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Lowe’s vs. The Home Depot: Where Should You Shop?

The Family Handyman logo The Family Handyman 2022-05-12 Bryce Gruber
© Getty Images(2)

Choosing between Lowe's and The Home Depot can be daunting as the differences between the two mega-retailers can be difficult to discern. Both offer an exceptional variety of home improvement products and are in constant competition over pricing and perks.

What's the Difference Between Lowe's and The Home Depot?

Both Lowe's and The Home Depot offer just about everything one might need to improve, beautify or fix up their home. But each retailer features nuances only they can claim.

Only Lowe's carries in-house brands like Stainmaster carpet, allen + roth home décor and Project Source kitchen cabinets. The Home Depot, on the other hand, is known for its proprietary brands, including Behr Paint, ChemDry carpet stain removers and Ryobi tools.

Both provide skilled tradespeople and staff experts to guide customers needing extra help and information. Your preference may come down to the store atmosphere and the brands you like most.

Lowe's

With roughly 2,200 stores across North America, it's hard to find a city or large town without one. If you're shopping in-store at Lowe's, you'll find a well-lit warehouse atmosphere that offers everything you need and little of what you don't. Shopping at Lowe's is never about the frills. It's about customer service and access to products at appealing prices.

The selection of hand tools at Lowe's is also impressive, featuring detailed and high-end products other stores don't stock as readily. Customers at Lowe's and The Home Depot report knowledgeable and friendly staff members, with The Home Depot edging Lowe's ratings in this department. More on that later.

Lowe's return policy keeps customers coming back as well. "Most new, unused merchandise can be refunded or exchanged with proof of purchase within 90 days of the original purchase date," according to the company's website.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. In some instances, members of Lowe's Business Advantage and Business Rewards programs may have 365 days to make returns. Some commercial purchases also fall into this category. It's something Lowe's in-store shopping pros rave about, making it easier for contractors and tradespeople to work more efficiently and with less stress.

Lowe's also offers a generous military discount, which covers veterans, active-duty service members and spouses. In stores and online, military members can take 10 percent off most full-price items, with no annual limit. Qualify for the discount by verifying your status through ID.me.

Our Favorite Lowe's Products:

The Home Depot

Shopping at The Home Depot is similar to Lowe's, though reviewers and shoppers report The Home Depot employees seem to be slightly more attentive to customer needs and requests.

There's a good reason, too. The Home Depot employees participate in a direct stock purchase plan and shareholder system that makes every employee an equity holder in the company. While we can't say for sure how much that helps, we're betting it plays an important role.

The store itself is a no-frills, warehouse-like shopping experience similar to Lowe's. Expect tall ceilings, high shelves and dozens of departments for everything from plumbing equipment to cabinetry. The best time to shop at The Home Depot is mid-afternoon when the store isn't as busy.

The Home Depot has 2,300 locations across North America, slightly more than Lowe's, making in-store purchases and pickups convenient for shoppers in most large locales.

Like Lowe's, The Home Depot offers a 90-day return policy. "Simply take your purchase back to any Home Depot and get your money back instantly or exchange for something else," according to the company web site. "Be sure to bring a copy of your receipt or shipping confirmation email, credit card you used for the item and valid I.D."

To save money, look for items with The Home Depot’s yellow sales tags and prices marked .03 and .06. The .03 means the item will be moved to clearance or donated to charity in three weeks (and is typically the lowest price for the product). And the .06 means the price will be lowered in six weeks.

The Home Depot also offers a 10 percent military discount for active service members and veterans with honorable status, plus spouses. It applies on select items in-store, online and through The Home Depot app, though there's a $400 maximum annual discount that resets at the start of the year.

Apply through SheerID on The Home Depot's site. Once verified, your discount will automatically be applied to online purchases. In store, just to show your virtual ID at checkout.

Our Favorite Products at The Home Depot:

Black Friday 2022: Lowe's vs. The Home Depot's Sales

Both stores do their best to lure customers with enticing deals and irresistible doorbuster offerings for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Typically we see Lowe's and The Home Depot offer discounts on major appliances and free upgrades like delivery and removal of old appliances. You can also expect major pushes on seasonal offerings like electrical gear for outdoor holiday lighting displays and Christmas trees.

Even before Black Friday, you can find early deals on DeWalt tools, Samsung refrigerators, and Google Nest smart home devices at The Home Depot. And Lowe's is offering a special Cyber Deals section, with new deals dropped daily. Be sure to bookmark the page to stay updated on each day's product selections.

Customers may not realize the Lowe's Last Chance Deals and The Home Depot Savings Center sections are also brimming with rock-bottom pricing on items from previous seasons. These products may be offered at up to 70 percent off retail pricing.

The Bottom Line

You can't lose by shopping at either store, because both offer an exceptional range of home improvement items at low prices.

Choosing the right one for you comes down to your preferred brand range. Behr paints and Andersen Windows are only available at The Home Depot, while Lowe's is the exclusive retailer of popular competitors like Pella Windows.

Shop smarter with our expert recommendations for tools, gear and money-saving deals on can’t miss DIY and home products. Sign up for the Stuff We Love newsletter.

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