5 On Your Side

Flat Screen TVs More Reliable, Cheaper Than Ever

Posted November 19, 2007 5:03 p.m. EST
Updated November 19, 2007 6:25 p.m. EST

College bowl games and basketball season can cause dreams of flat screen televisions. For such dreamers, Consumer Reports has good news: Flat screen TVs are getting cheaper and more reliable.

Prices for plasma TVs have dropped considerably since they once topped $10,000. And the cost of a flat screen is 30 percent lower this holiday season than it was just last year.

Consumer Reports surveyed more than 75,000 people who bought flat screen in the past three years.

"Overall, only about 3 percent of the sets needed repair," Meredith Bachman, with Consumer Reports, said.

Of the brands covered in the survey, the most reliable flat screen TVs were produced by Panasonic, Sony, Sharp, Samsung, Toshiba and JVC.

Consumer Reports found more disappointment with rear-projection sets: "With these TVs, people are experiencing many more problems," Bachman said.

Michael Williams, who has been fixing TVs for more than 30 years, said he gets a lot of rear-projection sets in his shop these days.

But even with the higher repair rate for rear-projection TVs, Consumer Reports cautions that buying an extended warranty is rarely a good deal.

"Chances are you're going to pay more for that warranty than you would for any cost of repair you might incur," Bachman said.

Be prepared, though, to replace the bulb in a rear-projection set. Many bulb failures occurred early in the set's life and were often covered by the manufacturer's warranty. Replacing the bulb generally costs around $300 – likely about the same or less than the cost of an extended warranty.

Consumer Reports does not recommend buying an extended warranty for most products, be it a TV, washing machine, refrigerator or digital camera.