Buying a Demo HDTV Versus a New One: Deal or no Deal?

March 18th, 2013 · 8 Comments · 3D HDTV, LCD Flat Panel, LED LCD Flat Panels, News, Plasma

TV Shopping 580

Since new 2013 TVs start shipping this month, now is the time to get a clearance deal on the 2012 display models. HDTV dealers must get rid of the discontinued display models to make room for the 2013s. Stores mark down the demo models to move them out.

Two questions: Are they worth the price and what’s the risk?


We checked with a number of Best Buy stores as well regional dealers and found a number of store policies that should factor into any decision regarding a demo versus a closeout model, in addition to the possibilities with the TV itself.

To consider buying a 2012 large screen HDTV demo model instead of a new closeout you should know the following:


Wear and Tear

LED LCDs and conventionally lit LCDs (using cold cathode florescent lamps called CCFLs) do not have wear and tear other than the lifespan of the light source. While we have never seen a definite spec on lamp life, we have heard numbers around 50,000 hours thrown around. Figuring the display TVs are powered on around 100 hours a week that’s about 5,000 hours or only one-tenth of the lamp lifespan. Once the lamps/LEDs go, the TV is effectively dead. Yes, you sometimes replace the lamps/LEDs, but at best this is very costly, often not worth it considering the cost of a new TV.

Plasma TVs that are set to “torch” store demo mode such as Dynamic or Vivid also age more rapidly than if you set them up correctly in your home. Most plasma manufactures rate their TVs for 100,000 until half-brightness (as in, the TV is half as bright as when new).

If the plasma TV has had a widescreen movie (with black bars on the top and bottom) or a home screen (like the menu screen on a Blu-ray disc) the TV may have uneven wear or worse, image retention. If you can see uneven wear on a white screen during your in-store demo (ideally you can play a test disc with a white screen, such as the one found on the Disney WOW disc), don’t buy it.


Missing Accessories

Our investigation revealed Best Buy’s Project Team goes store-to-store hanging TVs on the display wall. HD Guru also learned from industry sources and shopping our local stores, the team routinely disposes of everything that’s included when wall mounting a demo HDTV. This consists of the box, packing materials, remote control, power cord, dongles (when included), owner’s manual and/or quick set-up guide, and table stand.

If you want these items the replacement cost (we researched parts for a number of 40-inch and over HDTVs) including shipping-and-handling charges to our NY zip code, ranged from $144-$328.85 (not including a new box or packing material). The top price listed is for the purchase of all the factory-included accessories packed with the 55-inch Samsung UN55ES8000. Larger screen sizes may cost more if you need the table stand. If you negate a table stand you’ll need to add in the cost of a wall mount and installation.


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What a Waste

Best Buy has 1,062 US stores along with another 75 in Canada and Mexico. While stores vary in terms of size (we found between 48 and 60 on-wall displays at our local stores) this conservatively adds up to around 60,000 North American large screen demo HDTVs. Calculating the average weight of the box, packing, stand, and accessories at 17 pounds, that means Best Buy is creating over 1 million pounds of electronic, plastic, metal and cardboard waste a year, just in discarded display TV accessories and boxes.

Best Buy Open Box Acessories UN60EH600



We compared the prices of a number of open box demo models at Best Buy to new-in-a-box versions from Amazon. Best Buy lists the open box models at each store on their website. Best Buy lists the models missing the accessories as in “good” condition see photo above):

Samsung UN60EH6000 60-Inch Best Buy Store Demo Model w/o accessories $972.99 Amazon Direct New in Box $1197.99

Samsung UN55EH6000 55-Inch Best Buy Store Demo Model w/o accessories $729.99 Amazon direct New in Box $897.99

Panasonic TC-L55ET5 55-Inch   Best Buy Store Demo Model w/o accessories $959.99 Amazon direct New In Box $1048.00

Sharp HE LC-80LE632U 80-Inch LED Best Buy Store Demo Model w/o accessories $3199.99 Amazon direct New In Box w/all accessories $3448.00


Return Policies

A very important consideration when purchasing a demo (or new!) HDTV is a store’s TV return policy. We checked out national and some regional retailers’ TV return policies and here’s how they stack up. Note: Retailers generally require the original receipt, all the accessories and boxes for return of a new TV purchase. We did not see specific policies for demo models.


Wal-Mart: 15 days

Target: 90 Days

Costco: 90 Days

Best Buy: 15 days. However they currently state in-store (and online) “We reserve the right to deny any return.” Due to this policy we can no longer recommend purchasing any HDTV from Best Buy.

Sears: 30 days. However, any opened box TV is subject to a 15% restocking charge. Due to this policy we cannot recommend purchasing an HDTV from Sears.



