You want sound buying advice, careful and prompt delivery, and a trouble-free installation—but not at a steep price. Fortunately, we find that highly rated stores often quote prices as low as, or even lower than, their low-rated competitors.

Our undercover shoppers sought prices for 17 appliance models from the stores listed on the table below. We used the prices we were quoted to calculate the price comparison scores. These scores show how each retailer’s prices compare to the average price for all surveyed outlets. The scores are adjusted so that the average price comparison score is $100. Prices for a retailer with a score of $105, then, were five percent higher than the average; prices for a retailer with a score of $95 were five percent lower than the average.
 

How Local
Stores'
Appliance
Prices Compare

Price
comparison
score
($100 =
average)*
Costco $90
Sam’s Club $92
Contra Costa Appliance Ctr $93
Lowe’s $93
Millbrae Furniture & Appliance $94
Antone’s Appliance $95
Fry’s Electronics $95
Sears $95
Appliance Parts & Distributers $96
Home Depot $96
J C Penney $96
Atom Appliance $97
Best Buy $97
Friedmans Appliance $97
Martin & Harris Appliances $97
Cherin’s Appliance $98
Western Appliance $98
Airport Home Appliance $101
Stewart Molander Appliances $102
Monark Premium Appliance $103
Pearson’s Appliance $104
Davies Appliance $105
CG Appliance Express $106
Mike’s Appliances $106
TeeVax Home Appliance $109
University Electric $109
Atherton Appliance & Kitchens $113
Meyer Appliance $114
Galvin Appliance $120
* For each company, the price comparison score is intended to suggest the price a customer might expect to pay for appliances that would cost $100 at the “average” company. Scores are based on prices our shoppers collected for 17 appliance models, plus stores’ costs for delivery, haul-away of old appliances, and installation.

 

We included stores’ quoted fees to deliver and install each appliance we shopped, to haul away an old appliance, and for any needed parts or installation kits. If a store told our shoppers it does not provide installation services for the type of appliance we shopped, we added our estimate of the average price charged by reasonably priced local plumbers to do the work.

Here’s what we found:

Don’t assume sale prices are low prices.

Don't assume that a sale price for an appliance—even one suggesting a heavily discounted price—is a good price. The sale prices 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 often not even a good deal.

Although general price competition for appliances is less pronounced than for many other products, it’s still worth your time to shop around.

The price comparison scores range from $90 to $120, which indicates far less variation among stores’ average prices than for other types of local service providers we cover.

Our undercover shoppers collected prices from local and online retailers and found big savings. For example, the highest price quoted by local retailers for a Whirlpool WRX735SDHZ refrigerator in stainless steel was $2,339; the lowest price was $1,379—a tidy savings of $960. For a Maytag MDB4949SHZ dishwasher in stainless steel, prices ranged from $500 to $939, a difference of $439.

The table below lists the lowest and highest prices quoted by local stores (including national chains) for each appliance model (again, including costs for delivery, haul-away, and installation).
 

Low, Average, and High Prices Quoted to Our Undercover Shoppers for Appliances

Appliance Low price Average price High price
LG LFXS29766S refrigerator in stainless steel $2,629 $3,036 $3,419
LG LDG4315ST gas range in stainless steel $1,346 $1,559 $2,044
LG LDF5545ST dishwasher in stainless steel $550 $758 $918
Whirlpool WRX735SDHZ refrigerator in stainless steel $1,379 $1,713 $2,339
Whirlpool WGG745S0FS gas range in stainless steel $1,150 $1,346 $1,644
Whirlpool WDTA50SAHZ dishwasher in stainless steel $550 $757 $989
Maytag MFI2570FEZ refrigerator in stainless steel $1,530 $1,928 $2,294
Maytag MGT8800FZ gas range in stainless steel $1,479 $1,708 $1,998
Maytag MDB4949SHZ dishwasher in stainless steel $500 $726 $939
LG WT7700HVA clothes washer in graphite $1,050 $1,227 $1,728
LG DLE7200VE clothes dryer in graphite $750 $850 $1,080
Whirlpool Cabrio WTW7000DW clothes washer in white $630 $845 $1,008
Whirlpool Cabrio WED8000DW clothes dryer in white $719 $891 $1,073
Samsung WA50M7450AW clothes washer in white $639 $767 $1,043
Samsung DVE50M7450W clothes dryer in white $639 $702 $870
GE GTW755CSMWS clothes washer in white $700 $853 $1,148
GE GTD45EASJWS clothes dryer in white $549 $647 $1,008


Because it is easy to obtain price quotes from salespeople at appliance stores and on websites, consumers willing to make four or five phone calls or checks could save several hundred dollars. And if you are replacing all the appliances in your kitchen, it’s well worth the time to shop around.

You don’t have to pay more for superior service.

Begin shopping at stores that receive high scores from area consumers. For each appliance model we priced, we received at least one low price quote from a top-rated store.

Don’t assume online-only retailers are less expensive than local stores.

Although we often found low prices online, you can’t count on the internet to deliver the best appliance deals. Our shoppers usually found better deals—sometimes much better deals—at local retailers.

Even if you don’t want to buy online, make sure you’re paying a low price by comparing the prices at local stores to prices from online sellers—but don’t bother checking prices at Amazon.com. Our shoppers tried using Amazon to price appliances but gave up in frustration after sifting through page after page of separate listings for the same models.

