When is the best time to buy an HDTV? (Morrison's Mailbag)

So when is the best time to buy an HDTV? Geoff Morrison helps out a reader.

CNET reader R. Tiig writes:

For the remainder of this year, when is the best time to buy an HDTV?

Thanks,
R. Tiig

Yesterday! Kidding. Tips for when to find the best deals, and how to shop for them after the jump.

Traditionally, the day after Thanksgiving is the date stores and manufacturers cut prices, often losing money on a product in the hopes you'll:

  1. Buy something else when you get to the store (as in, a different TV)
  2. Buy something else when you get to the store (as in, overpriced HDMI cables).

If all you're concerned about is getting the lowest priced TV, nothing beats the early morning on "Black Friday."

But this isn't necessarily the best deal. After all, a crappy TV at any price is still a crappy TV. If you're looking for the best price on a decent TV, there are a few options. The Christmas shopping season holds many discounts across the board, but the days after Christmas historically have deep discounts as well.

Another great time is toward the end of January, as stores try to lure purchases of big TVs for the end of football season. It's an old trick to return a TV the day after the big game, though, and many stores now restrict straight returns during this season. If you're the kind of unscrupulous person who would return a TV you "bought" for one event, check with the store's return policy beforehand. Or not, that would be pretty funny, too.

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In the broadest sense, if you see news here on CNET of a company announcing a new line of televisions, the previous year's models are likely found with steep discounts. Nearly every company will announce new TVs during the CES trade show the first week of January, but they'll roll out new models at other times during the year as well.

Picture quality across first-tier brands (Samsung, Panasonic, LG, etc.) is largely "very good," and between one year and the next there are likely only mild improvements, especially in the low-to-midprice ranges. The features may change a bit as well, but many TVs offer streaming services, 3D, and have for a few years, so even this isn't a big differentiator.

So to answer your question, the end of the year is probably the "best" time to buy an HDTV, but there are deals to be had throughout the year. It's worth keeping an eye out for deals online as well. Gary Merson has a good article about the pros and cons of buying a TV online.

Some more info:
Should I buy a floor-model TV? (Morrison's Mailbag)
What makes a good HDTV?
CNET's HDTV Buying Guide


Got a question for Geoff? Click the "E-mail Geoffrey Morrison" link below to e-mail, wait for it...Geoffrey Morrison! Put "Morrison's Mailbag" somewhere in there. If it's witty, amusing, and/or a good question, you may just see it in a post just like this one. I can also offer advice on how to grow a crappy beard. I cannot, however, tell you what TV to buy.

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