If you’re looking for a new TV you have to ask yourself one big question: do you want the best, newest, flashiest TV, or do you want the most bang for your buck? As it turns out TV deals and TV technology run on a related but slightly nuanced schedule. Buying at the right time prevents the TV tech enthusiast from buying something brand new that is instantly outdated. Everyone looking for a cheap TV and a good deal will benefit from expected drops in price.
Whenever you’re looking for a deal there’s one big secret: when is the product high in supply and low in demand? For things like snowboards and winter gear the best time is early spring: demand has evaporated with the snow, but there’s plenty of remaining stock. By summer prices have rebounded as supply has adjusted to the low demand.
So how can we measure demand, and how do we know when TV is in its post-season? Here we take a look at a Google Trends report for the search term “TV sales” The graph below shows people searching on Google for TV sales.
The highest search volume is just before Christmas, especially in November. TVs are a big-ticket item, and big-ticket items that aren’t necessities are generally reserved for special occasions like the holidays. When it comes to TVs, the “post-season” is after Christmas in January and February. There are plenty of sales and great deals on year-old TV models during the holiday, but if you’re a patient bargain hunter you’ll wait to see how desperate vendors get to sell their stock.
Realize that the best deals will be on older models. Our data, taken from price histories on major online retailers, shows that TVs introduced the prior years are often the most deeply discounted TV sets. Essentially manufacturers begin cutting prices on older TVs in November, so Black Friday sales and January clearance sales might be less about competition and more about clearing out inventory. As a general rule you won’t find big deals brand-new technology, especially on the luxury side. 60+ inch curved-screen LED smart TVs, for example, are unlikely to be discounted.
Where are the best deals: Black Friday or after Christmas?
Generally the discounts are better after Christmas, but it depend on the year. If it’s been a good year and TV makers have estimately sales correctly, there might not be any older models left to sell after the New Year. When sales are better than expected, the holiday season is going to be the best time to buy, as there might not be any discounted TVs left to buy after the holidays.
When consumers buy fewer TVs than expected, vendors are stuck with a lot of inventory, and they want that warehouse space for the new stuff that comes in January. If you hear reports on the radio of “disappointing sales,” expect killer deals early in the new year.
Deciding whether to buy before or after Christmas may also depend on the TV. For example, one of the best deals we’ve seen lately is this beautiful Samsung TV. Similar models have sold out quickly. Samsung is aggressively cutting prices as more of their production moves to 4k TVs. These types of high-end low-price TVs will typically be sold out by the end of the holiday season, where far cheaper Vizio TVs will probably still be available.
To get the most bang for your buck:
- If you don’t want to spend a lot of time researching, you really can’t go wrong with any time from November to February.
- If it’s been a better-than-expected year for sales, November and December are the best months to buy a new TV.
- If it’s been a worse-than-expected year for holiday sales, January and February are the best months to buy a new TV.
Gadget lovers with a budget should simply ask, “when does the new stuff come out?”
The biggest event in the electronics world is CES (the Consumer Electronics Show), and TVs have traditionally played a huge part in the show. Manufacturers often choose to debut new technology at the show. CES is where most people saw 3D TVs, 4k TVs, and curved TVs in action. It’s probably where we’ll see glasses-free 3D and paper-thin OLED screens in the future. The point is screen makers show off new tech at CES. Sometimes it’s big (like affordable 1080p), and sometimes no one cares (like 3D and 4k so far).
If you really want to buy the best and the brightest screen, February and March are your months. Even if the company has started production prior to CES, the TVs probably won’t make it to any retailers for at least a month or two.
Predicting pricing is difficult. Economists spend a lot of time trying to predict when sales will be high or low. It’s their job, and even they can’t get it right all the time. Good deals are almost always on older TV models, and almost never on newer TVs. If you see a good deal on a TV you want, it’s probably best not to wait. You never know if it will still be around next time you check. We’ve seen last year’s well-priced 65-inch TVs disappear fast this season, and those who took too long to decide are now stuck with smaller or more expensive alternatives.
So, when’s the best time to buy a TV?
- A brand new TV with new technology: February or March
- A good deal on a new TV with older technology: November to February
- Especially November to December when the economy is strong
- Especially January to February when the economy is weak.
When in doubt: aim for February.