washerConsumers can often find great deals on big-ticket items, including washing machines, during the holiday season.US (11/23/2012) - The loved but dreaded "Black Friday" is here and formally begins the Christmas season.  This also marks a popular time of the year for consumers to purchase big-ticket items such as televisions and home appliances. Year-end sales and holiday discounts have made November and December a buyer's market.

But just because a consumer can find great deals during the holiday season does not mean he or she should jump at the first deal that comes his or her way. In fact, consumers should consider a host of factors before buying a big-ticket item during the holiday season.

* Rebates: Rebates can turn a good deal into a great deal, and many electronics manufacturers offer rebates even if the merchants are unaware. Inexpensive items are not often associated with rebates, but costly items like televisions, computers and cameras may be eligible for manufacturer rebates. If you find an item on sale but the merchant knows nothing about potential rebates, contact the manufacturer prior to purchase. You might save money by purchasing a slightly more expensive item that offers a rebate instead of a heavily discounted item that does not come with a rebate.

* Returns: Merchants compete for business during the holiday season, and such competition benefits the consumer. Before purchasing a big-ticket item, talk to a merchant about the company's return policy. Some merchants will offer a full refund if an item is returned within a certain time period, while others may only offer a partial refund. But some merchants might be willing to work with you if you purchase an item only to find it is being sold for less money by another retailer. Some will match the lower price and refund you the difference.

* Warranties: When purchasing a big-ticket item, a store representative will likely try to sell you an extended warranty for the item. On the surface, such a precaution seems like a worthy investment because, in theory, it's offering added protection for an item that's costing you a lot of money. However, most electronics and appliances already come with a standard manufacturer warranty, and the extended warranty, which can cost several hundred dollars, might just be duplicating coverage you already have. 

If you're leaning toward purchasing an extended warranty, know exactly what it does and does not cover before buying it. Many of today's appliances are built to last years, and the extended warranty might not cover problems that result from normal wear and tear. Research the product, including consumer reviews, so you know what problems to expect from it. If the problems are minor, then the extended warranty is probably not worth the investment.

* Price: The price of an item is the determining factor for many buyers. If the price is right, consumers will buy an item. If not, they're likely to move on. But even if the in-store price for a big-ticket item seems like a great deal, it's still in a consumer's best interest to shop around. Many retailers offer better deals online than they do inside their brick-and-mortar stores, and you might even be able to pick the item up just as you would if you bought it in-store. In-store pickup can save you the cost of shipping, which can amount to considerable savings. Don't be too quick to purchase a big-ticket item no matter how deep the discount.  Be patient and comparison shop. Doing so might save you hundreds of dollars.

* Reputation: A good deal is only a good deal if you're getting an item that's worth buying. Do your homework before buying a big-ticket item, researching its pros and cons. Consumer reviews can be an especially valuable resource, as consumers like you have no incentive to embellish or mislead others about a product. The product's reputation among industry professionals and fellow consumers should bear considerable weight in your decision-making process. A heavily discounted piece of junk is still a piece of junk.
The holiday season is a great time to find bargains on big-ticket items. Educated consumers can come away with a great deal and a great product. 

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