How I Went Appliance Shopping

We’re building our dream kitchen but that doesn’t mean we wanted to pay nightmare prices for our new appliances.  I had spent months doing the research on which appliances I wanted, why wouldn’t I do a little work to get the best price?

There are many appliance stores in the Seattle area and I quickly narrowed down to three that would work for me, but let’s go through all of the options (that I know of):

Appliance Stores

Nationwide Sellers:

These are the big brands we’re all used to seeing, they’re the big box stores.  They don’t carry the high end brands but you can still get nice brands here.  Home Depot just started carrying Electrolux and the Kenmore brand is pretty good.

Sears: Believe me, I’m as shocked as you are that they’re still in business.  At one point Sears was the largest appliance retailer in the US, they’re also have their own in house brand Kenmore.  Kenmore is the most popular appliance brand in the US.  It’s also not a real brand, Kenmore appliances are rebranded appliances from other companies, often at a lower price.  The trick to Kenmore is finding out who makes the actual appliance.  In my case, I wasn’t interested in the Kenmore brand.  For other appliances, think of Sears as your baseline.  Sears is the most you’ll ever pay for an appliance.  The local stores understand that Sears is the most popular seller and they’re not stupid, they’ll stay competitive.  Of the national stores, I definitely think Sears has the most knowledgeable sales people but it’s been hit or miss for me.

Best Buy: I didn’t even look at Best Buy, they’re prices are normal, there selection is slim compared to the other stores and I’ve never had a good customer service experience at Best Buy.

Home Depot/Lowes: These guys sell a lot of appliances and are usually running some sort of special like free shipping or some other discount.  I didn’t spend too much time here because the selection is slim and they don’t carry any of the appliances I want.

Local Sellers:

The local sellers run a wider range of brand than the big box stores, don’t be intimidated by the show rooms, while they tend to focus on the higher end brands, they can all order the lower priced brands as well.  Usually at a better price than the big box stores.

Albert Lee: Albert Lee is the largest of the local sellers with five stores.  You’ll get your best price with them during the November warehouse sale, usually the first weekend in November.  Albert Lee carries BlueStar, not Capital.


Almvigs: Located above the Whole Foods at 65th and Roosevelt, the store is small but packed full of good brands.  The staff knows what they’re doing and the owner is usually there too.  Almvigs has lots on display and they’re willing to order from companies they don’t normally do business with.  Almvigs carries Capital.

Basco: Basco isn’t really local, they’re a Portland based seller with a Seattle warehouse.  Their Portland sales floor is gorgeous.  They can sell to Seattle but they don’t do delivery.

Metropolitan Appliances: Metropolitan Appliances is in SODO, they used to be called “Direct Buying Services”, they changed their name to disassociate with the “Direct Buy” scam.  Metropolitan has a lot of good stuff on display, and they’re able to get a lot more.  MA carries Capital.

Seattle Home Appliances: I didn’t spend much time in here, they don’t carry as many of the high end brands and didn’t carry Blue Star or Capital and when I asked, they were pretty indifferent about it.  They described Blue Star as ok, and didn’t understand why people like Capital.  They seemed pretty defensive aobut the gap.

Online:

I looked at a few online websites, but decided I didn’t want to go there.  The pricing is better, but if something goes wrong, you’re pretty much on your own.

How I bought my appliances

I limited myself to Albert Lee, Almvigs, and Metropolitan.  They carried the brands I was interested in (BlueStar and Capital).  I had been to each store a few times and had been working with a saleman at each place.  I gave each salesman my list of appliances and asked them to e-mail me their best prices.
Albert Lee gave me good pricing, but said their best prices come during their warehouse sale and I should wait for that if I can.  The problem with this is that they don’t know what’s going to be on sale during the warehouse sale and I thought i twas unlikely that the specific range I wanted would be on sale (not many people order ranges with a grill).  I wasn’t willing to wait until the beginning of November when my delivery needed to be at the end of November.  Finally, Albert Lee was unwilling to order the Modern Aire hood that I wanted.  I didn’t want to have to buy the hood separately, I wanted a single point of contact for dealing with problems.
Almvigs was definitely the most pleasant experience, when I asked them about the right time to buy the salesman said “I have to give my best price every day”, and then followed up with it.  Almvigs pricing was the best of the three, by quite a bit.  They were even willing to store my appliances until I was ready for them (three months later).
Metropolitan Appliances is where I spent most of my time looking at the options because they had so much Capital equipment on display.  They were also willing to order the hood but their pricing was the worst of the three.  They were off by several thousand dollars from the other two.  I was really surprised at how bad the pricing was, but since I had been working with the rep for a few month, I decided to give him another chance.  I let him know that he wasn’t competitive in his pricing and the response was less than optimal.  Metropolitan wanted me to give them the other companies bid so that they would beat it by 10%.  They wanted to make sure it was a real apples to apples comparison.  When I asked for clarification, he said he wanted to make sure that I wasn’t getting a floor model or open box.  I thought that was insulting, as if I didn’t know what I was buying, but it doesn’t matter, business is business.  I responded that I wanted him to give me his best price and that I didn’t want to give him the other bid.  Why should I do their work for them?  Best case, I get a bid that’s better than 10% off, worst case, I get the already very good bid from Almvigs.  MA responded with a competitive bid but it was still $500 more than Almvigs.

How much did I save?

I think I did pretty well, the chart below compares what I paid to the list price as well as what I could have paid if I had bought online.  The online prices are the lowest price for each item on Google Shopping from a 5 star seller.  The chart below is the percentage difference of what I paid from list, online, and online after I factor tax into the local sale.  When the percentage is negative, I paid less, when it’s positive, I paid more.  In the end, I saved nearly 14% off of list price overall and paid 5% less than online.  Of course, the third column assumes you don’t pay the “use tax” after buying online.  If you’re not worried about the use tax, then I would have saved 4% buying online.  Items are listed in terms of most expensive to least expensive, and while I realize anyone could reverse engineer my actual prices off of this chart, I’d rather not publish that.  The 4.18% difference is well less than $1,000, I think that’s a worthwhile fee to pay for shopping locally and having a local company responsible for everything going right.

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