When to Buy Big Ticket Items
- When to Buy Big Ticket Items
The answer is simple: when they're cheapest. And that to a great extent depends on what season you choose to buy them in.
- Fall: Big Appliances
Just like the fall clothing influx, new models of major appliances such as ranges and washing machines hit showroom floors in September and October, says Diane Ritchey, editor of Home Appliance magazine. At about the same time, last year's models go on sale to make room.
"Critical timing and seeing the patterns of the retail world can make a huge difference in appliance shopping," says Ritchey.
- Fall: Recreational Vehicles
The market for recreational vehicles works somewhat like that of autos. "The model years change over like cars, so there is some special availability of the previous year's product during the fall," says Phil Ingrassia, vice president of communications for the Recreation Vehicle Dealers of America. Throughout the winter there may be some show specials that dealers offer or other incentives to entice people to buy.
- Fall: Toys
Retailers open up the toy chest in October and November to kick-start their money-making season, says Reyne Rice, toy trend specialist of the Toy Industry Association. "This is the time of year for games and puzzles," she says. "Retailers will usually do a buy one, get one free promotion."
If you're buying a gift for someone, the important thing to consider is whether it's appropriate for the recipient, rather than its status as the hottest new item. "It's more important to buy something that they'll love," Rice says.
- Fall: Tires and Auto Supplies
"The first is in April, which is National Car Care Month. Then in fall, we have Fall Car Care Month," says Lauren Fix, host of DIY Network's "Talk2DIY Automotive. During April and October you can find promotions such as buy three tires, get one free. Or maybe they'll offer free roadside hazard warnings. Also, depending on the time of year, you can find things such as free oil changes at certain service places or a free checkup of liquids and vital systems at no charge in order to make you safer on the road," says Fix. The Car Care Council established both months to increase awareness of car maintenance in preparation for summer and winter. "The Car Care Council 9 out of 10 vehicles that are on the road today have something wrong with them."
- Fall: Cars and Trucks
New model years begin appearing at dealerships in the fall, making September an ideal time to snatch up the previous year's model at a discount. By the end of the year, inventory dwindles, so acting earlier assures a determined buyer of the best selection. Tip: "Monitor the number of days that a truck or car sits on a lot. Anytime a car or truck isn't selling well you can get a good deal," says Phillip Reed, senior consumer advice editor for Edmunds.com and co-author of "Strategies for Smart Car Buyers." Tip: Shop on a weekday to get the undivided attention of the sales staff, and go at the end of the month when they're trying to make quotas. Reed also recommends using the Internet to broker the deal. You'll save $$ & skip the negotiations.
- Winter: Air Conditioners
Common sense prevails in the air conditioning market, according to Diane Ritchey, editor of Home Appliance magazine. "Think about when they're most in use -- May through September. People feel the heat and they start to buy. The stock gets depleted, the demand is higher and so is the price. When cool weather comes around, most people just aren't into air conditioner purchasing, so the demand drops, as does the price," she says.
- Winter: Bikes and Outdoor Gear
"If you want the newest stuff, the time to look is in February and March when the season's models come out. The stores start replacing fall and winter stuff with spring and summer models, and that's true for most all outdoor gear from shoes to bikes, hiking gear, everything," says Dennis Lewon, senior editor for Outside magazine.
Some companies will send out special holiday items that will land in the discount section after the season. "In general, most of the new products come to stores in February," says Lewon. "January is good for looking for the old models in the classic post-holiday shopping period."
- Winter: Boats
According to Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the winter boat show season is the time to get a good price on a new boat.
"The primary winter boat show season is January, February and March. Going to a boat show is the easiest way to see the latest model of boats for many manufacturers, and compare features," he says. "Also, dealers typically offer their best pricing during boat shows."
- Winter: Carpet and Flooring
"Generally, the slowest time of the year is around Thanksgiving or Christmas and New Year. People generally have guests and are thinking about other things. With business being slow and retailers being motivated to move merchandise, that would be the best time," says Chris Davis, president and chief executive officer of the World Floor Covering Association. "People tend to do their home renovation in the spring. If you're in a place with seasons, the time to buy would be when you'd least expect it." But discounts are a possibility any time of year as most of the retailers selling carpets and flooring are small, independent stores. "The one thing about flooring is that it's always on sale somewhere, so it pays to shop," he says.
