My wife and I recently undertook a kitchen renovation, which is still in progress. Once complete, I’ll share the story, pictures, and some numbers, but that will probably turn in to a novel. Meanwhile, I thought I’d share some advice on one component that everyone will run in to sooner or later in life: buying new appliances.
I typically use “stuff” like appliances until near-death or death (if I can’t fix it). All four of my major kitchen appliances (above-range microwave, dishwasher, refrigerator, and gas range) were mostly functional, but with each being around 20 years old, they were horribly inefficient and a few were seemingly on their last breath. With remodeling the countertop, sink, and backsplash, it was time for some updates.
The first place I looked was Craigslist. I had heard Craigslist is great for finding appliances at great prices. In some regards, it is. However, if you want a newer, efficient, or stainless steel models, you’ll probably be disappointed. If you want a 20-year old, inefficient, white, dinged-up model – you will have better luck. I live in a fairly large city that is very active on Craigslist, was open to a 50-mile radius, and went back a full month on listings and found very little that fit the bill. What I did find was typically overpriced and did not match the size dimensions of the spaces the departing appliances were leaving behind.
However, I don’t want to discourage you from first fully vetting Craigslist. If your budget is limited and you don’t care about efficiency or appearance, you will be able to find some good deals.
Buying new appliances was not preferred, but I was in a great position in that I didn’t have a breakdown that would have required me to run out to the store and immediately purchase an in-stock model. Time was on my side. So I used the next month to meticulously research, observe pricing trends, and patiently find the best deals.
Some might say I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to making big purchases (and I wouldn’t disagree) – but hopefully you can benefit from this character flaw the next time you go appliance shopping. Below are the appliance shopping rules of thumb that I learned and would recommend you follow, when the time comes:
1. Lean on Reviews
A good price doesn’t always equal a good deal. Do your research online and read customer reviews. Unlike with rare Amazon product offerings, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Best Buy, and Sears all have significant amounts of customer reviews on models that have been on the market for a while. There has to be some honest ones in there. If a particular model is a lemon, it becomes painfully obvious in the reviews. Today’s well informed consumers are very hard to please, particularly on high-priced items like appliances.
2. Online Over In-Store
Simply put, online rules supreme when it comes to appliance shopping. Not only can you get better research online around reliability, specifications, and efficiency, but many retailers will offer lower prices online and you can occasionally pair those with coupon codes. Plus, you will have full access to many more (and often cheaper) models versus simply what can be fit in a store showroom, limited by space. What models make the floor space? The most profitable ones for the retailer.
3. Do your Homework on Energy Efficiency
Most retailers will allow you to sort by Energy Star qualification (applies to dishwashers and refrigerators) in their online stores. Furthermore, there are Energy Efficiency Guide links that tell you average kWh usage and cost to run the machine, annually. Try to stay below $25 for dishwashers and $40 for refrigerators in energy use per year. Here are the Energy Star refrigerator and dishwasher specifications. Ranges and microwaves DO NOT have Energy Star ratings. Outside of the kitchen, air purifiers, freezers, clothes washers, dehumidifiers, and water heaters are other appliances with Energy Star certifications.
4. Always Get Free Delivery
Most retailers will deliver for free from a local store with purchases over a particular dollar amount (commonly $399). And almost all ship to the store for free pick-up (but why bother if they will deliver for free?). DO NOT PAY FOR DELIVERY. Besides, if they’ll deliver for free, it saves you the gas and the burden of getting the difficult-to-move appliance home without damage.
5. Pass on Setup Help
You can pay to have the retailer set up the appliance for you, but that’s a shortcut to the poor house. Do it yourself, learn a few skills, grow your DIY confidence, and save the money. With all of the resources available to you on YouTube and elsewhere, there is really no good excuse not to DIY outside of being physically incapable of doing so.
6. Make Money on your Old Machine
Please, please, please do not throw your old machine in a landfill. You will always be able to find somewhere to recycle it and make some scrap metal money, at a minimum. Some retailers will pick up and recycle your old model for free or a small charge, when they deliver the new model. My utility company is currently offering $40 in rebates to pick up old refrigerators. If it is still functional, you will probably come out ahead by selling it on Craigslist. Spruce it up, take photos, and be very descriptive in what you are offering (including size dimensions).
7. Decline Automatic Add-Ons
Some retailers automatically add on items in your online shopping cart that you probably don’t need (i.e. dishwasher connect or gas line) if you are replacing an old machine. These connections have near universal compatibility, so your old ones are probably fine, if not damaged. It doesn’t hurt to try out the old and then purchase new, if needed.
8. Flexibility is Key
This might be the biggest cost saver of all. The more flexible you are around when you purchase (patience for big sales is a virtue), the delivery date (stock availability), and the model – the better price you will be able to get. Spending a few bucks to fix up your old machine so that it works until you can find a new one could result in a positive ROI. Plus, you’ll more easily be able to sell it.
9. Price Matching
Just about every appliance retailer says they “price match”, but in my experience the real-world translation is: “we will price match advertised prices from our brick-and-mortar competitors, excluding special promo codes and loyalty rewards programs”. This virtually ensures that price matching is useless, because the deals you will get online can’t be matched offline.
10. Never Ever Pay Full Price
Retailers run 10%-off promotions frequently enough that there should never be a circumstance where you should settle for paying full price. In fact, you should be able to get much higher than 10% off.