How to Find the Best TV Price

Samsung-LED-TVUsually I tell you that buying a car should be handled just like shopping for a big screen TV.  Well, today I'm actually going to talk about how to get the best price on a TV! 

Like everything else I write about, competitive shopping is the key to getting a good price.  But before I explain my strategy to find the best TV price, let’s look at all the factors you need to consider to select your ideal TV.

Choosing a TV Type (Plasma, LCD, or LED)

Most people these days want a flat screen TV.  Here’s a cheat sheet of the 3 most popular types. 

Plasma TVs ($)

LCD TVs ($$)

LCD-LED TVs ($$$)

  • Display deep blacks and bright colors 
  • A very wide viewing angle  
  • Can be difficult to view in a bright room because of its reflective surface 
  • Slight risk of burn-in from static images (like a paused DVD or video game)
  • Good in well-lit rooms.
  • Not as wide a viewing angle as plasmas
  • No risk of burn-in
  • Some models have trouble displaying deep blacks
  • Widest range of sizes available
  • More energy efficient than plasmas
  • Super thin and lightweight
  • Displays deep blacks and bright colors like a plasma
  • Good in all lightning conditions
  • More energy efficient than both normal LCD's and plasmas

What is LED TV?  It's a new type of LCD TV that uses LED backlighting instead of fluorescent bulbs.  The result is a thinner panel, less power consumption, and a brighter display with better contrast levels. It also generates less heat than regular LCD TVs.

What is 3D TV?  These can be either Plasma or LCD TVs but they have an additional “3D” mode.  You can view regular programming with these sets or 3D programming, but you must wear special glasses.  There isn’t much 3D content yet unless you like watching Avatar over and over again.  But if you're an early adopter and don't mind paying a premium it might be for you. 

Determing TV Size

Here's a simple trick to determine what size TV fits your room.  Measure the distance from your TV to your couch and divide by 2.5.  Round that number (in inches) to the closest screen size. 

And when viewing in a store, be sure to stand the same distance from the TV as you would in your house to simulate your home environment.

Must Have TV Features

  • HDTV is a requirement.  Make sure you get 1080p high resolution format.  There are five standard HDTV formats. From lowest quality to the highest, they are 480p, 720i, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p.  This shouldn’t be a decision….don’t get anything other than 1080p.
  • Multiple HDMI inputs for connecting your set-top box, DVD player, laptop, etc.  You’re better off having more than you need than finding out there’s not enough later.

These are just some of the basics to help you choose a  TV.  If you want more help, check out Best Buy's HDTV buyer's guide.

How to Find the Best TV Price

Now that you understand the features, let's look at how to get the best price. 

We'll likely see the best ever flat-screen TV prices over the next few weeks.  According to the Wall Street Journal, retailers and manufacturers are slashing flat-screen television prices more aggressively than usual this holiday season in hopes of avoiding a pileup of inventory.

I usually start by picking up a copy of Consumer Reports and reading reviews on TVs.  I’ll write down a few models and take the list with me to my local Best Buy.  When I get there I'll ask a ton of questions and note the prices of my favorites. 

After deciding on a make and model, the key is searching a variety of places online.  I'll rarely buy in the store unless the price happens to be better than what I find online.  Searching several sites for the best price shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes.

Here’s where I visit, making note of the best prices as I go:

  1. First I go to Amazon, Buy.com, and Overstock.
  2. Then I finish with Google Product Search to catch all the smaller online retailers at the same time.
    1. Once you find the model, be sure to sort by “Total Price”.  It’s easy to make a mistake about the best deal since Google puts the “Base Price” in bold. 
    2. Don’t bother searching for “no tax” or “free shipping”.  These are nice, but you’re only concerned with the “out the door price”.  If the cheapest model ends up having free shipping and no tax, then great.  But it doesn’t really matter, they are just line items…again, total price is your only concern.
    3. Consider buying a refurbished model to save a few hundred bucks.
  3. After you’ve checked the websites above, compare them to your original price from Best Buy.  Then just buy wherever you found the best deal!

Other TV cost considerations when budgeting:

  • HDTV service: To get the best experience from an HDTV, you’ll need to view a high-definition signal.  That means you’ll need a HD set-top box from your cable company, typically for a few extra bucks per month. 
  • TV stand or mount: Don’t forget that you’ll need somewhere to put the TV.  Wall mounts and component shelves can cost just as much as TV stands, usually a couple hundred bucks.  In fact, consider doing some competitive shopping for TV stands or mounts as well.  Check out the same websites mentioned above for low prices.
  • Installation: If  you don't want to install yourself, you'll need to purchase an installation package to mount your TV.  This can easily run a couple hundred bucks.
  • HDMI cables:  Don’t buy monster cables from an electronics store.  Instead buy HDMI cables online for cheap.
  • Home Theater: If you’re buying a big screen TV, chances are you’ll want a high quality surround sound system.  Again, follow a competitive approach to buying a home theater.
  • Tax and shipping:  If you're buying online, don't forget to factor in taxes and delivery.  You don't want to be surprised at checkout.
  • Extended Warranties:  Warranties will invariably be offered, but don’t buy them!  Repairs are not typcial and usually cost less than $200.  Do you really want to waste an extra 10% of the purchase price for an insurance policy that might save you $200?

Want to buy a car near (or below) dealer cost?

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how to buy a car onlineInternet car buyerYou'll learn:
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