because prices for electronics like plasma TVs and computers are dropping so fast, it might not be worth it to make a repair. And newer models have all the latest features.

"You will almost always find something better out there for cheaper than what you paid for your item," said Merritt.

In general, Tom says big ticket items are worth saving, like flat panel TV's and expensive camcorders. Not so for small gadgets like cell phones and MP3 players.

"Handheld devices that only cost you $30 or $40 dollars, you know labor's going to cost you $60 dollars an hour, at that point you can almost guarantee if you're going to have to have it repaired, you might as well just replace it," said Merritt.

A lot of consumers agree.

"It's more of a technology throwaway culture these days is what I've found," said Landon.

"If it's going to cost me an extra $50 dollars, but I don't have to spend the time, I'd rather not spend the time and just get a new one,'' said Lotter.

"If there was a newer version where I really wanted a new feature or something that it came with I'd probably get the new one,'' said Brenda Wu.

If you have a broken item that has a lot of data on it, like your music player or your laptop, the repair may suddenly make more sense. The best advice on that is be ready for a breakdown by backing up your songs or data on a disc or a hard drive.

Click here to learn more repairing or replacing an electronic gadget.