Consumer Reports’ extensive appliance Ratings will lead you to the top-performing appliances on the market, including dishwashers that deliver sparkling results and refrigerators that ensure maximum freshness. Our reliability charts, meanwhile, help you find the brands that are least likely to break down. That just leaves one crucial decision: where to make the actual purchase.

To guide you through that phase of the journey, our National Research Center asked around 56,000 subscribers about their experiences purchasing more than 80,000 major and small appliances from the fall of 2014 to the fall of 2015.

The survey yielded plenty of insights into major home centers, including Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Sears, which did the most business in 2015, according to TWICE magazine’s list of the biggest U.S. appliance retailers. We also learned about retailers who deal more in small appliances, including Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, and Williams-Sonoma. And we gleaned insights into online players Amazon, HSN, and QVC.   

You can see how these retailers, and a couple dozen others, stack up in our Appliance Store Ratings. Before you dive into the Ratings, take note of these five shopping strategies that savvy shoppers use when searching for the best appliance buys.

Haggling Pays Off
“Everything is negotiable” doesn’t seem to apply to appliances in the minds of many consumers. Just 14 percent of all appliance buyers tried to negotiate a better price with their purchase, according to our survey. Among major appliance shoppers who haggled, those who succeeded saved a median amount of $112. Simply asking for a better price was the most common haggling tactic. Referencing better prices from other retailers is another strategy worth trying.

Shop at a Mom-and-Pop
While big-box retailers raked in most of the $27.8 billion in appliance sales in 2015, mom-and-pop shops haven’t disappeared. They remain an excellent choice if you’re looking for a more hands-on shopping experience, from start to finish. Look at our Ratings for major appliance retailers, in-store service at local independent retailers is highly rated, while delivery, installation, and haul-away of old appliances get top marks.        

Abt Isn't Just for Chicagoans
If you root for the Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks, chances are you’re also a fan of Abt, a 100,000 square-foot appliance and electronics showroom located in Chicago’s North Shore. We’re pretty fond of it too, as it has held the top spot in our Ratings of major appliance retailers for the last seven years. This year, it also joins Amazon at the top of our Ratings of small appliance retailers.

While outstanding in-store service is one of the things that separates Abt from the competition, it also offers an impressive e-commerce service that’s available to consumers everywhere. It’s the only non-independent to get a top mark on all three post-purchase services—delivery, installation, and haul-away—for major appliances. So if Amazon has been your default website for online appliance shopping, it may be time to give Abt.com a look—even if you do put ketchup on your hot dogs and refer to that skyscraper on Wacker Drive as the Sears Tower.

Speaking of Sears, it’s worth noting that this other Chicago-rooted retailer landed at the bottom of our Ratings of major appliance retailer and near the nadir among small appliance sellers. That could be affecting business: it slipped from second to third on TWICE’s Top 50 list and its core business fell 19 percent in 2015. Its sister store Kmart, which also ranks low in our Ratings, saw its sales drop 16 percent from the previous year. Most other major retailers posted higher sales last year.     

Get Up Close and Personal
Thanks in part to places like Abt upping their e-commerce game, online appliance sales continue to increase among our subscribers, with 30 percent of small appliances and 13 percent of major appliances now purchased on the web. But it’s worth checking major appliances out at a walk-in store before making your final purchase—as one-third of online major appliance shoppers did in our survey.

Kitchen appliances in particular contribute to the overall style of the kitchen, so it’s important to see their finish and design features up close, especially if you’re going for a particular look. Given how much you’ll be interacting with these appliances, it pays to inspect their ergonomics too—turning the burner knobs, opening and closing the crisper drawers, seeing how easy the dishwasher racks are to operate, and so on.       

Once you’re sure about the appliance, it’s definitely worth checking the retailer’s website to see if you can find a better price online. In our survey, major appliance shoppers found this tactic to be especially helpful in finding the best appliance buys.  

Skip the Extended Warranty
Our historical data shows that appliances usually don't break during the two-to-three-year period after the manufacturer's warranty expires and the extended warranty, also known as a service plan, kicks in. What’s more, when appliances do break, the repairs don’t cost much more on average than the cost of an extended warranty.

That doesn’t stop many retailers from pushing extended warranties. As in years past, our survey shows that P.C. Richard & Son has the hardest sell. One third of their customers say they were strongly pitched by its sales staff during the purchase of a major appliance. At the other end of the spectrum, just 6 percent of major appliance customers who shopped at Abt or a local independent retailer, and 3 percent who shopped at Costco, said they were subjected to similar treatment.