12 Money-Saving Secrets Appliance Stores Don’t Want You to Know
By Lisa Gordon
Let’s face it: Shopping for appliances is rarely as fun as, say, a weekend in Vegas. Has anyone ever experienced any kind of high-roller exhilaration from splurging on a washing machine?
Of course not! That’s because home appliance shopping usually happens when one of your workhorses is on its last legs or, heaven forbid, completely busted. And, if you’re not careful, a savvy salesperson will spot that sweat of desperation. Suddenly, you’re leaving the store not just with a new appliance but also a sad, empty wallet.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Whether you’re buying an appliance in a store or online, we know a few tricks of the trade to keep money in your pocket.
- Look beyond advertised prices
Have you noticed that when you shop for appliances online or look at store circulars, all the prices are pretty much the same? That’s because big manufacturers dictate the minimum prices stores can advertise. But that doesn’t mean the actual cost is the same across the board.
“They can sell it for less, but they can’t advertise it for less,” says Kevin Brasler, executive editor of consumer watchdog Checkbook. That means if you just do something—such as click a button online or approach a sales associate in a store—you can often buy the product for less cash. Sometimes a lot less.
- Time your purchase right
The right time to buy appliances can vary depending on whether you’re buying online or in store. But there’s one common denominator: The best time to shop is when retailers need your money more than you need that appliance. Let’s break it down:
If you’re shopping in a brick-and-mortar store, these are the best times to buy:
- September, October, and January, when manufacturers roll out new appliance models and retailers are desperate to get rid of last year’s fare
- The end of each month, when stores are trying to meet monthly quotas
- Holiday weekends (No, retailers aren’t tricking you with bargain prices—they promote heavily and stock for greater sales during those periods. But different holidays are better for different deals.)
- Off-season (For instance, force yourself to think about buying an outdoor grill in January or an electric fireplace in July.)
If you’re shopping online, these are the best times to buy:
- Thursdays (the day retailers are twice as likely to reduce prices)
- The fourth or fifth day of the month, when buyers are flush with paycheck money
- 3 p.m. (Yes, 3 p.m.)
- Use a shopping cart—and then walk away
We’re talking about the online kind. If you’ve had your eye on an appliance but wish it were just a smidgen cheaper, try putting it in your cart. Then walk away (so to speak). If you leave it there for a few days, a retailer might send you a coupon to entice you to close the deal.
- Decode the price tag
According to the folks at Lifehacker, some price tags have a secret code that can help you determine how much a store is discounting an item—and whether there’s room for a bigger cut.
They put together a handy chart that reveals what certain numbers and symbols mean at several major retailers, including Home Depot, Costco, and Target. If this looks like information overload, remember this: If a price ends in any number other than 9 or 99, you’ll know you’re getting less than full retail price.
- Embrace your inner snoop
You can’t always get to a store during a big sale. But if you peek into the metal price stand next to an item, you might be able to preview the cards behind the one displaying the current price—cards that might reveal the date and price of the next sale.
- Ask repair people for bargains
When a repairman arrives to fix a busted appliance, ask if he knows of warehouses selling almost-new appliances for deep discounts. This is what we call insider info! When my oven broke, my repairman pointed me to a family warehouse filled with slightly dented appliances. I got half off a returned wall oven with a tiny dent on the side that nobody will ever see.
- Combine discounts
Think of how much you can save if you shop for appliances during a Black Friday sale, pay with a gift card you bought online for a discount, and add a 20% coupon to the mix. The dollars simply melt away.
- Don’t be afraid to haggle
Never be afraid to ask salespeople, cashiers, and store managers if they can do a little better on the price. In fact, Consumer Reports says that nearly all people who haggle over appliances are successful at least once—and save an average $200.
Brasler advises consumers to call stores in advance and say, “I’m shopping around for this appliance and will buy from the place that gives me the lowest price. What’s the best price, including delivery and install, you can give me?”
“Independent stores, rather than chains, are really set up for this,” he adds.
- Re-evaluate the extended warranty
Extended warranties can be a good idea. But if you’re not careful, they can also drain your bank account unnecessarily. Consumer experts say extended warranties often cost more than they’re worth—in other words, you’ll spend less on a potential repair than you will shelling out for the warranty in the first place. We won’t tell you to skip it, but you should do the math and proceed with caution.
- Sell your old one for scrap
Even an old, broken appliance is usually worth something. You can try selling a busted unit for parts on Craigslist or eBay, or at a local scrap yard that purchases metal based on weight. You can often earn $10 to $50 per 100 pounds, depending on the type of metal and the scrap yard. That means a 150-pound dryer could net you $15 to $75 dollars. Apply that to a new $300 dryer, and you’ve suddenly got a discount. Score!
- Consider white
If you’re not picky about colors and finishes, you can often buy white appliances for hundreds less than stainless steel, black, or the color of the moment.
- Send in your rebate
We know it’s a pain to keep track of your receipt and send it to a manufacturer or store. But isn’t it worth five minutes of your time to get a bargain? Keep receipts in one place, and put together your rebates while you’re bingeing on Netflix.
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