I learned the hard way that it pays to plan large appliance purchases ahead of time.
My wife and I live in a modestly sized older home without central air conditioning. Come summer, we’re able to keep the place tolerably cool with a strategically placed window air conditioner on each floor. During the season’s first oppressive heat spell, I broke our units out of storage and checked to make sure they’d held up over the winter. The upstairs unit cranked on right away, but the downstairs unit wasn’t as cooperative. I mashed every possible combination of buttons, toggled the safety switches, and dusted as deep into the innards as I could reach. Nothing.
Eventually, I gave up, got into my car, and hightailed it to the closest home improvement superstore, which was thick with neighbors in similar straits. The small satisfaction I derived from knowing I wasn’t alone didn’t come close to making up for the sting of paying full price for a 10,000-Btu machine. And, to make matters worse, I managed to get the downstairs unit working later that night.
File that one under “total humiliation.” If only I’d had the foresight to purchase a new air-conditioning unit during the offseason — say, in October, when retailers in my area are eager to clear out cooling systems people won’t need until the following May or June. I could have at least saved a significant chunk of change. It turns out knowing when to buy large appliances can save you a ton of cash.
Saving on Large Appliance Purchases
No matter how well you treat your home appliances, they’re all destined for the scrap heap sooner or later. You can avoid emergency purchases and reduce your final cost by aligning your appliance-buying plans with the natural rhythms of the model-year sales cycle and your fellow consumers’ shopping patterns.
The best time to buy a new large appliance is typically around model-year-turnover time, when manufacturers discount the previous year’s iteration to make room for the latest, greatest version. Model years generally don’t follow the calendar year, so buying in January isn’t always your best bet.
If you can’t or don’t want to wait for model-year-turnover time, you can still reduce your final cost by purchasing at particular times of the year or month — or even the week or day.
But no matter what time of year you choose to buy a large appliance or how much the retailer asks, you have a surprising amount of control over your out-of-pocket cost.
When to Buy Last Year’s Appliances
Large appliance manufacturers roll out new models of each appliance around the same time each year, preemptively lowering prices on the previous year’s offerings to make way for the new batch.
Discounts vary by manufacturer, retailer, appliance type, and season but typically start at 20% to 25% off the sticker price. When they coincide with seasonal sales or liquidation events, discounts may approach or exceed 50%. Rebates from state and federal government energy-efficiency programs can further boost savings — see the federal Energy Star portal for more information.
There are general guidelines for when you can expect to see deep discounts on last year’s versions, which usually aren’t radically different from their replacements. But the time of year varies based on appliance type.
1. Refrigerators & Freezers
Home refrigeration equipment turns over around the start of the summer shopping season. Retailers begin slashing prices on the prior model year in May to make room in warehouses and showroom floors. These discounts often coincide with — and may be indistinguishable from — special sales for Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and Father’s Day.
2. Ovens & Ranges
Oven and range models turn over in early fall, ahead of the holiday cooking season. Expect to see discounts on last year’s models beginning in September and continuing through October.
If prior-year inventory remains, holiday season discounts may be even deeper than the standard turnover discounts. But as early-bird holiday shoppers emerge and sales volumes increase, these discounts may temporarily disappear due to higher demand. Check with your favorite retailers and search online for late-year discounts.
No matter what happens around the holidays, retailers need to clear out any remaining prior-year inventory first thing after the holidays end. Expect deep discounts in January followed by a return to regular pricing on then-current models.
Dishwasher models also turn over in early fall. September and October are the best months for discounts. If prior-year inventory remains after the holidays, discounts will return — and perhaps deepen — in January for a final clearance push.
4. Laundry Machines
Washing machines and dryers turn over in early fall too. Time your purchase for September or October. Even if you only need a washer or dryer, buying both in the same transaction could save you money in the long run, as many retailers offer combination discounts year-round. If you have adequate storage space, you can hold on to your current washer or dryer until it gives out.
5. Air Conditioners
In colder climates, model-year turnover isn’t the most crucial pricing consideration for air-conditioner buyers. Seasonality is. The optimal time to buy is in January, when retailers lower prices to clear excess inventory after the holidays and the warm season is still months away. October is a good second choice, as it’s between summer’s heat and the holiday season’s unpredictability.
6. Water Heaters
Water heaters turn over in early fall. Time your purchase for September or October, if possible, or wait until January for postholiday clearance sales. Don’t buy through a heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) service company without doing careful due diligence, as hardware-and-installation packages are particularly prone to markups. Some HVAC service companies run their own model-year-end specials. But they’re not guaranteed to save you anything compared with buying directly from a retailer and either installing the heater yourself or having a handy friend do it for you.
