They're pricey and heavy, but online retailers are trying hard to get more people to buy stoves, washing machines and other large appliances without seeing them in person.
Wayfair, for example, signed a deal last year to sell GE appliances on its site. And Amazon.com began selling Kenmore appliances, the brand owned by department store operator Sears.
There are advantages to buying appliances online: Comparing prices is easier and there's a bigger selection to choose from. Plus, you can "avoid the crowds and potentially pushy salespeople," says Sara Skirboll, a shopping and trends expert at deal site RetailMeNot.
But before you click buy, here's what you need to know:
TAKE OUT THE TAPE MEASURE
You'll need to measure the space where the new appliance will be placed, not just the one you're getting rid of, since the new one might have different requirements for necessary space around it. You can find measurements in the product manual, which retailers will typically link to on their sites. Make sure to measure how far out an item needs to be from the wall, and check to make sure refrigerator doors or washing machine lids can fully open in your space. Also, walk through the path of your home to make sure the appliance will fit when it gets delivered.
CHECK IT OUT IN PERSON
Since it's an expensive purchase that is expected to last several years, see if you can find the appliance you like in a store so you can touch and feel the materials and see if the color will work for your home. While you are there, let the salesperson know if you saw the appliance for a lower price online. They may be willing to match the price.
USE THE TOOLS
If you can't see the appliance in person, check if the retailer has augmented reality tools on their apps. Wayfair's app, for example, lets you see what an appliance can look like in your space by tapping "View in Room" under the product.
REVIEW THE REVIEWS
Read the reviews for the appliance, and pay special attention to the bad ones, says Skirboll. Someone may point out a shortfall that could be important to you.
READ THE TINY PRINT
Check to see if you will need to pay for delivery, installation or getting rid of the old appliance, which may differ even on the same site depending on the brand and type of appliance. Disposing of the old one yourself can be a pain, since some areas don't allow them to be left on the curb. If the seller won't take the old one, see if you can sell it on Craigslist or another site.
And read the return policy in case the appliance shows up damaged or if you just don't like it. Be aware that some retailers may charge a restocking fee. If the return policy isn't clear, call customer service and ask about it.
Yes, you can ask for a discount when shopping online. Mary Farrell, a senior editor at Consumer Reports magazine on the appliance team, recommends using the chat window on many sites to ask a customer representative for a deal. If there's no chat window, try calling customer service and asking on the phone. "Most people don't even try," says Farrell.
Contact Joseph Pisani at http://twitter.com/josephpisani