NEW YORK (MONEY Magazine) -
Move No. 1: Buy a Hybrid this Winter.
Pick up a hybrid gas-electric car and you'll be eligible for a tax credit of up to $3,400. But if you want the estimated $3,150 credit on a Prius -- or any other car from Toyota or its Lexus unit -- move fast.
Because of byzantine rules linking credits to an automaker's overall hybrid sales, credits for Toyota hybrids will likely be halved at the end of September.
The IRS has yet to clarify whether you must take delivery before any cutoff date to qualify for full credit, and some markets have long waits for a Prius.
For estimated tax breaks on different vehicles, visit the Web site of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
Move No. 2: Buy an SUV in the Spring. Need or want a big truck, regardless of gas prices? Hang on until the snow melts.
GM's redesigned and dramatically improved full-size sport utility vehicles start hitting the market in January. But as good as the Chevy Tahoe, the Cadillac Escalade and other new models look to be, unless the market for big SUVs improves, GM will likely be forced to roll out $3,000 to $7,000 in discounts to sustain sales.
Among the GM trucks' biggest selling points: A cylinder shutdown system helps achieve best-in-class fuel economy, topping 20 mpg on the highway.
Move No. 3: Buy a TV in the Fall. If you're in the market for a 40-something-inch flatpanel TV, pause your search until football season rolls around again. Plasma TVs
dominate the flat-panel market, but 2006 will see increased competition from makers of liquid crystal display technology, which is brighter, lighter weight and costlier. Both LG. Philips and Samsung are starting production of larger LCDs at new factories in the spring, and Sharp is opening a new plant in the second half of the year.
A 42-inch high-definition plasma set now selling for $2,800 should be well under $2,000 by fall, according to research firm iSuppli.
Move No. 4: How about a game player for that TV? Microsoft launched the first salvo in the 2006 video-game war early, releasing the Xbox 360 in November.
A deluxe kit, including both a wireless controller and a hard drive for storing music and video, costs $400; a stripped-down system with a wired controller and no hard drive runs $300.
That's hardly dirt cheap, but console prices tend to drop far below their debut price as soon as a competitor's machine hits store shelves.
So if you want to save money, wait until fall. By that time, both Sony's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's new player, code-named Revolution, will be on the market. Nintendo, the underdog in this fight, will likely undercut its rivals from the start -- and throw in a slick Mario game to boot.
Move No. 5: Pick up a phone...cheap
Cellular-phone companies are rolling out new services and handsets with whiz-bang features such as video playback. What's cooler than that?
Here's what: price cuts on excellent older phones from the same carriers.
When Verizon rolled out its V Cast service in 2005...The camcorder-capable LG VX7000 dropped from $250 to $80.
So as Sprint rolls out phones for its Power Vision high-speed network...Look for deals on the Samsung MM-A800 two-megapixel camera phone, now $350.
And when Cingular launches its own highspeed service...Pick up a wireless-headsetenabled Sony Ericsson S-710, now $200.
More moves for 2006...