The Number of Rebate Deals Is Dropping, But Prices Are Getting Better

By , dealnews Senior Editor

After rebate. For shoppers, this phrase either elicits feelings of joy: "Yay! I'll get money back!" or dread: "Aw, I don't have time to fill out forms ... and I won't get my money back."

Deals that require that extra step are a turn-off for some consumers: What if the rebate isn't honored? Why are there strings attached to begin with? But on the other hand, some shoppers may not mind the process: How hard can it be to fill out a simple form? How awesome is it to receive a check (or prepaid card) in the mail one day and have some extra cash on hand?

Regardless of which camp you fall into, there will always be a plethora of enticing deals that require rebates. However, after carefully analyzing the dealnews archive of sales, discounts, and daily deals, we discovered that the total number of mail-in rebate offers we've seen since 2010 has actually been decreasing. Meanwhile, the number of said deals that result in an Editors' Choice price has conversely been increasing. Thus, we're witnessing a trend of quality over quantity when it comes to rebates.

Volume of Rebates on the Decline

How common are after-rebate deals, you ask? In 2010, we published 2,471 such offers; in 2011 that number dipped by 3.5% to 2,384 deals. This trend toward a decreasing number of rebate deals appears to be continuing in 2012, and with greater intensity. From January to August of this year, 1,470 deals required a rebate, whereas in that same timeframe in 2011 there were 12% more rebate offers. This would suggest that the dropoff rate of deals associated with a rebate may be accelerating.

Conversely, while the overall number of rebates is in a downward trend, the quality of rebate deals has experienced a surge. In 2010, 599 Editors' Choice deals required a rebate — roughly 5.5% of all Editors' Choice deals that year. That number spiked to 812 in 2011 — a 36% increase, and approximately 6% of all Editors' Choice deals. So far this year, we are generally keeping apace of the 2011 trend, as we've listed 455 Editors' Choice rebate deals as of August, which is just 11 fewer than the same time period the year before.

So yes, rebate deals are increasing — in quality. The total number of after-rebate deals has thinned out gradually over the past few years in favor of deals with more exceptional, high-value prices.

Rebate Deal Popularity is Also on the Rise

Despite their extra steps, rebates deals attract a comparatively high level of attention. The average hotness for rebate deals and non-rebate deals in 2010 was 2.5 and 2.6, respectively. In 2011, however, the average hotness for mail-in rebate offers tip-toed to 2.6, while those without rebates fell to 1.9. As for this year, after-rebate deals saw an average hotness of 2.5 through August 2012, while non-rebate deals again averaged 1.9.

Remember how we mentioned that the number of Editors' Choice rebate deals was on the rise in 2011? We doubt it's a coincidence that such deals thus maintained a higher average hotness than their non-rebate counterparts during this time period. The quality of rebate deals is improving, and dealnews readers are clearly taking notice.

Which Categories and Products See the Most Rebate Deals?

One category in particular that's experiencing a boom in Editors' Choice prices via rebates is solid state hard drives. Through August 2012, 205 SSD deals required a rebate; 93 of those were marked Editors' Choice and boasted close to or best-ever prices for their respective capacities. In this timeframe, too, we've seen 60GB drives fall to as low as $27 ($0.45/GB), 120GB drives dip to a best-ever $70 ($0.50/GB), and 240GB drop to an all-time low of $115 ($0.48/GB). For a closer look at the change in SSD prices, check out our price trend piece on high-capacity SSDs.

Another category that's no stranger to rebates is computer software, specifically anti-virus and security software. During the first eight months of 2012, 81 software deals required a rebate, 45 of which were marked Editors' Choices. The big draw with anti-virus and security software deals is the $0 price tag they yield courtesy of a rebate. Combined with free shipping, many of these programs are too good to pass up ... save for a couple of caveats.

For starters, it's not uncommon for these programs to retail for $50 or $60, so naturally, the accompanying rebates will also be steep. Also, a handful of these "free" deals may involve a rebate that is only valid for consumers who are upgrading from another version of the program. Still, if you're willing to take the risk with a larger price tag (and/or ready to upgrade), your computer — and your wallet — will reap the benefits of the mail-in rebate.

We may be seeing fewer rebate deals each year, but there's certainly no shortage of resulting Editors' Choice-caliber prices, and dealnews readers appear to be taking advantage. Do you shy away from deals with rebates, or will you do whatever it takes to receive the best deal available? Sound off in the comments below.

Front page photo credit: Learn Vest
Photo credits top to bottom: Florida Food Service, and New Wine

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DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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