Don't Bother Buying a TV on Black Friday

Would it still be Black Friday without the cheap HDTVs? Nearly every major store -- including some, like Kohl's, that don't even typically sell TVs -- will be offering flat-panel displays at rock-bottom prices this week, all in an attempt to aggressively court bargain hunters.

But, though the deals may appear enticing (who doesn't want a 32-inch flat-panel for less than $100?) buyers are better off saving their money for a different day. More often than not, the TVs sold on Black Friday are flawed in some major way; given how much time the average American spends watching TV, consumers shouldn't waste their money on Black Friday TV "bargains."

Most Black Friday TVs are terrible quality
For starters, most of the TVs sold on Black Friday are off-brands. Top TV-makers are in short supply; instead, mostly no-name manufacturers like Funai, Element, Magnavox, and Apex are offered. None of these brands have been particularly well-reviewed -- CNET's list of top-rated TVs is dominated by sets from established brands like Samsung, Panasonic and Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) .

There are many Vizio-made sets on sale next Friday; Vizio has become somewhat of a rising star among TV manufacturers, posting massive sales boosts, despite offering TVs of questionable quality. HD Guru criticized Vizio's sets as "disposable TVs," noting that many of Vizio's TVs are difficult (or even impossible) to repair once the warranty has expired.

Sears (NASDAQ: SHLD  ) is offering a couple of ultra-high-definition, 4K TV sets for less than $1,000, a shocking price point given how expensive most 4K TV sets are. Sony's cheapest 4K set costs $2,999, for example -- Samsung offers one near the same price point. But Sears isn't selling 4K sets made by these manufacturers; instead it's offering 4K sets made by a company called Seiki.

As one might imagine, Seiki's sets have been heavily criticized. CNET compared Seiki's 50-inch 4K set to a $500 budget Samsung Plasma -- Samsung's set had the better picture.

Don't be fooled by the name brands
"That's fine," you might think. "There are lots of name-brand TVs on sale too! I'll just get one of those."

Not so fast. While there are a handful of critically acclaimed TVs on sale, simply buying a name-brand is not enough. On Black Friday, buyers should be sure to carefully check the model number on any TV before plunking down their hard-earned cash.

In their quest to attract shoppers, stores will partner with big-name manufacturers to create "derivative models" -- stripped-down versions of pre-existing TVs. These TVs, made specifically for Black Friday, are often not as good as the model they're based on: The picture may be lesser quality, or the warranty may be altered. There could be some missing features or components. In short, that 42-inch Samsung TV you buy on Black Friday might not be as good as a 42-inch Samsung bought back in October.

One TV in particular stands out this year: Best Buy (NYSE: BBY  )  will sell a 55-inch LG LED for $499. It seems like a hot deal, but I would have to urge caution. LG isn't the most respected brand, but it's considered fairly reputable. That TV in particular, however, appears to be a derivative model. That specific model number, 55LN5100, isn't available at any other retailer -- it seems to have been made by LG just for Best Buy, with the intention of attracting attention to the retailer.

Comparing its specifications to a similar LG set, the 55LN5200, a few things stand out. Most notably, Best Buy's model lacks smart TV features, and doesn't offer as many settings: It has just two different aspect ratios to choose from, while the non-Best Buy-specific version has six.

To be fair, nondiscriminate buyers might not notice or care about these features, but consumers should at least be aware of what they're purchasing.

You watch almost five hours of TV a day, why buy a bad set?
The typical American spends about 34 hours per week -- nearly five hours per day -- watching TV. That's more than half as much time as they spend sleeping, and five times as much as they spend commuting to and from work. In fact, given that the average American works about 4.6 hours per day, many spend more time with their TVs than they do at their jobs.

Although TV replacement cycles have shortened recently, TVs still last a fairly long time, about six to eight years. Over its life, a single TV will get watched for thousands of hours -- why waste all that time with an inferior set? Resist the siren's song -- stay away from cheap TVs on Black Friday.

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Read/Post Comments (14) | Recommend This Article (26)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2013, at 3:54 AM, Casper2433 wrote:

    I work for Best Buy and everything said here is true. We have lots of the LG 55LN5200 for Black friday, and even a bunch of 65" Samsung TVs UN65FH6001FXZA that are going for under $999.99. These TVs are bare bones TVs with no smart features, 1 HDMI input, no ethernet or USB ports, not energy star certified, and barely 1080p.

