It had to happen sooner or later. Our hot water heater started leaking. I suppose it could have been worse, exploding all at once instead of developing a relatively minor leak, but is there ever a good time to deal with a breaking down water heater?
I raced off to the three chain stores to compare prices. It does seem like most water heaters are gas, not electric. Ours was electric, and we didn’t want to incur even more costs by switching to gas. We ended up buying a Whirlpool 50-gallon heater, with a 9-year warranty. It’s not the best one they make, but the best one they make that was in stock. It has some fancy-schmancy “Energy Smart” feature which supposedly should save some electric operating costs. However, I’d be more convinced by having a thicker layer of insulation around the heater.

Anyway, the store arranged for a local installer to put it in the following day. Since our old one was just leaking, that was fine. We didn’t have to go without hot water (not more than usual anyway). It was installed without a hitch, but the guy had to return with help to remove the old heater since it was so extremely heavy. Turns out, the old heater had a considerable quantity of silt inside, probably from the decades of running off the well I assume.
I didn’t have to lift a finger, except for draining the old heater just to save the installer time.