How to Shop for Appliances

Nobody likes it, but everyone has to do it every once in a while – appliance shopping. Ugh. It’s a boring shopping trip, because they all look generally the same. And when you finally do decide which one you want, you drop a load of cash that you would have rather spent on something fun. But it’s not to be – the food has to stay cold (fridge) until you want it hot (oven). The clothes have to get clean (washer) and the water needs to be hot (water heater). You want to stay warm (furnace) part of the year, but cool (air conditioner) the other part of the year. These appliances are integral to our lives.
Don’t just settle on the cheapest appliance you can find though. Do a little homework, and you’ll get better value for your money, and end up with something functional that also makes you happy.
What Do You Need?
Think about what you need before you go shopping. In what way(s) does your current machine fail you? Too big? Too small? Inefficient? What feature(s) does it lack that you would actually use (would you seriously learn how to adapt recipes to a convection oven?). Think about these things. Decide what finish you want – not all models are available in every color, so this definitely helps narrow the field.

And please, measure your space! One would think that appliance sizes are standardized, but they are not. Not by a long shot. And they all look the same size in the store, and the dimensions on the tag don’t tell you much when you don’t know how big your space is, so you won’t even notice it’s the wrong size until you get it home. Then you have to deal with returns. So measure the width, height and depth of wherever you’re putting the appliance, write down those measurements, and bring the measurements shopping with you.

Do Some Research
Look at what’s available and where you have to go to get it. Sure, the big appliance store might have some great sales, but the items that aren’t on sale are no cheaper than specialty stores, though the selection is more limited. Look around online, and you’ll be amazed at what you find. Now there are glass-front refrigerators. Did you know that? And your big box store won’t have them. There are one-piece washer/dryers (they do both!), infrared ovens, solar water heaters, and a host of others. In short, there are all kinds of things that the typical discount store won’t stock.
Get a Deal
The very best time to get a great deal on appliances is a weekday toward the end of the month in either September or October (or February for refrigerators). If you can’t have all of these factors, wait for as many as you can. Weekdays are best because appliance stores are packed on the weekends and getting service from the sales staff can be difficult. You have a better chance of negotiating a deal when you can spend time asking questions and getting to know the details of the appliance. The end of the month is great because salespeople are typically looking to meet their sales quotas. They are much more likely to cut a deal if they really need the sale. September and October (or February for refrigerators) is when manufacturers ship out the new models for the year, and stores have to make room for the new stock by putting last year’s models on clearance.

You can also score some pretty good deals on holiday weekends, when appliance stores tend to have sales. But be warned – the crowd factor still applies, so if the sale price is still outside your budget, you may not be able to negotiate any lower. Look for sales online – there’s no negotiation possible, but the sale prices can still be great, and they may even have free shipping.

Narrowing Choices
Once you’re actually shopping, first narrow down the choices with your measurements. Immediately exclude anything that won’t fit, obviously, because that won’t change. Then exclude anything that doesn’t have the finish you’re looking for, unless that’s a flexible criterion for you. Now you’re down to price versus features, and you may have to give a little one way or another. A good tie-breaker is the Energy Star rating – get the best one when in doubt. The saving in utilities really add up – it’s possible to buy a washer that costs only $9.00/year to run, averaging five loads per week. These things sip water and electricity, so even if you break your budget a bit, you’ll make up the difference in the long run with energy savings.
Unless you have an unlimited budget, you probably won’t get everything you want. But if you do the homework beforehand and go shopping before your appliance breaks down, it’s possible to come pretty darn close.