How to buy the right TV on a budget
It’s that time of year when many of us are starting to look at buying a new TV ahead of the festive season. Whether it’s intended for Christmas telly viewing or being given as a gift, here’s how to get the best value for money – whatever your budget. You can find cheap TVs everywhere, from big online shops such as Argos to smaller specialist vendors, but the money-saving method stays the same wherever you end up making your purchase.
There’s good news to start off. As technology has advanced, prices have also fallen so compared to a couple of years ago you’re likely to be getting a much better set for your money. In addition, Smart TV features have greatly improved, for example built in iPlayer and Netflix streaming capability (although you might decide you don’t need Smart TV stuff).
Where’s this telly going to be used?
Make sure it’s fit for purpose first, and don’t get pressured into buying anything that greatly exceeds your needs. Which room in your home is this TV for? If it’s a main TV in your living area then you’re likely to want a bigger screen, plus a better clarity in the picture and higher sound quality. Measure up the available space to get the right size screen.
If it’s only going to be used occasionally, say, in a kitchen or bedroom, then it doesn’t need to be top of the range. If you’re planning on using it for catching up on news, quizzes and soaps, rather than watching visually stunning films and nature programmes, then you won’t need a display that gives ultra high definition.
Future-proofing your purchase
Work out how much you have to spend on the new TV, and think about how many years of use you’ll probably be getting out of it. Make sure it isn’t going to become technologically obsolete shortly after being bought, but at the same time don’t race too far ahead and buy TVs with features that don’t even have mainstream services available for them yet (4K is a case in point).
Do a preliminary search for what’s available in your price bracket, and start by looking at some expert-rated best buys:
- The What HiFi website’s TV section is a handy place to begin.
- You might like to follow up by checking TrustedReviews too.
- You can also find helpful reviews on AVForums, and the forum users there can usually help with technical or general questions if you need a little guidance.
Check manufacturer websites for full specifications, as most will have downloadable product manuals. As a rough rule of thumb, the longer the manual, the more complicated it might be to set up.
By the end of this process you should have a shortlist of models that fit your budget and other requirements. After this, it’s important to check your chosen telly models out in person – any shop or department store showroom will do. Look at the picture quality, try to get live TV on the screen rather than the shop’s display Blu-Rays, and make sure you get the sound on to hear the standard of the audio.
What extras will you need to buy?
Most of the time you aren’t just buying the television itself, so think about whatever else you’re going to have to factor in. For example, depending on what you buy, you might also need to get:
· Bracket or stand / table
· Cables (e.g. HDMI cable for connecting to set top boxes or Blu-Ray player)
· USB stick
· Set top box (Freeview, Sky) / hard drive recorder
· Blu-Ray or DVD player
· Sound bar or speaker system
· Subscriptions (Netflix etc)
Compare prices thoroughly
Once you’ve narrowed your choices down to a small handful of models, start by using a few price comparison sites to find out who’s selling specific televisions at the best prices. Examples include PriceRunner and Idealo, but there are many more to try. A trip down the high street might also be useful, depending on what your nearby shops are like.
Make sure you’re comparing like with like. Check the small print, as some stores will perhaps be offering a free extended warranty or an exclusive package with lots of extra features. They may also have special offers such as gift vouchers, or discounts on selected models (more about those in a minute).
Track prices for a few days or even weeks if necessary. You may find out that they’re fluctuating over time, so you don’t necessarily need to rush in if you aren’t in a hurry.
You can also time your purchase to make the most of seasonal changes. For example, the newest models of television tend to be launched in the Spring and early Summer – from this time onwards the previous year’s models will start to come down in price. If you have your heart set on this year’s model, wait for at least a month after the launch date as that’s when special offers and deals may start to appear.
Further ways to cut the cost
· Find discounts and vouchers. Ask nicely in person for discount, ideally by speaking to the manager on a weekday when it’s not too busy. Or hunt down discounts and voucher codes online (a quick search for the retailer’s name plus ‘voucher code’ or ‘discount code’ is a good place to start). There are also lots of discount apps for your smartphone which can be used online or in-store: check a few as offers vary from week to week between the different app companies. Examples of apps include VoucherCodesUK and MoneySupermarket.com Vouchers.
· Ask politely for freebies. If you can’t haggle a decent discount out of the boss, you might be able to charm them into offering you some freebies instead, such as a decent quality lead. This can still bring the overall cost of your purchase down. Some TVs come with perks such as free subscriptions or hubs, so ask staff and / or check the box it comes in. Some perks aren’t advertised, but if you search for the brand name and model of the TV and the word ‘free’ then you might be pleasantly surprised (you could get a free streaming subscription or a Blu-Ray player). Claim it even if you don’t want it, as you might be able to sell it on eBay and you can put the cash against the purchase of the TV.
· Get cashback. Buy your new tech online via a cashback site (e.g. TopCashback) and you might be able to get a rebate of part of your purchase, depending upon the retailer and current offers. If you’re very organised financially you can also use a cashback credit card to get some money back on your shopping, but make sure you clear your bill in full to avoid being hit with interest charges.