Sticker Shock in Kitchen Appliances

July 19, 2010 by  
Filed under Spending

Our Amana side-by-side refrigerator (which we purchased specifically for this house when we built it 17 years ago) died. It stopped cooling effectively and the repairman said the cost of repair could easily be $1200. Essentially the compressor and all related components would have to be replaced. We quickly decided we were not going to invest $1200 in a 17 year old refrigerator, despite its many years of faithful service (and custom wood door panels). It was time to shop.

I quizzed the veteran repairman about his preferences then we started doing some research and looking online. Our big constraint was size.  The way our kitchen is designed, only a counter-depth refrigerator will work. Although no one could tell me why with a persuasive answer (and I asked), counter-depth refrigerators cost more even though they are smaller in capacity. My belief is that counter-depth refrigerators are more desired because of aesthetics so there is an upcharge. They can’t cost more to manufacture.

The other feature we wanted was a bottom freezer with french doors on top instead of a side-by-side. We were tired of years of stooping down to retrieve items from the lower shelves of the refrigerator near the floor.   We also were unhappy that wide objects (e.g. deli trays and pizzas) could not fit on the shelves in either the freezer or refrigerator sections. In fact, as your three sons reached their teenage years, we ended up buying a second refrigerator that we kept in the basement for auxiliary food storage. We simply could not store enough food to feed those guys in a 20 cu. ft. side-by-side.  Finally, we wanted water and ice in the door. We use this frequently, every day.

To get to the point of this post, the cost of a new refrigerator that met our requirements was over $2500. Ouch. That’s a nice vacation trip worth of refrigerator. We are achieving some operational cost savings. Our new Energy Star refrigerator will save us about $80/year in electricity usage. Also, because it is larger by 3 cu. feet and our sons are mostly out of the house, we are shutting down and selling the basement refrigerator, saving another $85 per year.

If you want to run energy cost numbers on your own appliances (replacing or retiring), visit the Energy Star appliance site. Something that really struck me when I ran our numbers is how much more folks in some other states are paying for electricity compared to Tennesseans like us. You can see those numbers here.

The shopping trip was interesting. Lowes had good prices but not much of a selection of models having the features we wanted. Best Buy had a few suitable models (most over $3k) but the salesperson had very little knowledge about them. Indeed, when I told her we wanted a counter-depth refrigerator, she didn’t really understand what that meant.

We went to Sears as a final stop. Sears appliance department a has fully commissioned sales staff and pricing that can vary day-to-day so you need to be careful. Our salesperson was experienced, knowledgeable, and knew not to pressure me. When he learned what we were looking for, he immediately went into “price matching mode.”  By this I mean that when he saw us looking at a highly-rated Samsung unit (we had researched on Consumer Reports), he found a local competitor online offering the same unit for $400 less. He then told us that he could give us that price. I was pleased that he found the price without us having to ask.

We bought the Samsung unit. It had the largest capacity of all units meeting our specs, was fairly priced according to our research, and came with free delivery and haul-off of our old unit.

But $2600 for a refrigerator? I’m still in shock over that.

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3 Responses to “Sticker Shock in Kitchen Appliances”
  1. Another Reader says:

    I have a number of rental properties and I only buy appliances at Sears or Lowes. Best Buy is overpriced, noisy, and limited in their selection. The low-end Whirlpool and equivalent Kenmore appliances suit me fine.

    I won’t be buying a fancy Samsung refrigerator when my 12 year old Whirlpool side by side gives out. From listening to friends and relatives complain about them, I have concluded a lot of foreign brands, such as LG and Samsung, are overrated and need a lot of repairs. There’s a snob appeal attached to the names that is not matched by the quality.

  2. MasterPo says:

    I agree Best Buy isn’t a good place for kitchen appliances.

  3. Doofus says:

    I agree – Best Buy is the last place I’d go for appliances. Many moons ago, I purchased a dishwasher there that broke down after just 3 months. The store wanted nothing to do with me and told me to ‘send it back to the manufacturer.’ Errrr, no. Since then, I only buy appliances for home and rental properties at Sears. Sears have stood behind their merchandise many times for me, even going so far as to replace a two year old side by side fridge completely free after it broke down after 18 months of use. Forget Best Buy. In fact, while I was going through my nightmare with them, some local consumers – who had obviously had the same problem that I was having – organized a peaceful demo outside the store holding signs that read ‘Worst Buy’…nuff said.

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