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

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Can't decide whether to shop at Lowe's or The Home Depot? We broke down the differences between the two home improvement retailers.

Choosing between Lowe’s vs. The Home Depot can be daunting because the two mega-retailers share many similarities. 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. And both provide skilled tradespeople and staff experts to guide customers needing extra help and information. But each retailer features nuances only they can claim.

Only Lowe’s carries in-house brands like Stainmaster carpet, allen + roth home decor 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 — it also has a top-notch home decor department.

Your preference may come down to the store atmosphere and the brands you like most.

Lowe’s

Lowe’s Store Atmosphere

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.

Lowe’s Customer Service

DIY enthusiasts love the attentive, expert customer service they receive at Lowes. When you’re shopping for renovation equipment or Lowe’s holiday gifts, skilled experts are always available. It’s not uncommon to have a real plumber working in this store’s plumbing equipment department, or skilled handyman helping you pick lumber. No matter what you’re there for, you can expect caring skill-based assistance.

Lowe’s Brand Selection

The selection of hand tools at Lowe’s is also impressive, featuring detailed and high-end products other stores don’t stock as readily. Shoppers find Lowe’s tool rentals at every location with ease. 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

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. This applies to lots of standard purchases and plenty of weird things you can buy at Lowe’s. 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 Prices and Discounts

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. The Lowe’s rewards rewards program for all shoppers is also brimming with discounts, freebies and incentives.

Our Favorite Lowe’s Products:

The Home Depot

The Home Depot Store Atmosphere

The Home Depot 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.

The Home Depot Customer Service

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 Home Depot Brand Selection

Bestselling exclusive brands like Behr Paint, ChemDry carpet stain removers and Ryobi tools make this retailer a favorite in the Lowe’s vs. The Home Depot discussion. The Home Depot also offers free stuff to customers from time to time. Shoppers also love the impressive collection of weird stuff and gadgets that keep them coming back for more.

The Home Depot Return Policy

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.”

The Home Depot Prices and Discounts

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’s loyalty program also offers steep savings and rewards for repeat shoppers. This subtle clue is one thing that helps give the orange-hued retailer an edge in the Lowe’s vs. The Home Depot discussion — especially for bargain hunters.

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:

Lowe’s vs. The Home Depot Black Friday 2022 Sales

Both stores do their best to lure customers with the best Black Friday deals and irresistible doorbuster offerings. The tools we bought at last year’s Black Friday sales were some of the mostly steeply discounted offerings at both retailers.

This year’s sale dates shouldn’t be a deciding factor in the Lowe’s vs. The Home Depot debate, though. Both stores plan to run their best bargains November 25 through December 1, 2022. Expect loads of discounts on The Home Depot gift guide items and Lowe’s Flex power tools throughout the month of November.

Black Friday appliance sales are also worth watching at both stores. Typically we see Lowe’s and The Home Depot offer bold discounts on major appliances plus 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 The Home Depot Black Friday, you can find early deals on DeWalt tools, Samsung refrigerators, and Google Nest smart home devices. The Lowe’s Provember and Black Friday sales offer 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.

Lowe’s vs. The Home Depot: 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 store in the Lowe’s vs. The Home Depot debate comes down to your preferred brand range. Behr paints and Andersen Windows are only available at The Home Depot. Meanwhile, Lowe’s is the exclusive retailer of popular competitors like Pella Windows.

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Bryce Gruber
As Home Editor, Bryce Gruber is an expert in gift ideas, shopping, and e-commerce at Family Handyman. You've likely seen her work across a variety of women's lifestyle and parenting outlets and on TV shows. She lives and works in New York's Hudson Valley with her five small children.