You see that ding? That pea-sized dent in the pristine stainless steel facade? Notice the scratch below it? Those just got me a brand-new refrigerator that’s at least twice as nice as I would have gotten.
You’re looking at $2,300 of damage right there, believe it or not. Let me explain.When my wife and I bought our home in 2016, it had all the appliances that originally came with it in 2006. They looked fine and worked fine, so we were happy. Over the years they have steadily shown their age. I mean, they’re old enough to drive now, right?
I am not one to run out and buy something new just because what I have is getting long in the tooth. I’m more of a fix-it kind of guy. Take our clothes dryer, for instance.
In the six years we’ve owned the gas dryer that came with the house, I’ve replaced a motherboard, belt, pulley, drum wheels, thermal resistor and gas coils with a little help from Google and YouTube. Total cost: Less than $200.
But as I get older I’m also starting to realize there are times where you’re either throwing good money after bad or you’re drawing out regular frustration not because you’re frugal, but because you’re being cheap. Which brings us to the old refrigerator.
Sometimes you just gotta let it go
We’ve had problems with the fridge over the years. About a year after we moved in the light stopped working inside and I could smell electrical smoke. Turns out there was a recall on the lighting harness, so Sears came out and replaced it for free. The guy also swapped out another part of the temperature regulating system but told us our model did have a tendency to freeze things. He thought his fix might solve it, but if not there were other parts that could be replaced.
I can’t tell you how many bags of mini carrots have been frozen since then, but it’s enough to get a rabbit excited. But it wasn’t enough to really warrant us wanting to pay several hundred dollars for new parts or repairs. If the only thing wrong is occasionally you lose some lettuce or celery due to freezing that’s annoying but OK.
Then a couple months ago a piece of plastic broke off one of the doors. It was a clip that helps the pull the door closed and keeps it from opening inadvertently. I looked up the part. I would have to pull apart some of the door to get to the piece, but I could DIY replace it for $60. I figured while I’m at it I should look into whatever parts I needed to fix the temperature thing, too.
Then a week later one of the handles on an inside drawer busted. And a week after that the other one did, too.
Now I’m thinking how many hundreds of dollars do I want to spend fixing random parts when it seems pretty obvious this thing is letting me know the clock is ticking. The refrigerator is an appliance we use dozens of times a day. It isn’t the kind of thing you want to run into the ground before you replace it. I have friends who have had their refrigerator go out. It didn’t sound like fun.
So I decided it was time to start looking.
Patience is a beautiful thing
The good news was I had time. I didn’t need to run out and buy something immediately.
One of my favorite things to do is peruse the clearance areas of stores. I should probably do a whole post on this, but I’ll spare you for now. My local Lowe’s Home Improvement store has two places where all the clearance stuff ends up, and all the big stuff gets lined up in the middle of one aisle. Any time I stop in for anything, I head there first. You never know what you’ll see and how good the deals are.
The first tip here is to know your measurements. If you’re in the market for anything big, have a note in your phone of what size you need. I ran across several options that were a great price, but they weren’t quite the size I wanted. I took pictures of the price and model number just in case I changed my mind, though.
I needed to pick up some things for one of our rentals, so my wife and I headed out to Lowe’s and I grabbed a tape measure and told her we could see if there were any screaming deals on a fridge. That’s tip No. 2. Bring a tape measure. In a home improvement store you can always find a worker with one on hand, but if you’re in the market for a piece of furniture or something you might not be as lucky.
There were two fridges in the clearance aisle. One was $1,500, which was very reasonable, but it was a little small for our space. The other one was $2,200 and just the right size. It just had this big ding and scratch in the one place you would look at every time you walked by or used the fridge.
Let’s play ‘Let’s Make A Deal’
We figured a new fridge the size we needed was going to run at least $2,000 for a stainless steel model of any decent quality. This one was originally priced at $4,300. There are clearly plenty of people willing to pay that much. I am not one of them.
I grabbed the appliance manager on duty and asked him if $2,200 was the best he could do with such a big dent in such a noticeable area. He pulled out his phone, looked up some things, and said he could knock another $200 off. I tried for free delivery, too, but they don’t deliver scratch and dent merch even if you want to pay for it.
Getting it home was a bit of an ordeal. Getting it in the door was even more so. (I’m not sure what doors these appliance designers have at their homes, but my standard 36-inch jamb with the door removed was about a half-inch shy of letting this monster pass even with the handles off.)
But we got a brand-new refrigerator that fits our space, has a three-year full warranty, and cost us less than half of the sticker price.
The thing was, we really didn’t bother to look at all the features because we weren’t shopping around. It wasn’t until we plugged it in and I sat down with the manual that we saw everything it could do. Wifi-enabled. Auto-sensing water filler-upper-thingy. Adjustable-temp middle drawer for refrigeration or freezer items. Backlight that takes up the entire rear wall so you can see everything.
So while I can’t really say I “saved” $2,300 on this fridge because I never would have bought one that expensive, I can say I got twice as expensive a fridge as I would have for what I was willing to pay.
Oh, and for $15 on Amazon I took care of that dent.