Updated March 10, 2016

Study: Best Place to Buy a TV - Best Buy vs Amazon vs Costco

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You can buy a TV just about anywhere these days, but not all retailers are created equal. When you're in the market for a new television, you want to get the best deal you can on this pricey purchase. So you need to think not only about what model you'll buy but where you'll buy it from.

To help you along, we took a look at the key players in the TV market (some well-known and others may come as a bit of a surprise) to give you the best options for where you should bring your TV-buying business.

Where is the Best Place to Buy a TV?

ForTV Retailer
Best Place to Buy OnlineAmazon
Best In-StoreBest Buy
Best ServiceCostco

Roundup Methodology

CreditDonkey considered three factors for determining the best place to purchase a TV:

  1. Price
  2. Selection
  3. Service

Sometimes you might score a great sale at a store that doesn’t always have the best prices (we highlight some of those toward the end of this article, but your best bet are stores that are able to sell at the lowest prices more often than not). We compared prices of top-rated TV models at the competitors we reviewed to see which retailers tend to have the better prices.

Price isn’t everything. When you’ve granted yourself permission to shop for a TV, you might as well have a good experience doing it. You want options. That means the retailers that are worth your time are those that have a large selection so you can compare models in person. Moreover, stores with a big inventory and a high focus on TVs as a business line are the ones that are more likely to have knowledgeable personnel and possibly more competitive pricing.

After you’ve made your purchase, then what? You want a retailer that won’t make you feel bad if you change your mind or one that will make you keep a damaged or malfunctioning TV. Some retailers will push overpriced or unnecessary warranties or other features, while others will go above and beyond to make sure customers always get the best service. If you’re buying online, shipping methods and the cost of shipping are something to keep an eye on too.

Best Brick-and-Mortar for Selection: Best Buy

  • Price: Highly competitive, 4/5
  • Selection: Best place to shop in person, 5/5
  • Service: Weak return policy, pushes expensive warranties, 3/5
  • CreditDonkey Score: 4 /5

With Circuit City and other extinct electronics retailers choking on Best Buy’s dust, Best Buy is the first, and sometimes the only, electronics brick-and-mortar retailer that comes to mind when making a TV purchase. There’s a reason Best Buy has survived where others have failed. Its associates are pretty knowledgeable, and they are not paid by commission. And it has choices: a huge portion of each store is dedicated to home entertainment, of which TVs are the focal point. One negative does come from its lack of brick-and-mortar competition, which leads to poor execution of the little things that tie together a good customer service experience, such as its habit of pushing expensive warranties and turning away legitimate return claims on a whim.

Why we like Best Buy: For those who don’t feel comfortable buying a TV online, Best Buy provides a great in-person selection, and its stores can be found just about everywhere. It provides the rare double threat of having a strong online presence as well. Most of its competitors are strong (or present) in only one of those areas. Its online search function is more intuitive than some of the other companies we researched, and almost on par with Amazon’s. Whereas some companies’ search engines make you type in an exact model, Best Buy (and Amazon) are more likely to return the results you’re looking for without frustration.

The downsides: Best Buy has a short return window of only 15 days, and you will find many complaints online about Best Buy’s return policy, which can be very unforgiving. Odds are that you will not have any issues with your TV purchase, but in the event that you do, make sure you keep all documentation to reduce the chances of having a problem. That includes receipts and maybe even pictures to document any before/after problems or out-of-the-box problems. Best Buy also has a reputation for pushing expensive (and, many would say, unnecessary) warranties - $200 for one year and $369 for two.

Who Best Buy works best for: People who have no idea which TV they want. Best Buy’s selection makes it a great place to compare different sets side by side. It’ll give you a visual tutorial on what kind of TV you want and what you’ll get for your budget.

Ready to buy a TV? Check out the latest Best Buy promo code here.

Best Combination of Price and Service: Costco

  • Price: Best prices out there, 5/5
  • Selection: Not as wide of a selection as others, 3/5
  • Service: Strong on warranty, returns, and overall service, 5/5
  • CreditDonkey Score: 4.3/5

Costco doesn’t have the same level of selection as Best Buy, but it makes up for it in its service. It has to; to keep its members coming back every year and paying the wholesaler for the right to shop there, Costco has to play nice and offer competitive prices. It may not make sense to buy a membership just to buy a TV here, but if you have one of these stores near you and you’re interested in the items this retailer has in stock, you may want to consider signing up for it, or see if a friend with a Costco membership will let you tag along.

Why we like Costco: When we say Costco is strong on price, we mean it. For the models we compared, if Costco carried it, the retailer had a better price than any competitor. Shoppers also rave about the service Costco brings to the table when purchasing your TV. Costco automatically increases the warranty on a TV to two years and offers an additional three years of warranty and free tech support for TVs that are 37 inches or larger. The 90-day return policy blows away the competition, and Costco is known to be very lenient if you do need to make a return, unlike Best Buy. The customer service experience is hard to beat.

The downsides: Selection. If you’re very specific about which model you’re looking for, Costco may not have it in stock. Its selection is decent but not on par with competitors that have more of a focus on electronics. The other downside is the fact that you have to be a member of the wholesaler.

