For The Best Prices, Buy TVs Online

Call it the welcome side of Christmas Creep; manufacturers are discounting LCD and plasma TVs ahead of the traditional year-end holiday sale cluster mess, but you won’t find the best deals in retail stores.

…if you’re in the market for a TV now, prices are already pretty compelling. Prices for L.C.D. and plasma sets have gotten so competitive, that the market for rear-projection sets has moved into only the biggest size screens, a trend that analysts predicted last year.

[...]

But for those looking for more down-to-earth sizes in thin form factors, LCD or plasma is the way to go. To get the best price, you may need to shop online. When I compared online prices for some L.C.D. and plasma models with prices at two of the top consumer-electronics “big box” retailers, Amazon and other online stores beat brick-and-mortar stores every time.

When you add in no shipping and no sales tax–often available from many sites–the cost difference can be substantial.

We snagged a decadently large Samsung set from Amazon two years ago. Not only did Amazon beat every retail store’s price, but the tax-free DLP was delivered straight up to our apartment by a shockingly professional delivery company. The experience was better than the usual retail nightmare in every possible way, something we’d gladly repeat.

For the Best TV Prices, Stay Online [Bits]
TVs & HDTVs [Amazon]
(Photo: fab4chiky)

Comments

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  1. Yes, I was basically through with brick and mortar stores when I found out the headphones I bought there were over %400 cheaper online at Amazon.com ($24.50 compared to $105 after tax at Future Shop here in Canada).

    I wasn’t just displeased, I was offended, and they were promptly returned.

  2. Raekwon says:

    When I finally decided to make the step up to a large HD TV I settled with Vanns. They had the best price with free shipping and no tax. On something that costs a few thousand dollars no tax really discounts the price even further. They also had great delivery and great service when I called in to order the TV.

  3. mayrc87 says:

    Unfortunately Amazon now charges sales taxes to NY residents. It’s a deal breaker for me.
    I got a really great deal on a DLP 61″ about 6 months ago at a local thrift shop. I paid only $200 and there is nothing wrong with the TV.

  4. chiieddy says:

    I’d like to remind people you’re supposed to pay use tax on items purchased online to your state when paying your income tax.

    Of course, you can take the safe harbor amount for this which (for me) is usually less than the taxes I would actually owe.

    Not paying the tax could mean trouble in an audit.

    “Oh, you bought that $5000 TV from Amazon? You owe us $250 + interest + penalties. Thanks!”

    • ecwis says:

      @chiieddy: First of all, Amazon doesn’t sell a TV for $5,000. HDTVs are a lot cheaper now. And how would the IRS know who buys products from Amazon and fail to pay tax? Amazon is not required (yet) to report sales to the IRS.

    • scooby2 says:

      @chiieddy: Isn’t it only the states that want to know since the states are losing out on the sales tax? I thought Congress extended the bill that Internet purchases should be tax free.

      Even so, I do not know a single person who has actually admitted to their state that they buy products online. Until online retailers have to report sales to the states, it will be an honor system. I for one do not know anyone that is going to pay more taxes than they are charged! We are already taxed to the gills.

      • @scooby2:

        Go ahead and ask your Congressional etc candidate if they pay the proper Use Tax to the State.

        I, for one, would love to know the answer.

      • Hyman Decent says:

        @scooby2 ["I thought Congress extended the bill that Internet purchases should be tax free."]: There aren’t many “real world” purchases which are subject to a federal tax. Just things like gasoline and cigarettes. What you’re thinking of is the moratorium on taxing internet service, not purchases.

  5. zigziggityzoo says:

    I got my 32″ Olevia LCD from K-Mart (Yes, K-Mart) on Black Friday last year for $400. Since I was so early in line, I also grabbed me a Nintendo Wii, which I sold on eBay for $100 profit after fees. Final price of TV? $324 after tax. Still works great, too.

    • pigbearpug says:

      I know Tiger Direct gets a lot of crap, but I got a GREAT deal on an awesome 46″ LCD last year with absolutely no problems. It still retails for the same price and I got free shipping and no tax.

