Q. I’ve been looking at Best Buy’s TVs for sale for Black Friday sales and some of the open box TVs have the best prices. That is TVs that people brought back, right? Is it wise to buy one of those open box TVs? — Penelope, Fairfax, Virginia. 

Penelope, that is a great question, but one that does not come with an easy answer.

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Retail stores and online sellers will often slash prices on TVs (and other electronics) that have been returned for a variety of reasons including missing parts, faulty components or simply sub-par performance. The TV merchants will then try to fix the set (if a repair is truly needed) and re-sell them with lower prices. By example, Best Buy is now selling a used Samsung 70-inch 4K set for just $527.

Best Buy calls these sets ‘open box TVs,’ but other retailers might call them ‘demos’ or ‘floor models’ while web sites such as Amazon.com will label them ‘Amazon certified.’

In most cases, the televisions will operate perfectly after being repaired, and they will continue to perform well for years to come.

However, I would caution against buying an open box or certified refurbished TV. While the set is likely to experience few or no problems after repair, the odds that it could rise once it needed to be fixed in the first place.

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Think of it like the brand new car that comes out of the showroom needing repairs within a few weeks of purchase. In many cases, the initial problem signals that the car was poorly manufactured. Consequently, the car often requires more repairs during its lifetime than the average vehicle.

In the auto world, it’s known as a lemon.

Now you may say that the used TV often comes with a 90-day warranty so you can return it if it falters soon after you bring it home.

That is true, but who wants the hassle of returning a large TV to the local TV store or via postal online. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a chore worth avoiding at all costs, even at the risk of losing a great bargain. And if a set required repairs soon after being manufactured, it’s more likely to need them again at some point during its life.

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So, I would recommend not buying a repaired TV.  However, I don’t feel the same way about smaller, less expensive products that have been returned, such as Roku players or even laptops. The investment, and therefore the risk, is smaller, and it’s significantly easier to return a small device.

Penelope, hope that helps. Happy viewing, and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann