>by Dr. Charlotte Gorman
Although major household appliances usually last for many years, the initial purchase can take a large amount of your money at one time if you pay cash. If you finance the purchase, you will have monthly payments (including interest) for an extended period of time. You will have monthly operating costs (utility bills) to pay also.
Below are some suggestions for keeping the costs of appliance purchases at the lowest possible level.
1. Ask yourself: "Do I really need the particular appliance I am thinking about buying?" "Do I really need a freezer, an automatic dishwasher, a clothes dryer, or a trash compactor?" "Could I use the money I don't spend on the appliance for something I need more?" For example, if you are thinking about buying a freezer, consider such things as the initial cost of the freezer, the cost of electricity to operate the freezer, how full you realistically think you will keep it, how much you could save by purchasing items on sale if you had a freezer in which to store them, how much you could save on the cost of food by buying fresh fruits and vegetables and freezing them yourself, and how much you could save by buying in bulk if you had a freezer.
Don't just assume that a home freezer will save you money on your food bill. Think about how much and what kind of use you will make of the freezer. Do some in-depth reading on freezers at your library before you rush out and buy one.
2. Sometimes replacing a particular appliance will be cheaper in the long run than having it repaired. Make the decision which will give you the greatest financial advantage.
3. Never be afraid or embarrassed to haggle for the best price possible on appliances. You may be surprised at the discount the dealer will be willing to give you.
4. Buy on sale rather than pay full price for appliances. Usually, most appliances will be on sale sometime or several times throughout the year. You could save from 10 to 25 percent or more of the original price.
5. When you are comparing prices, ask how much trade-in allowance you can receive for your used appliance. If you can get more for it by selling it yourself rather than trading it in, you may wish to sell it.
6. Be careful about buying on impulse. Appliances are expensive, so considerable thinking and planning should be done prior to purchasing in order that you may buy exactly what you need at the lowest possible price.
7. Don't look first at the most expensive models of the appliance you need. Look first at the bottom-of-the-line models. These basic models, without all the "extras," may fit your needs perfectly. If they don't, then examine the next price level models and so on until you find the appliance with the "extras" you feel you simply cannot do without. If you start with the top-of-the-line models, you may be tempted to buy one which has features you really could do without; and you will pay more for it.
8. When looking for a new or used appliance, shop around and compare prices at a half-dozen or more different places, such as appliance stores, furniture stores which sell appliances, department stores, rental shops, furniture and appliance warehouses, home remodeling businesses, thrift shops, auctions, garage sales, and bulletin boards at your place of work and in your community. Also, ask acquaintances if they know of someone who has a particular appliance for sale. The more places you look, the greater the likelihood you will find what you want at a price you are willing to pay.
9. When shopping for new home appliances, read the information listed on the required Energy Guide labels found on such items as room air-conditioners, clothes washers, dishwashers, freezers, refrigerators, refrigerator-freezers, furnaces, and water heaters. The label on each of these appliances shows the estimated annual operating cost of that particular appliance. Compare different makes and models of the particular appliance you need and determine which would be cheaper to operate. The savings in operating costs could be considerable over the life of the appliance. Those savings could be drawing interest for you if invested.
Also, you should take into account the purchase prices of the various makes and models of the appliances you are comparing. For example, is the purchase price of the most energy efficient 18 cu. ft. self-defrosting refrigerator-freezer greater than the one that is less energy efficient? Will the savings in operating costs over the life of the piece of equipment be more than the difference in the purchase price? In general, select the make and model that will give you the greatest overall financial advantage.
10. When trying to decide between a gas and an electric model of a particular appliance, calculate the annual operating costs using local gas and electric rates. Take these costs into consideration when making your final decision to purchase. You should consider, also, the initial purchase price and estimated cost of upkeep for both the gas and electric makes and models as well as the cost of converting to gas if your home is not already equipped to handle gas appliances.
11. Don't buy an appliance with a capacity larger than you really need. For example, if you are planning to cool one small room, you probably don't need an 18,000 BTU window air-conditioner. In general, the larger the capacity, the more expensive the appliance. Why waste your money paying for more capacity than you need?
