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The Pinch: Deals can be found now on new TVs

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It’s not too late to find a great deal on a television.

Many people think the best time to find deals on TVs is before the Super Bowl, but that’s not the case, said Jim Willcox, the senior editor at Consumer Reports.

“Certainly there’s a lot of promotional activity around the Super Bowl … but the reality is that sometimes the best time to buy a TV is in the next couple of weeks, in the late February-early March time frame,” Willcox said. “The reason being is that’s when manufacturers start shipping the 2012 models. Retailers need to clear out inventory of 2011 sets.”

The biggest price cuts will be on the larger screen sizes and the TVs that have more features, he said.

Deals are based on how much inventory the retailers have remaining. In 2011, TV sales started out slower than anticipated and continued through the summer. As a result, manufacturers cut back on shipments, so retailers don’t have a huge surplus of inventory. Because retailers had a decent Christmas season, shoppers won’t find “amazing deals,” he said.

Even though consumers are buying last year’s TV models, they won’t be missing out on much. There won’t be revolutionary changes to TV technology until the end of the year when TVs with new features will hit the market. Still, these new TVs will be expensive. OLED, a new type of TV that promises the best of what plasma and LCD offer today, will be priced from $8,000 to $10,000. Also, 4K televisions with higher resolution than today’s 1080p TVs will hit the market with high price tags.

Typically, it’s not worth the money to pay for extended warranties, which are more of a profit opportunity for retailers, Willcox said.

“Often, if something goes wrong with the TV, it’s going to happen sooner. Typically, that happens within the first 12 months and you’re covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. We’ve found that plasma and LCD TVs are pretty reliable. There’s around a 3 to 4 percent repair rate on TVs, which is quite low,” he said.

There are ways to extend the warranty without paying a dime. When a consumer purchases a TV with most major credit cards, the manufacturer’s warranty is doubled, according to the fine print. Also, some retailers, such as Costco, double the manufacturer’s warranty, Willcox said.

To find a great deal, consumers can also shop at retailers that offer a 30-day price guarantee and will match a competitor’s price. In addition, some retailers are still offering interest-free programs, allowing customers to make a purchase interest free for a designated period of time.

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