      @zigziggityzoo: That’s not really cool. In fact, it’s pretty selfish. Why not leave the Wiis in the store so that people who actually want them can buy them?

    • AmbroseP says:

      @zigziggityzoo:
      As pigbearpug pointed out, that ain’t cool. But, this is still the U.S. and you’re still free (mostly) to do what you want, so, that asshattery will usually fly.

      Also, your analysis is a little flawed there. You bought the TV for $424, and managed to ratfink $100 from a separate sale of a Wii you never wanted in the first place. That doesn’t mean you bought the TV for a cool $324.

      For shame.

  6. glomm says:

    There is no federal tax on internet purchases, so the IRS would not get involved.

  7. mewyn dyner says:

    Well, I’d actually have to say you need to shop around at any rate. When I was buying my 46″ DLP I looked at the major brick-and-mortar stores and online. The lowest price I could find it for was at one online store and at my local Fry’s (same price). I went with buying it at Fry’s because I could get some instant gratification and the sales tax was lower than the shipping for it. I think there may have been a few online retailers that had it a bit cheaper, but I had no trust in them so I wasn’t about to make a big-ticket purchase from them. It always pays to shop around, but don’t we all know that here? ;)

    Also, if the online retailers are discounting now, expect the brick-and-mortar stores to do so in short order. The market as a whole is *very* competitive and retailers of both types keep up with each other.

  8. racerchk says:

    i just bought a 50″ flat screen plazma lg tv for $1099. it was such an awesome deal!

  9. aerick79 says:

    Wll dh!!! Tht s rlly n brnr

    nd m th frst t pst yy m

  10. Benny Gesserit says:

    This is so true. Future Shop (Best Buy’s Canadian partner in crime) has been sending “Please please come and look at our TV discounts!!!!” emails every couple of days. The deals are ok but they’re gonna have to sharpen their pencils a bit if they want me to bite.

    Their desperation amuses me.

  11. littlemoose says:

    That kitteh is super-adorable! I do so love the kitteh Consumerists.
    I can haz fancy TV?

  12. m1k3g says:

    I’ve learned the hard way and there is absolutely no way that I’m going to buy something as large as a big TV online. The price difference is nowhere near enough to justify the hassle of having to ship back a defective item and then wait while they ship another one? I bought a 50″ Vizio at Costco and drove it home myself. UPS and the other shippers really couldn’t give a damn if your package gets damaged en route. Online retailers return policies mostly suck and now with taxes thrown in? Forget it.

  13. hardcle says:

    I think you’re asking for trouble buying a TV online. What if it arrives damaged? Who takes care of it? The shipping company, the seller or the manufacturer? What if you have a problem with the TV. Do you deal with the seller or the manufacturer? Will you have to pay to ship it back? I seem to remember reading more than one story here about people who’ve had just these kinds of problems. I think it would be worth a few extra dollars to be able to take a TV back to where you bought it and get your money back or a new TV.

    • ecwis says:

      @hardcle: That’s why you need to buy it from a respected company, such as Amazon or Crutchfield. They will pay for shipping if the item is damaged. If you have a problem with the TV, you can contact Crutchfield at least for tech support for as long as you have the TV. Amazon doesn’t provide tech support, but neither do Best Buy, Circuit City, etc. The manufacturer usually does.

      Personally, I think it would be a bigger hassle to return a large TV to a Best Buy than to Crutchfield or Amazon. You’d have to load it up in your car and deal with the annoying CSRs at the store.

      For all these reasons, I just bought a new LCD TV from Crutchfield. I received it via UPS within a week and I’m very happy with it.

      • dhmosquito says:

        @ecwis:

        You’re correct about Crutchfield. Having bought a number of items from them, I can vouch for their service. Since I live in VA, however, I’m stuck with sales tax.

