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Custom or Store-Bought Windows? 5 Differences and Which Is Better For You

December 15th, 2022 | 13 min. read

Custom or Store-Bought Windows? 5 Differences and Which Is Better For You

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Have your windows become old and worn? Did a harsh hail storm blow through and damage them? Are you tired of the look of your windows and want to upgrade them? 

Finding the right type of replacement window can be difficult regardless of the reason for replacing your windows. You’re considering the window type, color, cost, and so much more.

One particular question you are searching for the answer to is, “Should I choose custom windows or go with store-bought windows?”

When looking at the surface level, you may not see many differences between custom and manufactured windows. A replacement window is a replacement window, right? Wrong. 

All windows are not created equal. Whether you compare vinyl to fiberglass windows, wood to composite, or custom to manufactured, they all have their differences in things like cost, performance, and warranty. 

Southwest Exteriors has been a custom window installer in San Antonio since 1989. All the windows we offer and install from Marvin, ProVia, Anlin, and more are completely custom to fit your wants and needs. 

Custom windows are a large investment, and we don’t deny that. Are they worth investing in for you? That is the question we will answer in this article. 

Here we will dive into the five key differences between custom and store-bought windows, like their cost, longevity and performance, design, and more. 

After reading, you’ll understand the major differences between these two types of windows and have a better idea of which window is best for you and your home. 



1. How much do custom and store-bought windows cost? 

When searching for the right replacement window for you, one of the first things you think of is how much they will cost. 

Cost is one of the biggest differentiators between custom and manufactured windows. So, how much do they cost? 


How much do custom windows cost? 

Custom windows can cost anywhere from $500-$3,000 as a starting cost for a standard 3 ft. x 5 ft. window. This large range is because there are many customizing factors that affect the price when designing your windows. 

With custom windows, you also have to factor in the cost of manufacturing and installation. No matter the window replacement contractor you work with, there are many service costs from both the manufacturer and the installer that add to your total window replacement cost. 

Custom windows can be costly. The most important thing to remember is that each customization and upgrade you make to your windows will add to the cost. 


How much do store-bought windows cost? 

Store-bought or manufactured windows can cost anywhere from $200-$700 as a starting cost for a standard 3 ft. x 5 ft. window. This price range is estimated based on manufactured window costs from Home Depot, where they sell ready-to-buy windows from brands like Andersen and American Craftsman

Some window manufacturers allow you to purchase windows straight from their website as well, though these types of manufactured windows allow you to customize some parts of the window. 

The cost of store-bought windows does not include the cost of installing them. So, if you purchase your windows from a Big Box store, remember it will also cost to have them installed. 


How does the cost of custom and store-bought windows compare? 

At a baseline, custom windows are more expensive than store-bought windows. This is because custom windows must be specifically manufactured for you. Each customization and design element you add to your windows will increase the cost of making that window. 

Already manufactured windows are typically made in standard designs. They come in a set of common styles that make them easy and less expensive to make than custom windows. 

No matter if you choose a custom or store-bought window, it’s important to know what affects the cost. The size, material, and shape of the window are the biggest factors that will affect the window price. On top of that, any customizations or additions will add to the overall cost. 


2. How do custom and store-bought windows perform? 

After considering the cost of a replacement window, the next most important thing you must consider is how the window will perform. 

The performance of a window depends on what it’s made of and how it’s made. A poorly made window, whether custom or premanufactured, will perform poorly. A high-quality window will be more durable, energy-efficient, and hold up in your home. 

So, how do custom windows and store-bought windows perform? 


How do custom windows perform? 

Just like cost, custom window range in how well they perform. Custom-made windows can be made well, or they can be made poorly. 

Generally, high-quality custom windows are extremely durable, and most are made to withstand all types of climates. They are manufactured well, which makes them more expensive yet long-lasting. 

But, you can still get a cheap custom window that will not be very durable. If it is poorly made, it will not hold up in your home. 

