8 Ways to Save Big on Appliances

By Darwins Money on 3 March 2011 8 comments
Photo: aka*kirara

I've had the dubious distinction of saving some big bucks on multiple types of appliances this year. I say dubious because I'd rather not have had to buy anything new at all, but when opportunities presented themselves, I did some "defensive" purchasing to capture the best deals on my terms, rather than going to a retailer in an emergency situation. Specifically, our dishwasher was on its last legs and our refrigerator was reaching the end of its useful life. There are some key discoveries and strategies I'd like to share on how I saved well over a thousand dollars on just these two appliances and how you can too. (See also: Save Money on Appliances at any Time of Year)

1. Scratch-and-Dent Discounts

I joke about the "$1,000 light bulb trip," because I went to Lowe's to pick up some odds and ends and left with a refrigerator. But what a great deal! It was a Saturday morning, and they had about a dozen new appliances out front with various forms of dings and dents. The model I was interested was a loaded $2,800 Samsung stainless fridge with a dent on the side. I couldn't believe it! $1,800 off for a dent on the side. The bonus is that we have a side panel in our kitchen that would cover the dent entirely, so it'd be completely invisible to us.

The units were going quickly, so I had to buy it on the spot. Once inside, I asked a sales guy how often they did this sort of thing. He said it's kind of random, but a good suggestion was to just call around to various stores each Saturday morning, especially around holidays, and ask if they were putting out scratch-and-dent units on display. They seem to unload them in bulk. So if you're in the market for a new appliance and don't mind a some minor visual "character," you can easily save 30%-60% off the list price by calling ahead and being ready to act.

2. Holiday Weekend Sales

Aside from using holidays to put out the scratch-and-dent models, virtually all retailers offer some sort of sales incentives around various holidays. They know their competitors are doing it, and people often waste a day shopping since we don't really celebrate President's Day or Memorial Day like we used to. If you're in need of a new appliance but can stick it out until the next holiday, it may well be worth it. Black Friday isn't the only day of the year with great deals. You can score some decent discounts without the madness on a less traveled holiday.

3. Comparison Sites

While it seems like common sense for anyone who's web-savvy, I'm often surprised to hear about purchases that people made without actually using online comparison sites. There are dozens out there, so I won't list them all, but a few simple searches on the likes of Google's Products Page, PriceGrabber, or even Amazon.com will often reveal redundant or very close pricing. Impulse buying often squashes such opportunities, but these days, with smartphone apps like ShopSavvy and the Amazon app or some simple advanced planning, there's no excuse for paying more than the cheapest price a major retailer is offering.

4. Cash for Appliances

There's been very little press on Cash for Appliances of late. During the economic crisis, the administration passed legislation allowing states to offer discounts for various energy-efficient appliances. The programs will run until states deplete the cash allotted to them from the federal stimulus program. People tend to think that only the 2011 energy tax credit survived into the new year, but that was actually different legislation than these state programs for energy-star rated home appliances. Some states have closed their programs due to the depletion of their allotted funding, but many are still in play as of the time of this writing. Check out the Energy Savers website to see if your state is offering rebates on common appliances. Many people probably bought appliances in the past year without even knowing they were eligible for a rebate!

5. Utility Rebates

Aside from Cash for Appliances, which at least got some press during the stimulus debate, would you have thought that your local utility gives out rebates to consumers for using less power? It's like a grocery store giving out rebates to buy less produce! As odd as it seems, given how utilities are regulated and governed, this is somewhat common. I found this out when a Lowe's sales rep mentioned it at checkout. We have PECO in our area, and they gave me a $75 rebate check I wasn't even planning on. All I had to do was fill out a simple form. Just visit the website of your utility company to see if they have a similar offering, and you may be surprised.

