By Melanie Hicken
1) USED CARS If you’re going to buy a car this year, consider heading to a used car lot.
Used car prices are expected to fall by several hundred dollars this year from 2012’s average sales price of $16,000, said Richard Arca, a senior analyst at Edmunds.com.
Part of that decline will be due to a spike in lease terminations, which is expected to add extra inventory to the used car market and push prices lower, Arca said. Edmunds.com projects that there will be an additional 500,000 leases expiring this year.
2) GAS Despite rising prices at the pump early in the year, gas prices overall are expected to be lower in 2013.
Gas prices are projected to average $3.43 per gallon this year, down from $3.63 in 2012, according to a December forecast from the Department of Energy.
Helping to keep prices lower: More fuel-efficient vehicles on the road and an increase in domestic oil production, said Robert Darbelnet, chief executive officer of AAA, which tracks gas prices throughout the year.
Extreme weather and tensions in the Middle East, though, are always a wild card and could lead to higher prices as they did in 2012, he added.
3) ULTRABOOKS Last year, Intel predicted that laptops carrying its “ultrabook” branding would dominate the industry. So far, that prediction hasn’t materialized. But Intel officials claim that is all going to change, aided by what they say will be a big price drop in 2013.
Known for their slim and light exteriors and high-speed processors, Ultrabooks currently sell for more than $1,000. But at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month, Intel predicted that entry-level ultrabooks will retail for $599 by end of this year.
And buyers may get more for that lower price. Intel says it plans to add a touchscreen requirement for computers carrying the ultrabook name.
4) VACATION PACKAGES The key to traveling for less this year will be booking a package deal.
While airfares are expected to rise, cost-conscious travelers can save hundreds of dollars if they book their airfare and hotel together — a feature offered on most travel booking sites, said Sarah Gavin, an Expedia.com spokeswoman. For popular resort locations, like Hawaii and Mexico, savings can reach up to $1,000 for a week-long vacation.
By lumping the purchases together, hotels and airlines are able to fill vacant rooms or flights at a deeper discount, she said.
Take a 7-night trip to Cancun in April. Purchased alone, two round-trip flights from New York and a week at a four-star all-inclusive resort would run $3,643. Purchasing the trip as a package shaves off $1,440.
5) SOLAR ENERGY PANELS From heating a swimming pool to warming the entire house, solar panels have become an increasingly popular alternative energy source.
Once prohibitively expensive, the cost to purchase and install solar panels has come down dramatically and prices are expected to continue to decline by as much as 10% this year, said Mike Bernier, a senior manager with Ernst & Young’s national tax practice.
For example, a five-kilowatt residential solar system that can heat an average-sized house is projected to cost between $25,000 and $30,000 this year, compared to $35,000 and $42,000 last year.
The payoff can be big (over time): tax credits can help pay for as much as 30% of the cost, while annual energy bill savings can total in the thousands.
6) FLATSCREEN TVS When it comes to LCD TVs, the bigger the TV, the bigger the price drop.
The price of 50-plus-inch models could drop by nearly 11%, said Paul Gagnon, director of North America TV Research at industry research firm NPD DisplaySearch.
The price cuts come after years of even deeper discounts. For example, on Black Friday, Walmart offered a 32 inch LCD TV for only $148, while higher-end 55-inch models retailed for $800.
Plasma TVs between 40 and 49 inches, meanwhile, could also be marked down by as much as 11%, while larger models may see slight price bumps.
www.StLouisHomesByGina.com The Gina Koerner Team