The Top 10 Best Deals of the Fall

September 16, 2010
Terri Cullen

In the Fall, the weather turns cooler, the leaves turn color … and many popular consumer goods and services suddenly turn into bargains. Kiplinger.com offers up 10 of the best buys of the season, and we'll tell you how to take advantage of them.

There are certain times of the year when you’re almost guaranteed a good price on a product or service you need. (The best time to buy holiday decorations? Right after the holidays, of course.) In the Fall, the weather turns cooler, the leaves turn color … and many popular consumer goods and services suddenly turn into bargains. This week, Kiplinger.com offered up 10 of the best buys of the season, and we’ll tell you how to take advantage of them.

1. New Cars.

The best time of the year to shop for a new car is right now, just before the new models roll out. Kiplinger says the deal you’ll get will vary by car model and dealer, but you should be able to haggle your way down to the just above, or even at, the invoice price. Don’t be shy -- a recent study showed that it’s a buyer’s market. More than 44 percent of new car buyers are now negotiating their price against the dealer’s initial offer, according to CNW Research of Bandon, Oregon. If you buy with cash, rather than financing, you’re in an even stronger position. You can find dealer invoice prices on vehicles models at website such as Edmunds.com and InvoiceDealers.com. For more tips on how to negotiate to get the best price on a new car, click here.

2. Major Appliances.

Like auto dealers, appliance retailers need to clear out their 2010 inventories this time of year to make room for the new models. You’ll get the best deals on floor models (particularly ones in non-traditional colors) and so-called scratch-and-dent appliances. For example, Kiplinger says, a ding in a refrigerator door could shave hundreds off the price. Once again, don’t shy away from haggling. A recent Consumer Reports survey of its subscribers found that only 10 percent of people who bought small appliances and 33 percent those who bought major appliances tried to negotiate. But of those who did, some 75 percent succeeded, saving a median of $100 for major appliances and $50 for small appliances. Learn more about how to comparison shop for appliances here.

3. Holiday Airfare.

If you’re planning on traveling by air this holiday season, now is the time to book your flight. Early October is when you typically see the lowest prices on airfare for travel in late December, according to travel-search website Bing Travel. Over the last four years, most Christmas itineraries saw price declines in the first two weeks of October, according to the service. Christmas and New Year's holiday airfare to domestic destinations is expected to average $368 this year, up just 2 percent from the same time last year, according to Bing Travel. If you’re planning to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, the average ticket price is $397, down $34 from 2009, for the most popular itinerary -- leaving Wednesday, returning Sunday. If your plans are flexible, you may save even more: If you leave on Thanksgiving morning and return the following Saturday, rather than Sunday, you may save an average of $84 per ticket, Bing Travel says.

4. Fall Travel.

Everyone knows you pay peak-season pricing for vacationing during the holidays, but September through the weekend before Thanksgiving Day offer many “shoulder-season” travel bargains. (Shoulder season is that time between peak seasons -- the summer months and winter holidays.) Now is the time when you’ll find deals on cruises, resort trips, vacation rentals and international travel, Kiplinger says. As an added plus, the weather is usually pleasant this time of year, and you’ll see fewer crowds. Mid-October long-weekend deals from Washington, D.C., to the Gulf Coast with a room right on the beach in St. Petersburg can still be found for around $350 a person, according to ConsumerTraveler.com. Similar deals can be had for travel from Chicago to the Rocky Mountains, or to Reno and Lake Tahoe. On the West Coast, a long-weekend vacation from L.A. to Seattle or Alberqueque for $350 a person, according to ConsumerTraveler.

5. Health Insurance.

Fall is open-enrollment season for most health-insurance providers, and Kiplinger says workers who have had life-event changes (such as a marriage, divorce, or new child) could risk locking in their choices from last year if they don’t act swiftly to make changes to their benefits selections. This health-care cost calculator can help you make decisions when comparison-shopping plans. If you have updated your beneficiaries on your employer-sponsored life insurance and retirement-savings accounts recently, now is the perfect time to do that, as well.

6. Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.

November is also open-enrollment season for Medicare prescription-drug plans, which continues through December. Though you won’t see discounts by enrolling at this time of year, it's a window you shouldn't miss, Kiplinger says. This tool will let you search for prescription-drug plans and compare coverage options available in your area.

7. Landscaping Plants.

Most consumers overlook the deep discounts at fall plant sales. Prices are so low because nurseries need to lower greenhouse costs for the winter by clearing out inventory, Kiplinger says. Fall is also an excellent time for planting trees and shrubs, because the roots will have time to set in before the winter freeze and summer heat impedes growth. As an added plus, you’ll also save on your water bill by planting in the fall, rather than the summer. For a list of foolproof shrubs for your region of the country, click here.

8. Grills & Other Summer Products.

When the summer cools down, deals on grills heat up, according to Kiplinger. The same applies to other products associated with the summer months -- think patio furniture, pool accessories, and warm-weather clothing. Comparison-shopping websites such as Nextag.com, Bizrate.com and ShopLocal.com can help you find the hottest fall deals.

9. Candy.

The week after Halloween is when you’ll see prices on candy drop by as much as 50 percent to 75 percent, according to Kiplinger. (Though households with kids will probably have more than their fair share for free.) Early November is also prime-time to stock up on deeply discounted costumes and Halloween decorations for next year. Don’t wait — retailers quickly clear shelves of Halloween goods in preparation for the Thanksgiving and Christmas/Hanukkah holiday seasons.

10. Baking Ingredients.

This time of year, grocery stores typically offer discounts on baking ingredients just in time for your holiday baking, Kiplinger says. Among the products on sale are sugar, flour, chocolate and butter, canned pumpkin, evaporated milk and nuts. Save even more money by taking a few minutes before you leave for the store and search for and print out coupons for these products from websites such as Coupons.com and Coolsavings.com.