• Don't focus on seasonal sales
You don't want to wait until your refrigerator or oven breaks before replacing it, but you don't need to time your purchases around Memorial Day, Black Friday or other sales events, either.
"If you look at advertisements for appliances, you'll see appliances are always on sale," says Kevin Brasler, executive editor at Consumers' Checkbook. "It's just one sale after another. But when you look at the prices they're offering, they're roughly the same." Indeed, a 10-month investigation by Checkbook's mystery shoppers found that the sales prices - even heavily discounted sales prices - on home appliances at many well-known stores are more often than not the usual prices.
Brasler recommends consumers begin shopping for kitchen appliances when they're ready to buy them instead of waiting for "deals" from retailers.
• Get quotes via email
No surprise, it pays to shop around when buying kitchen appliances. But many consumers make the mistake of physically going to stores for quotes when they should be obtaining them through email, Brasler says. Doing so will not only help you save time but also protect you from succumbing to a salesperson's face-to-face negotiating tactics. Plus, "it forces stores to compete for your business," Brasler says.
• Look past advertised prices
Most appliance manufacturers dictate the minimum prices at which stores can advertise their products, explains Dean Schwartz, president of home appliances at Sears. In other words, just because something is listed at a certain price doesn't mean you can't get a better deal.
• Don't rely on haggling
Some shoppers bargain with retailers over appliances, but that doesn't always lead to the best deal. A better approach, Brasler says, is to simply ask stores for their best price upfront when gathering quotes. (In your email, say: "I'm contacting three to four local stores. You have one chance to give me your best price.") "This way you remove the entire negotiation process," Brasler says.
Make sure you're getting the "all-in price" that includes installation and delivery costs and taxes. "A lot of online-only retailers don't factor in delivery and installation," Brasler warns. And check whether the store is willing to haul away your old appliances free.
• Compare policies on price-matching
If you have a favorite retailer - either because you're a member or because you have a store credit card that offers rewards - see whether the shop is willing to match the best price you obtained. Many big retailers do. Best Buy, for instance, matches the prices of local competition and major online retailers. Meanwhile, the Home Depot offers customers a "low-price guarantee" on all in-store purchases, meaning the store will beat the price of a competitor by 10 percent.
When hunting for deals, look at both online and in-store promotions. (They don't always match, Schwartz says.)
• Check for utility rebates
Many manufacturers offer rebates on appliances, but a lot of shoppers don't cash in on utility rebates, says Dan DiClerico, home expert at HomeAdvisor. You can search for rebates on Energy Star appliances at energystar.gov/rebate-finder and on your utility company's website. "A lot of them are mail-in rebates, so it's an extra step, but it's easy money in your pocket," DiClerico says.
• Resist extended warranties
Extended warranties are highly profitable for stores but rarely a good deal for consumers, Brasler and DiClerico say.
"The likelihood of you experiencing an issue during the extended-warranty period is pretty low," DiClerico explains, "and the cost of the repair often doesn't exceed the cost of the extended warranty."
Not to mention, "a lot of credit cards will double the manufacturer's warranty automatically, so you're already getting an extended warranty for free if you purchase appliances with your credit card," Brasler adds.
If you're buying more than one appliance - say you're redoing your kitchen, or the fridge has gone kaput and matches the aging stove and dishwasher - you can save a bundle by bundling. According to DiClerico, buying three or more appliances together could reap up to 20 percent in discounts.
• Hire a contractor for installation
A number of retailers charge steep fees for installation services. (Some stores quoted Checkbook's mystery shoppers $250 or more to install dishwashers and $200 or more to install gas ranges.) Try hiring a licensed plumber, electrician or HVAC contractor to install appliances at a cheaper price. You can use a website such as Angie's List or HomeAdvisor to find service professionals, compare prices and read customer reviews.
• Buy secondhand
On a tight budget? Buying used appliances can be a great way to cut costs, but you have to shop smart. Generally, you'll want to buy from a used-appliances store that sells refurbished products with warranties rather than from Craigslist or eBay, where you don't really know what you're getting.
One reputable place to purchase gently used appliances is a Habitat for Humanity ReStore, an independently owned shop that donates a portion of its proceeds to the nonprofit organization.