A new TV is a big purchase that you’ll want to get right, especially since the majority of consumers hang onto their TVs for about seven to 10 years, according to Good Housekeeping Institute’s Chief Technologist Rachel Rothman. Whether you’re seeking a bigger screen or better picture quality, the Good Housekeeping Institute has rounded up the best TV brands for your home based on criteria such as screen quality, intuitiveness of interfaces, smart features and more. But it doesn't always pay to rush right out and buy a TV on a whim. Once you know what you’re looking for, you can likely save a bundle if you wait for a few key periods each year.
At the Good Housekeeping Institute, we’ve covered televisions for the past several decades and are continuously conducting hands-on tests of the latest TVs. We meet with top TV manufacturers to know what’s coming down the pipeline and have maintained an annual presence at CES, a global tech trade show that is often the launchpad for new TV technology. Based on our expertise in this category coupled with access to consumer insights and surveying tools, we've identified what to look for when shopping for a TV and ways to save. You can expect to see TVs drop in price around the holidays, the start of the new year and early spring.
What month is the best time to buy a TV?
Black Friday, Cyber Monday and major holiday weekends
For years now Black Friday has been the day to find the best deals on appliances, furniture, clothing and fashion as well as big-item tech purchases such as a new TV. In the past, you had to go into stores to take advantage of these deals, but more recently retailers have been offering Black Friday deals in-store and online, oftentimes starting the week before Thanksgiving and continuing throughout the weekend until Cyber Monday. It’s become the biggest shopping event of the year and a prime time for competitive pricing and some of the best TV deals.
Even though November might get all the hype for the Thanksgiving shopping, it’s not the only time of the year when you can snag a TV on sale. Long holiday weekends such as Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day have traditionally been accompanied by discounts on electronics. So if you don’t see the TV that you want on sale for Black Friday or Cyber Monday, you can count on more deals popping up in the summer months during these holiday weekends.
Super Bowl, January, February and spring
Super Bowl Sunday is the largest TV event of the year — and retailers would love to sell you a new flatscreen TV to watch the action. January and February are excellent months to find great deals on TVs, whether it’s to actually watch the big game or just to binge your favorite shows on Netflix.
At CES, an annual tech trade show held in January, TV manufacturers announce the latest collections of TVs that will be released in stores later in the spring, usually starting around March and continuing for the next couple of months. Before these new TVs launch, retailers will often discount older TV models to clear out existing inventory. This makes the first few months of the new year a fantastic time to buy a TV at a lower price. By opting for an older model, and not the one that was just released, you could end up saving yourself a couple of hundred bucks. If you haven't upgraded your TV in several years, you'll likely still be blown away by the improvement in quality.
What are other ways to save when buying a TV?
Waiting for the right time of year to buy a TV is the easiest way to guarantee a discount, but there are a few other factors to consider so that you don’t spend on features you don’t need. Here are some general tips for buying a TV and what specs to look for to save you even more money on your big purchase.
Model year: Don’t be afraid to go with a previous year’s model. Most of us don’t need the latest and greatest TV, which is almost guaranteed to be the most expensive. By purchasing a discounted TV from the year before, you can still get a lot of the features you’re looking for but for less money.
Resolution: The engineers at the Good Housekeeping Institute recommend buying a 4K TV with HDR, which you’ll also see referred to as UltraHD or UHD. Though it’ll cost more upfront in comparison to a full HD (1080p) TV, this isn’t where you should cut corners. Thanks to more pixels on a 4K screen, picture quality is enhanced with sharper details, color, contrast and brightness and is worth the uptick in price as content providers roll out more entertainment in 4K resolution. You could get even better picture quality with an 8K TV, but we don’t recommend that until content catches up and the prices of these sets become more affordable.
Smart TVs: Most TVs you’ll find on the market today are smart TVs, meaning that they’re Wi-Fi-enabled, but they’re not all built equally. Each TV interface is unique, so you’ll notice some have apps for Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Disney+, etc. integrated while others might be missing a couple or have a more clunky way of finding what you want. If you don’t love the interface you see, you shouldn’t necessarily cross that TV off your list if it has everything else that you’re looking for. You can easily purchase an inexpensive media streaming device or media box that includes your favorite streaming platforms, such as a Roku, Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV Stick. There are even great free streaming services.
Refresh rate: Your TV’s refresh rate, or the number of times per second a new image displays on the screen, should be at least 120Hz to ensure images are sharp and that fast motion pictures are displayed smoothly and without flicker.
Connectivity: Keep an eye on the number of ports your TV comes with. According to the Good Housekeeping Institute experts, you likely want to have at least four so you can connect to gaming consoles, TV streaming devices, laptops, cable boxes and Blu-ray players. HDMI 2.1 is an added bonus since it can offer higher resolution and refresh rates over HDMI 2.0. If you don't think you'll need that many ports, you may be able to save money by choosing a model with fewer connectivity options.
Screen size: You should always measure your space to make sure the TV will fit, but there are no real limits when it comes to size. If you’re buying a TV for a living area, you’ll likely be happy with a 55” to 65” set, but the choice is yours. If in doubt, bigger is better when it comes to TVs!
OLED vs LED: In our tests, OLED technology has generally outperformed LED sets. OLED is similar to LED but uses a self-illuminating screen instead of backlighting. In general, OLED has a faster refresh rate and displays true black colors with better contrast and even lighting; it also offers better viewing angles. You’ll find that these TVs draw less power and tend to be thinner and lighter. If OLED sets are out of your price range, you can always opt for an LED TV. QLED TVs are also a good compromise since they're a lot like LED screens but have a brighter screen.
Audio: When shopping for a TV, also make sure to check out the audio quality. Because TV audio hasn’t improved as quickly as picture quality, you might need to factor in the cost of a soundbar to get the high-quality sound you’re looking for.
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