  14. drdom says:

    Got a 37″ Phillips LCD new in box from Office Depot. No one on the internet could touch the price. They took it to my car for me, and were polite and helpful. That was 7 months ago. The TV still works fine, and even today, I can’t find anyone who can match the price anywhere.
    What’s my point? Brick and mortar stores still have a decent deal once in a while. It’s all timing, and being willing to look in places you might not otherwise look.

    • madanthony says:

      @drdom:

      I agree that B&M’s can be a great deal if you are willing to put in a little legwork. My current TV is a TruTech 32″ from Target (it’s their house brand) that I got on 50% clearance for $399. Is it the world’s greatest 32″ LCD? No, but it’s the best <$400 32″ LCD. It replaced a 27″ CRT, and I figure that in a few years when I finally bring myself to buy something better/bigger I can move it to the bedroom or basement.

  15. dragonfire81 says:

    You can find good deals…but remember: You get what you pay for.

  16. grandzu says:

    Like previously mentioned, Amazon charges tax in NYS now and got rid of their post purchase price guarantee.
    I found a b&m retailer who matched their lower prices on their online counterpart so I got the best of both worlds. Plus the price was less than amazon.

  17. Trencher93 says:

    Agree! One thing is that online typically means better brand selection. I have never seen a ViewSonic LCD TV in a store. Those are good TVs (and monitors) at a good price point, particularly for people who don’t want big-time entertainment center, just a decent digital-capable TV to replace the 15-year old Sony.

    One other thing about online shopping is that I tried to buy a TV recently and saw that most stores were OUT OF STOCK on any brand you’d want to buy. They had no-name brands and other junk, but nothing good. Don’t know why or if this is widespread or chronic. Stores had display models, but when I tried to buy, they were sold out. This was very consistent across different retailers and different locations of the same retailer.

  18. ogunther says:

    I just bought a nice Samsung LCD from Circuit City while they were having their 36 month no interest sale. I shopped around online for it first and found that Amazon had it for $250 less than Circuit City (of course Amazon was not offering any kind of long term, no-interest plan).

    So I printed off all of the information from both Amazon & Circuit City, found a local Circuit City that had it in stock and went in. I got approved for the 36 month deal (part of their store credit card) and then proceeded to get them to take $200 off their sales price by showing them Amazon’s price.

    I still ended up paying tax but even with that I only ended up paying about $150 more than Amazon and I got the tv right then with no hassles (I had to say no to all Circuit City’s upsale attempts for things like overpriced HMDI cables and extended warranty stuff of course but that only made it more fun lol). Also, having 3 years of no interest is hard to beat especially since I plan on paying it off in 30 months just to make sure they don’t pull any funny business.

  19. BiZarRroBALlmeR says:

    why does the consumerist use so many photos of cats to illustrate articles?

  20. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    If you buy a TV at a B&M store and it stops working, you can call a tech out or you can take it back to the store.

    If you buy a TV online and it’s damaged or defective when you get it or it stops working, you have to take it to the post office and ship it.

    Either way, you have to talk to CSR, it’s just that Amazon is better at it than Best Buy. I’d rather not deal with Best Buy CSR but in a lot of cases, I’d rather just talk to a person because if it was damaged during shipping, I’d be concerned that the replacement TV was going to be damaged as well. At least with Best Buy, I can speak to a real person and plant myself at the store and refuse to leave unless they fix my problem…though I suppose at Best Buy, they can claim ludicrously that I broke my own TV whilst loading it into my car. These northern Virginia potholes will get ya.

  21. eelmonger says:

    I’ve been shopping for a HDTV recently and Amazon has consistently been several hundred dollars lower than B&M on just about all the models I’ve been looking at. That’s not including the added benefits of no tax and free delivery. Some B&M stores have offered to match Amazon’s price, but I don’t get the tax “discount”, and if it gets damaged on the way home, it’s my fault. Amazon also has a great return policy and I hear they have a delivery service that actually stays until the TV is plugged in and you’re happy. So I think when I finally do decided to get one, it will be with them.

