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Is it cheaper to repair or replace your fridge when it breaks down?

What you should do if your fridge is on the blink, and whether it makes sense to repair it. 

Last updated: 27 March 2024


Checked for accuracy by our qualified fact-checkers and verifiers. Find out more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Running all day, every day, and likely filled to the brim with groceries you've spent good money on, it can be disastrous if your fridge and freezer stops working the way it should. 

If your fridge is acting up or, worst case, has completely broken down, there are a few things you can do before deciding whether you need to buy a new one.

A DIY repair or service from a professional could fix the problem, saving you from having to shell out anywhere from $500 up to $5000 or more for a brand-new fridge. Or, if it's still under warranty, you may be able to get a repair or replacement covered. 

We help you find out whether it makes sense for you to organise a repair or whether it’s better to replace it. 

Signs your fridge isn't working properly and what to do 

It'll likely be obvious if your fridge isn't in the best of health – it might feel warm inside, very hot to the touch, food might be spoiling quickly, or perhaps you've experienced a huge jump in your energy bills and the fridge seems to be the culprit.

Maybe you've noticed that the seals have deteriorated or it's making some seriously loud noises (CHOICE experts say the noise should only be as loud as 'a continuous hum, like a relatively quiet motor, and much quieter than a vacuum cleaner').

Even if you're outside your warranty, you may still be able to claim a free repair or replacement under the Australian Consumer Law

If the worst has happened and your fridge has just stopped chilling completely, you need to act fast. Follow our advice on what you should do to save your food when your fridge breaks down, then ask yourself the following questions:

Is the fridge still under warranty? 

If your fridge is still under warranty, you should contact the retailer or manufacturer to ask for a repair or replacement (you will need to have your receipt or proof of purchase).

The typical manufacturer's warranty that comes with a new fridge is two years, although they do vary so it's important to check. Even if you're outside your warranty, you may still be able to claim a free repair or replacement under the Australian Consumer Law.

Under the consumer guarantees, consumers are entitled to a repair, replacement or refund if there's a major problem with a product or service. These consumer rights apply automatically to every product purchased in Australia, and a product needs to last for a reasonable period of time – which depends on the type of product and how much you paid for it.

For example, if you have an expensive, high-end fridge that breaks down after just a few years (and you're outside the warranty period), you may be entitled to a refund, replacement or repair as you would reasonably expect a pricey product like this to last longer.

Has the fridge model been recalled?

If a fridge manufacturer receives enough complaints about a certain problem, they may issue a recall. If you have a model that has been recalled, you may be entitled to a free repair or replacement.

To find out if your fridge has been part of a recall, check the brand, model and serial number and check current recalls at the ACCC website. 

How to figure out if a fridge is cheaper to repair or replace

If you can't get the retailer to send out a repair person for free or offer a replacement, you may be able to do some troubleshooting and potentially sort out the problem yourself – it might be easier than you think!

Check the appliance instruction manual as it will likely have some advice, and also check our guide to common fridge problems and how to fix them, such as if there is a layer of ice at the bottom of your fridge or your water dispenser has stopped working.

If you can't resolve the issue, follow these steps:

1. Gather information about the problem.
Before contacting tradespeople online or in person, ensure you can describe what the issue is, where the problem is, when it started, when it occurs etc. You could take a photo, video or audio recording if relevant in order to help the tradesperson with a potential diagnosis to get as accurate a quote as possible.

2. Get at least three quotes.
You could start with the repair department of the retailer you bought it from, if they have one, an official repairer recommended by the manufacturer and an independent repair professional.

Many tradespeople will likely give you an estimate for the cost of the work which may not be the final price depending on what the issue is.

Ensure you understand the price for the call-out fee and initial labour, and whether they will potentially charge you more for materials or spare parts before you agree. If possible, get confirmation via email so you have it in writing.

3. Compare and assess the quotes.
Make sure you understand what each quote does and doesn't cover, and if it includes parts, extra labour if the job lasts longer etc. Don't automatically choose the cheapest quote. Choose the one that is the most comprehensive and covers everything you think you will need.

When is it cheaper to replace your fridge?

A fridge repair could cost anywhere from around $50 up to $500 depending on what the issue is. 

The average cost to repair a fridge is around $300. As fridges are quite expensive appliances, it often makes sense to do simple repairs if the repair price remains around this level. 

Also think about how much you initially spent on your fridge and how much longer you think it's going to last, and therefore whether you should repair or replace it. 

CHOICE experts estimate that fridges can last anywhere between six and 20 years, depending on the quality of the fridge, but the average life expectancy is around 10 years. 

To figure out whether the cost of the repair is worth it compared to the cost of buying a new fridge, you can do a rough calculation. Divide the price you originally paid for the fridge by 10 (the average life expectancy of a fridge), then multiply this by the remaining years you expect the fridge to last. 

If your fridge is more than six years old and suffers a major fault (such as compressor failure), then consider replacement

So, if you paid $1500 for your fridge, divide by 10 to get a value of $150 per year. If your fridge has broken down after five years, it potentially has another five years of life left in it, so the appliance has a rough value of $750. If you've been quoted repairs of around $300, it would likely make sense to consider repairing. 

If your fridge is more than six years old and suffers a major fault (such as compressor failure), then consider replacement because a new one will be more efficient and have lower running costs. 

And if, after speaking with several tradespeople, the cost estimate to fix your fridge's issue is more than $300–500 and edging closer to the price of a completely new and more efficient fridge, it may be time to consider buying a new one. 

fridge shopping

If you need a new fridge, CHOICE's expert reviews can help you find the most efficient option that suits your needs and budget.

What to consider before repairing or replacing your fridge

  • How long will the repair last and is the issue likely to reoccur? If it's only a year or two, you may be throwing good money after bad (this is a good question to ask a tradesperson when they quote you). 
  • What else could go wrong? You may replace one part only to have another one fail soon after. 
  • How long will spare parts be available for the model of your fridge?
  • What are the logistical challenges? Can repairs be carried out in your home? Will retailers charge delivery fees? How long will you have to wait for parts?
  • Have your fridge needs changed? Swapping out a faulty large fridge for a smaller, more efficient one that suits your needs, for example if you've downsized, might be a good option. New fridges are likely to have technological advancements you'll enjoy and make use of, and a new product warranty.
  • You may be concerned about the environmental impact of disposing of an old appliance that isn't quite dead, but weigh that up against the environmental benefits of a modern, more efficient appliance.

Can you recycle your old fridge?

If you decide to buy a new fridge, the next thing on your mind is probably how to dispose of your old fridge. Old fridges and freezers must be disposed of correctly so they can be degassed. This is important because they contain harmful refrigerants that can leak when they are dumped or sent to landfill without being degassed. 

Old fridges and freezers must be disposed of correctly ... they contain harmful refrigerants that can leak when they are dumped or sent to landfill without being degassed

For this reason, it's illegal to leave your old fridge on the curb. Instead, enquire with your council about any pick up or recycling services for whitegoods. Some companies offer take-back schemes when you buy a new fridge with them, so keep this in mind when you're considering who to buy your next fridge from. Ask whether they'll take your old appliance when you purchase a new one, and if it will be recycled. 

Depending on where you live, there may also be independent recycling services you can book to pick up your old fridge. They may charge a fee, but it can be an easy way to ensure your old fridge doesn't end up in landfill. 

If you have decided to replace your fridge, start your research at our buying guide. CHOICE members can view the top recommended models in our expert fridge review.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.