This time of year you'll see plenty of deep discount signs in stores. You might think just about everything is on sale for the holidays. But Consumer Reports product research experts, who track prices all year long, have uncovered the items that are truly on deep discount in December.
So if your holiday gift list includes small or large appliances (from blenders and juicers to ranges and refrigerators), electronics (including camcorders, fitness trackers, and cell phones), bikes and other toys (including tablets for kids, plus cat and dog toys), we've got the shopping tips that will help you find the right models. If you're a subscriber, you can check our Ratings to find out which models did best in our lab tests.
1. Sales on Appliances
Both large and small appliances will be on sale this month. Many stores will slash prices on last year's inventory to make way for new models. Plus some appliances go on sale around most holidays; check out our list of 10 top-rated small appliances for $50 or less. Some shopping tips:
Become an expert. No matter what appliances you're in the market for, our buying guides will steer you to the right model for your needs and tell you what to look for in stores, whether you're looking for blenders, coffeemakers, dishwashers, food processors, juicers, ranges, microwaves, mixers, refrigerators, toasters, washing machines and dryers, and more.
Postpone your purchase. If you're not in a rush, prices should drop even more after December 25, though inventories are likely to be thin.
2. Steals on Wheels
The weather this time of year can make it tough to jump on your bike and go for a spin. Stir-crazy cyclists who find it's time to update or replace an old bike will find great deals in stores in December. Some shopping tips:
Zero in on the right type of bike. Start by reading our bike buying guide. And don't forget important accessories when you shop. Cycling shoes with cleats can increase your efficiency while pedaling, for example.
Find the right helmet. It can provide lifesaving head protection in an accident. For more on that important piece of equipment, see our bike helmet buying guide and Ratings.
3. Camcorder Deals
Want some great video of your holiday celebrations? Although many of us take videos with our phones, in most cases you'll get better quality (due to better lenses) if you spring for a camcorder. Some shopping tips:
Check the type, size, weight, controls, and features. Decide on the type of HD camcorder you want to buy. If you want better quality and more options, consider a full-size model. If you need a smaller, more portable model or if you're an athlete or adventurer who loves to capture footage of yourself, then consider an action cam.
In the store, try different camcorders to make sure they fit your hand and are comfortable to use. Most camcorders are designed so that the most frequently used controls—the switch to zoom in and out, the record button, and the button for still photos—are readily at hand.
Drill down to the right model. Check out our camcorder buying guide. If you're a subscriber you can access our Ratings of camcorders to see which ones were tops in our lab tests, including each model's picture quality, audio quality, and battery life.
4. Price Cuts on Grills
It's the end of the grilling season in most areas of the country, so you can find deep discounts. Shopping online will likely be your best bet; you'll find more selection, and many free shipping offers. Some shopping tips:
Examine the burners. Burners are the most-replaced part. So look for high-quality stainless steel, cast iron, or cast brass burners, and a 10-year or longer warranty. Those with a long warranty should last longer than the plain steel burners in most grills.
See what the grates are made of. Stainless steel and coated cast-iron grates are best; such grates are sturdy and resist rust. Wide, closely spaced bars sear better than thin round rods.
For more shopping tips, read our grill buying guide. And, if you're a subscriber, you'll find the top performing grills in our Ratings.
5. Reductions on GPS Devices
GPS prices have come down to the point where even budget units include features previously available only on more expensive models, such as the ability to speak street names, issue speed warnings, and provide reality view, graphically representing major intersections. Some shopping tips:
Where will you use it? If you often fly to new places and rent vehicles, or if you own more than one car, a portable GPS system might be the way to go, especially with prices for entry-level systems starting at less than $100. To help you decide, check our GPS buying guide and Ratings.
Check the local laws. States have been known to place restrictions on windshield mounts. Most manufacturers include a plastic disk that sticks to the dashboard to provide an alternative mounting location.
6. Discounts on Small Electronics
December is a good time to buy many small consumer electronics. As with many items you buy, deciding which ones are right depends on which type fit your needs and come with features that are important to you. Our buying guides can help; for example, we have one for Blu-ray players, E-book readers, and headphones, and a list of other electronics guides. Some shopping tips:
Give them a try. Make sure you'll be comfortable using the product. Look for displays that are easy to read and controls that are easy to use. For example, check out E-book readers' screen size. Measured diagonally, screens range from about 5 to 10 inches. A 6-inch screen offers a good combination of adequate size and moderate price for most people. It will be small and light enough to slip into a handbag or briefcase.
Consider online retailers, too. In recent years, the Consumer Reports readers we've surveyed who shopped online were more satisfied overall than those who shopped at a walk-in store. In fact, websites as a whole outdid walk-in stores for quality, selection, and price.
7. Lower Prices on Toys
Early holiday shoppers will find great sales on toys this month, although you may not find discounts on the hottest playthings. The right toy can make key developmental stages more fun—for your child and for you. Our toy buying guide can help you to find age-appropriate toys for your baby—and to learn what you can do to play up their important lessons.
Don't forget your pets. Our shopping and safety advice in our cat and dog toys guide will make the holiday more enjoyable for them, too. Some shopping tips:
Consider the classics. Don't overlook toys such as stackable plastic "doughnuts," shape sorters, building blocks, and interlocking plastic oversized beads for very young children. There's a reason that they've been around so long. For more clues about what toys your child might like, take note of what toys he or she gravitates to on play dates and/or at day care.
Tablets are likely on the list for older kids. Since the advent of the game-changing Apple iPad early in 2010, tablet computers have been one of the hottest electronics products on the market. Much as adults love them, though, children may just love them even more, as tablet-owning parents can verify.
So how do you choose the best tablet for your child? Here's our roundup of the best kids' tablets for the holidays. If you're a subscriber, see our Ratings of kids’ tablets.
8. TV Costs Drop
It's possible to find good TVs selling for a few hundred dollars, while others go for several thousand, and there are many sets that fall in between those extremes. Screen size, features, brand, and more affect the price. Our TV buying guide will help you get the most bang for your buck, no matter how much you want to spend. Subscribers should consult our TV Ratings before hitting the stores to make sure you get a set that performed well in our lab tests. The video below shows you how we test TVs in our labs. Some shopping tips:
It's hard to judge TVs well in stores. That's because TVs are usually set to a Retail or Store mode, which pumps up brightness and color to a level that looks great under fluorescent lights. And despite many improvements, most LCDs still have limited viewing angles. That means the picture looks best only from a fairly narrow sweet spot right in front of the screen. We recommend checking the viewing angle by watching a TV from off to the side, and from above and below the main part of the image.
And whatever you experience in the store, it's important to also check the viewing angle after you've set it up in your home. We suggest you do it immediately so you can easily return the set if it proves disappointing.
Shop where you'll get a price guarantee. Many retailers will match or beat a lower price from a local competitor, so go to the store with those prices in hand. Even after the sale, some stores promise a refund within a specified period of time, often 30 to 60 days, if they reduce the price of your TV within it or if you find the set selling elsewhere for less. There are usually restrictions, so check the details. Save your receipt and keep checking the ads even after you buy.
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