  22. Ursos says:

    I just bought a 60″ HDTV from Amazon (coming from Amazon, and not one of their third party sellers). It was $1500 cheaper than Best Buy’s sale price for the same TV. When it arrived, it was damaged. Amazon was awesome with helping me get a replacement sent out right away (and even “refunded” me the free shipping). The replacement TV arrived in less than a week, and I was good to go after that. It was a hassle to get a damaged TV the first time, but honestly, the huge price difference with buying online is worth it to me.

  23. gruffydd says:

    I bought the 65″ Olevia LCD from Woot last month – $@2,299 + $5 shipping.

    [www.woot.com]

    Great TV, great price, delivered to my family room!

  24. I got a 50″ dlp from amazon last year. Delivery was great, and if you buy directly from amazon, not one of their other merchants, you usually will get free shipping. The guys who delivered my tv offered to take the old one away for free.

    Amazon is DEFINITELY the way to go if you don’t mind waiting a few days.

  25. BillsBurg says:

    Need to be careful and do the research when buying online, even via Amazon. For example, recently did some research on Consumer Reports for a 37 inch LCD for the bedroom, there was a panasonic that was top rated on CR, Amazon had one for $900 with $0 shipping. The TV was from 6th Avenue Electronics, they have a great rating from Amazon (over 25K reviews this year alone, 250K overall with a 96% rating), BUT they don’t accept returns or even defective returns of TVs 37 inch and up. For those you have to go through the manufacturer.

  26. narayan1121 says:

    It never ceases to amaze me the number of people that complain about poor customer service, but refuse to assign any value to that customer service. If all you want is the cheapest product possible, quit whining about the experience. Delivering a good experience costs companies money, you know.

  27. nysports says:

    Yeah, but be careful. I sent this to consumerist but they didn’t go with it, so I’ll post it here.

    After weeks of looking for a TV, I finally found one on Amazon.com at a really good price that I wanted with a $200 discount. I even called to confirm the price and go over how shipping works. I was thrilled as thrilled could be. And now this:

    ————–

    Hello from Amazon.com.

    We’re writing about the rebate posted at the time you placed the order
    referenced above for a Samsung LCD HDTV. The rebate was briefly
    displayed onsite as a reduction of price. The terms of the rebate are
    for $200 in authentic sports memorabilia and not a $200 cash
    rebate. Please accept our apologies for any misunderstanding regarding
    this rebate offer. You can view the full details of the rebate here:

    [g-ecx.images-amazon.com]

    If you did purchase this item expecting to file for a $200 cash
    rebate, we understand if you prefer to cancel or return your
    order. Items returned within 30 days of delivery in new condition with
    the original packaging are eligible for a full refund. When we receive
    your return, we’ll issue the appropriate refund. You’ll find
    instructions below.

    However, we offer a very competitive price for this item, believe this
    is an exceptional deal, and hope you’ll decide to keep it.

    Again, we’re sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.

    —————-

    I followed through on my request for compensation more than “we’ll ship it back for free” that is taking place while I should be sleeping and has me on hold with someone I barely understand half-way around the world. What they seem to not understand is that I passed up other good sales to buy from them and these sales no longer exist. And I’m moving tomorrow and have to catch a plane, and scheduled the cable guy to come based on the fact there would actually be a TV there to which to attach a cable. Oh, and they spelled “cancelling” [sic.] wrong. Guess they were in quite a hurry to get this out.

    Update: Talked to “Ethel” in the Phillipines. Got her to admit that Amazon made the mistake, and that when two people make an agreement and one side makes a mistake and neither side is aware or should be aware of that mistake the agreement should stand, and that our system of commerce is based on this principal. I think I was able to record it when she said this.Yet, no $200 credit. I even dropped the Consumerist name. I’m going to call back tomorrow or whenever I get some free time and follow up. I’ll report if you guys are interested.

