Replacement windows are expensive. The cost of two or three windows might be manageable for most homeowners, but whole-house window replacement can make a serious dent in your bank account. Naturally, seeking out cheap replacement windows is one way to lower costs. But there are other methods of lowering the overall cost of window replacement that may include cheap windows or which can work in concert with more expensive, higher-grade windows.
Install Contractor- or Builder-Grade Windows
Professional builders in many cases look for the lowest cost commodity window because this will improve their bottom line. If saving money is your prime interest, you can do the same thing.
Terminology often matters when shopping for replacement windows. Architectural grade is usually a more expensive premium window. By contrast, replacement windows—along with plenty of other home remodeling materials, such as floors, doors, and cabinets—that go under the designation builder-grade or contractor-grade usually will be cheaper.
Builder-grade or contractor-grade means a basic product that satisfies minimum requirements. A builder-grade window from a major window manufacturer such as Pella, Andersen, or Jeld-Wen will be a perfectly good window that will return many years of service. Builder- or contractor-grade windows usually are found in the most common types such as fixed windows, single-hung, double-hung, sliders, and casement windows. They may have optional between-glass muntins and window screens. Low-e film on the glass to protect against UV rays and argon or krypton gas inside the window unit usually will be standard.
These windows can sometimes be hard to find because they may be called any number of names. You may need to ask the clerk at a builder's center for the product line that is used most often by contractors. Product labeling sometimes makes it clear when a window is aimed at contractors. For example, Jeld-Wen offers a V-2500 series window called Jeld-Wen Builders Vinyl Windows.
Avoid Unnecessary Extras That Increase the Price
Like any other industry, window companies offer add-ons and features that may improve the window. Companies offer these features, yet they are not mandatory and may not be needed at all. Consider how important these features are to you:
Negotiate a Lower Price
Every replacement window company—even authorized dealers— will negotiate prices. The replacement window industry is one sector of the home remodeling business where price negotiation is often expected.
Competition for your money is fierce. Local replacement window companies that lock down an efficient and honest process—from the first sales contact to the moment you read off your credit card number at the end—are robust businesses that build in room for compromise. These companies purchase wholesale replacement windows at wholesale prices and sell window-plus-installation packages to consumers. While you should feel free to propose a different price or some extras, keep in mind that every replacement window company will have its own negotiation stop point. Negotiation is a two-way street.
Consider Purchasing Cheaper Window Materials
Solid wood windows are regarded as the premium choice. But fiberglass frames are less expensive and solid vinyl frames are the least expensive of all. The reality is that you may not really be able to tell the difference at all, especially if you plan to paint the windows on the inside of your home. So ask yourself how much you value the prestige of having solid wood windows. When was the last time a visitor to your home inspected the windows to see what they were made from?
Stick to Common Window Styles
Common styles and shapes make for cheaper windows. Curves, hexagons, circles, bays, and bows—all of those interesting but uncommon shapes—will immediately drive up the price of your windows. The cheapest window styles tend to be double-hung, single-hung, sliders, fixed, and casement windows.
Note: Different installation options affect pricing. Installing windows with a perimeter fin requires removal and replacement of the exterior trim which brings up the cost. Windows without perimeter fins can be "slid" in to the existing opening and attached through the sides of the new window, which usually reduce removal and replacement costs.
Remember: Authorized Dealers Carry Only One Brand
Authorized dealers of one brand of window are not inherently the most expensive choice. What you do need to keep in mind, though, is that authorized dealers that offer only one brand of windows limit the competition, and competition can help you find better prices. Authorized single-brand window dealers can return great benefits. Many have been in business for a long time, which can be an advantage when you need to call in a warranty. But by going to a brand-centric authorized dealer, you have already narrowed down your choices.
Feel free to shop at single-brand authorized dealers such as Andersen, Jeld-Wen, Pella, Marvin, and Simonton. But also look at other, multi-brand dealers.
Get at Least Three Quotes to Save You Money
The age-old practice of obtaining at least three quotes works with simple logic: When you get three estimates, one estimate will always be the lowest. It doesn't have to be hard or time-consuming. Schedule three replacement window companies to come to your house. Do this three evenings in a row, and don't be afraid to tell them that you are getting three bids—it may well encourage them to deliver the best price possible. After all bids are in, you will have a price spread of estimates: one will be the lowest, another the highest, and a third between those two. Provided the reputation of the companies is somewhat comparable, you will know instantly where the best price option lies.
Why stop there, though? If you have the time and the inclination, bring in five to eight more quotes. The more estimates you get, the better your price in the end.
Since window companies do have wiggle-room in their bids, mention some of the other bids that you received. None of this needs to be challenging or aggressive; most replacement window salespeople expect that you have received other bids.