My Roomba 650 recently broke itself and I had no interest in going back to sweeping my apartment floor every few days or paying for cleaners to come every week, so I quickly realized I’d need to replace it or repair it. Replacing a Roomba for $400 after sixteen months is painful – almost a dollar per day of use. These things are built to last way longer than that. Even though I knew that water damage could be pretty terrible for any gadget, I also knew that most of the Roomba’s parts were mechanical, not necessary electrical, and that the onboard computer system was fairly limited. And I hoped that the water might not have been as terribly destructive as I feared it might have been.
Getting in touch with iFixRobot
iFixRobot is the elephant in the room when it comes to repairing iRobot (Roomba, Scooba, &c.) products. So I got in touch with the guy there to ask him for some advice:
Hi, I have a Roomba 650 and I’m about 50% certain it’s dead due to water damage. Is that something you could fix? How much would it cost?
Matt, who seemed to be the proprietor and sole employee of iFixRobot, replied almost immediately:
Too many variables to give an accurate repair estimate without examining it. Repairs for water damage start around $79 and go up from there depending on the extent of the damage. Please let me know if you would like to send it in for a free repair estimate and I can send you next steps instructions.
This didn’t sound so bad. Yes, $79 was a lot, but I also thought it was very fair. And a free repair estimate sounded great. On the other hand, what if a repair would run over a hundred dollars? Or what if it could run as high as two hundred dollars? For that much money, I still might agree to a repair, but I’d be much less likely to do it. So I asked:
Thank you for answering so quickly! In your experience, are there repairs that can get as high as $200? And do you include return shipping in the cost of the repair?
He again replied pretty quickly:
$200 is possible if a new motherboard is needed and the current one is not repairable. It is the most expensive part of your Roomba. Sometimes we can offer refurbished boards if we have them in stock and those would be less money but shorter warranty. Many boards are repairable for less. Since we get a lot of local customers, our repair costs are separate from shipping. Return shipping is between $20-$25.
“$200 is possible” sounded to me like it could get as high as $200, but probably wouldn’t. Also, refurbished motherboards! That sounded great. It seemed like there was a very good chance my Roomba could be repaired for maybe around $100. Paying for shipping two ways would be painful, but in that case I’d be out around $150 total and the Roomba would be in like-new condition, which would be far better than paying $400 for a new one. So I decided to go ahead with it, ordering the free diagnostic service, paying for shipping and sending it to him via Fedex.
Fedex, by the way, is awful. The lady in the Fedex store wouldn’t accept my Roomba because it was in a “manufacturer’s box” and not a “shipping box.” When I complained to Matt about this, he again showed some excellent customer support skills, calling me on the telephone almost right away and helping get the Roomba picked up at my office that afternoon.
After that, communication from Matt seemed to taper off a bit. The Roomba had died on a Sunday evening, was picked up from my office on that Monday, and Fedex reported to me that it was delivered the following day, Tuesday afternoon.
But Matt didn’t send me an email acknowledging that he received it until Thursday.
No big deal, I figured. He’s busy. He’s bringing my Roomba and other people’s Roombas back to life. I didn’t think that this would be a problem. After confirming Matt’s initial review of my Roomba’s condition (“Scratched … Debris hair in brushes … Dirty filter”) as correct, I waited until the middle of the following week and asked if he had an update:
His reply seemed a bit brusque:
Per the message below, your diagnostics will be completed 14 to 21 days from 7/30.
It didn’t seem quite right to me that he was counting from the day he confirmed receiving the Roomba instead of the day he actually received it, but I didn’t want to bother him any more, so I… stopped bothering him. And I went back to sweeping my apartment and cursing life and wishing that I had my Roomba back. At one point, I came home from work and saw an enormous Roomba box in my building’s lobby area, but my hopes were dashed when I realized that someone else in my building had just bought a fancy Roomba 780.
Twenty-one days after the Thursday when Matt said he’d gotten my Roomba, I finally emailed him again:
Any updates now?
Uncharacteristically, it took close to ten hours for Matt to reply. This led me to suspect that he might not have been doing any diagnostics at all for that whole time, and only started the testing after I asked him to. Here’s what he said:
There is too much damage to the motherboard to economically repair the board itself. So the only option is to put in a new board. Cost is $199.99 plus $22.99 return shipping with trade in off the old board. Please let me know if you would like it repaired, returned without repair , or recycled. If you choose to have it repaired and/or returned I will create a order and send you a link for payment.