    One more update:

    ong and short of it is I talked to a supervisor named Ron, who, while very nice, still refused to give me the promised $200 rebate. After establishing this, he told me “Amazon will shoulder all legal action in this matter.” I asked him what he meant by “shoulder,” and he essentially said that other customers have decided to sue over this and Amazon will be happy to have the lawsuits. I’m still not sure what this means, but off to course I go!

  28. flipx says:

    I prefer to be able to walk it back and stick it to the manager if it is a load of carp (yes the fish)you can get louder in the store if it is not going your way over the phone there is the classic hang up… on you.

  29. colflesh says:

    I would recommend checking out AVSForum and see what deals their sponsors are running. I recently bought a 50″ Panasonic PZ800U from MountAVision and even with tax (shipping was free), it was cheaper than Amazon. Additionally, many of the sponsors post on the forums and you can talk to them about any concerns you may have about shipping before you place an order. It helped ease my nerves about buying such a large and fragile item online.

  30. Brontide says:

    Also remember that sometime a deal is just cheap and not inexpensive. For flat panels there is a wide range of quality and price options. Older and B-run panels are bound to disappoint some customers no matter how cheap the TV was.

    When you see the TV in store you can get a better idea of the major viewing issues that are commonly seen on flat panels. Brightness/contrast, shadow detail, viewing angles (lcd), and smearing ( lcd ).

    When you shop online make sure to seek out reviews of that exact model that reverence these items.

  31. Corporate_guy says:

    Got a 37in x2gen TV last October from overstock for $540 shipped. Yea the company went under, but I used an Amex card to buy it. So if anything did go wrong, it’s covered for over a year still. So far tv has been great and had no problems. It was shipped via UPS to my door. Box would definitely not have fit in my car. TV does fit without the box. I am sorry but when you start going 37in and above, nothing beats having ups drop it at your door. I was just barely able to get my arms around the box to pick it up. Any bigger and it would have been a two man job.

  32. Caswell says:

    I would never buy an LCD TV online for one reason – dead/stuck pixels.

    Most online retailers stick to the manufacturer’s policy regarding defective pixels, and some of those are simply ridiculous. I’m not spending the $$$ on an HDTV and not have a perfect screen.

    I took the first 37″ Olevia set I bought for $550 last Black Friday back to the store over one dead pixel. Got zero grief from the returns dept, and walked out with a new set with zero dead or stuck pixels.

  33. anatak says:

    We took the plunge and bought a sweet 40″ Sony Bravia W series from Fry’s .com $600 discount of MSRP on a brand new model leaves me plenty of room to deal with any issue, not that we’ve had any to date.

    Also, when a TV is delivered, you inspect the package and if anything is damaged, you refuse it. Plain and simple. While defects do happen, the packaging around these things is pretty serious.

  34. harvey_birdman_attorney_at_law says:

    I am in the market for a new LCD TV, but am in no hurry. Should I wait until after Christmas or buy now?

  35. amuro98 says:

    Considering all the problems that have been posted here about bad treatment of packages by bad UPS workers, why would you EVER want to buy a TV online?

    At least when you buy it from a local store, they use their own delivery people, and require you to be home to accept and sign for the TV. My local UPS dude, meanwhile, treats package delivery like some bad game of “hot potato”. If you’re lucky, he’ll actually ring the door bell or knock before running away, but one day while I was sitting at home, I heard a soft *whump* at the front door, only to find a slightly crumpled package brightly labeled “ADULT SIGNATURE REQUIRED” and the UPS guy laying rubber as he speeds off to his next stop. Fortunately, the box only contained some blank paperwork from my wife’s office. Still, can you imagine Mr. I-Kick-Packages-Up-3-Flights-Of-Stairs delivery guy dealing with a TV? Ooh, that won’t end well.

    • colflesh says:

      @amuro98:
      Most of the televisions purchased online are actually shipped freight and not UPS. Additionally, in most cases you need to be there in order to receive the television and most reputable online stores send you instruction on how to proceed with the delivery of the television. If the television is damaged then you refuse shipment and call the online store to let them know and a new one will be shipped out.