Appliance Store Buying Guide
Getting Started

If you need to replace an appliance, you can’t go wrong by shopping at Abt Electronics and Appliances or Amazon.com. Both retailers got high marks from more than 42,000 Consumer Reports’ subscribers who told us about their experiences buying more than 62,000 major and small appliances at 30 chain retailers across the country as well as from independent retailers and manufacturers. And we found that the biggest stores weren’t necessarily the best.

Abt, for example, has one store in suburban Chicago but ships across the country. It topped our ratings of major appliance retailers for the 8th year in a row. Not to be outdone, it was the 12th year that Amazon was among the top small appliance sellers. Our appliance store ratings include regional, warehouse, big-box, department store, independent, and online retailers and sales direct from manufacturers’ websites.

Plugged In – Where People Shop

While most appliance purchases are still made in brick-and-mortar stores, online purchases are growing. Forty-three percent of small appliance purchases are made online, a significant increase over three years ago when 25 percent of small appliances were bought online. For major appliances the increase was more modest: 14 percent of major appliances are bought online, up from 13 percent threes ago.

Furthermore, more than three out of five small appliance purchases made online were at Amazon.com. Lowe’s tops large appliance sales, accounting for about a quarter of all major appliance purchases. Home Depot and Sears aren’t far behind, accounting for 18 percent and 17 percent of large appliance sales, respectively.

How People Shop

Most purchases are still made in brick-and-mortar stores but four out of five major and small appliance shoppers use the internet to research their product by checking prices and reading reviews. About 70 percent of small and major appliance shoppers visit a retailer’s website before making a purchase at its store or website.

Showrooming
Alternatively, 36 percent of shoppers who buy a major appliance online and 11 percent of online small appliance shoppers check out products at a walk-in store first, a practice called showrooming. Almost half the shoppers who buy their appliances at Costco.com and about 40 percent of those who buy their appliances from the websites of Lowe’s, Home Depot, or Best Buy visit a physical showroom first. For small appliances, shoppers buying online at Target, Costco, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Williams-Sonoma are the most likely to visit a store beforehand.

It Pays to Haggle

Most appliance shoppers say they don’t attempt to negotiate a better price. By not trying, they are leaving money on the table because most shoppers who try do end up getting a lower price. Thirty percent of major appliance shoppers haggled for a better price and those who succeeded ended up saving a median of $98. Only a small percentage of small appliance shoppers attempted to get a lower price and those who triumphed ended up saving a median of $40.

The most common tactic used by successful hagglers was just asking for a better price upfront. Checking out prices offered by retailers and referring to them was also found to be helpful. Online shoppers who tried to haggle were almost as successful at getting a discount as in-store shoppers.

Shopping Gripes
We asked subscribers to name a retailer where they shopped, but did not purchase what they were looking for. They told us about the gripes they have with that retailer and the most commonly reported complaint is expensive prices. Many shoppers also complained of out-of-stock products, a lack of brand or model choices, and limited display models. In-store shoppers also cited lack of sales help or salespeople who did not seem knowledgeable about the products.

Warranties and Service Contracts

One out of every five major appliance shoppers buys an extended warranty or service contract while only 3 percent of small appliance buyers do the same. Once again our survey shows that P.C. Richard & Son was the pushiest retailer when it comes to pressuring shoppers into buying an extended warranty to cover a major appliance. And their aggressiveness appears to pay off as 45 percent of in-store shoppers who purchased a major appliance there bought extra coverage, which is considerably higher than the rate of most other retailers in the survey. Sears was also found to be pushier than most other retailers.

Keep in mind that if you are considering a warranty, the period of coverage may differ from retailer to retailer so the cost of the warranties may vary. Overall, the median price paid for a major appliance extended warranty or service contract in our survey was $126. Lowe’s customers typically pay less for extended warranties and service contracts on refrigerators and washing machines than do shoppers at Best Buy, Home Depot, and Sears.

Shopping links are provided by eBay Commerce Network and Amazon, which makes it easy to find the right product from a variety of online retailers. Clicking any of the links will take you to the retailer's website to shop for this product. Please note that Consumer Reports collects fees from both eBay Commerce Network and Amazon for referring users. We use 100% of these fees to fund our testing programs.