6. Exploit Model Updates

I'm a big fan of Consumer Reports and subscribe to their print magazine. Any time I'm in the market for a gadget or new appliance, I go back and check out the rating and buy a top rated model or a "Best Buy." What I often find, though, is that new models are launched so frequently that by the time I buy an appliance, the models they ranked are either obsolete already or on their way out. If it's timed right, however, these top-rated models are sold at huge discounts to make way for the replacement model in the same family. Often times this just means a slightly altered exterior or minor upgrade that you wouldn't even miss. Given the choice between paying $350 for a top-rated dishwasher model from six months ago versus $550 for a newly launched model with the same performance, I'll take the $350 any day! So, keep your eye on overlap in the stores. Often it's just a change in the last letter of the model number, or the salesperson will just tell you they're phasing out a particular model. (See also: The 5 Best Dishwashers)

7. Skip the Extended Warranty

Warranties are usually a bad investment — especially when you spread many such offerings from multiple purchases over time. There are a select few circumstances where a warranty is a good deal, but in general, they're big money-makers for retailers and salespeople and a net loser for the consumer. After all, if the consumer benefited from warranty pricing, would they even be offered? I know, it's painful to picture that new appliance going at one week past the standard one-year warranty included with your purchase, but over time, if you compare what you would have paid for EVERY extended warranty opportunity versus what you've saved for NEVER buying the extended warranty, there's no doubt you'd be better off in the long run having never purchased an extended warranty. 

8. Haggle!

Contrary to what you may be hearing about a "recovery," we're not buzzing along like we have been during prior recoveries. Unemployment is still at 9%, while millions of Americans have simply dropped out of the workforce. So retailers are looking to make sales knowing there's a lot less cash and credit out there than in the good ol' days. There's nothing wrong with some good old-fashioned haggling. Some common lines I use include "OK, I see your list price is $250. What can you sell it for?" and "Can you take $200 for it?" Whatever line you need to use, even if it's just a bit outside your comfort zone, it's worth it. What's the worst thing that happens? They say no. Sometimes floor associates aren't qualified to agree to a discount on the spot, but they'll often go find a manager who is. There's a commission on the line after all.

What are some of your appliance-purchase tips?

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Guest's picture

Best new appliance tips? Don't buy new, period. Craigslist (or something similar) is the best way to go. My last stove cost me $40 and my last washing machine, $75. Both work perfectly fine. They aren't stainless steel or the top of the line models but they are not junk either. Good, solid, quality models that I have had for 5+ years now. I'm always surprised when people on Craigslist sell their old appliances because they are "upgrading". Why waste money on replacing appliances that still work? Their waste, my gain.

Darwins Money's picture

Sure, used is always going to be cheaper. I don't think after putting in a new kitchen I'd be able to sell my wife on used appliances though. Personally, as a practical guy, it would probably work for me!

Guest's picture

Great tips! We are lucky here in KC that we have a JC Penney's Home Store that has a section specifically for scratch and dent appliances.

Darwins Money's picture

That's a gold mine! I remember a Sears scratch and dent in Jersey where I used to live too. No worrying about finding the deals or waiting for the time of month to display - they're always offering deals at S&D!

Guest's picture

Excellent! If I may add...
If you know an appliance is on its last legs, measure it. That way you will be able to know if that clearance special will fit the space the old one is in.

Darwins Money's picture

Funny you mention it. When I was going to snag that fridge, there were a few out front and they were going left and right. I was on the phone with my wife debating over where the tape measure was to measure. She couldn't find it and I'm watching unit after unit go from outside the store. Finally she got one from a neighbor and I snagged the fridge we wanted at the last minute. Save yourself the stress - measure first!

Guest's picture

There's also the Habitat for Humanity Restores -- they offer everything from building materials and home accessories to furniture and appliances at low prices. Some items are new, while others may be gently used. But, all items are donated, keeping them out of the waste stream, and selling these items helps raise money for an important cause.

Guest's picture

Go for malfunction models that perform each function adequately making one appliance do the tasks of two or three appliances. This way you can keep down the kitchen clutter and save money on the number of appliances you need to buy.