[UPDATE May 19, 2009: Many of the comments from our readers have questioned the reliability of Vizio TVs. For more information, read our latest blog post on the matter: Vizio: The new top-selling LCD TV brand—and a fairly reliable one, too. —Ed.]
A reader recently asked us why Vizio, an up-and-coming brand that now ranks third in sales for LCD TV sets, is not included in our repair history for flat-panel TVs—especially since we've recommended a number of Vizio TVs for their combination of decent quality and low price. (Access to our brand repair history for LCD TVs and Recommendations of LCD TV models requires a subscription to ConsumerReports.org.)
Let me answer in a way that offers insight into the way Consumer Reports develops reliability information, a process that is as exacting as our lab tests and just as important to a buying decision.
All our repair histories reflect the real-life experiences of thousands of consumers who have purchased and used the products in question. Our current flat-panel TV repair history is based on 74,544 responses to our Annual Product Reliability survey from readers who bought new sets between 2004 and 2007.
We received enough reader data to include nine brands of LCD TVs in our repair history chart (available to subscribers) and to mention two others anecdotally, but Vizio was not among them. Why not? In a nutshell—there weren't enough responses on this brand, and any conclusion we could draw from the limited data would have been premature and potentially misleading.
To accurately rate the repair history of any product, the survey experts at the Consumer Reports National Research Center need enough data not only for products purchased within the last year or two but also for those purchased a few years earlier. In the case of LCD TVs, we needed a sufficient number of reports for sets purchased in 2004 and 2005 as well as 2006 and 2007.
We had very few reports concerning Vizio LCD TVs purchased in 2004 and 2005, as this was just when the brand was beginning to climb in sales. Such historical data are the most telling indicators of reliability, because older sets are the most likely to have broken by dint of their age. Without it, we could not include Vizio in the chart or even comment more generally on the brand's reliability.
By contrast, we had enough data on 2004 and 2005 purchases of Olevia and Sanyo sets to say that their reliability looked promising, though not enough to arrive at the precise index of reliability required to include those brands in the frequency of repair chart.
The good news is that we hope to report on Vizio's brand reliability soon. We received a large number of reader responses for Vizio sets bought in 2006 and 2007, and our survey experts are fairly confident they'll be able to include this brand when we update our repair history for LCD TVs (available to subscribers) later this year.
In the meantime, we can say that most major brand LCD and plasma TVs have been very reliable for the first three years, with an overall repair rate of just 3 percent. Thus we stand by our advice that buying an extended warranty on a flat-panel set is generally not a good investment for most consumers, given that there has been a low likelihood that you'll use it.