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Buy Superseded and Save
last year's model can be better value

We've seen it happen - lines of people queuing, even camping outside stores on the eve of a sale. With inflation continually on the rise, you can't blame them for wanting to cash in, especially when, at some stage, they will have to buy these things anyway. Why pay top dollar when you can pick your time and score a bargain? And yet, the same shoppers will follow this dedicated pre-sale routine just to be the first to acquire the very latest tablet, smart-phone, 3D player, or whatever. If it's innovative, they must have it, there and then, no matter what the cost. Within six months, maybe sooner, their brand new, state-of-the-art purchase will be superseded by the next version. Because of this, the model they bought will have dropped in price considerably. Its capabilities haven't changed and despite time spent on the shelf, the original after-sale service and support still apply. It doesn't, of course, have as many bells and whistles as the latest, but it's just as shiny out of the box and will continue to do the job everyone else bought one for when it was the bee's knees. In fact, it may actually be better than the upgrade taking its place, a Mark II that might have been introduced prematurely and is riddled with glitches that haven't been fixed yet.

When it comes to mass-production, the odd item can be a real gem, but that level of excellence doesn't always flow through to the others in the range; and it often takes time for this to be realised. When it is, the lucky buyers will probably hang on to their purchase, whereas the majority who ended up with a lemon will be trying to unload their expensive liability. By then, news will have got around and sell-off prices will reflect the wisdom of "not touching that particular model with a forty-foot pole!" Conversely, certain years or models can become very desirable classics. I seem to recall an old movie about a gun - "Winchester ' 73", I believe it was called - and if anyone wanted the perfect lever-action rifle, this was the one to seek out. You probably have your own favourites - the ' 57 Chevy, Persian rugs, a specific brand of washing machine that has a good reputation - and you know about them because they have stood the test of time. I am not, however, suggesting you should wait forever before deciding which model to go for. By then, it could be a genuine antique and will likely cost more than when it was new. But if you jump in too fast to get the very latest, you could pay more than you need to. And you might wind up buying trouble.

Sometimes, brand names are a good guide, especially when a company is a new player in a particular market and is trying to build a reputation. The launch products being the forerunners have been carefully constructed and checked, manufactured from the best materials and are intended to be examples of the quality consumers can expect from that source. To boost initial sales, the first products in stores are likely to be priced to sell, and buyers taking a chance on a relative unknown can scoop up a genuine bargain which will hopefully be trouble-free for the duration of the warranty and longer. Then, getting in early can be a bonus, as long as warranty claims continue to be honoured and repairs are made efficiently. Unfortunately, the honeymoon can't last, not in an arena so competitive and profit-conscious. Eventually, the manufacturer needs to concentrate on making money rather than throwing it away on promotions. Cheaper components are used to cut costs. These may only be small and seem unlikely to make a difference to the overall price; but with mass-production, every nickel counts. By the time it sits on the showroom floor, a particular model of washing machine can be $50 cheaper than a rival maker's equivalent, all thanks to fifty cents saved in the factory. And that tiny substitute part, which may be less durable and efficient than its predecessor, not only ends up in the cabinet of a front-loader in the store, but may be used to repair earlier models, one of which you could have bought! The practice widens - more sub-standard parts, poor-quality assembly, contracts awarded to cheaper repair shops resulting in shoddy work. Before long, sales drop and the company's reputation bombs out. If you own one of their products, all you can hope for is that they don't go bust, leaving you with a make and model that no-one can repair because the parts are no longer available. These are a lot of words to make a negative statement, I know. In short - if the brand is new to you, watch and wait. You may miss out on what seems a bargain, but down the track, you'll probably be glad you did.

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