Custom windows also have many more energy-efficient options, such as numerous glass coating types, frame spacers, and gas-filled window panes. A more energy-efficient window will protect your home from harmful UV rays and lower energy bills. 


How do store-bought windows perform? 

Store-bought windows also range in their performance. A premanufactured window can also be poorly made or well made, just like custom windows. 

The cheapest window you can find on the shelf will not be as durable or energy-efficient as the most expensive one. 

Some store-bought windows may range in energy-efficient properties, but you will not be able to customize your windows to fit your energy needs. You may find a window with certain Low-E coatings that are also gas-filled in the store, though. 

If you plan to buy your windows premade from the store, it’s important to do your research to find the right one that will perform as well as you need it to. 


How does the performance of custom and store-bought windows compare? 

Whether you plan to buy custom windows or premade windows, you must outline your wants, goals, and needs for your new windows. 

The performance of a window depends on how well it is made. Custom windows can be made poorly, and manufactured windows can be made well. 

Generally speaking, custom windows will be more high-quality, energy-efficient, and durable than store-bought windows. 

However, you must do your research into the window material and manufacturer before purchasing any window. This way, you will know what performance specs you are looking for in a replacement window and what you are and are not willing to compromise. 

Then, you can find the best window, custom or premade, that will meet your needs for durability, energy efficiency, and overall performance. 


3. How long do custom and store-bought windows last?

When making any big purchase, you want to know how long your product will last. Windows can be a lifelong purchase if you find the right one. 

The longevity of a window depends on how well it is made and installed. Even the highest quality windows will not last as long as they should if they were not installed properly. Poorly-made windows will not last as long as well-made windows. 

So, how long do custom and store-bought windows last?


How long do custom windows last?

Custom windows that are made well and installed properly can last as long as you live in your home. Most well-made windows custom windows will last roughly 30 years before they start showing major wear and tear and may need some attention. 

However, poorly-made custom windows will not last that long. If you choose the least expensive custom window with the least expensive contractor to install it, it may only last a few years. 

This is why choosing the right company to install your windows, custom or store-bought, is crucial to the success of your new windows. 


How long do store-bought windows last? 

Because pre-made windows are not generally made as durable as custom windows, they do not last as long. If installed correctly, they may last several years before needing a replacement. 

Like custom windows, though, if store-bought windows are not installed properly, they will fail you within a few years. 

While they are easy to buy for the daily DIY-er, you need a professional window installer to ensure the store-bought windows have the best chance at survival. 


How do custom and store-bought windows compare in longevity? 

Overall, custom windows last longer than store-bought windows. This is because they are made of a higher quality and are generally installed by professional window contractors. 

It is crucial to remember that no matter the quality of the window you purchase, it will not last or perform as it should if it is not installed correctly. 


4. What kind of design options do custom and store-bought windows have? 

Replacement windows aren’t just about cost, performance, and longevity. It’s a time to upgrade your style and get your inner designer on. 

When shopping for the right replacement window, you want a window that reflects who you are. But, finding the right replacement window depends on how important design and customization are to you. 

So, what kind of design options do custom and store-bought windows offer?


What kind of design options do custom windows offer? 

Custom windows are, well, custom. Depending on the window brand you choose, you can customize nearly everything on a replacement window. 

The frame style, grid and grille patterns, hardware style and finish, window shape…the list goes on of what you can customize on your new windows when you choose custom home windows. 

Some window manufacturers offer minimal custom options but still have options. Others have every part of the window customizable with numerous options for each window component. 

If you want to customize your home’s windows, choosing a custom window is your best option. 


What kind of design options do store-bought windows offer? 

When shopping for store-bought replacement windows, you don’t have many custom options. What you see on the shelf is what you get. 

Some in-store windows may have various options in color and style of window, but you can’t be too picky if you are looking for manufactured replacement windows. 

