Buying a Dryer – Consider Clearance and Open Box Items

Everywhere I had lived always provided laundry either in a laundry room in the building or a washer and dryer right in our unit. When I bought my townhouse I was extremely lucky because it came with a clothes washer and dryer. We knew they were extremely old but they worked and that was what was important to us.

After moving in we figured out the timer on the dryer didn’t work and it took at least two cycles to dry the clothes. The timer issue was a safety hazard because the dryer would not stop running unless you manually opened the door. It would get to the cool cycle but it never turned off. So what did we do? We decided to save up for a new dryer!

After putting money away for many months we were finally ready to buy our dryer. We did our research and figured out that there was no true need for a fancy dryer but we would instead buy an economical hardy dryer. We didn’t want any fancy features because it added more cost than benefit. For example, it cost hundreds of dollars more just to get a lint trap on the inside instead of the ones that you pull out from the top. My girlfriend hates the lint traps on the top of the dryers because they make a huge mess but we couldn’t justify the extra cost.

We went looking around at various stores to try to find out which one normally had the best prices and we finally figured out that Sears normally was the best. Whenever we make a big purchase we always try to make sure we have coupons or the item is on sale so we decided to wait until Memorial Day weekend because we figured there would be huge sales! We were right. We had finally settled on a Kenmore dryer for $440 when the sales man said we should check out the clearance section. This was something that we had never seriously considered.

The clearance section had appliances that no longer were in the boxes so they couldn’t sell them at retail anymore. The boxes get taken off before or during delivery and then the appliance was returned for one of many reasons. Some of them had a couple scratches or dents. Many were perfectly fine except for the fact that the owner just didn’t like some aspect about them. These appliances were marked down every so often until they finally end up getting sold.

I personally thought that the salesman was trying to get me to spend a lot more money and get a fancier dryer for a “great deal” and to a point he was. There were a ton of fancy dryers but I found the original model I had wanted in the clearance section except it cost more than the new one on sale! You have to be careful in the open box section!

I didn’t stop looking though and found what seemed too good to be true. They had a $1,289 dryer on sale for $519. Now I don’t buy something just because the retail price is sky high so I originally glanced completely over this item. We walked around a bit longer and looked again and we stopped to take a look at this dryer. It had a lot of fancy features we didn’t need like a steam cycle (which Consumer Reports says is not worth buying) but it did have a lint trap on the inside. It also had a digital display and a lot of convenient settings that we knew we didn’t need but would be nice and we would actually use them.

I asked the salesman why the dryer was so cheap and he came back with an answer I never thought of. This dryer did not have a matching washer. Most people won’t buy washers and dryers that don’t match and I have no clue why. I could understand if it was prominently displayed in your household but most are in closets or separate laundry rooms. The salesman added that the previous owner did not like that the finished cycle signal to indicate the load was dry was not loud so they only returned the dryer. It also had a couple scratches from delivery.

I was worried that if it was returned it probably had something wrong with it and I’d get stuck with a lemon appliance. The thing with open box items at Sears is even though it was opened it still has the original one year warranty. If there were any problems with the item I could follow warranty procedures and get a replacement. Keep in mind, however, that many times open box appliances are sold as-is and if something breaks you have to decide whether to call in the repairman or buy parts and fix it yourself. After that concern was out of the way I had to address another issue that was bugging me.

The last thing that was stopping me from buying the more expensive dryer was the fact I hadn’t researched it at all. I never thought I could get a dryer in that price range. I don’t have a smartphone (yet) but I did remember seeing a computer kiosk in the store. Lucky for me it had an internet connection so I looked the dryer up. It had great reviews except for the fact that the finished cycle signal was so quiet almost no one could hear it. My dryer is located in a separate room so I wouldn’t hear it anyway and I decided this was the dryer for us.

In the end we did pay $80 more for a dryer with some extra features that we didn’t need. Life isn’t all about necessity. We were really happy that we could get a dryer with a lint trap on the inside. It also has extra features that will allow us to dry some items at home that we would otherwise have to take to a laundromat. The extra $80 was well worth the cost and the clearance section allowed us to get a great deal. Were these features worth an extra $840? No way ever! I didn’t have to pay it though because of the clearance and open box section. I’ll definitely be a return visitor to see if I can score another deal!

Would you ever consider buying an open box item? Do you think we  should have just gone with the model we originally wanted?

…oh yeah! Fun Fact: I sold the old dryer yesterday for $25 with full disclosure of the problems and I noticed the delivery label on the back of the dryer. It was delivered EXACTLY 20 years ago today and cost $379.99 when they bought it in 1992. I’d say they got they got plenty bang for their buck!

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.


  1. I’d absolutely consider those options–with one caveat: I would probably never buy something that was returned. I will buy open box only if it was a floor model. You just never know what someone did to an item, especially one that is complicated like a household appliance.

    I purchased my refrigerator from Best Buy as a display clearance. They knocked of almost half of the regular price because, 1) someone put 2 out on the floor by accident and 2) it had a dent in the back of the right side panel which I couldn’t care less about since it can’t be seen.

    For you to spend an extra $80 on the model you ended up with isn’t a bad thing at all. Just think about how much that one-time expense will save you in gas, time and laundromat expense over the life of the new machine. That’s something people often overlook when they take a hard-line stance on money. Buying the cheapest item isn’t always going to be the most economical option in the long run.

  2. I once bought a “refurbished” flat screen TV at an excellent price. It looked good and worked perfectly for quite a while; then a burglar stole it. No kidding. I’d do the same thing again (though I couldn’t find a second refurbished TV deal). You gotta be careful though–“refurbished” covers a lot of territory. One piece of advice I got was to buy only factory-refurbished items, never items refurbished by a third party.

  3. I always look for open box items. You save money and the warranty is the same.

  4. $379 twenty years ago must have made it a pretty nice machine. I hate appliances because they are a money risk and a shot in the dark. A new set that was $1600 for both was one of the last foolish purchases I made when we bought our current home. I’d go scratch-and-dent the next time around though. You are right that spending extra is sometimes necessary.

  5. That is awesome! Great deal. It’s a good thing you checked out that section as I know that most of the time, the washers and dryers and other appliances in clearance are mostly new. Sometimes they have a scratch in the back or underneath it, but as long as it works and has a warranty, I think it is damn worth it! I would say the clearance price is a great price – you spent a bit more than you intended but you got way more bang for your buck.

  6. @Eric – Good points. I think some returned items would be alright especially if it is still under warranty.

    @Kurt – Sorry it got stolen. It stinks you couldn’t find another but that is how it works sometimes.

    @Marissa – I don’t know if the warranty is always the same but if it is I say go for it!

    @John – It was a Kenmore like the one I bought now. The washer still works fine so we still have it.

    @From Shopping to Saving – There were a couple scratches but I hope scratches don’t affect drying capabilities!

  7. Our washer just broke (two weeks ago) and we’re waiting to buy a new washer/dryer until we sell our house and move to the new one. I love the idea of unmatched, open-boxed appliances. That’s brilliant.

  8. I got a refurbished electronics once and the damn thing died pretty soon. I am with Eric I won’t buy open box or refurbished items for pricey good like Washer-dryer.

  9. @Jason – Glad I inspired you to save some money.

    @SB – Everyone has their reasons. I’m sure you save in other areas though to make up for it.

  10. This is a great idea. I recently bought a used refridgerator from Craigslist, but of course, that route makes me nervous because if it turns out to be a total lemon, I have no recourse. I like the clearance/open box idea. I’ll search for that the next time I need to buy an appliance (and with 5 rental units, I’m constantly in search of appliances!)

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