Buying a Refrigerator

by Gary Foreman

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I am in the market to purchase a new 25 cu. ft. side-by-side refrigerator/freezer. Is one time of the year better for sales? Should I try eBay? Or what is the cheapest method?

Connie asks a very good question. A refrigerator is not only one of the most expensive appliances you'll buy for your home, but it also consumes 20% of the electricity you use every month. So a good decision now could save a few dollars every month for years.

The Best Time to Buy a Refrigerator

The experts I found say that you'll do best buying a major appliance during the winter months. No reason was given, but it might be that people are too busy paying off holiday debt to buy major appliances unless they have to.

Of course, with something like a refrigerator, the best time to buy is when your old one is still working. That way you won't be facing the cost of spoiled food and you'll have time to price shop.

Learn About Refrigerator Prices

Connie should consider a three-step approach. First, visit some local stores to see what's available. Get a general idea of pricing and what models and options she'd like to consider. Second, do a little research to narrow the search and compare prices. Only then is she ready to actually go buy her refrigerator.

During her research, Connie will want to check repair records. It's hard to beat the information that Consumer Reports puts out. And, you'll find it free at most public libraries.

Connie is wise to think of using the web to help her find a bargain. But eBay might not be the place to look. A quick search under refrigerator only showed small under counter units and one commercial model. Even if Connie did find one at a price she liked, shipping could be a major expense.

But she will want to check out the websites for major retailers. Although she probably won't buy it online, she can get a very good idea of pricing. For instance, lists all of its side-by-side refrigerators on one page with basic size and price information.

This is also the time for Connie to compare slightly smaller or larger units and to decide what features she really wants. For instance, a new side-by-side model will cost more to operate than a top freezer. Ice makers and water/ice dispensers are convenient but cost more.

Visit Appliance Stores

Once she's done her homework, it's time to go visit some retailers. Before visiting the major national retailers, it's probably wise to check out some alternatives. For instance a scratch and dent outlet might turn up a good deal.

Connie might also want to check with rental centers. Often they have slightly damaged units that they're willing to sell cheaply. Remember that these units are sold as is. So make sure that you know exactly what's wrong and aren't missing anything important or expensive.

She should also check out smaller local retailers. Many will meet the big boy's prices and offer more personal service.

Don't forget that the initial cost of the fridge is only part of what you'll spend. Consider the operating costs. The yellow EnergyGuide labels are a great tool. The sticker will estimate how much each refrigerator will add to your electric bill per year. Remember that you'll probably keep a refrigerator 10 years or more. So a $25 difference between models is worth $250 over the appliance's lifetime.

Once Connie has decided on a model, it's time to find the lowest price. Don't forget that home improvement centers like Lowe's also sell appliances. And Connie doesn't have to limit her price shopping to physical stores. She can also use a published online price. A printout of the web page can prove handy.

Get the Best Price for Your Refrigerator

Now to negotiate with her favorite retailer. Most stores will match lower prices, including those found on the web. Simply ask the salesperson if they do. Even if their price is the lowest, it doesn't hurt to ask if the listed price is their best price.

And after Connie has negotiated the price ask for free delivery. If you haven't hit their rock bottom price yet, they'll probably throw it in to complete the deal. Especially if you show a willingness to delay on the purchase.

Connie will also be asked to buy an extended warrantee. But unless she's managed to choose a lemon, she really doesn't need the extra coverage. According to, the average cost of an appliance service call is $120. Most extended warrantees cost quite a bit more.

Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar website and newsletters in 1996. He's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, and Gary shares his philosophy of money here. You can follow Gary on Twitter. Gary is also available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

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