7. Home Heating Equipment
Home heating equipment also turns over in early fall. September and October are ideal, with January as the best alternative. Again, crunch the numbers on any HVAC service company deals. A popular HVAC company in my area offers a buy-one, get-one deal on the simultaneous purchase of a furnace and water heater. But it’s still significantly more expensive than buying both from a major appliance retailer.
When to Buy This Year’s New Appliances
Model-year-turnover time isn’t the only time to find discounted appliances. Although every appliance type is different, opportunities generally abound throughout the year. These are among the most reliable discount periods for current-year models.
1. Holiday Weekend Sales
Holiday weekend sales are as predictable as they come. According to a 2018 Consumer Reports and Gap Intelligence analysis, certain holiday weekends — especially the Fourth of July — are even better than end-of-year retail holidays like Black Friday, at least for certain appliance types. Visit your favorite retailers’ websites for details on sales coinciding with:
- Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- Presidents Day
- Mother’s Day
- Memorial Day
- Father’s Day
- Fourth of July
- Labor Day
- Columbus Day
Discounts vary widely by retailer, appliance type, and time of year, but I’ve seen holiday weekend blowouts featuring inventory-wide discounts as high as 50%. Generally, discounts are deepest when they coincide with model-year-end sales or other promotions.
2. End-of-Year Retail Holidays
The holiday shopping season is an excellent time to snap up discounted large appliances.
Some days are better than others, notably Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Lately, these twin holidays have expanded, and many retailers now run Cyber Week or 12 Days of Black Friday sales. Such multiday events often devote single days or certain windows of time to specific product types, such as TVs, laptops and desktops, and kitchen appliances. Check retailers’ websites for details.
3. The Last Day of the Month
Many brick-and-mortar retailers hold commissioned salespeople to monthly sales quotas. They also give these hardworking folks some leeway to close deals below sticker price. Use that to your advantage toward the end of the month, when a salesperson is less likely to push back on aggressive haggling.
4. Online Retail Holidays
If you’re buying your appliance online, look for online-only retail holidays or sitewide sales that promise across-the-board discounts for little effort. To most Americans, the best-known online retail holiday is probably Amazon Prime Day, but other retailers run sitewide sales too. And e-commerce sites aren’t immune to the “every holiday weekend is a sale” trend, especially sites operated by brick-and-mortar retailers such as Walmart, Lowe’s, and Home Depot.
5. Seasonal Clearance Events
Seasonal clearance events are great opportunities for discounts on certain appliance types. For instance, home improvement stores tend to put home heating equipment on clearance during the warm season to make room for more seasonally appropriate appliances. Cooling equipment tends to go on sale in the fall at the beginning of the slow season.
6. Ahead of Weekly Restocking
During periods of normal demand, brick-and-mortar retailers might restock appliances every week or two, typically ahead of the weekend. Short-term — and sometimes unadvertised — sales help clear space for the next shipment of inventory. Thursday is the most reliable day to snag these cyclical discounts, but timing may vary by retailer, so it pays to get in with an employee who knows what’s up.
Tips to Reduce Large Appliance Costs
Timing isn’t everything. No matter when you choose to make your large appliance purchase, there are ways to reduce or mitigate your out-of-pocket cost and minimize its effect on your household cash flow.
1. Establish a Separate Savings Account
I’m a big fan of goal-oriented savings. In the era of easy online banking, it takes little effort to set up a new savings account for specific purchases or expense categories. My wife and I have a separate savings account for home repairs, maintenance, and big-ticket purchases. In the past few years, we’ve built a patio, financed a major repair to our radiant heating system, fixed a serious plumbing problem, and absorbed that unnecessary air conditioner purchase — all without dipping into our long-term savings.
We set up automatic recurring deposits to fund our high-yield savings account. If you’re looking for something even more hands-off, look into an automated savings app.
2. Survey Appliance Repair Shop Inventory
The market for pre-owned appliances isn’t nearly as robust as the markets for refurbished electronics or used cars, in large part because consumers’ tastes in appliances don’t change as quickly as tastes in autos or electronics. But it is possible to find deeply discounted, gently used appliances. Reputable repair shops are the best source of reliable appliances that have plenty of mileage left. However, use caution with downscale shops advertising too-good-to-be-true deals.
