Any kind of home remodeling—whether it's as simple as painting your kitchen or as involved as a full-scale renovation—often relies on parts and materials from Lowe's or Home Depot. Each of these companies offers a similar range of products, with competitive prices and a variety of discount opportunities that can make it difficult to choose which home improvement retailer is best.
Many DIYers have had to choose between Lowe's and Home Depot during home improvement projects. At first glance, there are few differences between these two big box home improvement stores, with each serving as the other's most fierce competitor. However, if you take the time to research these home improvement retailers, you can learn to identify the benefits and drawbacks of each company.
This guide breaks down the differences between Lowe's vs. Home Depot, including customer service, store atmosphere, return policies, online shopping, and in-store experience, so you can make an informed decision about where to source construction materials, appliances, and more.
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One of the first factors many customers consider is the price of the products available at each retailer. Lowe's and Home Depot have a warehouse-style set-up that reduces the cost of displays and increases the amount of product that can be stocked at each location. This store design allows these companies to keep prices low, offer regular sales, and generous discounts.
The products sold at Lowe's and Home Depot tend to overlap, so you may be able to find the exact same make and model for a slightly more affordable price depending on the store. However, both retailers have a price match policy that allows consumers to get the lowest price for the product with proof of the cheaper listing. One benefit to shopping at Lowe's over Home Depot is that the price match policy allows customers to price match Amazon products, while Home Depot's policy is limited to brick-and-mortar stores.
Lowe's customers can enroll in the Lowe's rewards program to get a variety of free, incentivized, or discounted products. They also offer a 10 percent off military discount that covers veterans, active-duty service members, and spouses for both in-store and online purchases. Home Depot's military discount matches Lowe's 10 percent off rate and it's available to spouses, active service members, and veterans with honorable status. Customers can also sign up for Home Depot's loyalty program for bargain pricing and rewards for repeat shoppers.
Customer Service: Experience, Advice, and Friendliness
Not every DIYer knows exactly what they need when they head to the local home improvement store, so it's important to have employees that are both knowledgeable and experienced. Lowe's and Home Depot employees tend to range from inexperienced young adults that are looking to get real world job experience to retired tradespeople with a plethora of hands-on training. This means that customers may receive expert advice from an individual that has personal tackled the same or similar project or you could receive a polite, if somewhat confused response that doesn't offer a lot of help.
Overall, employees at both Lowe's and Home Depot have a relatively good grasp on home improvement basics, though the staff are less helpful for more involved projects. The staff are also effectively trained to provide information about product pricing, availability, and where to find products within the store. The only significant difference between the two stores is that Home Depot employees participate in a direct stock purchase plan and shareholder system that can provide increased incentive for attentive customer service.
The atmosphere of a brick-and-mortar store refers to the general design, organization, and daily operation as perceived by the average customer. Lowe's locations focus on providing a wide range of home improvement products, plants, construction materials, tools, and more, all on brightly lit warehouse shelving that's welcoming to first-time DIYers. Depending on the location, the stores may also have renovation display models available to help customers visualize their plans.
Home Depot has a starker warehouse design that may be more appealing to experienced DIYers and professional tradespeople. The interior of the store is easy to recognize with towering orange and black shelves, stocked with a variety of products for home and garden care.
While the tools and appliances areas of these stores are often kept clean and well-organized, the same cannot be said for the garden centers and lumber areas of the stores. Regardless of whether you are at Lowe's or Home Depot, these sections would benefit from additional employee attention to make up for the high volume of customers that take it upon themselves to sift through lumber, plants, planters, and more to find the exact item they are looking to purchase.
From garden care to home renovations, Lowe's and Home Depot have the tools you need to complete a broad range of projects with a significant amount of overlap between products. Customers can also rent tools at relatively reasonable prices, making it possible to pick up a power sander, auger, or a variety of other tools just for a few days, instead of spending money on tools that you may only use once.
Both stores have brand exclusive products that cannot be found at other retailers. Lowe's features a selection of hand tools, power tools, tool storage solutions, and exclusive tool brands, including Kobalt, Task Force, and Metabo HPT. Home Depot has a similar selection of tools and tool storage solutions, though the exclusive tool brands at Home Depot tend to be more popular with DIYers and tradespeople, including well-known brands like Husky, Ryobi, and Ridgid.