HH Gregg: 30 days. Note: A minimum restocking charge of 20% of the purchase price may apply if all conditions for returning are not met, such as having the original receipt, box with packing, manuals, and accessories.

Fry’s: No refunds on any TV 24-inches or larger. For this reason HD Guru cannot recommend purchasing an HDTV from Fry’s

Amazon Direct: 30 days and they pay the return freight. Policy does not apply to Amazon’s 3rd party vendors.



Armed with the facts, consumers must consider the price of a demo TV and the cost of needed accessories. We did not find any Best Buy examples worth the discount when considering the inconvenience of acquiring needed accessories. (Note: Smart TVs often will not provide all functions with a universal remote, the factory remote control is mandatory). We believe the new closeout 2012 models from a recommended seller offer the best deal.



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8 Comments so far ↓

  • Nick

    I work for a regional HT dealer. We honor a 30-Day return policy with up to a 15% restock fee. We can waive the fee at our discretion (we usually do.) and all of our demos come with the remotes and all accessories. If they are lost or stolen, we can gain access to them through our vendor reps at no cost to the consumer. We even have a 10 day policy to swap if you don’t like the TV. We also honor a 50% store credit of the purchase price of an extended warranty if the warranty is never used.

  • sabih

    Walmart’s return policy on tvs is 90 days

    ELECTRONICS – 90 days unless listed below

    The following electronics items must be returned within 15 days of receipt:

    Computer hardware
    Digital cameras
    GPS units
    Digital music players
    Portable video players
    Computer software must be returned unopened. Televisions can be returned within 90 days.

    Not according to its customer service dept. Read the response to yeahyeah comment below.

    HD Guru

  • Fair n balanced

    Interesting I currently work in the Home Theater department in best buy and we save the accessories and the TV pedestals. This article is biased. Why wouldn’t you buy a display model when you will have a 15 day return policy? No restocking fee. Also you have the option of getting a protection plan a well as negotiating the price down. The comment “we can’t recommend best buy” for hdtv is going against the fact people come in the store every day and buy flat screens with no issues. Also we as employees buy display models all the time. This article is full of errors. I’m disappointed HDGURU.

    You can post the location of the store you work in, as anyone can verify if there are demo TVs with no accessories at Best Buy on line. As for the return policy we checked our local store and found it posted by the customer service area as are all the store policies including the words about refusing any return of exchange. The exchange refusal was not listed on the BB policy web page of BB at the time we wrote the article so we did not include it above.

    We checked many BB stores in the NY metro area for demo models with accessories and found each store had TVs with no remote, cables, stand etc. If your store is the one that does not chuck out all the accessories when the team wall mounts a TV it is the exception and you should let our readers know which one it is.

    That stated we continue to not recommend Best Buy or any store that states it can refuse a TV return. We think it is a deceptive policy as Best Buy states it has 15 days return policy and then adds these exceptions.

    HD Guru

  • Rob

    I used to work at Best Buy and there was a policy of 30 days on returns, this was in Canada.

    The return policy states that the item must be returned with all accessories and even had price lists for how much accessories cost so that the reduced amount could be refunded to the customer. However, they took back TV’s even when missing boxes, packaging, remotes, cables, batteries.

    On open box items the policy was the same – 30 days, we also stored the bases and accessories in the back, sometimes some accessories got lost and the bases got scratched but that was all. If a remote was missing we normally substituted a basic Harmony remote.

    If there was damage that was the only time when there were issues, since all the Tvs left the store after a physical inspection with the customer and signed off that there was no visible damage.

    In the end buying the demo TV was done alot by the staff, we knew how they had been handled and had no issues.

  • Kirk

    Our local Best Buy in Missoula, MT saves the manuals, remotes, and important accessories on all display models. Boxes and packing is thrown out, but they will happily bubble wrap the tv.

  • YeahYeah

    Walmart and Target’s electronics return policies are 15 days, just like Best Buy, NOT 90 days.

    I’ve seen these policies implemented first hand and have dealt with each company on seperate ocassions.

    According to the Wal-mart website TVs are listed with other products as 90 days however you are correct, Wal-Mart customer service told us its is 15 days. We appreciate the information and corrected the article.

    Target website and Target customer service state 90 days on TV returns.

    HD Guru


    Having formerly worked for a sizeable retailer and seeing how the TV’s are handled in the showroom, I would stay the heck away from a display model TV unless you are getting like 50% off.

    The prices shown above for Best Buy’s display models are a joke because you can get nearly the same price for those models (but brand new in box!) on Black Friday or sometimes around Christmas / SuperBowl.

  • chew

    You are right everything you said about open box tv’s,consumers are getting rip off for buying them,they should take fifty percent for them

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