Don’t get tricked into buying a cheap TV


It can be hard to pass up a bargain base price on a new TV. After all, who wouldn’t want to save a few hundred bucks on a new model with better resolution and great features? That is, unless it turns out not to be a good deal in the long run.

When Consumer Reports analyzed TV prices and its own testing results from 2019-2022 for several leading TV brands, they discovered something interesting. Although it’s sometimes tempting to buy a cheaper TV from a brand you haven’t heard much about, especially during mega sales events, this might mean accepting a trade-off in quality. However, that doesn’t mean you have to pay a lot more to get a better television. You just have to shop smart.

So how do we know if we’re getting sucker-punched when we add that “great deal” to our online shopping cart? Here are a few simple ways to shop smarter.


When Shopping For A TV, Know That Numbers Can Be Misleading

It can be difficult to navigate all the features on a TV when shopping around because prices, sizes and picture quality of different brands all vary.

For example, you might decide you want a high-resolution TV for the sharpest picture. However, the TV with the highest numbers may not perform better than its competitors when the two are placed side by side, thanks to a number of variables such as high dynamic range performance, contrast ratio or color.

Most TVs will tell you their resolution level right in their names, even though this factor isn’t as important as it sounds. Ultra high-definition TVs have 4K resolution, or four times as many pixels as standard 1080p resolution TVs, known as 2K. Most modern TVs that are 50 inches or larger offer 4K resolution. To make the most out of a 4K TV, you need to view or stream 4K content, which is luckily provided nearly everywhere—including Amazon, Netflix, iTunes and Vudu.

As you’re looking at pixels and resolution, keep in mind a note from CNet’s TV buying guide: Specification sheets are confusing and packed with tons of numbers and terms for a reason — to create confusion and get you to buy a more expensive television.

However, the publication says there are a few worthwhile numbers to look at: size, number of inputs, and weight and dimension are all statistics that may make a real difference in your TV-watching experience.

TVs come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from 13 inches to more than 100. Tech Radar tells us that the 55-inch is the “flagship” size, so many new models will be available in that size, but 65-inch TVs are also popular. You’ll need a lot of wall space for a 75-inch or above model and 32-inch to 40-inch TVs are ideal for tight spaces or for when you don’t want the TV to take over the room.


Know The Price Range For A Good Deal On A TV

But just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you need to settle on a poor-quality model. Consumer Reports found that in some size categories, the cost difference between the highest- and lowest-performing brands are fairly minuscule. However, it can be helpful to know the ballpark pricing on a good deal for each size of TV.

According to LifeHacker, sales on TVs 55 inches or under are decent when the price falls between $150-$300, which is what you’ll often see through big box stores. You can get 4K UHD, LED or QLED smart TV deals that offer pretty decent quality for the price for the average consumer.

For 55- to 75-inch smart TVs with 4K resolution, expect to pay $300 to $650. If you’re upgrading to something more than that, you’ll shell out $650 and above for OLED technology models. The upside to this more advanced technology has better viewing angles (which is great for gamers) and provides additional savings on your electric bill.


What To Watch Out For

While some major retailers have TVs plastered all over their advertisements with nearly too-good-to-pass-up prices, Forbes tells us these might be derivative models — scaled-down versions of well-known electronic companies’ popular models, produced to be sold for only a few days.

Normal models might be manufactured for a full year, but derivatives have a shorter production run that can make them lower in quality and more prone to problems. These versions might offer a reduced number of HDMI ports or lower-quality components. This is a prime example of the “you get what you pay for” warning when Black Friday or Cyber Monday comes around.


How To Get A Good Deal (And Protect Yourself From The Bad Ones)

To protect yourself from derivative models, find the model number and the Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) on the manufacturer’s site. Compare the MSRP to the sale price. If you can’t find that particular model on the site, consider it a red flag. It could mean it’s a derivative or discontinued model.

If possible, provide yourself with a safety net. Big box stores, like Target and Best Buy, offer price-match guarantee programs that reimburse the difference if a price drops immediately after purchase within a defined period. These programs offer a buffer period to assure you that you’ll get the best deal. The catch is that mega sale periods, like Black Friday sales, are usually excluded.

Know what you want and let technology be your guide. Websites or plug-ins can be valuable resources, showing you a product’s price history and finding you the best sales, if you are willing to be patient to get your TV at a good price.

For example, Honey, a browser extension, compares prices from several retailers including Amazon. If you’re not in a rush to buy, consider creating a Droplist there; it’ll notify you if the price drops on any items you’ve added to your list. The extension also searches for promo codes and automatically applies them to your cart. Several other websites and extensions are available; this is where your time spent researching can pay off.


While it’s hard not to get swept away on a deal-buster sale price, even just five to ten minutes of research can ward off buyer’s remorse in the future. Happy shopping!

About the Author

Emily O'Brien

Emily is a freelance writer who loves connecting the dots among facts and finding obscure little details to weave in throughout her work. Whether she's interviewing Olympic athletes, small business owners, dessert cookbook writers, or world-renowned architects, she's passionate about shining the spotlight on good people doing remarkable work. More.

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