It's a good time to buy flat-panel televisions

SEATTLE — If you're in the market for a new flat-panel TV, it's a good time to buy.

TV prices usually drop from year to year, and the decline will be sharp this season thanks to a supply glut. Consumers have been holding out all year for better deals, leaving lots of unsold televisions on the shelves.

New sets also will be cheaper because TV makers have been getting great deals on the most expensive parts, the glass LCD panels.

However, DisplaySearch analyst Paul Gagnon expects prices for those components to level off early next year, so discounts won't be this steep again until the holidays next year, or even later.

For the consumer, that means that if you pull the trigger on a new set in the next few months, you probably won't be kicking yourself next year for not waiting a little longer.

The law of supply and demand is at work here:

  • A TV-buying spree in late 2009 led to component shortages, which kept prices high in early 2010. That discouraged consumers.
  • Makers of LCD panels invested profits from last year's buying spree in more manufacturing capacity. Thinking 2010 would be as strong as 2009, they flooded the market. But the economy didn't improve as expected.
  • As a result, there's an oversupply of panels, and prices started dropping over the summer. That means cheaper sets should be making their way to stores now.

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