As a member of the home appliance team at gap I am often asked by friends and family about which appliance they should purchase. While we definitely have more pricing and promotion data than most people could ever hope for, there are plenty of other factors to keep in mind when selecting a major appliance.

Start with budget

The best place to begin your appliance hunt is probably your bank account. Pricing for any major appliance varies widely and honing in on a range that is right for you will help significantly narrow down your search. It’s also valuable to consider when you’re going to make your purchase. Retailers and manufacturers may advertise deep discounts on countless products during big sale weekends such as Black Friday or Labor Day. Check out Industry Analyst Christine Edwards' recent blog post for more tips and tricks on when to shop!

Price Spectrum Chart for Top-Load Refrigerators

Measure twice, buy once

Finding an appliance that fits your space is critical and may sound more simple than it is. Sure the footprint fits the space you want to fill, but don’t forget to consider the amount of space that is used when the fridge door is open or the space you need to open a kitchen cabinet. At the last apartment I lived in, both the range and refrigerator were situated in a way that I could not easily access some much needed cabinet space in a very tiny kitchen. It is also important to note how you’re going to get the appliance into the kitchen. If the only way in is a very narrow doorway, you’re going to want to be sure that beautiful, extra wide range isn’t going to get stuck!

Consider your lifestyle

A major appliance is usually a costly purchase that you intend to use daily and expect to last for a long time, so it’s important to pick appliances that fit into your lifestyle. Maybe you (like me) have an addiction to Dominos pizza. In that case, you might not want to consider a side by side refrigerator configuration that you’ll never be able to stash a pizza box in. Maybe you live alone and only have 2 coffee mugs. You might want to consider a dishwasher with a sensor wash feature to save water and energy on smaller, more frequent loads. Do you host Thanksgiving for 15 of your nearest and dearest every year? Make sure there’s enough head room in your new range for that 20 pound turkey!

Prepare for unexpected costs

As a savvy consumer you’re ready to compare price tags, but don’t forget to factor in potential hidden costs such as common repairs or energy consumption. Check out the warranty, what exactly is covered, and for how long? Added features such as an external water and ice dispenser likely comes with an upfront premium but may also be in need of repair more often. Energy consumption is another bill you’ll likely be dealing with regularly. Energy Star rated appliances may save you big bucks on your energy bill over the course of that appliance’s lifetime, but energy consumption varies by model, and you might save more month-to-month with an unrated model that uses less energy overall. To compare energy consumption, check out the energy label; more kilowatts per year means more $$$ regardless of it’s Energy Star status.

EnergyGuide Example

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Learn from experience

While I, and so many modern consumers, am a huge fan of online shopping, when looking for a home appliance it is best to start in-store. Head to your local appliance retailer and kick the tires on the floor models. You can always use the internet to compare prices and deals, but for such a large purchase that you’re going to be using every day, it’s best to check it out in person. Ask your friends and family about their experiences, maybe you can even take their awesome range for a test drive. Another great place to look is at reviews online. Find out what other people think of the models you’re considering and look out for recurring redflags. Check out this awesome blog post from my fellow data nerd, Nick Jordan, on a project he put together to examine popular refrigerators using customer reviews.

Hopefully this list has provided some helpful guidance for your home appliance search. When you’ve narrowed down your search to a few dream models, don’t forget to check back in with us a gap intelligence for the scoop on all the pricing and promotion data!