Overpaying for a box of cereal or a shirt isn't a big deal financially. But when you're spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a purchase, getting the best possible quality at the right price is crucial. And while a new car or washing machine is always a tricky purchase, pandemic-related price increases and supply-shortages have made it even harder to find good values among these and other big-ticket items.
So I asked leading experts how to get the best deals when it comes to five major purchases. Here are their top tips for regret-free shopping.
Avoid surprise costs. Front-loaders get top scores on cleaning power but can cost more than top-loaders. What's more, you might have to spend an extra $200 or more on a pedestal — double that amount if you want your washer and dryer to match in height. Otherwise, a lot of bending over to reach into a low-set door may get tiresome.
Change the color. Always compare the prices of different color options. Earlier this year, for example, a “champagne” version of one Samsung washer was priced $50 higher than the white one.
Go big and small for bargains. In addition to local dealers and big-box stores, be sure to check for deals on the websites of manufacturers, such as LG and Kenmore. Shopping locally has its benefits, though: You can expect personalized service, and independent dealers may even price-match big-box stores. —Tobie Stanger, senior editor, Consumer Reports
Go big! You can cook meats, veggies, corn — your entire meal! — all at once, saving time and money. (You can always use fewer burners than you have, but you can't add capacity.) To save money, skip features such as a side burner for a pot or a built-in thermometer, which can cost an extra $100 or more.
Consider a pellet grill. Originally built for smoking meat, they're easy to use and great for slow cooking. But they can handle vegetables or anything else you'd put on a conventional grill. Their fuel, made from compressed sawdust, costs slightly more than charcoal briquettes.