New study details how much families can save when they repair electronics

CALPIRG shows how fixing electronics instead for replacing them both pays and helps environment


OAKLAND, Calif. — With home electronics in heavy use during the ongoing pandemic, CALPIRG released a report Wednesday detailing just how much families can save by repairing electronic products instead of replacing them. Entitled “Repair Saves Families Big,” this new analysis, which was produced in conjunction with our Right to Repair campaign, also looks at spending habits and the importance of a strong repair economy.

“Repair provides us with an opportunity to breathe new life into our old and broken devices,” said Claudia Deeg, CALPIRG Associate. “Instead of buying new gadgets every time our old ones give us trouble, we should turn to our communities to meet our repair needs. This approach is what’s best for both our society and our pocketbooks.”

Specifically, California households could save $330 per year by repairing our electronics on our own or going to independent repair shops, according to the report’s analysis. This adds up to a total savings of $4.3 billion across the state. This number may seem staggering, but so is how much we spend on new devices. As of 2019, American households spend approximately $1,480 annually purchasing new electronic products.

“Many consumers are shocked to find out that many repairs can be done in under 30 minutes and cost a fraction of the price of a new device,” said Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of The Repair Association. “The biggest limitation on the costs of repair compared with replacement is access to parts on fair and reasonable terms. Local shops can easily do the work quickly and efficiently if they are allowed to compete.”

Repair is not only good for our pocketbooks, but is also better for our planet. When we replace our electronics, we retire our old devices to landfills where they can leak such toxic heavy chemicals as lead, mercury and cadmium. With American families generating about 176 pounds of electronic waste each year, Americans are big contributors to the fastest growing waste stream in the world.

Beyond aiding the environment and saving families’ money, seeking out neighborhood repair shops also supports the local economy. Instead of looking to overseas manufacturers to carry out repairs, an increased reliance on local repair businesses can provide jobs for community members, decrease the out-of-pocket cost of repair, and increase the speed of service.

“For every repair you need, there is a local business willing and able to fulfill it in a timely manner,” Gordon-Byrne said. “Greater demand for local repair services not only supports our local communities, but creates an incentive for manufacturers to make products that are more repairable and last longer.”

Repair is critical to keeping our electronic products functional without breaking our budgets. Unfortunately, manufacturers often elbow out independent repair by limiting access to the tools, parts and manuals we need to repair our devices, the report explains. In doing this, they limit the capacity for creating resilient communities that quickly recover from global disruptions.

“We’ve spoken to many repair shop owners who have been forced to turn away customers because they did not have the correct tools or parts,” added Deeg. “These devices could have been easily repaired if manufacturers committed to what’s best for customers, local businesses and our communities.”


staff | TPIN

This Earth Day, put our planet over plastic

We are working to move our country beyond plastic — and we need your help. Will you make a gift in honor of Earth Day to help us keep making progress?