How Home Depot, Lowe’s and other hardware stores compare

WASHINGTON — As the old expression goes, “You get what you pay for.” And a local consumer group that’s evaluated area hardware stores finds that paying more might mean you’ll get better advice.

“Home Depot and Lowe’s both scored really poorly on our surveys of their costumers for things like advice and promptness.” said Kevin Brasler, executive editor at Checkbook.org. “Lowe’s does get higher ratings than Home Depot, but both stores scored dreadfully low on this measure.”

Home Depot received “superior” ratings for quality of advice from 20 percent of its surveyed customers, while 38 percent of Lowe’s customers rated quality of advice as “superior.” Meanwhile, Strosniders of Bethesda and a number of independent area stores were rated “superior” by more than 80 percent of surveyed customers.

Big chains crush competition on prices

Home Depot and Lowe’s beat all the independent stores and other chains’ average prices by about 25 percent, according to Checkbook, which surveys hardware stores about every three years. The price difference between the big chains and independents, Brasler said, is beginning to narrow.

“You almost paid twice as much at some of these independents previously,” he said.

Lowe’s is lowest

Comparing the “all-store” average for prices, Checkbook finds Lowe’s prices averaged about 23 percent lower than the overall average. Home Depot’s prices averaged 19 percent lower than the all-store average.

It can pay to shop around

Secret shoppers found dramatic price differences for identical items from different stores.

  • For a specific Weller 140/100 watt soldering gun, the price ranged from $25 to $57
  • A 4-ounce bottle of gorilla glue ranged from $3.50 to $11.
  • For 50 feet of ½-inch Schedule L copper piping, the price ranged form $49 to $150 for 50 feet.

Through a special arrangement with Washington Consumers’ Checkbook, WTOP.com readers can see Checkbook ratings for area hardware stores for a limited time.

Consumers’ Checkbook/Center for the Study of Services is an independent, nonprofit consumer organization founded in 1974.


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