Big chains don’t necessarily offer the lowest prices.

Among local stores and chains, Costco’s price comparison score ($90) is the lowest—but just barely. Several other retailers—Sam’s Club ($92), Contra Costa Appliance & Kitchen ($93), Lowe’s ($93), Millbrae Furniture & Appliance ($94), Antone’s Appliance ($95), Fry’s Electronics ($95), and Sears ($95)—achieved price comparison scores of $95 or lower. Home Depot’s ($96) and Best Buy’s ($97) prices were also slightly lower than average.

Call or email stores to get price quotes.

Appliance manufacturers use a bad-for-consumers policy called “minimum advertised price,” or MAP. It requires retailers to advertise product prices at or above preset minimums. Want to sell something made by GE, LG, Whirlpool, et al.? You can’t advertise it at a price that’s lower than a minimum price set by the manufacturer.

These constraints, designed to squelch price competition and boost profits for manufacturers and large retailers, mean the same prices are advertised from retailer to retailer. But MAP policies don’t constrain retailers from selling products for prices lower than these minimums. And we find that by calling or emailing stores for quotes, we often are offered prices that are lower than advertised—especially from independent stores.

When shopping for prices, mention that you’re contacting multiple stores for price quotes. The best strategy is to initiate a competitive bidding process.

The only way to get the lowest possible price is to make salespeople offer their best prices upfront—which they do only if they know you will buy elsewhere for a better price. At independent stores, our shoppers found that informing sales staff that they were getting price quotes from multiple stores often spurred discounts, waivers of delivery and installation fees, or both. Getting big chains to be flexible took considerably more effort, but when our shoppers waited and waited on hold to speak with appliance-department sales managers, they sometimes secured better deals.

Our advice? Solicit competitive bids, calling four or five of the retailers highly rated on our Ratings Tables and asking to speak to someone with authority to provide discounted pricing. Tell that person the makes and model numbers of the appliances you want, explain that you are calling multiple companies to solicit bids, make it clear that you will ask each store only once for its best price—and will buy from the store that offers the best deal.

Don’t be shy about using this method. Be polite, businesslike, and let stores know that you get competitive bids whenever you make major purchases. Most appliance salespeople are accustomed to providing discounted pricing when asked.

And if you need delivery and installation services, nail down prices for that work along with prices for the appliances.

If the store with the lowest price doesn’t get great ratings for service, call one that does and ask it to match the low price.

When comparing prices, take into account fees for delivery, haul-away, and installation.

Some stores include fees for delivery, hauling away old appliances, and installation in the price of the appliance; some charge a flat fee for delivery and installation; and some charge separate fees for each service. Some retailers levy steep fees for these services, quickly turning a seemingly good deal into a not-so-good one. For example, some stores quoted our shoppers prices of $250 or more to install dishwashers and $200 or more to install gas ranges.

To avoid add-on-fee surprises, ask for separate prices for each of the services you need—then you’ll know whether it could cost less to have an independent pro do the work instead. And if you don’t need delivery or installation mention it, so the store can adjust prices accordingly.

Determine what the store will and won’t do when installing appliances.

Some appliance stores have employees (or, more commonly, subcontractors) who can perform any type of appliance installation; but some companies won’t install dishwashers, and others won’t connect appliances to gas lines. Some delivery personnel won’t do anything but move appliances into place and plug them in.

If you buy from a store that doesn’t provide full installation services, and you aren’t comfortable with doing it yourself or with the help of a friend, you’ll have to hire a plumber or appliance repair service. Most reasonably priced plumbers charge around $100 to $150 to hook up clothes washers, gas stoves, or dishwashers. When comparing appliance prices, take these expenses into account.

Many consumers prefer to deal with stores that offer complete installation services, and with good reason. Our view is that it’s better to have a single vendor responsible for making sure the appliance arrives in good condition and is properly installed. If something goes wrong, this arrangement eliminates disputes between store and you and/or the plumber or handyman you hired over who is at fault.

If you know your installation will be difficult or unusual, hire a trusted pro to do the work.

Some installations are complicated. To replace dishwashers, countertops may have to be removed. If you’re replacing an electric appliance with a gas model, or vice versa, gas lines must be run or removed. If you are replacing very old appliances, you may need to install new pipe and connections. Most plumbers can handle all these jobs. And if you’re adding an electric clothes dryer to a new space or to an old room that isn’t wired adequately, an electrician will be able to install a new circuit and connect it.

Ask about installation kits.

Extra parts must be purchased to install many appliances. When shopping for the appliance, ask stores about prices for any additional parts needed to install the unit (often called “installation kits”). Note that our shoppers often found it difficult to obtain accurate price information for installation kits from major chain stores, especially when shopping online.

If a contractor is handling your appliance purchases, make sure you are getting a good deal.

When pricing remodeling jobs, general contractors usually work out an appliance budget (often called an allowance) with their customers, and then use that allowance to select models to purchase and install. We have no problem with an arrangement like this, but check prices yourself to make sure you can’t do significantly better. Find big savings? Ask the contractor to buy from the low-priced retailer—and adjust your contract price accordingly. You may, in fact, discover that you are indeed able to find substantially lower prices on many appliances, in part because when calculating budgets and bids for customers some remodelers mark up the prices they pay their retail and wholesale sources, often by a lot.