    A much better buy would be the 60" Samsung UN60F7100AFXZA which was on Black Friday sale for $1597.99 ($1999.99 reg price) for the past week. It is a quad core processor 3D SmartTV, 1080p, 240Hz refresh rate and has more inputs than GOD. That TV is FAAAAAAAAR superior to the 65" Black Friday door-buster we have.

  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2013, at 12:09 PM, sagebrush52 wrote:

    Buy a HiSense 50 inch TV at Walmart. Reviewers are jealous of this TV. Has awesome picture for the money. Go to Walmart and compare. Only 500.00 right now. Will blow most plasmas out of the water. About the best picture of any in walmart despite price or size.

  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2013, at 12:50 PM, Gleno99 wrote:

    I just bought an LG 50" LED at Walmart for $448. I was going to go with the Vizio, but for $200 less, the LG seemed like a good deal. So far so good. The picture is awesome. It's not a smart TV and only has 2 HDMI ports, but neither of those matter to me. Why do you need a smart TV if you have cable/satellite with an internet connected box? If I want to browse the internet on my TV, I'll just connect my tablet or laptop to the 2nd HDMI port.

  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2013, at 12:50 PM, mrsrudy wrote:

    This is so true,my husband owns a TV repair shop,has for 50 years.The junk sold on black Friday is just that junk.Last year some would not work out of the box.Also be careful about where you buy your new set. We tell customers to go to a high end electronic store & not wal-mart or discount store.We have had sets in the shop from these places , same model & brand take the back off & they are different.

  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2013, at 1:12 PM, one4dwin wrote:

    After reading this article,It now make sense as to why the 60" VIZIO Tv I bought at last year's black Friday was faulty. I would be watching a Netflix movie and an hour into it,the screen would freeze. My sister in-law bought the same tv at the same time as I.And she had problems as well. We took them back.

  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2013, at 2:55 PM, sac5300 wrote:

    Yea, I was thinking about buying a 32" offbrand for $98 bucks for my 10yr olds room, but reading this article has convinced me to spend 10 times that much on a 55" that he will break in a couple years - but hey, I'm sure he will appreciate the higher quality for a short while at least - Thanks Fool - really helpful - really

  • Report this Comment On November 28, 2013, at 7:08 AM, CityGirl wrote:

    @sagebrush: WHO buys Plasma TV's anymore? No one. That's why they are so cheap. Good luck with yours.

  • Report this Comment On November 28, 2013, at 7:08 AM, CityGirl wrote:

    @Gleno99: I bought a LG last year, and not on Black Friday. Did a lot of research beforehand and it was a tossup between LG and Samsung, the only two manufacturers that make 32" TV's in 1080. Got the LG because of budget constrictions. And LOVE IT!! Next year - getting a larger screen LG.

  • Report this Comment On November 28, 2013, at 7:14 PM, fuja21 wrote:

    Sam please do little research on your TV Black Friday report. Seiki was reported # 4 of top #10 on Popular Mechanics reviews. Seiki is using the same glass as Sony on the 4K ULD TV's and comparisons visually are as good or better! Stick to stock picks please!

  • Report this Comment On November 28, 2013, at 8:31 PM, cmalek wrote:

    Magnavox was a venerable and very well regarded American brand before it was bought by a some Korean conglomerate. United States has no native TV makers. All the famous brands of old (RCA, Zenith, Magnavox, Emerson, Westighouse, etc.) have been all bought by Korean or Japanese companies and turned into junk.

  • Report this Comment On November 29, 2013, at 1:46 AM, Kerroj wrote:

    Informative article, including the replies!

  • Report this Comment On December 01, 2013, at 12:41 AM, chris293 wrote:

    Low prices do not mean high quality always, or most of the time. I suspect a lot of low price TVs are or have flawes, or even have been returned.

  • Report this Comment On December 01, 2013, at 10:23 PM, thescruggs wrote:

    Casper2433 must not be a very good best associate as he/she doesn't know what they are talking about. I bought the LG 55" TV Thanksgiving afternoon. It has 2 HDMI ports AND a USB port. The Picture is GREAT. Yes it is not a smart TV but I bought a new Sony receiver and Sony Blu ray player that streams internet content for the TV with the money I saved not buying the Samsung!

  • Report this Comment On December 02, 2013, at 2:43 PM, dorothy2929 wrote:

    The signal on my Smart TV is so strong I was able to drop my tv cable service provider. I even get HD! My 2 years saving $1,920 ...the TV pays for itself and then some

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