If you recently received your tax refund—or anticipate receiving it soon—this might be a good time to look at some big-ticket items that go on sale this time of year.
Retailers offer plenty of deals in April, whether you’re planning to upgrade your lawn mower, purchase a new gas grill, or take on a remodeling project.
Consumer Reports tracks the prices of many products all year long, so we know when they go on deep discount. The products listed below should be available at their lowest annual price in April. Check our buying guides to find out if sale products are worth it, and use our ratings to make sure you get a great-performing product.
Want to know what's on deep discount during the rest of the year? See our calendar of deals.
Lawn Mowers and Tractors
The best sales on lawn mowers and tractors happen at the beginning and the end of the season. So with mowing season just around the corner, this is the time to find deep discounts. Generally, mowers cost anywhere from $100 for a bare-bones manual reel mower to $4,000 for a fancy riding lawn mower tractor. But paying more doesn’t mean you get more, as our ratings show.
- Don’t pay for more power than you need. It can be tempting to spring for a pricey tractor with lots of bells and whistles, but if your yard is less than a half-acre, a basic gas or electric push mower, or even a motorless reel mower, is all you need. For larger (or hilly) lawns, you’ll probably want a self-propelled push mower or ride-on tractor.
- Mind your mulch. We rate mowers for mulching, which helps return nutrients to your lawn and is a handy feature for fall leaf cleanup. If you usually have an abundance of leaves, however, a leaf blower will be faster; check our ratings for recommended models.
- Mower maintenance matters. A dull blade won’t cut well. Once each season, sharpen your mower’s blade. Or try replacing the blade, rather than buying a brand-new mower.
Grilling season coincides with mowing season, and the sales are similar as well. You’ll find the best deals on gas grills before summer starts and right after it ends.
Whether you are a first-time buyer or a seasoned grill master, there’s a gas grill to fit every cooking style and budget. Ultimately, the success of your backyard barbecues often comes down to the quality of your gas grill.
- Check the cart, wheels, lid, and firebox. Look at—even jostle—the assembled grill from several points to test sturdiness; the more stable, the better. Stainless-steel carts with seamless construction and welded joints are usually sturdier than painted-steel carts assembled with nuts and bolts. While you’re at it, make sure to avoid grills with sharp metal corners and edges.
- Know your menu. A basic grill is fine for cooking burgers and hot dogs, but if you also enjoy delicate fish and sizzling steaks with sear marks, look at the temperature range scores in our ratings. They indicate just how versatile the grill is. The higher the score the better the grill is at cooking a variety of foods.
Cordless Drills and Tools
April is a great time to find deep discounts on useful tools such as cordless drills. If you’re planning to catch up on work around the house now that the days are getting longer and warmer, stock up on tools now.
Cordless drills are handy for multiple home-improvement projects. There's the added benefit of not having a power cord to tangle around step stools, ladders, or your own arms and legs.
Still, unless you're handling strictly light-duty tasks, you're likely to be disappointed with the least expensive drills. Even high-priced, heavy-duty cordless tools can be light on performance. Check our ratings to make sure you’re getting the right tool for the job.
- Hold it in your hand. In addition to checking the drill's weight, check its balance by gripping it firmly and lifting it to a wall as if to drive a screw. The drill's chuck should point straight ahead and not tilt up or down.
- For kits, check all the tools. Most cordless tool kits include a drill, reciprocating saw, and circular saw for $300 to $500. But while cordless circular saws have improved, some versions proved to be slow and ineffective, especially the ones in lower-priced kits. Our recommended drills and kits can help you find the best deal.
Installing a new floor is a big-ticket home-improvement project, so finding materials on deep discount can help stretch your budget a little further. You can find deals this time of year on flooring materials such as hardwood, laminate, vinyl or tile. Before making a selection, consider how much foot traffic, sunlight, and wear and tear your flooring will endure.
- Sampling is smart. Before you buy, bring home samples of your top flooring choices. Compare them side by side where they're going to be installed.
- Buy upfront, and buy a little extra. Variations can occur from one batch of flooring to the next, so buy all the materials you'll need at one time. Measure the room's square footage to determine how much you need, then buy 10 percent extra to allow for mistakes, bad samples, and waste. You might want to play it safe by buying an additional box of flooring to keep on hand for future repairs or additions.
Spring cleaning is officially here, and if your vacuum is due for an upgrade, you’re in luck. April and May are great times to find discounts on all types of vacuum cleaners. You’ll find a range of designs, sleek shapes, and cool colors, but what matters most is how well they clean. Look for one that has features that appeal to you, but make sure it fits your cleaning needs as well.
- Try it out. Even if you order online, go to a store first. Push, pull, turn, and lift the vacuum cleaners you're considering. If an online price is low, see if the store will match it.
- Consider the features. Pet owners, take note: Upright and canister vacuum cleaners that excel at regular jobs tested best in show for picking up pet hair. Canister vacuums tend to be quieter as well. Protect bare floors by selecting a vacuum with a switch that can deactivate the brush. For more features, check out our ratings.
If you want to invest in a pressure washer, you’ll find the best deals in April. Whether it's motor-oil stains or mildew on the deck, pressure washers can do the job in a fraction of the time it takes using a brush and bucket of water. But keep in mind that because pressure washers deliver a concentrated and powerful stream, they can cause serious injury and damage property if not used properly.
- Cover your bases. If you need to use soaps, solvents, or other additives, consider one that has a built-in soap tank. Tool and cord storage is a plus, as are wheels for heavier models.
- Rent one instead. Buying a unit will pay for itself in a few years, as long as you take care of it. But if you want to skip the hassle of upkeep and storage, you can always rent a power washer instead.
Room Air Conditioners
Air conditioners go on sale before the hot weather sets in and again when it starts to get cooler. There may be fewer models available at the end of the season, however, so it's smart to look for sales now. Our air conditioner buying guide and ratings will help you spot the right model. (Need a whole-house system? Check our central air conditioning buying guide.)
- Size it correctly. This will ensure that the unit will work properly and save you money on energy costs. An air conditioner that's too small won't do a good job cooling a room and will also use up more energy than necessary. One that's too big will also waste energy and will cool the area so quickly that the moisture level could remain high, leaving you with a cold, clammy space. Check our buying guide to help you find the right size.
- Note the noise. Models that scored Excellent or Very Good in our noise tests (we measure how loud they are on both low and high settings) are so quiet that the only sound you might hear is the fan running. But air conditioners that scored "fair" for noise could disturb light sleepers even when set on low and are far too loud when set to high.
The best time to buy sunscreen is when you need it, and it’s even better if you can find it on sale. Deals begin in April but last through August, so make sure to stock up whenever you see a good deal. Not all sunscreens work as advertised, but our testers found more than a dozen sunscreens that did well enough against both UVA and UVB radiation to recommend.
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