Ready to go down a confusing rabbit hole? Then just start pricing online RTA cabinets. Since it's such a competitive business, dealers are continually changing prices, adding vague discounts, and toying with the shipping costs. While it can result in frustration to you and greater profits for them, if you play the game right you can end up saving a lot of money.
In my quest to find the cheapest RTA cabinets, I ran a survey of prices across 6 RTA dealers to see their prices for a single item.
T...he Shakertown Line
RTA cabinets don't really come under brand-names. You may find a general style like country oak, but this is not a brand. Even a familiar cabinet style like Sienna Rope is no longer a brand; the trademark holder simply let the mark lapse and they no longer enforce it.
I did manage to find one line*, Shakertown, offered by many online RTA dealers and usually using the same product code. It was a good point of comparison, since Shaker is a popular style that nearly every cabinet company will offer. With its clean lines, Shaker provides a traditional-but-modern look for kitchens and baths. Shakertown is manufactured by The Shekia Group, or TSG, of Edison, NJ. TSG makes these cabinets under the Forevermark name.
The Method: Size, Materials, Quantity, and Shipping
One common cabinet type is the double-door kitchen base, 24" wide x 34 1/2" high x 24" deep (See Guide to Common Cabinet Sizes). This size has marvelous utility; it's the workhouse of the cabinet world and few kitchens go without it. Construction is 1/2" furniture-grade plywood boxes and all-wood doors.
In each case, I priced 20 units of this item--which goes under the product code B24B--in order to force it to a level high enough to trigger free shipping, if the company offered this. After determining total cabinet cost, I blended in the shipping costs for a grand total.
Balance Cabinet and Shipping Costs
For huge purchases like this, you need to turn it into a major project. Create a chart or spreadsheet, if that helps you. I found a $710.40 difference between the highest and lowest estimates. Isn't that worth a spreadsheet?
Do not take the costs below as solid and unchanging. This is a snapshot of a certain moment in time; it will change. Instead, let it be a testament to the wide variety of costs out there, and to the pricing games that some dealers play.
Finding the cheapest cabinets means being aware of the interplay between cabinet costs and shipping costs. You need to balance the two out. Gravitating to "free shipping" by itself is a red herring. So, too, is gravitating to low per-item costs without working shipping costs into the mix.
For instance, RTA Cabinet Store does not have free shipping. Sound bad? No, because with its low per-unit cost, the grand total makes this one of the lower-priced dealers. Conversely, The RTA Store advertised free shipping. But its high per-unit cost made this highest-priced dealer of all.
Below are the six prices, starting at the lowest and moving upward:
01 of 06
$3230.00 (Stock Cabinet Express)
Twenty units at $170 per unit resulted in a cost of $3,400, less $170 unspecified discount, for a total of $3230.00.
Frankly, I still wonder about the truth of this quote, considering that it is a good $400 less than the next one (all others vary among themselves by about $100).
Free shipping for orders over $3,000.
02 of 06
$3664.19 (RTA Cabinet Store)
The closest comparison to Shakertown B24B is what RTA Cabinet Store calls Autumn Shaker Double Door Base Cabinet 24"W, model BG24ASH. Ordering 20 units at $158.14 per unit comes to $3162.80.
RTA Cabinet Store does not offer free shipping. Total shipping costs for this order: $501.39.
03 of 06
$3,765.80 (Cabinet Giant)
Cabinet Giant says that the original price is $283. With a markdown, the price results in $222.86. This is for 20 units.
Residential liftgate shipping costs $200. Pickup at nearest freight terminal is free.
04 of 06
$3,820.00 (Kabinet King)
Twenty units of B24B at $171 per unit resulted in a cost of $3,420.00.
$3,820.00Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06
$3905.40 (Kitchen Cabinet Kings)
The original list price is stated as $283.00, but with a markdown of 31%, resulting in $195.27 for the unit. This unit at a quantity of 20 equaled $3905.40.
One odd thing happened. When I was researching this, the price for this unit increased from $195.27 to $234.89. The next day, the price was back down to $195.27. I'm not sure if KCK's system was undergoing tests or if they really did intend to change the price.
Orders over $3,000 receive free shipping within the same door... style.
06 of 06
$3,940.40 (The RTA Store)
The RTA Store does not have B24B, but it does have a similar product called Shaker Honey. Ordering 20 units at $197.02 results in a cost of $3,940.40.
Shipping with The RTA Store is not clear. They do not state that they offer free shipping on RTA, only on pre-assembled RTA cabinet orders of $1,499 or greater. Yet when I ran the order through, it calculated that shipping costs were free.
* = I call Shakertown a "line," because even though it is sold by TSG, Shakertown is a registered trademark of a shake shingles company called Shakertown Inc. So, even this popular "brand" of cabinets isn't a brand.