Updated April 8, 2016

Study: Best Place to Buy Appliances - Home Depot vs Lowes vs Sears


Appliances are one of the few items that really shouldn't be bought sight unseen. Even if you purchase your next fridge or dishwasher online, you'd be a savvy shopper by testing out the doors and seeing the appliance in person. Chances are, to do these test touch-and-feels, you'll be making a trek to one of these major retailers: Sears, Lowe's, or Home Depot. These stores are easy to find and navigate, and offer a wide selection of name brands for the machines you need use every day.

Tip: Save time and money by buying appliances online. Our top pick for customer service is Sears. Click here to see the latest Sears appliance deals.

Given that the purchase usually has to fit within the confines of one's budget, and that many consumer often doesn't know much more about an appliance than how to operate it, CreditDonkey has done a comparison of three major retailers, Lowe's, Home Depot, and Sears. They offer appliances for every budget so that you can make an informed decision about which one to buy, helping you keep more money in your pocket.

Best Place to Buy Appliances Online

Study Methodology

These are the four main factors we considered in assessing the best retail store to buy appliances:

  1. Product Selection
  2. Knowledge of Salespeople
  3. Cost
  4. Delivery/Installation Options

You want a wide variety of appliances at your disposal so that you can do side-by-side comparisons and decide what will best suit your needs and finances. There's a plethora of appliance manufacturers – General Electric, Frigidaire, Viking, Samsung, LG, Whirlpool, Amana, to name a few – each with their own vast selection and subcategories. For example, you need a refrigerator. How big? What kind of doors? Top freezer or bottom? Number of shelves? You may think you know the answer, but you may change your mind when you see these appliances in person and realize there are some options you may have not considered.

Especially for major appliances, the knowledge and personality of the salespeople can either make or break your purchase. You want someone who readily available to assist you with questions, rather than having to chase one down or wait eons for one to become free.

Some of us are driven mostly by our budget. In that case, price is more of a determining than the bells and whistles of an appliance (really, it’s OK to have a stainless steel oven and a black fridge).The stores we reviewed will price match, so the savvy consumer should be able to negotiate the best price from whichever retailer they end up making their purchase.

Delivery and installation are often forgotten factors when purchasing an appliance. Even if you own or rent a truck, most likely you will need an experienced technician to install it. So delivery and installation can be costs that really add up. The good news is, of these three retailers, all of them offer free delivery – though installation costs can vary and minimum purchase requirements may apply.

BEST IN-STORE PRODUCT SELECTION: LOWE'S

  • Product Selection: Huge, online and in-store, many products on the floor 4/5
  • Knowledge of Salespeople: Varies, but usually easy to find someone for assistance 3/5
  • Cost: Competitive, local retailer price-match for identical item, will beat price by 10% 5/5
  • Delivery/Installation: Free delivery for any appliance $396 or more, installation cost varies by item 4/5
  • CreditDonkey Score: 4.25/5

Lowe's is a well-known, reputable home improvement retailer. It has an inviting atmosphere and a large selection of appliances that are easy to locate and are readily available for hands-on testing and comparison.

According a 2007 MarketWatch article that cited a survey by Consumer Specialists, "Major appliances was the category with the biggest advantage for Lowe's, with 40% of respondents saying Lowe's was a lot or somewhat better than Home Depot, compared with 21% favoring Home Depot.

Why We Like Lowe's
Lowe's has a less "warehouse-y" feel than Home Depot and is more user-friendly and welcoming to both men and women, making it less daunting to the average shopper. The in-store appliance selection is very large, allowing you to make hands-on comparisons. If you pre-shop online, you can use the Lowe’s website to quickly find where items are situated in your local store. It often has sales on major appliances as well as a 5% discount on every purchase or interest-free financing offers on purchases over $299 when you use its credit card.

The Downsides
Many people have the same idea as you, and want to purchase their appliances from Lowe's. If you go on a weekend, it might be hard to find a salesperson to assist you, and it might take a while to get "alone time" with a popular appliance.

Who Lowe's Works Best For
People who want a welcoming experience and a wide selection.

Want the latest Lowe's coupons? Before you buy a new appliance, visit CreditDonkey for up-to-date coupons for Lowe's.

Tip: Yes, you can buy appliances online and still save money. Check out online appliance retailers such as AJ Madison and ABT.com. You might be surprised at the overall savings. For instance, ABT does not collect sales tax outside of IL, IN, MI and WI. AJ Madison has free delivery on eligible items over $349 and does not collect sales tax on deliveries outside of NY, NJ and PA.

BEST PRICE: HOME DEPOT

  • Product Selection: Huge online, but limited in-store 3/5
  • Knowledge of Salespeople: Varies, often hard to find someone on floor 3/5
  • Cost: Competitive, local retailer price-match for identical in-stock item, will beat by 10% 5/5
  • Delivery/Installation: Free delivery on appliance purchases $396+, installation cost varies by item though basic hook-up on some appliances is included 4/5
  • CreditDonkey Score: 3.75/5

Everyone knows Home Depot. For home improvement and building materials, it's become a part of the vernacular. However, it's not always the first major retailer that comes to mind when looking to buy a kitchen or laundry appliance, given its construction workers’ atmosphere and propensity towards tools and lumber. But, in reality, Home Depot is a great place to shop for such items for the most online selection and cost-effective advantage. It offers 10% off your first purchase if you use its credit card, with a maximum discount of $200.

But in a recent Barron's article by Avi Salzman about the rebounding housing market, the chain appears to be on the verge of becoming a major player in the appliance arena: "Home Depot gained 1.7 percentage points of share in appliances in 2013, and could grab more while Sears continues to struggle."