Who Costco works best for: If you have a Costco membership or are considering purchasing one, this should be the first place you look. If you want a supportive company that will take care of you in the event that you run into any problem with your purchase, then Costco comes out on top.

Need help looking for a TV? Leave a comment below and we'll usually respond within 24 hours.

Best Overall: Amazon

  • Price: Best prices, free shipping, and tax-free in many states, 5/5
  • Selection: Best selection around, 5/5
  • Service: Generally very strong, 4/5
  • CreditDonkey Score: 4.67/5

Amazon has been the juggernaut in the retailing space for quite some time, and it’s no different when it comes to purchasing a TV. Whatever you’re looking for, Amazon lives up to its great reputation – selection, service, price, strong review system, etc. If you happen to be in one of the states where you can still purchase from Amazon tax-free, this is almost a no-brainer on a purchase as large as a TV. Combine that with free shipping, if your purchase qualifies for it, and Amazon stands out from its competition.

Why we like Amazon: Unparalleled selection. You will find what you’re looking for. The prices are always the best (outside of what Costco has to offer), and it gets even better for the reasons mentioned above. If you have Amazon Prime, or know someone who does, you can get free two-day shipping and experience near-instant gratification. And shopping here makes your research easy: No other company is in the same stratosphere when it comes to having a widespread community willing to write very informative reviews for other shoppers. You can get everything you need in the entire buying process from Amazon except for the in-person experience.

The downsides: If you have reservations about shopping online or prefer to see your TV before you purchase it, then Amazon obviously cannot offer you that option. You should also be on the lookout for the description that comes after the name of the product you’re buying. If the words “Ships from and sold by Amazon” is not there, you are probably buying from a third-party seller, so you should do a little research into that particular seller before buying. You also may not receive Amazon’s full customer support if you do decide to purchase from a third-party seller.

Who Amazon works best for: Anyone who is comfortable making a purchase online. Anyone who likes to hear from people who have actually used the product rather than from a salesperson or store associate who has never used it. Even if you want to make the purchase in person, keep Amazon in your back pocket. Many retailers, including Best Buy, will usually price match an item that’s sold directly from Amazon (but not one of its third-party sellers).

Tip: Buying a TV online is a good way to save money, but it's also stressful to buy something you'll be watching daily without seeing it in person. If a buy a TV from Best Buy online, they'll match the price for TVs sold directly by major online retailers: Amazon, Bhphotovideo, Crutchfield, Dell, HP, Newegg and Tigerdirect.

Other Places to Consider

If you’re looking to dig deeper into the vault when shopping for your TV, here are a few other options to consider outside of our top three:

eBay is always a strong option when buying online if you know exactly which TV model you want and if you’re a veteran of the auction site (you should know what you’re doing when making such a large purchase). If you are willing to be patient and wait for the right deal to come along, this is a great option. Always pay close attention to the fine print in the auction description and only buy from reputable sellers with strong feedback ratings.

HH Gregg has a solid selection of TVs, and its prices are competitive with some of the other major retailers. One reason to look at HH Gregg is that its salespeople are paid on commission and are given leeway on price for haggling. If you’re an experienced negotiator or know which TV model you want, and it’s available at HH Gregg, it might be worth a shot to stroll in and see how low they will go on price for you. You might walk out of there with a steal.

NewEgg is a highly reputable website. It’s not as well known among the general public as Amazon, but it’s held in high regard by people who purchase a lot of technology and electronics. NewEgg’s TV prices seemed significantly higher than the other competitors on this list, and its search function is not as friendly as Best Buy and Amazon. But that doesn’t mean you should cross it off your list altogether. Sometimes you might find a good deal that blows the competition away, and if it happens to be on NewEgg, you should feel comfortable pulling the trigger.

Walmart is another one to keep on your radar like NewEgg. Its prices are always among the most competitive, and although its selection of the newest stock is not as deep as some of the other competitors, it’s definitely a great option if price is one of the most important considerations in your buying decision and you don’t mind purchasing an older model. A downside is its associates aren’t known as the most helpful, so make sure you know what you’re looking for before you walk in.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy financial decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

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Comments about Study: Best Place to Buy a TV - Best Buy vs Amazon vs Costco

  • Steven R from Washington
    on July 16, 2015 9:31 PM said:

    Hello, there is currently a TCL 32" Class (31.5" Diag.) 720p HD Roku LED LCD TV 32S3800 for sale at costco for $200. Is this a good tv for the cost? I have gotten mixed reviews on resolution and "smart" tvs in general. Basically, I currently have a little 22" tv and just want something bigger while also hopefully getting a decent tv for gaming and also breaking my reliance on my ps3 for netflix and streaming. At $200 with the built in roku I thought it was a good deal, but would love your opinion. If you do recommend it, would you also recommend I buy a ethernet to USB adapter to ensure fast connection?

    Thanks!

  • Charles Tran
    on July 20, 2015 3:35 PM said:

    While it's a competitive price, you might want to consider a 1080P TV, especially if you want a TV for gaming.

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CreditDonkey is a tv comparison website. We publish data-driven analysis to help you save money & make savvy financial decisions.

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CreditDonkey does not know your individual circumstances and provides information for general educational purposes only. CreditDonkey is not a substitute for, and should not be used as, professional legal, credit or financial advice. You should consult your own professional advisors for such advice.