Where to Buy Appliances
Last updated in May 2019
There are often good arguments for repairing rather than replacing older appliances, which we cover in our appliance repair section. But if you decide it’s a new six-burner stove or fresh fridge or bust, we’ve got you covered with ratings of local suppliers. Unfortunately, many buyers find selecting the right appliance—and then getting it delivered and installed—as time-consuming and annoying as cooking a 12-course dinner. Even worse, many stores use misleading pricing and marketing tactics.
Our ratings and advice should get you cooking on new appliances from a helpful, well-priced store.
What to Buy?
While shopping, you’ll encounter a nearly endless array of models with a gazillion features—so many that we won’t try to advise on them all. Consumer Reports excels at this type of buying advice, regularly evaluating appliances for quality issues including reliability, and offers great advice on the pros and cons of configurations, designs, features, and options.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Star program provides lists and energy-usage data on certified appliances.
Salespeople can also be fantastic sources of buying advice—but only at stores that employ knowledgeable, helpful ones. Unfortunately, as our Ratings Tables report, this is an aspect of service for which many stores—particularly chains—rated low on our surveys of local consumers. (We primarily survey Checkbook and Consumer Reports subscribers, plus other randomly selected individuals; click here for more information on our customer survey and other research methods.)
Stores that Score for Dependability
Purchasing a major appliance, unlike most other big-ticket items, can go majorly wrong. If your fancy new camera doesn’t work, you can return it and get a replacement. But you can’t easily tote your new defective refrigerator back to the store, plus most consumers need help with delivery and installation. Unfortunately, the customer reviews we receive from surveyed appliance purchasers indicate delivery and installation are the most problematic parts of many transactions. Delivery crews too often damage floors and doorways, and workers frequently cause water damage and even floods by improperly installing dishwashers and clothes washers. Screw-ups installing gas appliances are common and nerve-wracking.
Fortunately, some area stores do have competent installers. And aside from relying on a store’s employees—or, more commonly, its subcontractors—for installation, you have other options for getting the work done.
If you need to buy appliances as part of a larger remodeling job, your contractor can (and probably should) arrange for delivery and installation. If your contractor is responsible for these tasks, you can hold a single company accountable for making sure appliances arrive on time, get delivered without damaging your home, fit the allotted space, are installed correctly, and operate properly. This arrangement lets you focus on getting the best price, rather than worrying about the kind of service the store will provide. Keep in mind, however, that asking a remodeling company to manage delivery and installation is different from letting it buy the appliance, too. Nearly all remodelers will provide that service; in fact, some insist on purchasing it themselves. But they won’t necessarily look for and find the best price; and even when they do, many will mark it up.
Another option is to install the appliance yourself. While some stores fold installation costs into appliance prices or delivery fees, most charge extra. And even stores that charge a single package price normally offer a discount if someone else handles the installation.
If you’re thinking about going it alone, know that not all appliances are easy to install. For some, there’s very little to do. After you’ve wrestled in a several-hundred-pound refrigerator, it’s easy enough to plug it in and hook up the water line for the icemaker. Ditto for an electric clothes dryer hitched to a functioning circuit; connect the cord and it’s ready to roll. But installing a dishwasher or a washing machine can be fairly complicated, even if you’re reasonably handy.
Most consumers opt to pay appliance stores to do delivery and installation. But if you do this, make sure you understand exactly what stores will and won’t do. Some won’t touch gas lines; others won’t hook up water supply or discharge lines, meaning you’ll have to hire a plumber.
If you aren’t relying on a remodeling contractor to manage delivery and install the appliance, you’re better off finding a store that employs reliable installers and have it do the job, rather than separately hiring a plumber. Then you get to deal with a single company responsible for providing the appliance, delivering it, installing it, and hauling away your old unit. You save time (by not waiting around for a store to deliver, and then for a plumber to show up), and if something goes wrong you won’t have to referee a store-vs.-plumber dispute over who screwed up.
The customer feedback shown on our Ratings Tables for our survey questions on promptness, reliability, and overall quality will help you identify stores that deliver on time and make things right when there’s a problem.