Whether we like to admit or not, televisions play a pretty central role in many of our lives and living rooms. In fact, Australians spend 144 minutes on average each day watching TV. That's a large proportion of our waking hours.
So, if your old TV is a bit worse for wear or you're looking to upgrade, buying the right one for your needs is important. And buying the wrong one, or falling prey to a fast-talking salesperson, could be a costly exercise.
Buying the wrong TV, or falling prey to a fast-talking salesperson, could be a costly exercise
Our TV experts spend hours in CHOICE labs putting the latest televisions on the market through their paces to see which perform best. And they know the ins and outs of the features you need, the ones you might not, and some sneaky tricks retailers try out on customers to talk you into spending more than you need to.
Our experts give their advice on some of the common mistakes you don't want to make when shopping for a new TV, instore or online.
1. Buying the wrong size screen
Size envy may be real, but just because your mate down the road has a new behemoth of a TV in their living room, doesn't mean you should try to compete.
You may feel like you should get the biggest TV you can reasonably afford, but you're better off with one that's suitable for the size of the room it's going in (that's also the best quality you can afford). Check out our TV screen size guide to work out what's best for your home.
2. Being 'wowed' by the content shown on screen instore
Don't buy a TV solely based on the video content shown at the store. This is because a tricky retail strategy is to show optimised video in an enhanced, over-saturated 'store display' mode that's specifically designed to impress with big bold bright colours. It may look great instore, but you will soon get sick of over-the-top, unrealistic colourful scenes at home.
Ask the salesperson if you can watch free-to-air TV in both standard and high-definition resolution, and flick through channels and various shows to spot the difference.
Deciding which HD TV is the best size for you means looking at how big your living room, is and how far away you'll be sitting.
3. Assuming 4K resolution is the best
If you're buying a new TV, you'll soon be immersed in the world of pixels, and whether a TV is SD (standard definition), HD (high definition) or 4K (ultra high definition, UHD). The amount of pixels a TV has affects the resolution of the screen, and therefore the quality of the picture you will see.
Although you may automatically assume that a UHD TV is the best option, CHOICE TV expert Denis Gallagher says this is not always true: "There are many things to consider when buying a TV, and if it was simply a matter of the more pixels the better, then it would be easy," he says.
Don't get fooled by the numbers, the proof is always in the watching, which our reviewers have already done for youDenis Gallagher, CHOICE TV expert
"However, CHOICE tests have found that there are many poor-performing 4K TVs, and there are some very good TVs that deliver a resolution no better than full HD, the resolution that's currently most common among televisions, Blu-ray players and video content.
"Don't get fooled by the numbers, the proof is always in the watching, which our reviewers have already done for you."
Check out which are the best TVs in CHOICE reviews before you buy, so you know which models we rate highly.
4. Not knowing your acronyms and initials
Shopping for a TV means being bombarded with jargon – LCD, OLED, HDR, QLED – and you might not be sure what they all mean. It's almost as if retailers have made them purposefully confusing!
Denis says, "Some of these terms – LCD and OLED – refer to the type of screen. But, if a TV is well made, the LCD or OLED credentials will make very little difference to the quality of the image. There are differences, but for the most part they're a good deal less important than the quality of the manufacturer.
"The best thing to do if you're unsure of what all the features mean is to view a TV instore and compare it with other models. You can read our TV buying guide, which has a lot of information, and look at what each model scores in our independent reviews before buying."
You may feel you should get the biggest TV you can reasonably afford, but you're better off with one that's suitable for the size of your room.
5. Buying an unnecessary extended warranty
If you're shopping at one of the nation's major electrical retailers, you'll probably be offered an extended warranty with your purchase of a new TV. But buyer beware: the sales pitch may mislead you about your consumer rights.
CHOICE recently mystery-shopped 80 Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi and The Good Guys stores across the country and found that seven in 10 (71%) of these stores misrepresented the consumer rights you would have access to if you didn't purchase an extended warranty (an additional cost on top of your new TV).
When we asked about consumer rights outside the manufacturer's warranty period, often the conversation turned immediately to the benefits of an extended warranty. In fact, 73 of the 80 salespeople we spoke to offered to sell us one.
Only when specifically asked about rights without an extended warranty was it acknowledged that we already had rights under consumer law.
Australian Consumer Law says that if you buy an expensive TV and it breaks through no fault of your own after just a few years, for example, the retailer must offer to fix it, replace it or give you your money back – the choice of remedy is yours. This holds true even if the manufacturer's warranty has expired and you didn't buy an extended warranty.
If you do find your TV acts up and is only a year or two old, contact the retailer and let them know you aren't happy. There's a lot of useful advice on how to make a complaint and resolve an issue on our consumer rights and advice pages.
6. Being upsold to a smart TV
Don't pay more for an unnecessarily fancy TV you won't make use of. If all you really want to do is to watch free-to-air TV and a bit of Netflix or Stan, you don't necessarily need a particularly smart TV (i.e. one that has an integrated connection to the internet and your home network, and can be used to control other smart devices in your home).
Standard streaming services, apps such as the one YouTube offers, and the ability to play your video directly from your smartphone are no longer high-end features and are now included with all but the very cheapest and smallest TVs.
Soundbars can improve your overall viewing experience, but make sure you actually need one before being talked into buying.
7. Overlooking speaker performance
(Which doesn't necessarily mean you should buy a soundbar)
Speaker performance is often overlooked by people buying a television. Although sound from the latest TVs is improving, you'll generally get a better sound by adding a soundbar. But our CHOICE expert Denis says you shouldn't automatically buy one, even if a pushy salesperson is telling you to.
"While a soundbar may indeed help improve the overall TV watching experience, unless there is some fantastic bundling deal involved, you should see how the speakers on your new TV perform at home first," he says.
"Also, if you have an old amplifier and stereo speakers you may want to try these out first before considering a soundbar."
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.