8 Ways to Save Big on Appliances
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.
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.
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?