Finding the TV buy that's best for you

Choosing a New Television

by Debra Karplus

How to Conquer Debt eBook

The average American watches about four hours of television daily, which amounts to about nine years in a 65-year lifetime, according to A. C. Nielsen, the company that gathers statistics about television choices in Americans. That's about 1/6 of your entire day, but about 1/4 of your awake time. Before you say, "Oh no, not me! I seldom watch TV," think about the hours you spend catching up on the evening news, enjoying a holiday special with your kids, laughing at late night talk shows, or watching Sunday afternoon sports! Maybe the picture on your current TV is starting to fail or the audio isn't quite right. Possibly you are squinting to read the credits because your TV is way too small. It may be time to invest in a new television.

Long gone are the days when a family had one TV in the living room that was a serious piece of furniture that was fixed periodically by your friendly neighborhood TV repairman (c. 1950s). And forget about the days (c. 1960s) when you bought a table-top TV that was like a household appliance. The 1960s and 1970s brought you the evolution of cable TV. And in June 2009, TV officially switched from analog to digital. For about $40, you could buy a converter box and plug it into your TV and watch a clearer-than-ever high definition picture.

Buying a new TV can be overwhelming.

With the introduction of high definition digital TV not even a decade ago came an enormous number of new options for television watching with numerous features and a range in price from a few hundred dollars up to a few thousand dollars. So how you even begin to decide what TV to purchase?

There are several websites such as that provide guidance when buying the TV that is right for your family. Start with screen size, which is measured by the diagonal not the width or length of the screen. Ideal for TV watching in the living room or den is about 46 inches or bigger, but that all depends on where you will actually be sitting to watch. Be sure to measure the distance from the sofa to where the TV will sit. A bedroom TV screen should be a bit smaller at about 32 to 50 inches. And if the kitchen is where you do some of your viewing, shop for something with a screen less than about 32 inches. A 32-inch flat screen TV with minimal features can be expected to cost about $150.

Related: Taking Inventory of Your Possessions for Insurance Purposes

What features should you look for in a new TV?

Do you watch sports or movies, or do your kids play video games on the TV? Higher resolution such as 2160 will give you a clearer picture. A 48-inch TV with 2160 resolution and four to five customer rating stars can cost about $500. The higher resolution TVs are especially favorable for watching sports or movies, especially the newer 4K models with four times the resolution of regular HDTVs. And if you use Netflix or watch YouTube movies on TV or connect the TV to your computer, you may want to spend the additional $20 or so and get a smart TV. You'll get a much better picture with a curved screen, for example, but for a price.

And consider what other plug-ins you may use with your TV. Perhaps you will wire in some larger stereo speakers or a DVD player to watch movies.

You can get your reception via cable TV service, a satellite dish, or an old-fashioned type of antenna, such as those old rabbit ear antennas. Yes, they do still sell them and a lot of folks still buy them or you wouldn't see them on the shelves of big box stores that sell TVs.

Is a new TV a good investment for your family?

Well, that all depends. A family of four heading out on an afternoon outing to a movie theater can cost $50 or more, plus the cost of movie snacks. If you go often, that adds up quickly. The same holds true for attending sporting events.

Assess what leisure activities you and your family enjoy, and if watching movies or sports on TV is your passion, then a new TV with a few bells and whistles can indeed be an excellent investment, especially if you live in an area with long winters or inclement weather.

Reviewed December 2017

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Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at

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