Why TV Prices Are Too Damn High

Flatscreens are at their highest prices in nine years, but there are deals if you know where to look

A woman looking at prices on TVs in a department store. TV prices have skyrocketed due to supply chain issues.
Prices on low-end TV models are going up due to supply chain issues.
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The average price of a TV is about $137 higher than it was in 2020, according to a new report by CNET. And that’s going to affect your holiday shopping.

The “why” of the cost increase is pretty simple: COVID-19, and the repercussions of the pandemic on the global supply chain. CNN summed it up as “Computer chip shortages. Epic port congestion. And a serious lack of truck drivers.” Those, admittedly, are problems for every industry right now. But that port congestion is particularly hitting TVs hard, as most sets are sent by ship. “In 2021, things like panel costs have begun to level off, what we’re seeing now is an increase in freight costs,” as Laynie Newsome, chief sales officer at Vizio, told CNET. “Container and vessel shortages have caused ocean shipping prices to quadruple over the past year.”

So the bad news is that pricing on flatscreens is as high as it was during 2012. But the good news is that while prices are increasing for “cheaper” and smaller sets, viewers looking for a high-end television may actually find some pretty good deals — and consumers seem willing to go upscale. “Sales of TVs over $1,500 are at record levels, and sales of TVs 75-inch and above are performing much better than the overall market,” says Stephen Baker, vice president of Industry Analysis at NPD group.

As well, overall inventory is not considered to be a problem for now, as long as customers are more flexible about the TV’s brand, size and model.

While Black Friday is usually considered a good time to buy a TV (along with the weeks before the Super Bowl and spring, when new models get released and older ones get discounted), this year’s disruptions mean you’ll probably want to shop sooner than later, and before retailers start pushing holiday discounts on no-name brands and cheaper models (which won’t be that cheap now, as discussed). If you can handle spending a bit more, you might get a great set at a decent deal: Witness Best Buy’s current (but very early) Black Friday sale, which finds some higher-end sets with discounts between $500-$1,500.

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