With costs for replacement windows hovering around $1,000 per window, installed, there is an obvious incentive to do this work yourself and to look for ways to save money on the units themselves.
Seek Contractor- or Builder-Grade Windows
Professional builders always s seek out the lowest cost commodity window because their bottom line is affected. If saving money is your prime interest, you can do the same thing.
Anything called "architectural grade" is bound to be expensive. By contrast, replacement windows (and plenty of other home remodeling materials, such as floors, doors, cabinets, etc.) that go under the designation builder-grade or contractor-grade will always be cheaper.
This means a basic product that satisfies minimum requirements. Detractors say that builder grade products are inherently defective. Defenders say that they can be just as good as the expensive ones—just cheaper. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. But a builder-grade window from a big-name manufacturer is very likely to be a perfectly good window that will give you many decades of service. After all, building contractors want to avoid call-backs for defects at all costs, and they would not be buying these windows if they weren't good.
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. Sometimes, though, the product labeling makes it clear when a window is aimed at contractors. For example, Jeld-Wen offers a V-2500 series window that is called Jeld-Wen Builders Vinyl Windows.
Avoid Extra Features That Drive Up the Price
Like any other industry, window companies offer add-ons and features that trick out your window. Companies offer these features to fatten their profit margin (and your enjoyment, too), 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 not just tolerated; it's practically 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 can afford to compromise. These companies purchase inexpensive wholesale replacement windows at wholesale prices and sell window-plus-installation packages to consumers. This is a well-oiled machine with tolerances built-in for negotiation. Do not be afraid to do haggle vigorously.
Consider Cheaper Materials
Solid wood windows are regarded as the premium choice, but fiberglass frames are cheater 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, 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 Styles
Common styles and shapes make for cheaper windows. Curves, hexagons, circles, bays, and bows—all those fun things—will immediately drive up the price of your windows. The cheapest styles tend to be double-hung, sliders, fixed, and casement windows.
Avoid Authorized Dealers That Carry Only One Brand
Authorized dealers that offer only one brand of windows limit the competition that can help you find better prices. Authorized 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.
Not all authorized dealers are brand-centric. Notably, Home Depot is an authorized dealer of Andersen, Jeld-Wen, American Craftsman (an Andersen brand), and Vantage Pointe (a Simonton brand).
"Price Triangulation" Always Saves You Money
"Price triangulation" is the age-old practice of "getting three estimates." It's simple: When you get three estimates, one estimate will always be the lowest. If this appears to be basic logic that we all should have learned in kindergarten, why do so many homeowners not take advantage of this simple price-slashing method?
Schedule three replacement window companies to come to your house. Do this three nights in a row, and don't be afraid to tell them that you are getting three bids—it may well cause them to sharpen their pencils and deliver the best price possible. After all, bids are in, you will have a price spread of estimates one low, one medium, one high. Provided the reputation of the companies is somewhat comparable, you will know instantly where the best price option lies.
Window companies are notorious for having wiggle-room in their bids, so feel free to pit the companies against one another—ask the companies with the higher two bids if they want to try and undercut the low bid.