How to avoid being taken to the cleaners when buying carpet

Comparing prices when shopping for carpet can be difficult, according to a local consumer’s group that offers advice on how to get around the challenge of different stores using different names for the same thing.

Washington Consumers’ Checkbook finds that the best way to compare carpet prices is to go to the manufacturer’s website.

“Look at the carpets available there, the brand names that they’re using and then ask stores to quote prices for those names,” said Kevin Brasler, executive editor at

While that might sound like too much work, it can be worth the effort to shop around, considering the enormous price differences Checkbook undercover shoppers have discovered.

“We received prices ranging from $1,800 to more than $6,000 for the exact same space, for the exact same carpet, padding and installation work,” Brasler exclaimed.

Also beware of offers from carpet stores claiming you’ll get something for free, such as free installation, free padding, free upgrades or “buy three rooms and get one free.” Most carpet stores include installation and padding in the price and what qualifies as a room might be debatable.

“They might count your hallway as a room. Or, an L shaped room as two rooms,” Brasler said. “Sometimes the math they use and the geometry they use is very different than common sense.”

Additional carpet buying tips from Checkbook:

  • Before placing an order, have the store come out to measure the space you want covered.
  • Before closing the deal, get a written sales contract that states the price and everything included.
  • Pay with a credit card to preserve your rights for a refund in case there are problems.
  • Hold onto the store’s carpet sample to confirm what’s brought to your home is what you actually bought.

“Carpet looks so similar from brand to brand and style to style,” Brasler said. “Something disreputable carpeting shops will do is swap out what you paid for with an inferior product.”

Through a special arrangement with Washington Consumers’ Checkbook, WTOP readers can see Checkbook ratings on 54 area carpet stores and installers for a limited time.

Consumers’ Checkbook/Center for the Study of Services is an independent, nonprofit consumer organization founded in 1974. It provides information to help consumers make smarter choices.

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