This wide assortment of retailer-specific brands can help narrow down which store to visit depending on the tool you need, though the drawback to exclusive products is that you cannot price match to get a better deal at your preferred location.
When warm weather makes the ground soft and the outdoors inviting, many people head to their local Lowe's or Home Depot to purchase fertilizer, lawn seed, sod, and plants for the yard. Lowe's stocks a huge variety of different plants, seeds, planters, and almost anything else you need for the yard at competitive prices.
Home Depot has a slightly smaller variety of plants available for purchase, but both companies ensure that there is a large volume of products available throughout the warmer months of the year. Depending on your location, this may mean having a local garden center that is open year round, but if you live in a colder area of the country, the garden centers may close up for several months, with the exception of holiday sales.
Generally, the plant products available at both stores are in relatively healthy condition. Plants that are starting to shows signs of weathered growth are typically put on sale and customers are able to return dead plants within 90 days of purchase or up to a year depending on the product.
Ideally, when you leave a store with a new item you won't need to worry about bringing it back for a refund, but when it comes to home renovation projects, there is a high chance that you may have extra material left over when the project is done. With this in mind, both Lowe's and Home Depot have relatively flexible return policies that allow the customer to bring back most new, unused merchandise with proof of purchase within 90 days of the original purchase date.
In generally, customers can expect to get cash back when they head into either Lowe's or Home Depot with a return, though there are some instances, like when you don't have proof of purchase, where the store employees may only offer to exchange the product. Depending on the staff available and their knowledge of the return process, some customers may be able to get full refunds without a receipt if they used a credit card for the initial purchase and have that same card available for the refund.
Wider Brand Opportunities
Lowe's brands aren't limited to tools. The store also carries Pella new-construction windows, while Home Depot carries Andersen windows. Similarly, Home Depot has Behr and Glidden paint brands available to their customers, while Lowe's stocks Valspar and Sherwin-Williams paints. For those that have a strong preference for one brand, the exclusive offerings of one store over another may be the deciding factor between Lowe's and Home Depot.
Online Shopping and In-Store Pickup
Lowe's and Home Depot are known for the expansive warehouse-style brick-and-mortar locations, but in recent years these companies have pushed to improve the online shopping experience for customers. To help streamline the Lowe's and Home Depot's online shopping experience, both stores allow customers to make purchases online and pick-up the products in-store, instead of waiting for a delivery.
After purchase, customers should receive notification when items are ready to be picked up, though this process can be delayed, depending on the number of employees currently working and the amount of customers currently at the store. In some cases, products that are ordered online may have the last in stock item simultaneously picked up by a customer in the store, resulting in the online order being canceled.
Additionally, the quality of materials picked by store employees can vary depending on the current stock and the experience of the staff. Though this is typically limited to loose materials, like lumber, not boxed products, like tools. Both companies will deliver heavy items from local stores, including fence panels, masonry, landscape rock, and lumber. Smaller items such as light fixtures, electrical parts, blinds, and tools are serviced from warehouse distribution centers and delivered by parcel post, through FedEx, USPS, or UPS.
Will Lowe's beat Home Depot prices?
Both Lowe's and Home Depot actually have price match policies that allow you to get a lower price at your favored retailer if you have proof that the exact product is on sale for a lower price at the other store. Lowe's may even allow price matching for Amazon products, though Home Depot's policy is limited to brick-and-mortar stores.
What is different about Home Depot and Lowe's?
The primary difference between these two big box home improvement retailers comes down to the exclusive brands featured at each store. Home Depot tends to have a wider variety of exclusive products sold for slightly lower prices on average, while Lowe's brands seem to be more focused on stocking high-quality tools that first-time DIYers often require.
Which stores are bigger, Home Depot or Lowe's?
The average size of a Home Depot location is around 104,000 square feet of indoor retail space and 24,000 square feet of garden center space. Lowe's locations are typically a bit larger at an average of about 112,000 square feet of indoor retail space and 32,000 square feet of garden center space.