Why We Like Home Depot
Home Depot has always been cutting-edge on price, and it's a nice surprise for a consumer to go into the store looking for a toilet repair kit to find out that Home Depot also sells appliances. Also, while their appliance salespeople seem to be less accessible as they’re often assisting other customers, when you do actually find someone to help you, they're quite knowledgeable and offer advice freely. Also, when making your purchase via the Home Depot website, you can easily search for rebates for the appliance you're purchasing, saving you even more money.

The Downsides
Home Depot is not often thought of as a place to get appliances until you're actually in the store and realize it has them. Also, it doesn't have as vast a selection of "on the floor" appliances, making shopping there a bit difficult in order to compare models.

Who Home Depot Works Best For
People who shop there on a consistent basis, as well as online shoppers who've done their research and are looking to find the lowest price after having their hands-on experience at another retailer.

Save Money at Home Depot: Visit CreditDonkey for the latest Home Depot coupons before you buy a new appliance.

Did you know: The highly rated online appliance store AJ Madison offers free nationwide delivery on eligible items over $349 and does not collect sales tax on deliveries outside of NY, NJ and PA. Another highly rated online appliance and electronics store, ABT does not collect sales tax outside of IL, IN, MI and WI.

BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE: SEARS

  • Product Selection: Wide variety of name brands including their own, Kenmore, 4/5
  • Knowledge of Salespeople: Well-informed and often available the minute you begin looking 4/5
  • Cost: Local retailer and online price-match of identical item 4/5
  • Delivery/Installation: Free delivery and basic hook-up on orders $399+, installation cost varies 4/5
  • CreditDonkey Score: 4/5

Ask almost anyone who needs a washer and dryer, and they'll tell you they're going to visit Sears – it’s often at the top of any consumer’s list for must visits. Sears also has an advantage over both Lowe's and Home Depot because of its exclusive appliance brand, Kenmore, which has been around for decades. While Sears salespeople are often more knowledgeable about Kenmore appliances than some of the other brands they sell, they will push the product that's most conducive to the customer's needs, Kenmore or not. Sears also offers an additional 5% off or interest-free financing if you use its credit card, but its minimum purchase threshold is higher than the other retailers, at $499.

Sears has been hurting financially in the past few years, but people still feel a connection to the brand itself. As Pam Goodfellow, in a recent Forbes article, wrote, "On the plus side, our insights indicate that Sears continues to be the top destination for everything from coffee makers and vacuums to microwaves and refrigerators; about a quarter of consumers overall (23.5%) assert that Sears is the store they would head to first for these items."

Why We Like Sears
We can sum this up in one word: Kenmore. These reliable appliances are exclusively sold at Sears (though some also have been seen at OSH Hardware), which makes it the only destination if you are loyal to the Kenmore brand. The salespeople at Sears are also eager to help you, and it's rare that you have to go hunting one down in the appliance department.

The Downsides
These same salespeople can sometimes be a nuisance if you're just browsing and comparing appliances and don't have a lot of questions. Many people like the freedom of comparison shopping on their own without being hounded by salespeople.

Who Sears Works Best For
People who are loyal to the Kenmore brand, who like smaller, more intimate stores and would like a lot of customer service assistance.

Before you buy an appliance at Sears: Read our tips and tricks to save money at Sears, including the latest coupon and promo codes. Why pay full price at Sears when you don't have to?

Other Stores for Buying Appliances to Consider

Costco, Best Buy, and Pacific Sales (which has its own brick and mortar stores and is now also the appliance showcase inside Best Buy) are good alternatives. Costco has a very small selection of appliances in its warehouse, and the amount it offers varies, but the prices and return policy are outstanding. Best Buy also offers interest-free credit cards for up to 12 months. Pacific Sales brick-and-mortar has a huge, unmatched selection, excellent prices and very knowledgeable salespeople.

While pricing at all three retailers is relatively comparable, consumers are still going to have different experiences with installation, delivery, and salespeople. From our research and comparisons, you probably can't go wrong with any of these major retailers. If you're loyal to a particular store, stick with it. If you're open to more than one, find the appliance you want, check the prices at other retailers, inquire about additional costs (delivery, installation and extended warranty), and go with that.

Cynthia Cohen is a retail analyst at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and financial education website. Write to Cynthia Cohen at cynthia@creditdonkey.com. Our data-driven analysis has been recognized by major news outlets across the country and has helped families make savvy financial and lifestyle decisions. (read more)

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy financial decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

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Comments about Study: Best Place to Buy Appliances - Home Depot vs Lowes vs Sears

  • Brad from Utah
    on April 8, 2016 8:56 AM said:

    I have to strongly disagree with Home Depot having the best prices. Home Depot does not meet and beat on their appliances, they only meet. If you read their fine print on that policy, it says that the 10% beat only applies to instock items. Their appliances are all special order items and therefore do not apply the beat but they will meet prices. Lowes meets and beats, so all you have to do is take a quote from Home Depot to Lowes and you will get the best price. Lowes also still honors military discounts and coupons on top of their sale prices, Home Depot does not because they cannot "double dip". I have worked for Home Depot for 8 years and I purchase my appliances at Lowes so I can save money and because I get no employee discount to keep me loyal. Also I have to add that our delivery service, which is handled by a third party, is terrible. They damage items on a regular basis and are dishonest about taking responsibility when something goes wrong.

  • Brad from Utah
    on April 8, 2016 8:58 AM said:

    I need to add one more thing that is incorrect in your "study". Home Depot Charges a $15 fee for haul away. It is not free anymore. They changed that about a year ago.

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