A lot can go wrong with appliance purchases. Our ratings of stores reveal many, particularly the big chains, get low ratings from the customers we survey. They’re not enthused about advice provided by salespeople, and we get too-frequent complaints about delivery delays and improper and sloppy installation. Fortunately, several area retailers usually do well by their customers.

Don’t assume that a sale price for an appliance—even one that seems to be heavily discounted—is a good one. The “sales” offered by many local stores and on most websites probably aren’t special at all. Unfortunately, at most stores the “sales” for appliances never end. A 10-month-long investigation by Checkbook’s undercover shoppers found that many stores use deceptive practices, especially when selling appliances. Even if the sign says “Save 60%,” it’s probably meaningless and not even a good deal.

The only way to get the best price is to shop around. Because manufacturers enforce minimum pricing policies designed to squelch price competition, if you rely just on stores’ ads or online listings you’ll find the same prices from store to store for most models. But if you call or email stores and mention that you’re collecting bids from several for the models you want, you’ll usually be offered real discounts. Our undercover shoppers collected prices this way and found big savings.

You don’t have to pay more to get good service. Highly rated stores were just as likely to quote low prices as their low-rated competitors. And don’t assume you’ll get low prices by buying from the big chains or even online: We often found lower prices elsewhere.

When comparing prices, take into account fees for delivery, hauling away old appliances, and installation. If you know your installation will be complicated or unusual, hire a top-rated plumber for the job.

Pay by credit card. If you have a problem, you can protest the charge with your card issuer.

Skip the extended warranties pushed by most stores. These offers are great deals for the stores that sell them but awful deals for most consumers.