It’s a Great Time to Buy a TV. Unless, of Course, You Don’t Need a TV

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The week before the Super Bowl is always an intriguing time for television sales, when retailers offer big discounts to entice consumers into upgrading for the big game. So should you buy?

Well, if you’re wondering whether right now is the optimal time to snag a discount, the short answer is no. Sure, TVs are being marked down by 20%, perhaps even 30% or more, but CNNMoney reports that the discounts will only get bigger next month:

With 2011 TV models set to come to market later this month, some leftover 2010s will have their prices axed to the max by the beginning of March.

The average price of a 32-inch LCD TV was $374 in 2010, and is expected to dip to $319 this year. (In 2007, by the way, that same 32-inch flat screen would have run $729, on average.)

For those who are willing to wait until after the big game for a bigger discount, the question is: Will there be all that many 2010 leftovers to pick from? Based on data presented in a USA Today story, the answer seems to be that, in light of sluggish TV sales, consumers should have quite a selection of dramatically marked-down 2010 models in the months ahead.

Why have consumers not been buying TVs at a swifter pace? The economic downturn surely played a role. But perhaps more importantly, per USA Today:

More than 70% of homes now own a digital TV, most likely a plasma or thin LCD HD display.

No matter how good the prices are, consumers are only willing to consume so much. As I’ve written before:

Consumers aren’t all that eager to replace the flat-screen TVs that are already installed on their living room walls and have barely been there long enough to begin collecting dust.

So, despite decent discounts, right now isn’t the best time to buy a TV—especially if you already have a fairly new TV (or three) at home. So when is the absolute best time to buy? Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at The NPD Group, offered this eminently sensible advice to WalletPop:

“The best time to buy a new TV is when you need a new TV.”