Is It Really the Best Time to Buy a TV?

a man looks at tvs - best time to buy a tvSince November, we've been inundated with information about when the best time to buy a TV is. Conventional wisdom, a ton of "experts" say the time between Christmas and the Super Bowl is when to score the best deal on a new TV.

Forget conventional wisdom, the truth is quite different.

"It's not in the retailers' and manufacturers' best interests to give you the best price at precisely the period in time when you're most interested in buying," says Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at The NPD Group.

However, there are deals to be found if you're in the market for a new TV. Let's parse the myth from the facts.TVs Are Dirt Cheap: Not Really

"If all you care about is the lowest price, this isn't the best time to buy," says Baker. Rock bottom pricing on mass market TVs is better around Black Friday, when retailers run promotions just to get you in the door. You will, however, find huge discounts on high-end TVs. "You might be able to get a $3,500 TV for $2,000, but you've still got to spend $2,000."

That $2,000 could score you a great, highly-rated TV plus a few extras like free Blu-ray players, 3D accessories and wireless dongles. According to Jon Abt of Abt Electronics, between the instant rebates and product extras being offered by manufacturers, consumers are getting the equivalent of 50% off the original price.

Once in a Lifetime Prices: No

"To be honest, manufacturers run similar types of promotions at other times," says Abt. Still, the bundling of free products and instant rebates is more than he's seen (Abt is the third generation to run the electronics chain, which opened in 1936). "I don't know how they're going to top this." And according to review sites like CNET, pricing on some of their highest rated products are as low as they've seen.

Retailers and Manufacturers Want to Clear Out Inventory: Yes

Retailers and manufacturers are always eager to sell, and any excess inventory from the holidays is usually being offered at an attractive price. But Spring is when new models hit stores, some of it has already begun trickling in. The end of February, March and April are the best times to get last year's models.

"In March or April, when a lot of the models start to change, you can get last year's stuff cheap," says Baker. That's if you want last year's stuff. For most models, however, there aren't that many dramatic improvements or new features added from year to year. Last year will do just fine, especially at 50% off, with a free Blu-ray player thrown in.

We Won't See Prices Like This Again: False

Consumer electronics are among the only consumer products to regularly decline in price, year over year. Coupled with changing technology, it's impossible to say with certainty that these low prices are the lowest prices ever. The new TVs coming this Spring will be priced higher for the first few months on the market, and then the promotional pricing starts again. It's an industry certainty.

So when is the best time to buy a TV? Says Baker: "The best time to buy a new TV is when you need a new TV."
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