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