Should You Fix That Broken Gadget Or Just Buy A New One?

Should You Fix That Broken Gadget Or Just Buy A New One?

Sometimes fixing a dying laptop, cracked screen, busted motherboard or blinky game console is almost as pricey as buying a new one. When that happens, you have a tough decision to make: Do you stick with what you’ve been using and love, or get something shiny and new? Here’s what you should consider before making the choice.

Title photo by Tina Mailhot-Roberge

It might seem like new tech is always preferable to repairing older gear, but that’s only true if every upgrade is a good one. When we talked about how to make this decision when it comes to cars, we noted there’s more to the picture there, and that applies here too. Let’s tease out some of the things you should think about — depending on your situation, spending some cash to get new might be better than repairing what you have, and in other cases you might be better off fixing what you have.

See If Buying New Is Actually An Upgrade

Remember, not everything “new” is an “upgrade”. It might seem like you’re getting something better by nature, since presumably you’ll get a new, unused item instead of repairing your used gear, but if the thing you’re buying new doesn’t suit you as well as what you have already, it’s not an upgrade. For example, the current-gen Moto X is a great phone, but if you, like many people, preferred the smaller, thinner version compared to the newer, bigger one, you might be unhappy with the upgrade. Sure, it’s technically better, spec-wise, but we all know that whether you enjoy using something comes down to more than specs.

On the other hand, the money you’d spend repairing your old device could go towards getting you something new. Maybe instead of repairing a cracked screen, you can spend a little more and get a newer phone with a better camera, or instead of replacing your laptop’s motherboard you can afford the latest model with more storage and memory than the one you had. Think about that before you make the decision to repair your old device or buy a replacement. If you’re going to spend your money buying new instead of repairing what you use and love, you should make sure you’re actually getting something that’s better for you than what you have.

Try To Offset The Cost By Selling The Broken Tech

One thing to keep in mind when you’re comparing the cost of repairing broken tech to the cost of buying new is how much you’d make if you sold the broken item. Remember, people pay good money for broken tech on eBay and other places, so you can easily offset the cost of an upgrade by selling the broken item. If it would cost you $500 to repair your broken laptop, and a few hundred more could buy you a new, similar laptop, think about how you could soften the blow once you sold the broken one for parts, or how much more you could get for your money after you sell it.

That’s just an example, and there’s no guarantee that your broken tech will sell for enough to make a difference, so do some research. Keep in mind some people might want your broken model for its working screen, battery or other parts they can use to repair their own. The money you might make on your broken one may soften the cost of the whole affair. Just make sure to properly erase your phone or computer before you sell it.

Consider The Value Of Your Time

Your time also has value that’s often overlooked when making the decision to repair well-used and loved tech versus replace it outright. It makes sense to try and approach these issues logically in terms of specs and dollars, but keep these things in mind when making your decision as well:

  • Consider repair time and how long you’ll be without your devices. If you choose to repair your current devices, make sure to find out how long you’ll be without your tech. After all, if your primary laptop is the one that needs repair, you’ll be without a computer for a while unless you have a backup. If it’s your phone, it could be even worse. You don’t want to be stuck in a never-ending repair hell where your laptop is in the bowels of some repair shop for months upon months while you wait. If a little more money could get you up and working in hours instead of weeks, it might be worth it.
  • Consider set-up time, and how long it will take you to get back to normal. If your repair is something that can be done quickly, or even while you wait, it might not make sense to upgrade. You’ll probably spend hours trying to get your laptop or phone up and running with all of your settings. Even then, it will take you even longer to get back to that “productive” normal, where you don’t try to do something and realise you don’t have the files or apps required. While it’s fun for some people to break in new tech, others prefer to just turn it on and go to work. Make sure you know which one you are before you choose.

Many years ago, I had so many issues with an old computer that it spent more time in a repair shop than it spent under my desk. For all the money I spent on it, I probably could have just demanded a replacement, but I had put so much time and energy into setting it up just the way I wanted that I kept thinking that a few more days in the shop wouldn’t be a big deal. After a few months of that, I realised the error of my ways. Your time is important — sometimes it’s worth considering which route will just save you the most time and let you get back to work (or play) as soon as possible.