You can customize your store-bought windows yourself by painting the frame, customizing the hardware, or adding your own window tint. However, any modifications you make yourself can damage the window and void the warranty. 


How do custom and store-bought windows compare in designability? 

Custom windows naturally offer more design choices than manufactured store-bought windows. 

If you want to customize your windows to fit your style, you’ll want to find the right window replacement company that offers the windows you like that allow you to customize what you want. 

If you are looking for a standard window and don’t want anything fancy, store-bought windows may be the better option for you. They will be less expensive, but they won’t last as long. 


5. What kind of warranties do custom and store-bought windows have? 

The last key differentiator between custom and manufactured windows is their warranties. 

A warranty is what protects your windows from any potential damages in the future. High-quality windows tend to have high-quality warranties and vice versa. 

So, what kind of warranties do custom and store-bought windows have? 


What kind of warranty do custom windows have? 

The warranty of a window depends on the manufacturer. But, custom windows tend to have longer warranties with better coverage than store-bought windows. 

Many custom windows have limited lifetime warranties. This means the windows are valid under the warranty for as long as you live in or own your home. 

Window warranties usually protect against manufacturing defects in the window. Glass coverage is typically 10 years. 

Now, warranties can be lengthy and difficult to understand, and we don’t have enough time to get into all the details in this article. Check out this section of our Learning Center to dive more into warranties. 


What kind of warranty do store-bought windows have? 

Store-bought windows usually have shorter-length warranties than custom windows because they are not always made to be lifelong solutions. 

If you are shopping for store-bought replacement windows, expect to see a warranty of 10-15 years in length for frame coverage and less than five years for glass coverage. 


How do custom and store-bought window warranties compare?

Overall, store-bought windows will not have as long of a warranty as custom windows. Custom windows will typically have a higher-quality warranty that provides maximum coverage. Although, every window manufacturer’s warranty is different. 

One large difference between custom and manufactured window warranties is who services the warranties. 

  • When you have your custom windows installed by a professional window replacement contractor, your windows will usually be serviced through that contractor. 
  • When you buy your windows from the store, you’ll typically have to call a 1-800 number and struggle to get off of hold. You won’t know who comes out to service your windows and if they even know what they are doing. 

To find the best window warranty for your new windows, you need to consider how long you want your windows to last and what needs to be covered for the type of window. Then, whether custom or store-bought, you can find the best window warranty to fit your needs. 


Custom or Store-Bought Windows: Which is Better for You? 

Now that you know five of the biggest differences between custom and store-bought windows and what is unique about each of them, you have a better idea of which window is better for you. 

Custom windows are the better option for you if: 

  • You are a long-term homeowner
  • You’re ready to invest in a long-term solution for your home
  • You want a window that is going to hold up in your climate
  • You want to customize your windows to fit your style

Store-bought windows are better for you if: 

  • You’re a short-term homeowner or house flipper
  • You aren’t looking for something to last a lifetime 
  • You want a simple window and don’t need endless design options 
  • You don’t need a warranty to last a lifetime 

Ultimately, custom windows are better for you if you are a long-term homeowner. Store-bought windows are best for you if you need a cheaper window and don’t need it to last forever. 

When looking for the right replacement window for you, one of the first things you must consider is what the window is made of. 

What type of material is the window frame? How does it perform? Which is the best for me? 

Check out this video that outlines four things to consider to find the right window replacement material for you. Then, you can take the next steps towards finding the right window, custom or store-bought, for your home. 


Ready for new, custom replacement windows? 

Southwest Exteriors offers full custom windows from top-rated window manufacturers like Marvin, ProVia, and Anlin. 

First, you’ll design your perfect window with our expert design consultants who will provide you with the best suggestions and guide you to the right solution.

Then, our expert installation crews will replace your windows properly to provide you with a lifelong solution for your home. 

Ready to create your custom dream? Schedule your commitment-free, in-home consultation now to get the look you love coming home to!