12. When buying appliances, don't buy models with features you probably will never use. Ask yourself, "Do I really need those added options?" Buy appliances with only the options you really need and plan to use. For example, if you never use liquid fabric softener in the clothes washer, would it not be a waste of your money to pay extra for an automatic dispenser for liquid fabric softener?
13. Buy white, rather than colored new appliances, if white ones are cheaper. At some stores, colored appliances are a little more expensive.
14. Buy this year's models of appliances on sale at the end of the year. Often, you can find some excellent buys because business establishments normally try to sell as many "old" models as possible to make room for "new" models.
15. Check around for floor-models when shopping for new appliances. Often, you can purchase such models at drastically reduced prices. My husband and I bought a floor-model electric clothes dryer at considerable savings (probably below cost). It was perfect, with the exception of a tiny scratch on one side; and it carried the same warranty as the nonfloor- models. If you purchase a floor-model, insist on the new model full warranty.
16. Consider buying good, used appliances rather than new ones. Following are some possible ways to locate used appliances:
a. Place an ad in the local newspaper. The ad might read, "I would like to buy a good, used, small electric range. Call-------."
b. Watch the ads in the newspaper. For example, some people who are moving out-of-town may not wish to move their large appliances and will offer them at prices considerably below their real value.
c. Shop the garage sales. Occasionally, home appliances are available.
d. Check with new appliance and furniture dealers to see if they have good, used appliances for sale which they have taken as trade-ins.
e. Check out used stores that sell appliances.
Regardless of where you shop for used appliances, be very careful when buying them. You could be buying the problems of the previous owner. Be sure the appliance you buy is in good working condition and get a warranty if possible.
17. Consider buying "rebuilt" household appliances. "Rebuilt" appliances have been checked and repaired and are in working order. One of these may meet your needs as well as a new appliance and, generally, it will be much less expensive. Some "rebuilt" appliances may carry a store warranty for a short period of time--maybe 30 to 90 days.
18. Consider buying certain household equipment with others and sharing the purchase price, upkeep, and use of it. This type of arrangement is best suited to equipment that is used infrequently. For example, you might make a joint purchase of a pressure canner, a floor polisher, or a rug shampooer. Buying equipment with others will cut your initial cash outlay and reduce your costs for repairs and general maintenance. Put your share-purchase, repair, and maintenance agreement in writing, and see that each purchaser has a copy.
19. Take advantage of free items. For example: You need an electric range. An appliance store is offering a free, small microwave oven with the purchase of an electric range. Other appliance stores are offering nothing free with such a purchase. If the prices, models, quality, and various other conditions are the same or very close to the same, buy the range at the store where you can get the free microwave. If you already have a microwave, save the new one and give it as a gift and save yourself some money. Or, place an ad in the newspaper and sell it. The proceeds you receive will reduce the cost of your new range.
20. Ask about, read, and make sure you understand the warranties on any appliances you are considering buying. Compare warranties of various makes and models. All other things being equal, choose the makes and models offering the best warranties. The better the warranties, the greater the potential financial benefits for you.
21. Before you purchase an appliance, make sure service will be available near where you live. For example, if you plan to buy a particular brand in a city 60 miles from your home, check to see if that brand can be serviced locally. Also, if you plan to buy a certain brand locally, be sure that it can be serviced locally. Don't just assume that a particular brand can be serviced near where you live. The farther you or the repair person has to travel, the higher the overall expenses will be.
22. If you have the necessary transportation and the help required to unload and set up, deliver your own appliances, unless delivery is free. Delivery charges increase your costs for the appliances you purchase.
23. If you are "handy" with tools, install your own appliances, unless installation is free. In general, don't pay for something you can do yourself.
24. When buying an appliance, try to get terms of 30, 60, or 90 days with no interest charges, rather than pay cash or finance it with interest charges. By getting "same-as-cash" terms--for example, "90 days same-as-cash"--your money can be drawing interest for 90 days. The interest you earn on your money will, in a manner of speaking, reduce the purchase price of the appliance. Also, you will pay no interest on the purchase.
About the Author
Dr. Charlotte Gorman is an Extension Agent, Family & Consumer Sciences, Texas Cooperative Extension, Texas A & M University System. She is the author of The Frugal Mind, The Little Book of Living Frugal, and Speak for Yourself.