Sentimental Value Actually Has Value

Finally, keep in mind that the value of your tech to you counts for something. This varies for everyone of course. Some people don’t get attached to their gear at all and treat it like cogs in a machine. Others will cling to an old laptop or smartphone for years upon years because it’s familiar, it works, and it does what they need it to do. Whichever camp you fall into has a huge impact on whether you should repair or replace. If you absolutely love your sticker-covered laptop and would rather get it fixed and use it for a few more years, that’s important and worth keeping in mind, even if your logical self (or friends) tell you otherwise.

At the same time, you should also keep that sentiment in check so it doesn’t overwhelm everything else. It should be a factor in your decision making, but not the only one. Sentimental value can often make us keep things we should really get rid of, or repair items that would be much better replaced with something new. So remember, if it’s a tough decision and everything else is equal, maybe sentimental value tips you over to repairing rather than replacing, but if the chasm is wide, stickers can be moved and old tech repurposed. Plus, you’ll probably grow just as attached to your replacement as you are to what you have now.

The final decision is up to you — there’s no one answer that applies to everyone here. Sometimes it makes more sense to get your old, reliable, and trusty gear repaired so you can enjoy it longer than it does to spend the same amount of money on a new device that could be refurbished or problematic on its own. Other times, if you can score an upgrade or get the same item without the wear and tear you’ve put on the one you own, it’s a better route. Weigh your options — including the value of your time and how much the item means to you — and make a carefully considered decision from there.


  • There is also the environmental impact to consider. Sometimes I’ll repair an item even if it’s uneconomical so that I minimize the amount of resources consumed.
    A side effect is that I sometimes spend a lot more time repairing something than is justified.
    My considerations are:
    Do I still need the item?
    Is it under warranty?
    How much lifespan does it have excluding the problem?
    What is the cost , difficulty, time and risk of the repair?
    What is the environmental impact of disposing of and replacing the item?

    • Similar to me, but add in “Will I enjoy/learn from doing the repair?” You can get quite a sense of accomplishment fixing something that most others would have thrown away.

  • Yep… Im the same, get a huge amount of satisfaction from a successful repair, the flip side though is when I’ve spent hours taking something apart, sometimes even replacing a part, putting it all back together again and finding it still doesnt work, that’s not so rewarding. Thankfully the successes outnumber the failures

  • I recently did the upgrade from an old Samsung S2 after it died to a Samsung S5. I later thought I’d play around with the S2 and ordered a new usb circuit board for it to try and fix it and after fixing, even upped the OS to Lollipop (Resurrection Remix). I prefer it now more to my S5 also running Lollipop. So in essence I spent about $500 on a new phone but fixed my old S2 from 2011 for less than $5 which I prefer.

  • Generally, I try and fix items where it’s viable to do so. There’s a few reasons for this:
    – Newer isn’t necessarily better. With manufacturers all racing to minimize cost of production in order to maximise profits in a very competitive marker, I’ve found that many newer items are often of significantly lower build quality than older products. This isn’t true in all cases – for example, laptops, but it can be with things like furniture and kitchen appliances.

    – Newer items are often less repairable, meaning that replacing an older, repairable model with a newer, less-repairable model locks you into the replace-on-fail lifecycle.

    – Time invested in learning and integration: My home theatre receiver recently broke, and rather than fixing it, I decided to replace it with a new model. However, the time taken to do so was substantial, because where previously I had been using component video for the interconnects, the new amp mainly supported HDMI, so all the cabling and several components had to be replaced. On top of that, software issues with several components caused all sorts of compatibility issues with HDMI CEC. After countless hours of raising dockets with the manufacturers, fault finding, software updates, I wish I’d just stayed with a system that I knew worked,

    That being said, there’s plenty of things I will happily replace on fail: Laptops, Modems, Phones etc.

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