Back when online shopping first became viable, large rear projection televisions and heavy tube sets still dominated the market. The idea of purchasing a potentially heavy and delicate television and having a relatively unknown retailer ship it to your home made little sense. Today, as sets become lighter and smaller -- and most online retailers are generally as reputable as any other -- the reasons for not purchasing a television online are few. Once you've narrowed down your choices to a few televisions, cost and return policies are your primary considerations, no matter where you choose to spend your money.
1Cost: Today's televisions normally do not have as much margin as in years' past. As a result, the variance between an online price and one found locally will not be as dramatic as you might expect. Still, every dollar counts. If you see significant differences in price on a set you are looking at, be sure the set is not "B" stock or a refurbished model. Additionally, although shipping typically offsets the sales taxes you probably won't have to pay online, factor that into the overall cost of the unit. Look at the details of the deal and not just the bottom line price. Even retailers with a brick and mortar location with an online presence often have different pricing depending on where you purchase the unit.
2Returns: The pride and excitement of owning a new television is quickly washed away if the set develops a problem shortly after delivery. With local retailers, this issue is typically quickly remedied, as long as you didn't physically break the television and you are within your exchange or return period. With online retailers, it might not be that easy. Make certain of not only the return policy for your set in terms of duration and details, but find out who's ultimately responsible for shipping it back. Shipping and insuring a television might be a costly endeavor.
3Warranty: Although most major manufacturers now have agreements in place with select online retailers, this is not always the case. If you see a price that's too good to be true online, do yourself a favor and head next to the manufacturer's website. Here you can search for the proposed dealer's name to determine if, in fact, they are authorized to carry the television. If not, that makes you the secondary owner of the television and it will void the warranty coverage, unless said coverage is transferable. Some credit card companies protect your purchase regardless, issuing their own warranty terms to cover breakage. As with anything electronic, extended warranties are available from third-party suppliers or the retailer. Some unauthorized retailers offer their own coverage, but you might have little leverage if they balk at honoring it.
4Local Support: Although the Internet is a vast depot of information regarding almost any television purchase, you still want to visit a local retailer for their advice. Specialty retailers in particular, spend many hours in product training, so there is a high probability they'll know an important detail about the set you won't learn from other owners or a reviewer. In addition to potentially having the set on display for you to see, better retailers also offer calibration services to make the set look its best. Customer service-focused retailers will even send back a defective set for you throughout the manufacturer's warranty period, saving you shipping expenses and hassle. Evaluate these issues and determine their worth to you if the price difference between the local guy and online is within a tolerable threshold, if there is any at all. Develop a professional relationship with your salesperson by respecting his time and expertise. If you need guidance and technical support, this will be an important factor to consider.