Beware of going cheap on your HDTV purchase: A personal account

It's that wonderful time of year where my wife and I participate in our annual tradition of purchasing a new TV. It's not that we want to buy a new TV every year but for the last 3 years our almost 1 year old TV set has died. Thankfully we purchased the TVs at a small chain in the Midwest, Rex Electronics, which offers an incredibly cheap extended warranty. Normally I would caution against wasting your money on an extended warranty but I've found cheap extended warranties to be invaluable when it comes to off brand TVs.

If we hadn't opted for the 2 year warranty, which only cost $20, we would have easily spent over $2,000 on no name HDTVs over the past few years. Alternately, we could have spent the money on one name brand 1080P HDTV and had money left over for surround sound! Thankfully when our last TV died on Friday, we were able to pay a little extra and get a Samsung with excellent reviews, something I wish we had done from the start. As an added bonus, the picture is 10 times better than the Soyo it replaced.
So how do you find a good deal on a quality TV without falling victim to the low price temptations that hook so many individuals, including a savvy shopper like me? First off, do your research. A good starting point is the HDTV reliability study done by PC World, which can help you choose a good brand based on user reviews. From there, you can start looking at size and other important characteristics.

If you don't know a pixel from a potato, don't worry, you can check out this glossary of HDTV terms from Crutchfield which will get you up to speed in no time. If you have a more detailed question, I suggest you head over to the AVS forums where you can get help from Home theater experts.

After you've figured out what you want in an HDTV, you can start looking for a good deal. Forget browsing through the Sunday circulars and head over to online deal sites like Dealnews.com or Slickdeals.net. Both of these sites offer good deals and commentary which will help you determine the quality of the TV. After spending a little time on either of these sites you'll learn to eschew the low priced off brand sets that retailers use to get you in the door in favor of price matching and coupon wielding your way to home entertainment nirvana.

Spending an extra $200-300 on an HDTV purchase to get a proven brand may be the best money you've ever spent

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