If you haven't already found a great deal on electronics for the holidays, Consumer Reports has revealed 10 HUGE money-savers when you buy the gadgets.
* ONLINE IS BETTER. Consumer Reports says its highest-rated retailers for electronics are web sites, including amazon.com and costco.com. Better service, better selection, better prices. The top 5 rated electronics retailers according to Consumer Reports are at the bottom of this story.
* BEWARE ADD-ONS. "Premium" video cables. "Ultra High Speed" memory cards. Don't fall for the hype. They just add to the price.
* NO EXTENDED WARRANTIES. Consumer Reports says today's electronics are more reliable than ever. The magazine has tracked repair histories of some of the top electronics, and it says the cost of an extended warranty is way too much compared to the repair rates.
* BUY EARLY IN THE SEASON. The lowest prices of the season on flat-screen TV's and other big-ticket electronics are still generally offered on Black Friday or the days immediately after Thanksgiving. CR suggests if you do buy an item, and the price drops later in the season, ask the retailer if it offers a price guarantee on that item. You may be due a refund of the savings!
* SHOP REFURBISHED/"OPEN BOX". Sometimes, refurbished items can save you 30 percent off the retail price. The Better Business Bureau says those items should be clearly marked or advertised as "refurbished" if they have had only minor repairs. If they have been completely overhauled, they should be advertised as "rebuilt."
* HAGGLE FOR A LOWER PRICE. A recent CR survey found a third of shoppers haggled for lower prices on electronics, and most of them scored at least once. The savings were $50 or more!
* LOOK FOR RETAILERS' NICHES. Each retailer may have its own bonus for buying electronics at their stores. Lowest price? Best selection? Example: wholesale stores like Costco will almost always have the best price, but don't expect premium service and assistance.
* HIGH SPECS DO NOT ALWAYS EQUAL HIGH QUALITY. High resolution on a high-definition mini-cam isn't everything, according to CR. How's the color? Contrast? Reliability?
* PERFORMANCE "RUNS IN THE FAMILY". Buy items from brands that have great track records. CR recommends Panasonic, Sony, Vizio and Samsung for starters.
* TOP PERFORMANCE ISN'T ALWAYS NECESSARY. Don't choose by CR's rank alone. Look for products that excel in the attributes that matter most to you and shop accordingly.
CONSUMER REPORTS' TOP 5 ELECTRONICS RETAILERS:
* B&H (www.bhphotovideo.com)