- Spring: Vacuum cleaners
Most new vacuum models come out in June, says Diane Ritchey, editor of Home Appliance magazine. The prices on the older models start winding down as winter comes to an end, just in time for spring cleaning.
- Spring: Cellphones
New cell phones hit the market all the time. "If you are a new customer or someone who has switched from an existing contract, obviously you'll get the best deals. It's kind of frustrating for the existing customer," says David Carnoy, executive editor for CNET.com. Waiting six months for the gleam of newness to wear off can also net some deals on new phones.
Search the Web for deals as well, Carnoy says. "You can find codes for each carrier. There's a lot of stuff that you just don't know about. Sometimes you'll be able to find a certain code that you'll be able to give either on the phone or in the store that will entitle you to something you wouldn't have known about."
- Spring: Cookware
"There are two big seasons for cookware and cookware promotions," says Hugh Rushing, executive vice president of the Cookware Manufacturers Association. "One is in the spring, in April and May, coinciding with the graduation and wedding season. The other is in October and November with promotions in regard to the holidays."
- Spring: Flowers
"Even though flowers are available year-round, they are at their best quality and most beautiful when they are grown in their season, no matter where they're from," says Carol J. Caggiano, former board member of the Society of American Florists. "I'm always afraid to mislead the consumer and say this is the time to buy this flower and it will always be less expensive." To save money, don't get hung up on a particular variety and look for flowers that are in profusion in the store.
- Summer: Barbecues
Diane Ritchey, editor of Home Appliance magazine, says when it comes to gas barbecue grills, timing for the best deal is the same as shopping for air conditioners. "Most people buy in May, June and July for backyard barbecues. But wait until winter comes to buy, when demand is low."
- Summer: Real Estate
Buying and selling season starts in March and goes through the summer. Spring invigorates the real estate market. "In the spring market, homes look the best, grasses are green, flowers and trees are in bloom. There's a whole new energy out there after the beginning of the year," says Tom Stevens, former president of the National Association of Realtors. Because spring is historically the time of the year when inventories are highest, competition is at its peak, as well. A contrarian shopper may find negotiating more to their liking in the fall and winter.
- Summer: Computers
The back-to-school shopping season typically ushers in a few sales on computers. "Retailers generally give some discounts during that time, about $100 off, and then you do see some of the phaseouts on some of the older models," says David Carnoy, executive editor for CNET.com.
But the most money can be saved by simply waiting. Computer technology moves so fast that the cutting edge models today become somewhat middle-of-the-road after a year. "The problem with computers is that the longer you wait, the more you're going to get for your money," he says. "You do want to be attuned to what actually is coming out and whether something is toward the end of its life cycle."
- Summer: Jewelry
For jewelry, it's more a matter of when not to buy if you're focused on getting the best deal possible. "You're going to pay closer to full price around the holidays because most jewelers generate one-third of their annual revenues and almost 100 percent of their annual profits in those two months," says Ken Gassman, founder and president of the Jewelry Industry Research Institute. "You're going to get great value the other eight months of the year." In general, avoid the fourth quarter -- that's when most of jeweler's yearly profits are made.
- Summer: Furniture
New furniture hits the showrooms after the holidays, in February, and again in August. Jackie Hirschhaut, vice president of public relations and marketing for American Home Furnishings Alliance, says there are two times of the year for guaranteed low prices. "After the holidays in January, stores have clearance sales to make room for new inventory coming in February," she says. "And in July, the same thing happens with fall inventory. For instance, it may be the same wooden frame for sofas with different upholstery in new colors for fall."
- Summer: Airline ticket
"If you can get a good deal for Thanksgiving and Christmas at any time -- buy it. That is their peak period and airlines have a limited inventory," says Neil Bainton, chief operating officer of Farecompare.com. In general, Bainton recommends that travelers never buy tickets more than 90 days away from their departure dates. "You want to watch the 21-day mark because some carriers will file their lowest fares as a 21-day advance purchase. And then the next window is at 14 days, which you really don't want to go by unless you're feeling lucky," says Bainton. "Most of the lowest fares are filed Tues, Weds and Saturdays. It depends on the carrier and the market."