Our Ratings Tables show how area hardware stores stack up for quality and price.

For prices, Home Depot and Lowe’s beat all of the independents and other chains. But our price survey did find below-average prices at local chain McLendon Hardware and several area independent stores.

Among the independents, we found fairly small store-to-store price variation compared to the other topics Consumers' Checkbook evaluates for price.

For many customers, price is only one consideration. You also want good advice and customer service. Unfortunately, price leaders Home Depot and Lowe’s fall well short on some key service fronts. At the time of our last full, published report, on our surveys of area consumers, Home Depot received “superior” ratings for quality of advice from only 26 percent of its surveyed customers and Lowe’s from only 27 percent. In contrast, local chain McLendon Hardware and a number of independent stores throughout the Puget Sound area received “superior” ratings for advice from more than 80 percent of their surveyed customers. Keep in mind that even at top-rated stores you may have to seek out the best-informed staff members.