Many consumers, when looking for a hardwood flooring look find laminate flooring an attractive option. Generally less expensive, relatively durable and easy to install, laminate flooring is a great choice for many applications.
The basic difference between a laminate floor and a hardwood floor is that a laminate floor will be constructed press-board, a picture of a flooring surface and a wear layer. The "wood" look that you see in a laminate floor is actually a high resolution picture of hardwood. Hardwood flooring will either be a solid piece of real wood, or it will be a section of high quality hardwood (like cherry) glued to a plywood core. In either case, with hardwood flooring, what you are walking on is an actual piece of hardwood, whereas with laminate, what you are walking on (underneath a wear-layer) is a picture of hardwood.
With that said, there are some definite differences to be considered …
First and foremost, re-sale value of your home. When trying to sell a home in today's competitive market, being able to say "Hardwood Floors" in your listing is a big draw. Many home buyers today, in a buyer's market, expect that the home's that they are looking at will have "real" hardwood flooring.
In key selling areas, like the kitchen, home buyers like to see high-end materials. Real granite counter tops, high quality wood cabinets and hardwood or tile on the floors.
Another difference between hardwood and laminate is the feel underfoot. When you walk on a laminate floor there is often a sort of spongy feel, and a dull sound. While you may or may not care about the underfoot feeling of your flooring, this is something to be considered. Many consumers do not enjoy the feel of laminate flooring.
One more consideration is the ability to refinish. While today's pre-finished wear layers are generally very durable, nearly all hardwood choices (including engineered hardwood) can be refinished is necessary. Laminate flooring can not be refinished. If a section if damaged, it must be pulled out and a new section installed. If the entire floor is in need of a new finish, you will be in need of a new floor.