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Maybe not the best electronics buy
Seeking a digital camera or TV? Survey says the best deals are not where you might think.
November 14, 2005: 10:55 AM EST
As a group, Internet retailers had higher overall satisfaction ratings than walk-in stores, according to the survey.
As a group, Internet retailers had higher overall satisfaction ratings than walk-in stores, according to the survey.

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Big, well-known places to buy electronics may seem like the place to go for cost-conscious consumers. But a new survey says you might get a better deal online.

Retailing powerhouses Best Buy (Research), Circuit City (Research) and Wal-Mart (Research) may not be the best places to buy electronics, according to a survey by Consumer Reports, a consumer-advocacy publication. The big chains rated only middle to below average on price, selection and service, the according to the survey.

In fact, no walk-in stores scored highly in all three of the most important store attributes: price, selection and service.

Overall, Internet retailers received the best ratings, the survey said. Two online retailers -- Amazon.com (Research) and J&R.com -- received the top scores for best price and product selection.

Crutchfield.com scored high marks for overall satisfaction and had the best product information online.

But, if low price matters most, BJ's Wholesale (Research), Amazon.com, J&R.com, Costco.com (Research) and Costco are all good choices, according to Consumer Reports.

Costco also has the best return policy according to Consumer Reports' survey, while local independent stores, Tweeter Home Entertainment and Ritz Camera were noted for top service.

You can also follow these tips from Consumer Reports to make sure you get the best deal.

  • Do your homework. Gather product information on the Web, by phone and in the news before heading out to the store. Try to narrow your choice to two to four finalists in advance and then shop for the best price.
  • Hit the pavement. Go to three or four stores to check out the product and price before buying it.
  • Before you buy. Weigh the pros and cons of buying at a walk-in retailer vs. buying online, base your choice on which of the following criteria are most important: lowest prices, return policy, wide selection, service, delivery and installation, get-it-now convenience.

Consumer Reports surveyed over 18,700 readers this spring who bought a TV, digital camera, DVD/DVR player, camcorder, PDA or audio equipment. The survey will be published in the December 2005 issue of the magazine.

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