Considering that you can now buy such strange items as automobiles, caskets, overseas vacations, and life insurance policies at the Costco Wholesale club, it should be no surprise that you can also buy a full range of kitchen cabinets, as well. While Costco doesn't stock cabinets in the store—or even have in-store displays—shoppers willing to navigate the website find that there is a surprisingly large range of options if they want to buy kitchen or bathroom cabinets. When ordered online, the cabinets are delivered directly to your home, with shipping and handling included in the upfront price.
Costco's Cabinetry Partners
Costco cabinets are manufactured by two different firms. All Wood Cabinets (AWC), based in Florida, is an independent cabinetry company that makes two lines that are proprietary to Costco: the Metropolitan line, and the Semi-Custom line. All Wood Cabinets does make other product lines available from other retailers, including directly from the AWC web site, but these two product lines are sold only at Costco.
Costco's other partner is Tuscan Hills Cabinetry, based in New Jersey, which makes the custom Ultimo line, marketed as Costco's premium line. Tuscan Hills Cabinetry makes cabinets only for Costco; you can't buy their products anywhere else.
Consumers can rest assured that they are getting good quality cabinets from Costco. Unlike other cabinet manufacturers, both All Wood Cabinets and Tuscan Hills Cabinetry make most of their cabinets from 3/4 inch plywood panels, not cheaper 1/2-inch plywood or MDF. The cabinet faces and drawer fronts are either real hardwood veneers or high-quality laminate. The cabinets include quality soft-close hinges and drawer mechanisms. These cabinets are comparable or better in quality to most other cabinets available from other sources, such as the big box home improvement centers and online cabinet retailers.
Costco members understandably are most interested in knowing how much they are saving by buying their cabinets from Costco rather than from another source. For many well-known brand products, such comparison shopping is easy, but it is much more difficult with items like cabinetry. The cabinet brands carried by Costco are proprietary, built for Costco alone and sold by no other retailers, so it is really impossible to compare prices.
All Wood Cabinets does also sell cabinets on its own website, but even here it is difficult to compare since the product lines they make for Costco are unique and you can't purchase exactly the same thing directly from AWC. However, if you look for comparable styles, you generally find that Costco cabinets are very close to the cost of similar cabinets purchased directly from AWC, especially when the shipping costs are factored in. And when Costco cabinets are compared to similar cabinets with similar construction specifications purchased from sources, such as the big box home improvement retailers, the Costco cabinets may even be somewhat higher in price.
For example, when we checked the price of a basic 36-inch wide base cabinet with one drawer and double doors in a basic white Shaker style, we found the cabinet selling for $258 at Costco, but $238 at a big box home improvement center. You can expect, however, for most cabinets sold at retailers such as Lowes or The Home Depot to use MDF panels in the construction, not the better plywood construction found in Costco cabinets.
Thus, there are no significant cost savings by purchasing cabinets through Costco. There are, however, some shopping advantages to buying from Costco. As you navigate the Costco website to price cabinets, you are quickly redirected to a special Costco/AWC web site that offers many services to Costco members, such as kitchen design assistance and sample pricing of 10 x 10 kitchens. These advantages are not found when you attempt to purchase individual cabinets directly from AWC, nor is this kind of service readily available online from big-box retailers. Further, Costco prices include all shipping and handling costs, which often must be added separately when you buy directly from AWC (or almost all online retailers of cabinets).
Costco's Three Cabinet Lines
Costco offers three cabinet lines manufactured by its two fabrication partners.
Made by All Wood Cabinetry, the Metropolitan line represents Costco's bargain line. This line of laminate-faced cabinets currently includes 20 different colors and patterns in a large line of upper and lower cabinets with various drawers and door configurations. Shipping is guaranteed within 10 days of ordering.
Costs for a sample 10 x 10-foot kitchen range from $2,400 to $3,700 (upper and lower cabinets), depending on the cabinet finish selected. You can purchase an entire kitchen by working with the design assistance tools or buy individual cabinets ala carte.
The mid-level cabinets offered by Costco comprise their semi-custom line, which offers 19 different laminate and real wood finishes. Costs range from $2,400 to $4,800 for a sample 10 x 10 kitchen. This line also offers sample pricing by the foot, ranging from $140 to $240 per linear foot.
Shipping is guaranteed within 10 days of ordering. These cabinets are also made by All Wood Cabinetry, and use the same box construction as the Metropolitan line, with 3/4-inch plywood walls, soft-close hardware, and dovetail drawer construction.
Costco's premium line, which they label "full-custom," is the Ultimo line made by Tuscan Hills Cabinetry, a proprietary Costco manufacturer. Construction methods are similar to those used for Costco's other cabinet lines, but the full-custom line offers a whopping 500,000 different options when various door styles, wood species, and stain colors are factored in. Just about any cabinet look can be achieved when you choose from this full-custom line.
Rather than the familiar 10 x 10-foot kitchen model, the full-custom line uses a "dream kitchen layout" model to allow you to compare prices. Most options ranged from $15,000 to $25,000 for the sample dream kitchens we reviewed. These cabinets are considerably more expensive than Costco's Metropolitan and Semi-Custom lines but are quite competitive when compared to custom cabinets ordered from a specialty cabinet maker.
These cabinets will ship in six to eight weeks for basic overlay door styles or 12 weeks for inset panel door styles.
Costco Cabinets vs. Ready to Assemble Cabinets
While consumers can generally rest assured that they are getting a good (if not great) deal by buying preassembled cabinets from Costco, they are not a significant bargain when the costs are compared to comparable ready to assemble cabinets (RTA). For example, Costco's semi-custom 10 x 10 kitchen fitted with a basic white shaker cabinet style recently listed for $3,633. A different on-line retailer offered virtually the same sample kitchen in RTA cabinets for $2,285, also with free shipping.
For some people, the advantage of receiving cabinets preassembled might be worth nearly $1,400 in cost. But assembly of RTA cabinets is now rather easy and many people may view an afternoon of assembly work as a small price to pay for this kind of savings.
The Bottom Line
Costco cabinets are well constructed and sell for a price that is fully competitive with other retailers of preassembled cabinets. You will not, however, save a lot of money, and if you are not already a Costco member, it's probably not worth buying a membership simply for their kitchen cabinets. And RTA cabinet companies continue to offer a much better deal on cabinets equal in quality to those offered by Costco.