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Dealer Data: Consumer Reports Finds LCD and Plasmas Need Few Repairs

November 2007
Consumer Reports’ new brand repair rate report shows that LCD and plasma TVs are highly reliable, requiring few repairs during the first three years of use. As many retailers and warranty providers can guess, the report also advises consumers against buying extended warranties, which Consumer Reports said aren’t needed with the new breed of low-repair TVs.

The report, the first of its kind conducted by Consumer Reports and featured in the December issue, reveals that on average, rear-projection TVs were much more repair prone than LCD and plasma sets. The results are based on Consumer Report’s National Research Center’s Annual Product Reliability Survey, which covers almost 93,000 TV sets bought new between 2004 and 2007.

The report also offers details for specific brands. Panasonic, whose 50-inch TH-50PZ700U plasma model was recently named Consumer Reports’ best flat-panel TV ever tested, had very few repairs, only a two percent average repair rate, in both LCD and plasma categories. This data reinforces Consumer Reports long-standing advice that consumers skip the extended warranty when buying a flat-panel TV, according to the company.

Consumer Reports found little difference between the average repair rate for LCD and plasma TVs, with both having a three percent repair rate. Among LCDs, Dell (which recently stopped selling its own brand of TVs) and Hitachi were among the less reliable brands, as were Philips plasma TVs. Aside from Panasonic, other brands with low repair rates include Sony, Sharp, Samsung, Toshiba and JVC in LCDs. For plasma sets, Panasonic, Pioneer and Samsung also had low repair rates.

Among the tiny percentage of sets with problems, most repairs were free, presumably because they were covered by the manufacturer’s standard warranty. The few respondents who paid out of pocket for repairs spent an average of $264 on LCD sets and $395 on plasma.

Consumer Reports frequency-of-repair charts cover microdisplay sets using DLP and LCD rear-projection technologies. Toshiba and RCA DLP sets stood out as the most repair-prone. Hitachi LCD-based sets were more repair-prone than Sony and Panasonic sets of this type.

About one-quarter of repairs involved replacing the bulb, an issue unique to rear-projection TVs. Many bulb failures occurred early in a set’s life and appeared to have been covered by a standard warranty. Respondents who paid for any repairs out of pocket spent $300 on average.

Unlike the flat-panel reliability analysis, the rear-projection analysis includes sets covered by an extended warranty. For these sets, warranties were much more prevalent, with about 40 percent of respondents having one, than they were for flat panel sets. Repair rates for the two types are not directly comparable. Taking this into account on average, flat-panel sets are still much more reliable than rear-projection sets with their average 18% repair rate.

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