How to Know if You Should Repair or Replace Equipment

By Emily Folk

It’s not something any of us enjoy thinking about or planning for, but sometimes even our most reliable equipment breaks down.

When it does, you have the choice to repair or replace that piece of equipment. Even if you think you have a solid understanding of the financial realities involved, the full picture might be a little more complicated than you expect. Here’s what to keep in mind next time you’re facing this dilemma.

Repair Your Equipment Under These Circumstances

If the repair is covered under a warranty, it’s almost certainly in your best interests to seek out a qualified repair instead of replacing the machine outright. Determining your machine’s warranty situation should be a top priority. Generally speaking, if it has a reliable warranty, you should be able to expect coverage for the vast majority of maintenance and repair expenses for the first year or more.

Next question: Do you own this machine? Do you still owe a balance on your payment plan? If your equipment is so new you’re still paying for it, there are bigger questions in play, some of which we’ll cover in the next section with respect to “unreliable manufacturers.”

In general, though, your equipment will likely have served you well already, which means you might not want to part with it. Here are some of the advantages of repairing or refurbishing your damaged equipment:

  • A full overhaul should eliminate issues for the foreseeable future.
  • Buys you time before you need to think more seriously about trading up.
  • The right repair service could add value to your equipment.
  • A repair is almost always the quickest and most straightforward resolution, meaning your business can get back to work more quickly.

Of course, when you’re facing a repair, you’ll also want to keep some of the downsides in mind. In fact, some of these might prevent your repair from moving forward at all:

  • Replacement parts might be difficult or impossible to come by.
  • The amount of time you’re “buying” for your equipment isn’t always predictable.
  • If you’ve already paid to have the equipment repaired at least once, it’s possible the make and model isn’t suited to your work or wasn’t reliable to begin with.

It’s worth mentioning not every type of repair — and not every stage of equipment disrepair — represents the same financial outlay. If you treat your machines to harsh conditions and run them until the point of failure, your repair costs could be up to two and a half times higher than if you’d repaired the issue earlier or invested in preventive maintenance.

Still, if you’ve paid close attention to your equipment over the time you’ve used it, some of these decisions will feel intuitive. You might already have a good sense you’re approaching the point where your machine has little usefulness left. In cases like that, you should consider the benefits of replacing your machine entirely.

Replace Your Equipment If the Following Conditions Apply

As we mentioned above, one of the first steps to take is determining the status of your machine’s warranty. But what if you’ve owned this equipment for a while and the warranty has already expired? In such a case, keep the “50/50” rule in mind. This rule states if the cost of repairing the machine is greater than half of what it would cost to replace the equipment with something comparable, it makes financial sense to replace that machine.

Your literal and figurative mileage may vary, since equipment from different manufacturers will reach the 50/50 “tipping point” faster than others. And, while we’re talking about unreliable equipment and shoddy coverage: It’s well worth considering replacing equipment, switching brands or finding a new maintenance provider if frequent repair expenses are eating into your profits.

If you’re paying for repairs often, it could mean one of two things: Either the original manufacturer of your equipment isn’t up to par, or your go-to machine shop isn’t familiar with the peculiarities of that brand or machine.

In cases like these — especially if you’re repairing the same equipment again and again — it’s worth considering replacing your equipment outright, possibly including partnering with a reliable, well-reviewed equipment specialist who stocks reliable makes and models and specializes in their long-term maintenance and care.

If you need help steering the conversation toward replacement, here are the value propositions to keep in mind:

  • Replacement provides you with the newest technologies, which could help you deliver better productivity or more well-rounded services.
  • You’ll see the cost of maintaining your equipment drop off considerably for the foreseeable future.
  • Newer machines are nearly always more efficient than older ones, meaning replacement could help you reduce recurring costs like fuel purchases. 

Replacing your broken-down equipment with something new is not without its potential drawbacks:

  • Newer machines might come with a learning curve or require certification.
  • Buying new equipment is almost always the most expensive option to consider.
  • Depending on how you pay for the machine, you might find yourself facing a long-term commitment and payment plan.
  • Depreciation is as real in the heavy equipment industry as the automotive industry.

As you can see, nobody is in a better position than you to arrive at a logical decision. You know how reliable your equipment has been so far, and you know your long-term business plans, which might see you hoping to take on new kinds of work. If that’s the case, replacing your equipment with a higher-capacity machine could unlock serious earning potential for you and your crew.

Emily Folk is a sustainability writer and avid gardener. You can read more of her work on her site, Conservation Folks, where she writes about helping tomorrow’s planet today.