3. Haggle Over In-Store Pricing
I’m a very reluctant haggler. But driving a hard bargain is worth the awkwardness. At traditional retailers that still adhere to the commissioned sales model, haggling is particularly effective toward the end of the month, when associates are scrambling to meet sales quotas. Don’t sleep on a counteroffer, though. A polite but firm counter is frequently worth 5% to 10% off the sticker price.
4. Use Incognito Mode & Multiple Browsers to Search for Online Deals
When buying or researching appliances online, visit the same websites and enter the same search terms using multiple browsers. It may sound odd, but your browser choice can affect which deals you see.
Your identity can do the same, as merchants and their ad partners use your digital signature to target you with specific promotions they think will tempt you. But these aren’t guaranteed to be the best available deals. For that reason, it’s essential to conduct parallel searches in regular and incognito mode (also called private browsing) if your browser has one. If you find a great deal, complete the purchase using the browser or mode through which you first found it.
5. Choose Your Model & Options Before Visiting the Store
If you plan to do your initial research online but buy in-store, zero in on the exact appliance you want to take home. Having a firm idea of the model and features you want is the surest way to avoid getting talked into upgrades or unnecessary bells and whistles. Remember, when you buy in-store, you’re doing the sales team a favor. They know you can just as easily buy online.
6. Weigh Warranty Options Carefully
Most new appliances come with manufacturers’ warranties covering specific repair and replacement costs for a limited period just after you purchase the appliance. Manufacturers’ warranties don’t cost anything extra, so you don’t need to give much thought to them — though you should read the fine print carefully before making a claim.
Service contracts, sometimes called extended warranties, are another matter. Your appliance retailer is almost certain to try to sell you a service contract, which isn’t always worth the cost. Before buying, find out:
- What the service contract covers (and what it doesn’t)
- The likelihood the appliance will require covered repairs during the coverage period
- The length of the coverage period
- How the claims process works (and how easy it is to make a claim)
Don’t go for a service contract simply because you feel you should. The coverage may expire before anything goes wrong with the appliance. After that, you must pay out of pocket for repairs or rely on a goal-oriented savings account, anyway.
7. Look for 0% APR Financing Options (or Use a Low-APR Credit Card)
Many appliance retailers offer 0% annual percentage rate (APR) financing options for qualified buyers. As long as you’re confident you can pay off the financed balance during the 0% APR period, it’s a win-win situation that builds your credit while dramatically reducing the upfront cost of your purchase.
If your retailer isn’t running a 0% APR financing promotion, you can apply for a low-APR credit card with a 0% APR introductory deal on purchases. The top low-APR credit cards’ 0% APR periods run 18 months or longer. Spread over 18 months, a $1,000 appliance purchase costs less than $56 per month.
8. Sell or Trade In Your Old Appliance
If you’re replacing a working appliance, you can trade it in to reduce your final cost or sell it separately to a private party. Once the humiliation wore off, I did the latter with our superfluous downstairs air-conditioning unit and sold it three hours after listing it on Craigslist. Though we still came out in the red, the proceeds from that sale partially offset the loss.
9. Look for Liquidation Events
Liquidation sales are the gold standard for large appliance discounts. When traditional retailers close stores or go out of business, they typically run blowout sales to clear out all remaining inventory. And “everything must go” means everything must go. I’ve seen liquidation discounts as high as 70% or 80% on brand-new appliances.
10. Look for Manufacturer-Specific Deals
Appliance manufacturers frequently run limited-time promotions, often to coincide with model-year-turnover periods and retail holidays. One example is May Is Maytag Month, a month-long Maytag appliance promotion that runs every May.
11. Look for Affiliate Deals & Rewards Program Discounts
If you plan to buy online, don’t complete your purchase without checking for affiliate deals and rewards-based savings opportunities. For instance, Swagbucks, a popular online discount portal, offers 2% cash back on online Walmart purchases (with restrictions). Such savings opportunities aren’t likely to rival seasonal sales or model-year-end events, but they certainly help. They also generally work in combination with other potentially deeper discounts.
12. Buy Used or Gently Damaged
If you’re willing to take your chances on Craigslist, it’s hard to think of a faster, more cost-effective place to buy older models. You can also check out consumer-to-consumer marketplaces like OfferUp or Letgo.
You can also check with your local home improvement stores’ inventory managers about buying floor models or merchandise with minor damages. Even a small dent or scratch can dramatically reduce an appliance’s resale value and your out-of-pocket costs.
As I learned last spring, sometimes, your large appliance purchase can’t wait. If you need a new large appliance today, you have options. You can find a great deal on your next large appliance purchase if you know where to look, shop around, and are willing to spend some time researching the best discounts.