5 Must-Know Appliance-Buying Tips

Think of it this way: Unlike a rug, lamp, or hat, you can't take it back-or at least not easily. That's why it's called a major appliance. Here's how to avoid major buyer's remorse. Find more tips on purchasing appliances at thisoldhouse.com. -Deborah Baldwin

1. Never Make an Impulse Buy

Admit it-you almost bought a car once because it had really great cup holders. You can avoid similar behavior in an appliance showroom by making a list of your priority features ("energy efficient," "lifetime warranty"). Staple it to a list of competing showrooms and Web retailers so you can comparison shop for the best model with the best combination of features at the best price. Wait for a sale if you can; they say fall is the best hunting season because showrooms are trying to clear space for next year's models. Whenever you go, ask a friend with a level head to come along.

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2. Make Sure You Don't Destroy the Foyer

You'd be surprised by how many otherwise intelligent people place orders for appliances that won't fit in their allotted space-assuming their new fridge, washer, or whatever doesn't get wedged up against the ceiling of the foyer. Appliance salespeople are full of stories about savvy customers who fail to note that the only way to access the kitchen is up a set of steep stairs, through a narrow doorway, and down a hallway that takes a sharp turn before dead-ending in a spot too small for its hoped-for purpose. Bring a map to the showroom with every single angle and dimension. If the salesperson seems to be not paying attention, ask for her home phone number so you can call at midnight to go over the measurements one more time.

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3. Listen Carefully

Never compare models without comparing decibel levels. One serious home cook I know just had to have a commercial-kitchen range hood. It's so noisy he can't bear to turn it on.

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4. Measure Three Times, Buy Once

As long as you are taking down dimensions (see "Make sure you don't destroy the foyer," previously), stop to consider how your new appliance will interact with its surroundings. Measure that counter-depth fridge's proposed parking space, then measure the fridge-again; "counter depth" may mean "except for the thick door and its beefy handle." Look behind your existing gas range; if the gas pipe protrudes, your new range may protrude too. And watch out for a fridge or front-load washer whose door opens so wide it blocks traffic, causing frustrating delays while some family member contemplates the contents of the produce drawer or the loss of a dear sock.

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5. Get Ready to Haggle

Many dealers will match the lowest price offered by the competition. If the price still seems high, see if you can negotiate a deal by buying more than one appliance at a time. When all else fails, ask for free delivery and installation or a free extended warranty. Incidentally, extended warranties are rarely worth paying for-but you probably already knew that.

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Images in order:
Blend Images/Alamy, Tom Mareschal/Alamy, John Glustina/Getty, Greg Ceo/Getty, Blend Images/Alamy