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Where to buy electronics

Electronics illustration

Illustration by Sarah Jones

The hottest electronics this holiday season? Tablet computers and e-book readers, we expect. The best places to buy them and other items on your list, including TVs, cameras, and camcorders? Online, according to our readers.

Our Ratings (available to subscribers) of places to buy major electronics are based on this year’s Annual Questionnaire. In that survey of Consumer Reports readers, online shopping scored higher in almost every respect than did shopping at walk-in stores. The gap extended even to satisfaction with buying televisions, which many consumers might not necessarily think of buying online.

Respondents made 34 percent of the 29,922 reported electronics purchases online. That’s up from 27 percent last year, and it’s more than double the percentage from just five years ago.

Convenience is a major reason for the trend. This holiday season, according to retail-analysis firm eMarketer, price-conscious shoppers will shift some of their spending from physical stores to the Web because of the ease in finding deals online.

Shopping at walk-in stores still has its place, notably for those who like to see products up close before they buy. And some of the better retailers in our Ratings (available to subscribers) are walk-in stores, although those standouts are mostly general retailers rather than chains that specialize in electronics.

The retailer types in this report are listed in the order in which we think most people should consider buying from them.

How to pay less

  • Don’t just accept the asking price; haggle.
  • Offer to pay cash in exchange for a discount.
  • Say no to extended warranties.
  • Consider refurbished models. Just make sure that they have a valid warranty and that you deal with established sellers.

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