How to save money on a new kitchen
Use our guide to sales tactics and finance foibles to ensure that you get a good quality kitchen, says Steve Collinge
Spring is historically the peak season for buying a home and fitting a new kitchen or bathroom. This makes now a good time to hunt out a discount on a kitchen. There are a bewildering array of designs, prices, promotions and information. So read our guide before you head to the shops.
Here are the top four tricks to be aware of when looking for a kitchen:
1. Model kitchens: Most retailers advertise the price for an eight-unit kitchen. However, this price usually excludes worktops, decorative end panels, plinths, cornices, pelmets and handles. To advertise the lowest possible price, the retailer prices the bare bones. Comparisons can be difficult as each retailer uses a different model.
2. Product specifications: Kitchens can be hard to compare. Cabinets come in different thicknesses — 15mm, 16mm and 18mm. Usually they include soft close hinges, colour co-ordinated sides and edging tape. Decorative PVC foils can be used to create different styles and finishes such as solid oak effect. Real wood doors come in painted and lacquered finishes.
3. Different door types: The style of door can affect the price too. Drawer line doors have a drawer above the door. Hi-Line doors are full height and usually cheaper than the drawer line option. Hi-Line doors are often the ones quoted but the differing door design/function isn’t always clear.
4. Discounts and promotions: Some retailers establish higher prices for a minimum period of 28 days so that they can then advertise 50 per cent, 60 per cent or even 70 per cent discounts.
Almost every UK retailer, apart from Ikea and John Lewis, offers “price match guarantees” on kitchens; some offer to beat a competitor’s quote by 10 per cent. However, you need to read the small print. Homebase, for example, states: ‘‘The product must be comparable in style, structure, quality & specification.” Few national retailers have ranges that are genuinely comparable, so it’s down to the manager whether you will be offered a discount. Our research shows that the major retailers pay little to consumers and the guarantees are used to reassure them that the kitchens are competitively priced, when often they’re not.
There is no universally accepted industry method to compare and measure kitchen quality — but it is possible. Working with the major manufacturers and retailers, we have devised a list of 21 criteria for comparing and rating kitchens. These include: supply format (flat-packed or semi-assembled); cabinet construction (materials used and physical construction methods); cabinet wall and back panel thickness; wall unit depth; door hinge type; fully extendable drawers; and pan drawer weight limits.
Ideally, the cabinet should be made from solid wood or a quality furniture grade of plywood. The best quality cabinet doors have solid wood frames that surround solid wood or plywood centre panels. Less expensive cabinets and doors are made from MDF or particle board. If something is going to go wrong with the kitchen, it’s probably going to go wrong with the door or drawer, rather than the cabinet itself. So investing in the best quality doors and drawers possible is advisable.
Having spent plenty of time and money on the kitchen, the installation can be overlooked. The key decision is who will fit the kitchen. We advise getting three quotations and make sure that your brief for each is the same so that you can compare like for like. Consumers regularly underestimate the cost of installation. It can cost up to 30-40 per cent of the kitchen’s value. Using the supplier’s installers should be beneficial in terms of cost, as it certainly gives consumers leverage to negotiate. If you have any issues regarding installation, contact the Institute for Kitchen, Bedroom & Bathroom Installers.
A guarantee on a kitchen is a good indication of a retailer’s confidence in the quality of its products and can vary from one year to 25. However, it is not necessarily an indication of the actual quality of the kitchen. The terms and conditions should be read carefully as there may be a large number of exclusions. The terms may, for example, require you to clean the kitchen with a specific type of cleaner. When it comes to guaranteeing the installation, the consumer can expect all work to be completed with reasonable care and skill, in a reasonable time and for a reasonable cost. If not, the consumer would usually be entitled to remedial work to resolve the problem. For issues regarding guarantees, contact The Furniture Ombudsman.
Buying from a kitchen retailer may seem the obvious route, but it isn’t always the smartest. There are often good deals to be had for the same appliance elsewhere, so check online first.
Check whether the retailer is offering a genuine interest-free agreement, a buy-now-pay-later deal otherwise known as a deferred interest agreement, or a standard loan agreement with a fixed interest rate. In an interest-free agreement, the value of the balance borrowed is simply divided by the number of payments or period in question, such as six, 12 or 24 months.
With a buy-now-pay-later deal, you often pay nothing for a specific period, such as 12 months. Normally, there is a minimum qualifying spend, which starts at about £1,000. At the end of the initial period, you can pay the loan off without being charged interest (normally just a settlement fee of about £30). However, many consumers forget to make the final payment on time and interest is charged back to the first day of the loan, which can be very costly. There is no legal requirement for a retailer to tell a consumer that he or she is coming to the end of the interest-free period.
Even if you choose not to pay off the loan after the 12-month period, the interest rates on the loan can vary from 8.9 per cent at B&Q to 29.9 per cent at Homebase. Many retailers also offer standard loans over a fixed period, such as two to five years, which carry a fixed interest rate. Magnet offers an interest-bearing loan with an APR of 14.9 per cent. When taking out a loan from a retailer, check whether you can include other items within the loan, such as tiles, paint, lighting etc.
When to buy
Easter and January are key sale periods, but if you wait until the end of the sale, it will be easier to haggle for a greater discount. When it comes to kitchen appliances, manufacturers release new models in October, so older models are likely to go on sale then.