Special 26-page section features spending traps to avoid, Ratings of big and small kitchen appliances, and latest retailer results from Consumer Reports' "Where to Shop" appliance-buying survey
YONKERS, N.Y., May 31, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Consumer Reports' latest 26-page kitchen package confirms that consumers don't need a bottomless budget to get a kitchen that looks and feels expensive, with expert tips, test ratings and brand-reliability results to help homeowners save thousands of dollars.
Consumer Reports rated almost 350 ranges, cooktops, wall ovens and microwaves, almost 200 dishwashers, almost 350 refrigerators, 14 countertop materials, and more than 40 flooring products to make sure every dollar in the average homeowner's $15,000 to $30,000 kitchen renovation budget goes further. CR also polled more than 18,000 of its savvy subscribers to see which brands held up over time—and which didn't.
The comprehensive, fact-filled guide is featured in the July issue of Consumer Reports, which hits newsstands June 5. Product ratings and more will be available online at www.ConsumerReports.org.
"Manufacturers and retailers are working harder than ever to earn your business, creating a market that's ripe with savings and deals for those who know where to look," said Bob Markovich, home and yard editor at Consumer Reports. "Our annual kitchen package is like a personal GPS for finding the best kitchen products with the best features at the best stores—at the right price."
That means consumers don't have to pay top-dollar for high-end appliances, flooring, countertops and cabinets that still end up breaking down, or quickly degrading in appearance. Instead, Consumer Reports recommends not being lured in by sleekness alone—and recognizing the spending traps. Those to watch out for include not visiting showrooms or talking with pros before buying, skimping on labor, paying more for little used or needed features, choosing fragile (and pricey) stone countertops, and more.
Finding a retailer that offers low prices, good service, and top quality is another area where consumers can save time and money. In Consumer Reports' exclusive appliance-buying survey of more than 18,000 subscribers, respondents named independent online retailer Abt Electronics out of Chicago as the top choice for major appliances. Amazon.com was among the best for small appliances, while respondents also praised Costco, Kohl's and Sam's Club for their prices. About a third of survey respondents tried negotiating down the price on a major appliance in store, with success more than 70 percent of the time—and an average saving of nearly $100. The full survey results featured in the July issue also include top retail choices for selection, service, and easy checkout.
Tips for Finding Best Buys in Every Category
Consumer Reports' kitchen renovation package also includes tips and advice from industry experts on how to navigate the kitchen renovation process—from flooring to cabinets and all areas in between. Here are some of the highlights from the guide to help consumers find the best buys in every category.
Consumer Reports' latest tests served up a smorgasbord of choices that outperform models from Viking, Wolf and other big names for hundreds or even thousands of dollars less. GE's JB650DTWW, a CR Best Buy at $700, blends superb heating and simmering with a large oven and a cooktop warming zone that keeps the veggies warm while the main course cooks. Consumer Reports finds KitchenAid electric and gas ranges have been repair-prone, as have Jenn-Air's electric ranges, wall ovens and cooktops.
High-end features, such as temperature-controlled drawers, adjustable shelves, split shelves and internal water dispensers are increasingly available on even the most affordable refrigerators. Two tested French-door refrigerators that earned Consumer Reports' Best Buy rating, the Kenmore 7160, $1,600, and the Whirlpool Gold GX5FHDXV, $1,500, come loaded with features, including pullout shelves and bins, a temperature controlled meat/deli compartment and touchpad controls. Among refrigerators, cabinet-depth models offer the streamlined look of built-ins for thousands less.
Dishwashers built since January must use roughly 9 percent less electricity and 27 percent less water to meet the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) voluntary Energy Star standard. The good news for shoppers is that many of the biggest energy misers are also easy on the wallet. Bosch's Ascenta SHX3AR7 UC, $700, and Kenmore's 1328, $650, are among twelve recommended models priced under $760. Consumer Reports recommends looking for dishwashers that scored well for ease of use with features such as adjustable racks and lots of flatware slots, sidestepping noisy self-cleaning filters, checking the controls and, as always, doing research before buying.
Consumer Reports' latest tests found a new top pick that blends the toughness of vinyl with the natural look and feel of slate, all for a fraction of the price. Armstrong's Alterna Mesa Stone Canyon Sun, $5.50 per square foot, mimics the real stuff right down to its dappled colors and random textures, yet it delivers the wear and damage resistance that makes vinyl Consumer Reports' top-rated flooring overall. For those whose hearts are set on the warmth and elegance of wood floors, consider engineered wood flooring, which has a veneer of real wood over a substrate and can be floated over the subfloor, saving on installation costs.
Except for recycled glass, Consumer Reports found huge differences in materials, but little variation among brands. That's why materials have been rated, not specific brands. Authenticity is the current catchphrase in countertops, which means natural stone for top-tier designers. To get the look for less, shop around for affordable stone slabs. There are even bigger savings out there with granite, and laminate—the most affordable countertop option by far—has come a long way. Formica has even eliminated the unsightly black line along the edge of the countertop that used to be laminate's telltale sign.
If cabinets are too far gone to be refinished, consumers can save 30 percent or more by choosing to replace them with semi-custom units. Whether semi-custom or stock, the features that held up best in Consumer Reports' cabinet tests include solid-wood or plywood doors; boxes made of 1/2 - 3/4-inch plywood; solid-wood drawer sides with dovetail joints, full-extension glides, and a plywood bottom; and adjustable, 3/4-inch plywood or medium-density fiberboard shelving.
Consumer Reports is the world's largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.
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SOURCE Consumer Reports