How To Buy A Used Television

Learn how to buy a reliable used television with a visual checklist of key elements to check, including a test drive and negotiation.

Televisions today have entered the digital high definition phase and prices reflect the change in technology. While you may not need high def as yet, the changeover offers advantages. A lot of folks are disposing of old sets. If you know how to buy, you can get a good deal.

With anything electronic, once the 90th day of operation passes, called the burn in period in the industry, the reliability of the unit is pretty much assured. Baring calamity, electronics should last for years. Most do. But some end up in the trash heaps before their time, victims of abuse. Here are some guidelines for buying a used set.


Ask the owner to turn the set on and attach it to a signal source. This request will be easy or difficult to fulfill depending upon the size of the TV and the location in the seller's home. As the buyer, you have the right and need to see if it works. If the seller balks at complying, go elsewhere.

Once the set is on, listen carefully. Is there any kind of loud humming noise? If so, this may indicate that the set has seen better days. Is the picture vibrant and clear, or dull and out of focus? Picture quality is a key issue. If clear and vibrant, it's a good indicator that the set was well-cared for. If not, the set may be ending its life cycle. Ask how old it is and if the seller has the original receipt.


Check the condition of the plastic casing. Any cracks or holes? If so, these are indicators that the set may have been dropped, a frequent occurrence during moves. As you check, ask the seller why they are selling? Is this because they've just bought a newer one and have no need for an extra set? Are they moving? Need the cash?

Are all knobs in place? Does the remote work? If not, will you use the set at arm's reach in your home office or in your kid's room? Does the set have a thick layer of dust? If so, beware. The dust won't have settled only on the exterior, but in the interior as well. Dust accumulations on electronics can create problems with heat dissipation and become a possible fire hazard. If you're handy, you can always pull the casing and give the set a spring cleaning.

Check the back of the set. What you're looking for is a digital or digital ready set with the right connectors for a cable or satellite box. Analog sets with external antennas have gone the way of the dinosaur.

Are all the connectors still attached or are some broken? Bring a coax cable with you and test them to see if they are OK and not stripped, especially any cable-in connections. Check the cover on the back of the tube for cracks. Shine a flashlight inside the back of the case. Any foreign objects? Jelly stains? Soda trails? Take a sniff to see if you can smell burning components. If so, say goodbye and continue your hunt. If not and you like what you see, go to the next step.


Original cost is a factor. Many people hope to realize unrealistic returns when selling used audio-video equipment, rationalizing that they paid so much for it and deserve to get most of that amount back. Not so. A good rule of thumb for buyers is to figure on an amount roughly 10% of what the set sold for new. Factor in age and condition to arrive at a working figure. Sellers want to sell high. You want to buy low. Remember, the actual value of the unit is what you as the buyer are willing to pay.


If everything checks out and you can reach a good price, buy the unit. If it's in good condition, it should give you years of service.

© High Speed Ventures 2011