We visited the Home Depot store in New York City's Flatiron District and compared it to a nearby Lowe's.

Home Depot and Lowe's offer very similar home-improvement products and services, but one has a much more extensive selection.

  • Home Depot and Lowe's, the two top home-improvement stores in the United States, offer similar product workshops and installation services.
  • Though the stores sell almost all of the same products, Home Depot's setup appears to be geared more towards professionals — contractors, interior designers, and the like — than Lowe's is.
  • After visiting both stores, it was clear that Home Depot had more to offer than Lowe's.

Home Depot and Lowe's have been the top two home-improvement stores for decades.

The two stores stock all things home improvement — everything from kitchen and bath fixtures to lighting, paint, gardening supplies, and tools. Both stores offer same-day delivery, installation services, do-it-yourself workshops, and store credit cards. They even have similar return policies and will accept returns on anything with or without a receipt for cash or store credit, respectively.

Lowe's has been in business 30 years longer than Home Depot. There are 2,269 Home Depot stores compared to 1,840 Lowe's stores.

Lowe's stores are typically bigger than Home Depot stores, with the average Lowe's having 112,000 square feet of enclosed space compared to 104,000 square feet at the average Home Depot. However, when we visited New York outposts of both stores, we found the Home Depot was significantly larger than the Lowe's — by an entire floor.

The stores' target market is one of the most notable differences between the two. Home Depot traditionally appeals more to professionals — whether they're contractors, interior designers, or plumbers, for example — while Lowe's typically welcomes a more do-it-yourself crowd. When visiting the stores, we noticed Home Depot felt like a massive warehouse, whereas Lowe's was more like a traditional retailer with floor displays and bright, clear labels.

Here are some of the biggest differences we spotted when visiting a Home Depot store and a Lowe's store in New York City:

My first stop was a Home Depot store in the Flatiron District.

The store felt like a warehouse when I walked in, with high ceilings, industrial lighting, and a lot of open space. On the left were small household items like dish soap and cleaning supplies. To the right was the start of the flooring department.

Home Depot's selection was astounding. The store had all types of flooring in a huge variety of styles and patterns, and there were a few employees in each department to help.

The main floor had seemingly endless aisles of appliances and fixtures …

… lighting …

… and even a small clearance section.

The second floor held the model kitchens and bathrooms.

There were also design consultation centers on this floor, where customers can get assistance in designing their homes.

The basement level of the store held the gardening department, which sells plants, seeds, flowers, and gardening tools. It also carries soil and fertilizer.

This floor also held a continuation of the cleaning supply aisle on the main floor …

… craft supplies …

… and tons of paint and paint chips.

Most things in the store were not labeled. There was a store directory and plenty of experts around to help, but the store was clearly aimed more towards industry professionals. If you don't know the exact nail or bolt you're looking for, it could be challenging to find it on your own.

That being said, there were plenty of services for those who are not professionals, such as workshops where customers can learn how to do things like stain a patio.

There were price scanners available throughout the store to check how much items cost before getting to the register. The prices between Home Depot and Lowe's were comparable on most items.

There were also detailed signs that listed the special financing plans for shoppers using a store credit card.

Home Depot has a price-match initiative. Signs around the store explained that if shoppers find a product for cheaper elsewhere, Home Depot will beat that price by 10%.

This store offers same-day delivery anywhere in Manhattan, starting at $21. Other Home Depot locations offer same-day delivery as well, with prices varying based on the order size.

The customer service was near the checkout and self-checkout aisles, which seemed to be moving pretty quickly. The return policy is generous, allowing returns on most items for a full refund if you bring a receipt. Without a receipt, you will be refunded with store credit instead of cash. Home Depot also allows returns to be made online and offers in-store pickup for online orders.

The store felt like it was geared towards professionals, but it seemed to have everything you would need for a home-improvement project, and all of the employees were extremely helpful. Design consultations, price-matching, and a lenient return policy add to the appeal.

Next I went to Lowe's, which was just around the corner from Home Depot.

The garden department was the first thing I saw when walking in, and it was significantly smaller than the one at Home Depot.

Something I noticed immediately was that Lowe's seemed more geared towards average customers, not necessarily professionals. There was much more assistance for DIY projects, and everything was very clearly labeled.

In general, however, the store was underwhelming compared to Home Depot.

There seemed to be less of everything at Lowe's, in every department from lighting …

… to tools …

… and paints.

On the second level, there were model kitchens and bathrooms …

… lighting fixtures …

… and flooring. The store was less industrial-feeling than Home Depot, and its products were certainly labeled better.

Like at Home Depot, there was a design consultation center.

Lowe's also had a similar store card financing plan to Home Depot …

… and matched the same-day delivery price. The return policies were the same at the two stores, and Lowe's also offered a 10% price-match guarantee.

Lowe's also offers workshops and in-store pickup for online orders. Even though many of the benefits at the two stores were the same — such as same-day delivery and special financing offers — Home Depot had a much better selection of products than Lowe's.