Let’s face it: It’s hard to tell good windows from bad ones just by appearance. Though there are some visual differences among brands, many windows in Central VA look basically the same.
This is a big reason many homeowners get fooled into buying inferior windows. They see a window that LOOKS good and has a cheap price tag, and they buy it.
That’s a big, pricey mistake.
Just like everything else we buy (vehicles, houses, etc.), windows are a “get what you pay for” purchase. And if you pay a cheap price, expect cheap quality.
So what, exactly, is considered a “cheap” price for windows? What’s a fair price? And how much is too much for quality windows?
To answer these questions, we’ve broken down windows into four pricing/quality categories:
For an in-depth review of the benefits of different window materials, visit our Window Comparison page.
Low-grade recycled vinyl
$125 to $300 (double-hung window, not installed)
People who need a “quick fix” and are replacing a window that’s the exact same size as the big-box window.
Big-box windows are the ultimate example of “cheap price = cheap quality.” These windows contain low-grade components (recycled vinyl, inefficient glass, etc.) and are not custom-manufactured for a precise fit.
What’s more—the cost of these windows doesn’t include installation! If you want a professional to install the windows, that adds to the price substantially.
Low- to medium-grade vinyl
$189 to $500 (double-hung window, installed and trimmed)
Low to medium
This is often the “too good to be true” price range.
First, really low-end window prices like $189 are a bait-and-switch tactic. The company lures you in by advertising a cheap price. But when the appointment comes, they attempt to wear you down and sell you their “upgraded” (i.e., more expensive) windows.
Second, even windows in the upper part of this price range won’t provide the performance and durability you need. Selling premium vinyl windows for $400 or $500 installed just isn’t possible for a company that wants to stay in business for long. To achieve such a low price point, the company has to sacrifice the quality of the components that make up their windows.
High-grade virgin vinyl
$550 to $1,400 (double-hung window, installed and trimmed)
Premium vinyl windows hit a 9 or 10 (out of 10) in all key categories—durability, efficiency, color retention, and so on. You can’t go wrong installing this class of window on your home.
You can, though, pay too much for them. There is zero reason to pay anything over $800 for a high-grade vinyl window. At that price point, you’re not getting extra quality… you’re simply padding the window company’s profits.
Would you pay $10K for the latest iPhone? Or $15K for a first-class plane ticket from Richmond to Miami?
No way. Even though they’re the best your money can buy, those items have a “cap” of how much they should cost before they become overpriced.
It’s the same with high-grade vinyl windows. Anything more than $800 is just way too much… even if it is the best quality!
Wood, fiberglass, and vinyl-wood composite
$1,000 to $2,000 (double-hung window, installed and trimmed)
Medium to high
Wood windows look amazing and can last a long time… with consistent maintenance. Wood is the window material that requires the most upkeep by far. It’s also usually the most expensive window material.
Fiberglass windows also look great and have the capability to last decades. But like wood, fiberglass also requires regular maintenance since it’s painted.
Certain composite windows combine a wood frame with vinyl exterior cladding. This eliminates the heavy maintenance of all-wood windows while providing the unique look of wood (recent interior woodgrain innovations by high-quality vinyl brands also deliver this benefit). Vinyl-wood composite windows are typically pricey, though: Expect to pay $1,00 to $1,400 per window. They also tend to have weaker warranties than other window materials.
Unlike vinyl window frames (which are fusion-welded), the frames for all three of these materials are held together at the corners with screws or brackets. This weakens air-infiltration resistance, as gaps can form in the corners over time.
If you want premium vinyl windows, the most you should pay is $550 to $700 per window (installed and trimmed). Anything less, and you won’t get the best quality. Anything more, and you’re getting ripped off.
The only time you should pay more is if you want wood, fiberglass, or composite windows. In this instance, expect to pay $1,000 to $2,000 per window.
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