Buying RTA (ready-to-assemble) cabinets for your kitchen or bathroom makes perfect sense as a cost-saving measure. Knowing exactly what goes into buying and assembling RTA cabinets will help you make the most informed choice in a crowded RTA cabinet market.
While RTA cabinets are available at some brick-and-mortar retailers, such as Lowe's, Home Depot, and IKEA, the greatest cost savings come from online retailers who can use their low overhead costs to pass along savings for you. The RTA cabinet business is a highly competitive market, with the potential for substantial savings for consumers. Here are some things to know about the business before you place your order.
The Benefits of Online RTA Cabinets
When an RTA dealer or manufacturer sends you cabinets flat-packed in pieces, you don't pay for the company's labor to do the relatively easy work of assembling the cabinets. Because the flat-packed cabinets take up less volume than assembled cabinets, you also save money on the shipping. Provided you are up to the task of assembly—and it isn't a hard job—you can easily save 30 percent or more on the cost of cabinets.
Different Dealers, Same Products
Some dealers may sell the same product using the same names and codes from the manufacturer while other dealers do not. It's not always apparent when RTA cabinets from different online retailers are coming from the same manufacturer. The only way to accurately compare apples-to-apples pricing is to do detective work and compare cabinets from different retailers according to their detailed specifications, feature by feature. Make sure that you're looking at the same cabinet dimensions, door style, box and door construction materials, and drawer slide and door hinge mechanisms.
Generic Style Terms
When you see a term like "shaker" in the name of two cabinets you're comparing, the word simply refers to a generic style and might be a different product from dealer to dealer that still looks much the same.
Size of RTA Dealer
While you might expect every online RTA retailer to be based in a manufacturing facility teeming with workers, it's equally likely that the business is no more than a one-person operation working from home. But this comes with the territory when dealing with online retailers. A small, reputable online retailer can easily perform just as well and offer lower prices than the big brick-and-mortar RTA company that is complete with production facilities and warehouses.
How To Spot a Reputable Dealer
Look for a price-matching guarantee when looking at online RTA cabinet dealers. The most reputable and successful RTA cabinet dealers will match prices if you demonstrate that a competitor is offering the same product for a lesser price.
It's expensive to ship heavy cabinets, especially if they are coming from overseas. Be aware of shipping costs because they can sometimes be more than the cost of the cabinetry itself. For nearly all online retailers, per-item shipping costs are greatly reduced when you buy large orders. For example, on orders above $3,000, shipping costs are often greatly reduced. Make sure to price your cabinets on an entire-kitchen basis, not by individual cabinets.
Sudden Price Changes
Because RTA cabinetry is a highly competitive business, prices fluctuate. Costs of factory manufacturing and fuel costs for shipping may change suddenly. Changes in global politics may radically affect import tariffs. All these cost changes will affect the price you pay as a consumer. Prices can change overnight, so continue comparison shopping right up to the point where you make the call or place your online credit card order.
Four Steps to Finding the Best Deal
Follow this four-step process when looking for the best deals for online RTA cabinets:
- Seek prices based on a complete order. The only way to effectively price out cabinets is to come up with the full kitchen or bathroom assortment. Start with a company with a good user online interface, such as the RTA Cabinet Store. Print out your shopping cart, but do not commit your order with a credit card yet.
- Compare the costs of other companies. Using your initial shopping cart list, price out the same items at other RTA companies.
- Add in shipping costs. Every time you compare products on a site, go as far along in the ordering process as you can to get estimated shipping costs; this often is the deciding factor.
- Request a price match. By this point, you have a good feeling for which dealers you may want to work with, even if it's a higher-priced one. In this case, approach a dealer's customer service department with a price match even if you don't see it as an option on the website. You'll be surprised at how often the company will match lower prices from competitors.