My air conditioner recently stopped cooling, and if you’ve ever been in Alabama in October, you know how warm it can be. The fix: a new coil. The problem: the manufacturer of these coils completely shut down due to a coronavirus outbreak at their facility. This turned a somewhat simple fix into a much bigger replacement-level problem. Luckily, a friend loaned me some window units for a couple weeks to get me by until I could get the unit itself replaced.
But some things are much harder to live without and there may not be an easy short-term fix. If coronavirus has kept you from getting the exact appliance that you want and need, what can you do?
No, it’s not just your imagination. If you’ve shopped for a new appliance recently, you’ve likely noticed inventory shortages, or have been told point blank that the appliance you want just isn’t in stock — and won’t be for months. Manufacturing facilities across the country (and world) have been hit by the pandemic just like all other businesses, and many of them have had to scale back production to accommodate a safe space with fewer workers, and some of them have had to shutter altogether, explains ays Kyle James, founder of shopping blog Rather-Be-Shopping.com.
Couple this with all of us spending more time at home — translation: using our ovens, dishwashers, washers, dryers, etc. MUCH more often — it’s no wonder that some of our appliances have decided to throw in the towel completely. “This increased usage has caused more need for repairs and the failing of older appliances,” James says, adding that certain brands including LG, Electrolux, Whirlpool and KitchenAid, seem to be the hardest hit by the pandemic.
If Your Appliance Croaks…
First, find out if it can be fixed. Sometimes we’re actually sick of our old appliance and know it’s seen better days, so we’re actually okay if it bites the dust so we can get an upgrade. But what if you just don’t have the money right now for a replacement, or your dream one won’t be coming off the assembly line for another couple of months? Charis Brown, author of “Alt Money Choices, Securing Financial Freedom One Choice at a Time,” suggests seeing if your broken appliance can be repaired. No, it won’t last forever, but this may buy you a few more months while you wait on the one you want.
“As long as I had something to tide me over, I’d order the appliance I wanted and wait, then sell or give away the used one,” Brown says.
If your appliance is completely dead and you definitely need a new one ASAP (like a fridge!) you’ll probably spend some time researching the one you want, but what do you do if your first choice is not available — or worse yet, your second or third choice, too? Sure, you might be able to live for a few weeks without a microwave, but washing clothes in the bathtub is a non-starter.
7 creative ideas to get you by:
Look for a floor model
James suggests looking for floor models of the appliance you want at Home Depot or Lowe’s. These are often sold at a discount and come with the same warranty as a new one. It may not be ideal to buy something with a few dings or scratches from being out in the middle of a showroom, but if you’re desperate, it could be the best (or only!) way to go for the time being. And who doesn’t love saving a little money?
Yes, some companies rent appliances. Typically, short-term renters to an area (who may be moving for a temporary job relocation) would rent appliances, but this doesn’t mean you can’t do it, too. Catches include the need to sign a rental agreement for a three or six-month term, plus additional delivery or installation costs. Just make certain you read the fine print if you go this route.
Buy a used one
Look to find used appliances through Facebook marketplace or apps like OfferUp, Nextdoor or Craigslist, Brown suggests. Due to the pandemic, millions of people are moving to find work, be closer to family, or to purchase a home, and good appliances are being put up for sale with just a year or two of use. Of course, you’ll want to make sure the appliance is functional before purchasing it and taking it home, but a used one can help get you by until the one you want is back in stock.
The store closest to you may not have the exact appliance you want, but maybe one in a neighboring city has the right one. Even if you have to rent a truck to get it back to your house, this can help you get what you want quickly without having to wait.
Ask a neighbor for help
If your appliance is only a week or so away from an expected delivery date, perhaps a friendly neighbor or close-by relative would let you use their washing machine, or take up some space in their refrigerator? (Especially if you offer to cook, or do their laundry in exchange!) You might be surprised how willing people are to help others find a temporary fix. “It’s amazing how many communities have come together to help each other during this trying time,” James says.
Buy a different model
We hate to say it, but depending on your situation and needs, you may not be able to wait for the appliance that you want. You may have to find another one that you can live with, and pull the trigger on that one. In my case, I ended up replacing the entire upstairs air conditioning unit because the company that makes the coils I needed simply couldn’t say when they’d be up and running again. It wasn’t ideal, but I did what I had to do to make it through.
Maybe you’re not in this situation right now, but if your appliance is now 10+ years old and is starting to make noises, look into getting on a waitlist for the appliance you want. (Yes, there are waitlists! Just call the retailer that you want to purchase from to find out how long it is, and how to sign up.)
As with seemingly everything during these times, patience is key. “Sometimes you just have to think creatively to get out of a bind,” Brown says.
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