In this report
Fix it or nix it
Get real-world advice from others about choosing a new TV, digital camera, computer or cell phone.

March 2008
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What if your TV breaks?
More than 93,000 TV owners tell you what to expect

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No matter what type of television you own, the chances are you won't experience any problems during the set's first few years of service.

Repair rates have been very low for LCD and plasma sets, according to a 2007 survey of more than 93,000 consumers conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center covering sets bought new between 2004 and 2007. Rear-projection sets have been somewhat more repair-prone, but most of those still remain trouble-free for their first few years. For more on TV reliability, see our online reports: Repair & reliability of LCD TVs, Repair & reliability of plasma TVs, and Repair & reliability of rear-projection TVs (all available to subscribers.)

In the small number of cases where a set did need servicing, most repairs reported by respondents were free, presumably because they were covered by the manufacturer's standard warranty. The few respondents who paid for repairs spent an average of $264 on flat-panel LCD, $395 on plasma, and $300 on rear-projection sets. That's about the cost of an extended warranty.

Given the low likelihood of a repair, an extended warranty usually isn't a good value, especially for a flat-panel TV. But if you're very risk-averse and an extended warranty gives you peace of mind, ask the salesperson for a lower price. Warranties are high-profit items, so a retailer might be willing to bargain.

repairs under a warranty

To repair a TV under warranty, you must first obtain approval from the manufacturer (for a standard warranty) or service agency (for an extended plan).

Generally, TVs larger than 25 inches qualify for in-home service; smaller sets must be brought or shipped to a repair center, at your cost. A 90-pound set going 50 miles could cost $50, plus insurance. If you must ship a TV, you might have to use the original packaging or its equivalent.

The odds are good that a warranty will cover your set, but there's a chance it won't. In another Consumer Reports survey of 5,000 TV owners, 85 percent of owners of digital TVs with serious problems who tried to get service under a warranty felt the warranty had been fully honored, but 15 percent had problems.

out-of-warranty repairs

First try troubleshooting the set before calling in the cavalry. Some manufacturers and retailers offer free tech support by phone for the life of the TV. Panasonic offers a Concierge Service for its plasma TVs, for example, and and Costco have free phone tech support.

If that doesn't help, see whether you have other coverage. Costco offers a free warranty of two years from the purchase date for sets bought at its warehouses or online. Premium credit cards, such as gold and platinum, also extend a warranty for up to a year. To file a claim, you'll need original credit-card and store receipts, the warranty, and possibly a repair estimate.

If you're not covered, decide whether a repair makes sense. If it would cost more than half as much as a new TV, we recommend buying a new set. Quality often improves and prices tend to drop over time. Fix it or nix it (available to subscribers) gives more advice.

If a repair makes sense, contact the manufacturer to find authorized repair shops. Major retailers are often authorized to service major brands and might have a convenient location.

With any repair, don't be surprised if you run into some trouble. Respondents who had sets serviced out of warranty complained about such repairs taking more than two weeks, wasted time, difficulty getting parts, excessive costs, and repairs not being done right the first time.