Appliance stores

Appliance store buying guide

Last updated: July 2015

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Home Depot, Lowe's, and Sears may sell the most major appliances in the U.S., but they aren't necessarily customer favorites. In our survey, subscribers told us about their overall satisfaction based on experiences buying more than 32,000 major and small appliances. A Chicago-area store, some regional chains, and independent local retailers got good marks from our readers who shopped at a variety of places, including warehouse, big-box, and department stores.

Price gets you in the door

The top consideration for shoppers when deciding where to buy their appliances is cost. Fifty-five percent of both small and major appliance shoppers said that low prices or a sale was a main reason for buying a product where they did. Price, however, was an even bigger consideration for people who purchased major appliances online, with 69 percent selecting price as a main reason for choosing a particular retailer. Low prices were a big consideration for about two-thirds of major appliance shoppers who purchased their products at Home Depot (68 percent), Best Buy (68 percent), Costco Wholesale (67 percent), and hh gregg (65 percent).

The vast majority of online appliance shoppers received free shipping with their purchase--86 percent for small-appliance purchases and 79 percent for major-appliance purchases. This played an important role in their purchasing decision.

Many respondents also visited price-comparison websites before shopping, with 65 percent who bought major appliances checking prices online first. Of those who bought small appliances, 54 percent checked prices online first.

Shopping tip: Most shoppers who checked prices before buying online said it helped them find a better deal overall. (Taking advantage of online coupons and e-mail offers also helped.) Even while in the store,some subscribers used their smartphones or tablets: almost a quarter of major-appliance shoppers and 16 percent of those shopping for a small appliance.

Selection and service vary

A fair number of major-appliance shoppers went to a retailer because the store stocked a particular brand or model, and more than half the retailers in our Major-Appliance Retailer Ratings scored highly for selection. For small-appliance shoppers, only Amazon got our top mark in this category.

Shopping tip: About one-third of major appliance shoppers who bought an appliance online checked it out at a walk-in store first--and then saved nearly $70, on average. But don't rule out walk-in stores when it comes to the buying itself: Major stores tend to offer "meet or beat" price policies. Stores may also sweeten the deal in other ways, including free shipping and installation.

Aside from independent local retailers, the only two chain retailers who received top ratings for customer service are Abt Electronics (for major appliances) and Ace Hardware (for small appliances).In judging service, our readers evaluated direct contact with store personnel, in the store or over the phone. Almost all respondents shopping for a major appliance at a walk-in store interacted with sales staff, though less than half of those shopping for a small appliance did so. Only 13 percent complained of problems with sales staffers; the most common complaints were that a salesperson didn't seem knowledgeable or that it took too long to find someone to help.

Shopping tip: Shoppers who haggled typically saved about $100 on major appliances and $40 on small ones. Here's a winning tactic from one of our Facebook followers: See whether you can buy a floor model or one that's slightly blemished (in a spot that won't show) for less. And try to get any fees for shipping, installation, and haul-away waived.

Extended warranties

Getting hit with a pitch to buy an extended warranty at checkout has been a top annoyance in past surveys, and the majority of subscribers who bought a major appliance said their retailer at least suggested they buy one. About a quarter of major-appliance buyers did.

Shopping tip: Eighty-five percent of our large-appliance shoppers were encouraged to buy an extended warranty; P.C. Richard & Son, a regional chain of the New York area, proved to be the pushiest, followed closely by Sears and hh gregg. We don't recommend extended warranties. Our research shows that repairs during the extended warranty period often cost roughly the same as the warranty. A better bet: Check our brand-reliability data for appliances we test, and choose a model that comes from a reliable brand.

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