Reader Question: When to Buy?

In my visitor HDTV survey on this site, I ask people what their #1 question about HDTV is. A lot of people ask questions similar to these: ” When will the price come down?” and ” Is now the time to buy?

Okay, if I could predict the future, I wouldn’t be writing this Almanac. (Well, maybe I would, but I wouldn’t have to try to make a living doing it!) Still, it’s easy to make a couple predictions. The large display market will continue to be one of those product categories where prices will continue to decline over the next few years. Increased efficiency, fierce competition, and larger volumes will all help drive down prices, even in spite of rising energy costs and other factors.

The big question is not whether or not prices will drop, but by how much. While prices will decline, I don’t foresee any precipitous drop in the near future, and in fact, there may be periods of small increases. If you decide to wait until prices stabilize because you don’t want to buy a TV and then see it on sale the next day or the next week or the next month, you’ll have to wait years. And there will continue to be technological advances that will cause manufacturers to replace one model with a newer one.

These changes in prices or models do not necessarily mean that your purchase will instantly become obsolete. If you pick a display that delivers a satisfying image at a price you’re willing to pay, then that’s a reasonable purchase. The TV will continue to show you that great image, no matter what else may show up on the market.

If you do want to try to “time the market,” keep in mind that most manufacturers announce their new products at the Consumer Electronics Show — CES — that’s held in Las Vegas every January. If you can’t be there, don’t worry; I’ll be there and will report back on the major news from the event. Note that the announced products may not start shipping until six or even nine months later. But these announcements can give you some idea about when the next new thing will be available. That can be a good time to buy last year’s model if it suits your needs, as retailers will be getting rid of the old stock to make room for the new models.

No matter what your timing, if you’re concerned about falling prices, some retailers offer a price guarantee. If you see the same product advertised at a lower price within a certain period after your purchase, the store will refund the difference. If you get a good enough price on the purchase in the first place, however, you may decide it’s not worth the effort of getting the additional refund.