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Buying a Used LCD TV is Surprisingly Tricky

As you’re no doubt aware, hockey season has begun. In the furnished apartment, there’s only a crappy, old, 20″ CRT television. Broadcast television, of course, is getting more and more widescreen. Watching hockey broadcasts on a traditional TV, I have the sense that I’m missing a good 20% of the action beyond the edges of the square screen.

So, I want a 26″ widescreen LCD TV. We’re going to get a whole home theatre setup when we build our house, so ours is a temporary need. I hoped to lessen the impact of the purchase by buying used, and selling or giving away the TV in a year or two.

That’s proven surprisingly tricky. For three weeks, I’ve been keeping an eye on Craiglist and Used Victoria, and there are very few televisions that fit that description. I’ve also searched on eBay, where there are more options. However, the shipping charges generally make the TVs more expensive than going down to Future Shop and carrying it home.

Finally, I visited a pawn shop here in Victoria. They had exactly one TV–an old CRT among the dozens of speakers and stereos. I asked about this, and they explained that they’d just been through the ‘back to school rush’. Bloody university students, eh?

Here’s what I’m seeing: stores mark down new televisions so much that there’s little incentive to buy a used one of a similar calibre. Or maybe few people are done with their first LCD TV, and the used market will expand in a few years. What do you think?

UPDATE: Here’s another possibility. The prices of these TVs have dropped sharply in the past three years. When people are ready to upgrade, they’re bummed to find out that their three-year-old $1200 TV can be bought for $400 new. So they don’t bother selling it used.

14 Responses to “Buying a Used LCD TV is Surprisingly Tricky”

  1. Mike K.

    I think it’s mostly the latter – most people aren’t finished with their first LCD TV yet.

    My wife and I are early-adopters, and we *just* sold our “old” 27″ LCD to friends.

  2. Cheryl

    Definitely the latter; we only just got our first LCD (32″) last month and few of our friends have traded up yet. I think it will be a year or more before you start seeing used LCDs. Interestingly, though, Value Village is no longer accepting CRT TVs — I guess they are too hard to re-sell.

  3. Colleen

    People often have more than one television in their homes. They may just be replacing an older TV with their first LCD monitor.

    I personaly am making do with my 19″ computer monitor (PVR).

  4. Jon Jennings

    A little of all those things I think.

    Colleen’s point is very valid. Unless you’re a one-TV-household then a new TV just means trickle-down replacement of all the other TVs in the house. It’s the 13″ bedroom set that gets discarded, not the 27″ living room one.

    (And yes, I’m so glad I didn’t spend $5000 on the 50″ rear-projection CRT I was drooling over 5 years ago!)

  5. Michael Kwan

    You can also try poking around on Kijiji, a free online classifieds site.

    Realistically, you’re going to have a hard time finding a used LCD that’s worthwhile. You might as well buy a new one and have it as a second TV when you move to the bigger house.

  6. Jeremy Latham

    Check out Costco – $600-700 will get you a fine LCD TV in the 32″-36″ range. This is an acceptable size for watching hockey (A widescreen 26″ is surprisingly small when you’re trying to follow a puck…and if you’re watching normal TV it will look like a 20″ standard TV).

    Then when you move into your new place it can live in the office, bedroom, or wherever else you’d like a second TV or monitor. Or you could sell it to friends.

    Sample Costco TV

  7. Michael Kwan

    I agree with Jeremy. In fact, I think I bought that exact same Samsung TV from Costco for about the same price a couple months ago.

    Anything smaller than 32-inches, particularly for widescreen LCDs, simply isn’t acceptable as a primary TV.

  8. darren

    Thanks for the advice, everybody. I do have a stupid follow-up question if anybody checks back.

    How do LCD monitors and LCD TVs differ? Jeremy mentions that I could use the TV as a second monitor. Yet, a typical 32″ LCD seems to have quite a low ‘native resolution’.

    I suppose I ought to just Google for this, but it just occurred to me.

  9. JohnB

    Google led me to several related pieces. Here’s a pullquote:

    The TVs all include TV tuners (many have 2 for Picture-in-Picture functionality), tend to have lower native resolutions, and don’t necessarily have a computer video connection (either analog VGA interface or DVI).

    An LCD monitor will have a computer video connection and high native resolution. Some models include a TV tuner and are then virtually indistinguishable from an LCD TV, except perhaps for less video and audio connections.

    Here are the urls:
    http://bmannconsulting.com/node/1430
    http://bmannconsulting.com/blog/bmann/buying-lcd-monitor-tv
    http://bmannconsulting.com/node/1416
    http://ask.metafilter.com/57387/LCD-TV-vs-LCD-Monitor

  10. Gar

    HNIC is sooo good in HD, you can damn near smell the hockey bags! Seriously though I agree with Jeremy,go to Costco and buy yourself a new set, just make sure it has an ATSC tuner. You might be able to get CBC over-the-air HD in Victoria now.

  11. John Biehler

    You didn’t mention how you were going to connect to the tv to get your widescreen signal. Assuming you’re getting cable, you’ll want an HD receiver. If you get a new one (which may cost almost as much as your LCD TV if it’s from Shaw at least), you won’t need an LCD TV, just an LCD monitor.

    Just this past weekend I bought a 24″ LCD monitor (a Samsung T240) which has HDMI, DVI and VGA in on it. The HD receiver has a DVI out which I connected to the monitor via a DVI->HDMI cable. Sounds complicated but it isn’t really….and am now able to watch anything in HD on the monitor (which is a secondary one to my iMac).

    LCD TV’s with a tuner built in (which at least via Shaw wouldn’t give you HD anyways) seemed to be at least $100 more than the computer monitor equivalent.

    So as long as you’re planning on using some kind of HD source, you’ll save money by getting a computer LCD monitor instead of a LCD TV.

    Usually, you won’t get a remote with a monitor but you would with a tv….if that matters.

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