This is one of my favorite questions. I have been in the wood flooring business for over 30 years. I have worked in the flooring depts of both Home Depot and Lowe's
When I first started with Home Depot I was concerned if I could sell laminate floors in good conscience. I came to realize that laminate floors are really nothing more than hard wall to wall carpeting and since I had no problem selling carpeting I had no problem selling laminates as long as the customer understood what he was buying.
These stores usually have the laminates on one side and real wood flooring on the other side of the same isle. I often encountered customers with your same question, "Which?"
My first response after listening to the customers concerns was I would point to the laminates and say,"Artificial Christmas trees!" and then point to the real wood and say, "Real Christmas trees!" I would then tell the customer that artificial Christmas trees have been available for over 50 years and people still go out every year and buy a "Real Tree". Then I ask, "Why is that?"
I would then point out that laminates are sold as a new technology. I say," Who are they kidding? K-Mart has been making furniture like that for years and people who wouldn't think of putting a piece of K-Mart furniture in their house are putting this on their floors"
I then talk about warranties. I have seen 15 year to 30 year warranties on laminates which is pretty good but.. And then I point to the real wood flooring and say," There are wood floors in Europe that are over 500 years old that are made just like that and they still haven't exceeded their "Warranty" Actually they didn't need a warranty. They were a tried and tested system.
By this time the customer is really thinking and realizes I have a great sense of humor.
I then start talking about structural strength. When you install real 3/4"inch Oak flooring you have solid tongue and groove oak spanning your joists as well as the subfloor and it's nailed or stapled in place. You have not only just improved the structual soundness of your house but you have dramatically added to the value of your house.
Laminates on the other hand add no structual strength and little value to your home. If you really want an objective opionion I suggest not asking a salesman who is selling you product but ask a Realtor which will add to the value of your house. They have nothing to gain by misleading you. Real wood floors will blow laminates away.
Many people don't realize it but laminates are a picture of wood. There are about 8 different patterns so you will be repeating the pattern. Real wood flooring is like fingerprints. No two boards are identical.
Real wood floors are and investment. Let's say 20 years from now the floors neew to be spruced up. Real wood floors can be sanded and refinished about 10 times. This is one of the reasons they increase the value of your hosue so much. Laminates on the other hand simply have to be replaced. Try and imagine what laminate flooring is gonna costs 20 years from now.
Often after I get to this point the price comes up. Surprisingly the costs difference between Prefinished real wood flooring and most laminates is 20 to 30 cents. I have had many people have come in totally convinced they want a laminate floor and end up buying a real wood floor after talking to me. I have quite a few come back and thank me for talking them out of laminate flooring.
Of course there are a few who still are set on buying laminates and my response is, "How much do you need?"