This was a huge letdown, for several reasons:
First, if there was going to be so much damage to the motherboard that it couldn’t be repaired, I would have expected that he’d let me know that shortly after receiving it, rather than making me wait more than three weeks and then pestering him for the information.
Second, the specific price he quoted me was suspiciously close to the potential cost that I had initially mentioned to him. In my head, $200 – half the price of a brand new Roomba – had been kind of an upper limit for what I’d be willing to spend on repairs in toto. For him to charge me one penny less than that, plus close to $50 in shipping, did not make me feel great. In fact, it made me feel a bit manipulated.
Third, the cost of return shipping was not included in the repair quote. Sure, I knew this would be the case since I’d specifically asked him about it before, but when companies charge that much for a service, they often ship for free.
Fourth, recycled sounded a lot to me like donated. In other words, if I’d just decided to wash my hands of the Roomba entirely and opt for “recycling,” he’d then get to have it. What would he do with it? I didn’t have any idea, but there would be nothing stopping him from holding onto it, waiting for a usable motherboard to come in, using that to complete the repair, and selling it as refurbished or keeping it for his own use.
Fifth, the wait time. When speaking with Matt on the telephone about the Fedex problem three and a half weeks prior, I had specifically asked him how long this was likely to take, and if I should consider buying his expedited service. His response was to discourage me from paying to expedite the diagnosis: it was mostly for people who were old or disabled, he said, and therefore needed their Roombas fixed immediately. It sounded like he was looking out for me, preventing me from paying extra for an additional service that I didn’t really need. I didn’t really consider at the time that, after shipping the Roomba at the end of July, I still wasn’t going to have a final answer – let alone actually a completed and returned repair – at the end of August.
So it’s fair to say I was pretty frustrated. I tried to reply in a way that would communicate this, while still trying to maximize the ROI of this whole endeavor and letting him know that I’d still consider, at least hypothetically, the full repair option:
Ouch. Are there no secondhand or discarded motherboards lying around? If I go through with the repair, how long will it take / when can it be shipped back to me?
But his reply definitively turned me off from paying him anything for repairs or letting him hold onto my Roomba for any longer:
We don’t have any used boards available at the moment as they quickly get purchased when available. Repair time is about 2 weeks. Please let us know what you decide.
Two weeks for repairs? TWO WEEKS FOR REPAIRS?!?!? There was no way I was going to pay that much money and wait six weeks total, from shipping my Roomba to him, to getting it back from him. Two weeks for repairs on top of more than three weeks for diagnostics, plus a few days on either end for shipping, just was not right.
And also, what if one of those used motherboards had come in during the more than three weeks that I’d been waiting? Would he have told me? Or what if one came in during the two week repair period? Would he tell me then? I wasn’t sure, and I suspected not.
At this point, I felt very bad that I had ever decided to pursue a repair for my Roomba. I knew that I should have just bought a new one on Amazon as soon as mine had broken. It would have cost $400 and, because I’m a Prime member, I would have paid nothing for shipping and it would have arrived at my door in two days, and I would have had two electronic walls instead of one, and two charging stations instead of one. But I tried to be smart and save money, and I went almost a month without the Roomba and had to pay almost $50 in shipping two ways. The good news is that I found a refurbished Roomba on Amazon and it’s eligible for Prime shipping. It costs almost $90 less than a new Roomba. So I bought it, and told Matt to ship my old one back to me with no repairs.
I wouldn’t exactly recommend the iFixRobot service, but on the other hand, I wouldn’t entirely discourage it, either. I think whether someone should use iFixRobot really comes down to what that person’s situation and needs are. Reasons to consider using iFixRobot:
- You live in the Massachusetts area, and can bring your Roomba directly to Matt and pick it up when he’s finished, instead of paying a ton of money to ship it to him and then even more money for him to ship it back to you.
- Your problem is very minor (not a fried motherboard) and likely to be very inexpensive to fix.
- You don’t rely on your Roomba all that much, or won’t need it any time soon, or you’re willing to pay for expedited service.
Reasons to avoid using iFixRobot:
- You need your Roomba quickly. iFixRobot’s turnaround time leaves a lot to be desired.
- You want transparent pricing and clear communication. Why was my Roomba’s repair going to cost one penny less than the amount I originally asked about? I don’t know, but something tells me that I don’t want to know.
- The cost of your Roomba’s repair, plus shipping both ways, is likely to reach nearly the cost of a new (or refurbished) replacement. If you just go with the replacement, you’ll get it much sooner and you’ll have doubles of the accessories.