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Appliances

How to buy scratch and dent appliances: Your buying guide

Shopping for scratch and dent appliances can pay off, if you can handle the risks.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Scratch and dent appliances, does that term sound familiar? If you've ever hunted for big-ticket home bargains, it will be. Scratch and dent refers to brand new, large appliances sold at heavy discounts by third party retailers. Ideally, these appliances are perfectly fine. They're fresh off the assembly line, unused, and function as they were designed.

The only difference is that their external packaging was damaged at some point. In theory, the only issue with these appliances is slight and merely cosmetic. Often, any scratches or dents are minor and out of sight.

By purchasing a scratch and dent appliance, you can get a fridge, stove, or washer in mint condition for a used appliance price. If you're lucky, you might snatch up something for 40 to 60 percent off its retail cost.

Like any sweet-sounding deal though, there are a few catches. Don't expect any white glove deliveries. The removal of old appliances and installation of new ones is your problem. And that's just for starters.

Buying scratch and dent appliances

Pros

  • Can be a lot cheaper than retail
  • Sometimes includes a standard, manufacturer-honored warranty
  • Appliance damage might be slight and external (cosmetic)

Cons

  • Appliance could turn out to be a lemon
  • Installation and removal are your responsibility

If you've ever considered appliance shopping the scratch and dent way, you've come to the right place.  Below I've outlined the steps to take to getting a scratch and dent appliance so you can save yourself any headaches.

Decide what you're in the market for first

Just like grocery shopping when you're hungry, don't stroll into a scratch and dent store without a plan. If you do, you might end up with something you don't need. Figure out as many details as possible first. Narrow down the type of appliance you want. That could be a fridge, dishwasher, washer, what have you. Tune anything else out.

Next, make a list of features and prioritize them. For instance, your must-have item in a fridge may be an in-door water dispenser. Maybe you have a thing for front loading laundry machines. You might feel the same way about stainless steel, or a pearl-white finish. Whatever floats your boat, know before you go.

Read more: How to choose the right appliance finish

Make sure to take a look inside to see if things are in working order.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Examine prospective appliances closely

When you find something tempting, inspect it carefully. Look for any visible dents or scratches. Hopefully, if you spot something, it's on the back or sides of the appliance since it's hard to see small blemishes in those locations. You may find minor, yet more noticeable scratches or dents on the front of a fridge or stove. That could be enough to make you think twice about a purchase.

Worse than scratches are cracks in glass surfaces. If you run across this, especially in displays or control panels, rule it out. It's not only dangerous, but these controls and screens may fail soon and they are expensive to fix.

Do a price check

Your prospective appliance still looks like a deal? Make sure and check the price tag. Compare the store's offer against the manufacturer's suggested retail price. It should be discounted quite a bit, to the tune of 40 to 60 percent.

If that's not the case, reconsider your purchase. If you wait long enough, the price of the retail model will come down.

Understand the risk

Buying scratch and dent appliances is a gamble. No matter how cautious you are, you might wind up with a machine that breaks down constantly, needing pricey parts and repairs. It pays to find appliances that are backed by official, manufacturer-honored warranties.

At a minimum, confirm that you can swap a lemon machine for store credit if things go south. It's a good idea to consider shelling out for an extended service plan, outside of the standard 1 year coverage.

Installation of scratch and dent appliances? That's your job.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Embrace the DIY mindset

Purchasing a scratch and dent appliance isn't for everyone. In fact, it isn't for most people. This is a complete and total DIY endeavor from start to finish.

First, you'll need to pull out and haul away your old appliance on your own. When your new scratch and dent appliance arrives, you'll be installing it too.  That could mean either fiddling with dryer vents, water lines, electrical wiring, circuit breakers, or all of it.

If you're not onboard with any of this, drop the idea before you get in too deep. If you do pull everything off, well you'll have bragging rights galore -- and you'll save a bundle too. The choice is yours.

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