Prepare to haggle amid huge price differences at appliance retailers in Twin Cities

Household appliances used to last for decades. But changing trends and features along with shorter appliance lifespans mean you’ll likely need to replace at least one or two dishwashers, ranges, refrigerators, washers and dryers in your lifetime.

Unlike buying most other high-priced items, a lot can go wrong when buying gadgets.

You can’t just bring a new broken fridge back to the store. And most consumers need help with delivery and installation.

Unfortunately, Twin Cities Consumers’ Checkbook Magazine and receive many reviews from locally surveyed device buyers suggesting that delivery and installation are the most problematic parts of many transactions.

To help you separate the good deals from the not so good, Star Tribune readers can, through a special agreement, until May 5

Another important aspect: the price. Scheckbook’s undercover price buyers found that the highest price quoted by local retailers for a Whirlpool WRX735SDHZ stainless steel refrigerator was $2,197; the lowest price was $1,379 – a tidy saving of $818. For a Maytag MGT8800FZ stainless steel gas range, prices ranged from $1,131 to $1,971, a difference of $840.

Fortunately, Checkbook notes that high-rated stores often offer prices as low or even lower than their low-rated competitors. In addition, Checkbook’s research shows that most stores use fake sales prices to trick customers into believing they are getting special offers, when in reality devices are always on sale and shoppers overpay at most stores.

The only way to be sure you’re getting a good deal is to shop around. Since manufacturers enforce a minimum pricing policy aimed at suppressing price competition, if you just rely on the stores’ advertisements or websites, you will find the same prices for most models from store to store.

But Checkbook’s researchers found that when they called or emailed stores and mentioned that they were getting prices from multiple outlets for the models they were considering, they were often getting steep discounts to earn their deal .

At independent stores, Checkbook buyers found that informing store associates that they were receiving quotes from multiple stores often resulted in discounts, waivers of shipping and installation fees, or both. Making big chains more flexible required significantly more effort, but Checkbook’s researchers waited and waited on hold to speak to sales managers at the home appliances division, sometimes securing better deals.

Call four or five retailers and ask to speak to someone who is authorized to offer discounts. Let that person know the make and model numbers of the devices they want, explain that you’re calling multiple companies to get quotes, make it clear that you’ll only ask each store once for the best price – and buy from the store that does Offer offers best offer.

Don’t be afraid to use this method. Be polite, matter-of-fact, and let stores know you’re getting competitive deals on larger purchases. Most equipment sellers are used to offering discounts when asked.

First, decide on the models you want to buy. There are some excellent sources that offer independent buying advice. Consumer Reports regularly rates devices across a range of quality aspects, including reliability, and offers wise advice on the pros and cons of configurations, designs, features, and options. The US Department of Energy’s Energy Star program provides lists and energy consumption data for certified devices. Sellers can also be fantastic sources of buying advice – but only in stores that employ knowledgeable, helpful staff.

If you require delivery and installation services, price that work along with pricing the equipment. Note that some companies do not install dishwashers and do not connect other appliances to gas lines. Some delivery workers do nothing but move equipment into place and plug it in.

If you’re buying from a store that doesn’t offer a full installation service and you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, you’ll need to hire a plumber or appliance repair service. Most budget installers charge around $100 to $150 to hook up washing machines, gas ranges, or dishwashers. Consider this expense when comparing device prices.

It’s reasonable for a store to ask for a small deposit up front. But a large deposit robs you of the leverage you may need to ensure everything goes as planned. If possible, pay by credit card. If you have a problem, you can protest the charge to your credit card issuer.

Twin Cities Consumers’ Checkbook magazine and are a non-profit organization supported by consumers and take no money from the service providers we review. Star Tribune readers can access local appliance store Checkbook reviews for free through June 5 through

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