Shopping at Costco saves money, even after paying the $55 membership fee, but comes at the price of buying in bulk and limited selection.
Lowe's vs. Home Depot Prices
Lowe's vs. Home Depot: Pricing
Among the items on our shopping list, Lowe's bested the competition on 14, including a gallon of clear waterproofing wood stain ($13.48 at Lowe's and $15.98 at Home Depot), a pound of 8D x 1 1/2" nails ($14.28 at Lowe's and $16.81 at Home Depot), and an 8" steel plumb bob ($4.78 at Lowe's and $4.93 at Home Depot). Home Depot posted the lowest prices on 11 items from our list, including a 3/8" socket wrench ($11.97 at Home Depot and $14.96 at Lowe's), safety goggles ($2.59 at Home Depot and $2.97 at Lowe's), and four types of interior paint (one gallon of the house brand, eggshell finish, cost $23.96 at Home Depot compared with $27.97 at Lowe's). Note that both house brand paints -- Behr at Home Depot and Valspar at Lowe's -- scored well in tests conducted by a consumer products review site testing organization, although Behr ranked higher.
Lumber aisles at Home Depot.
To get an idea of how much we could expect to spend on a larger project, we priced out the cost of building a 12' x 16' ground-level deck using a master list of required tools and materials. Again, we noticed how similarly priced the items were at each store: 16 of the 34 items on the list, including a treated structural post and two sizes of pressure-treated lumber and cedar decking, along with other products such as 1/2" galvanized hex nuts and a 7.2-volt cordless lithium drill, cost exactly the same; five were within a penny or two; and seven of the 13 remaining items were less expensive at Lowe's. Only four products -- safety goggles, a 24" standard level, an 8" solid brass plumb bob, and a 3/8" socket wrench -- were cheaper at Home Depot. The total cost of materials and tools for our backyard deck project rang up at $1,507.32 before taxes at Lowe's, a $34.24 savings over the $1,541.56 project cost at Home Depot.
Products at Lowe's were generally cheaper.
To put things into perspective, we called up a well-known, home-grown lumberyard to compare the cost of buying local. All the items we priced were more expensive at the neighborhood store. For example, a 4" x 4" x 8" #2 pressure-treated structural post cost $9.19, $1.22 more than the $7.97 Home Depot and Lowe's were charging. A 5/4" x 6" x 12" plank of cedar decking, which was $11.76 at both big-box stores, was $4.54 more per piece at the lumberyard.
Note that Lowe's and Home Depot feature nearly identical price-matching guarantees. If a local competitor sells the same product for a lower price, both will match that price and give the buyer an additional 10% discount. The guarantee covers in-stock items only; special orders don't apply. Although it's obviously cumbersome to price match every purchase, it's useful for large or high-dollar transactions. One contributor to Electrician Talk says he leverages the system to streamline his operating expenses.
Check out this list of 12 odd things people do to save money.
Take a trip and save on purchases of diamonds, electronics, leather, and even health care.