Fall is a great time to find a bargain on home appliances, large and small. Holiday sales are heating up, especially on ranges, cooktops and microwaves. Plus retailers have to clear out inventories to make room for the latest vacuums, coffeemakers and more. But with Black Friday looming, the make-or-break stakes mean you could be subject to pushy sales tactics or less-than-full disclosure about the particulars of your purchase. With that, here are five things appliance stores might not tell you.
Extended warranties typically don't pay. If you're buying a major appliance, chances are you'll be pitched an extended warranty, which might sound tempting given the size of the investment. But Consumer Reports surveys have found time and again that most appliances don't break during the extended-warranty period. And even when breakdowns do occur, the median cost of the repair, $150, isn't much more than the median price of the warranty, $142.
Price is always negotiable. If you've never haggled over the sticker price of an appliance, you're missing out on big possible savings. When we last surveyed major-appliance shoppers, 35 percent said they tried to negotiate the price and, of them, 72 percent succeeded in saving a median of $97. You don't have to play hardball. Simply finding a manager and asking nicely if there's anything he or she can do for you might be enough to land a lower price.
Energy Star doesn't guarantee energy savings. While the federal labeling program is a good starting point, you can't just choose an Energy Star model and assume you're getting maximum efficiency. Consumer Reports energy tests routinely reveal a wide range of energy costs among qualifying models, especially with refrigerators, which have different Energy Star specifications depending on the type of fridge. In fact, you can buy an Energy Star-qualified side-by-side model that uses more energy than a top-freezer that doesn't carry the label. Check our Ratings of refrigerators (as well as Energy Star-covered dehumidifiers, dishwashers, freezers, and washing machines) which compare models by efficiency as well as performance.
Free haul-away can cost the planet. Many retailers will come pick up your old appliance for free. But only Appliance Smart Factory Outlet, Best Buy, the Home Depot and Sears participate in the EPA's Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) Program, which ensures the recovery of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) from old household appliances. With other retailers, free haul-away could mean a one-way trip to the landfill. Many utility companies are also RAD partners, so they might also take your old appliances off your hands, and perhaps even pay you a $50 or so rebate in the process.
Small appliances are often cheaper online and on TV. That's what we found when we asked readers about their experience buying vacuum cleaners, gas grills and coffeemakers. Amazon.com and the QVC shopping channel had some of the best prices, and Amazon stands alone in terms of selection. Only Costco and Sam's Club offered the same low prices, though selection and service were lacking in both warehouse clubs.
To find out how appliance retailers stack up, read "Where to buy appliances," based on surveys of more than 16,000 Consumer Reports subscribers.