Black Friday TV deals — 5 essential tips for saving big this year

Black Friday TV deals
(Image credit: LG)

It's a big time of year for TV shoppers, and as the TV editor for all things TV, I'm always on the lookout for an awesome deal. With Black Friday deals already in full swing, shoppers are scouring the web for discounts and sales, and there are already some great Black Friday TV deals worth checking out.

But beyond recommending individual sales, like we do on our Black Friday TV deals page, or our picks for the best Black Friday OLED TV deals, a lot of people want more general advice they can use when looking at a sale. How do you know you're getting a good deal? What makes one deal a winner and another a loser?

Once upon a time, I worked at a RadioShack, and the Thanksgiving weekend was a busy time of midnight doorbusters and killer sales on everything from remote control toys to big screen TVs. These days, I'm more tuned into TVs than ever, leading the TV coverage here at Tom's Guide, where I've either personally reviewed, or assigned and edited more than 100 TV reviews, covering everything from budget models to premium OLED 4K smart TVs and even some of the latest 8K TVs.

Here are my five best tips for scoring the best TV bargains during Black Friday 2021.

1. This year, shop early

While early Black Friday deals have been a thing for years, 2021 seems to be a different beast. Major retailers started their official Black Friday deals as early as mid-October, and I've heard more than one person use the term "Black Friday month" to refer to how holiday sales have taken over November right from the jump. 

While I generally advise people to wait until we're closer to Black Friday for the deepest price cuts, that's not the case this year. There are great deals to be had now, often matching the best prices we saw in last year's sales, so there's no need to wait to buy.

More importantly, there's plenty of reason to not wait, as supply chain issues have had a ripple effect across industries and delayed product deliveries across the country. From chip shortages and delayed iPhones to hunts for PS5 restocks and Nintendo Switch OLED restocks, a lot of traditional deal fodder may be arriving late this year – or early next.

The best way to get ahead of the delay is to shop early. The good news is that retailers have already started offering Black Friday-level discounts weeks before the Thanksgiving weekend.

2. Watch for top models

Our best pick pages include the best TVs we've reviewed, and we've got pages dedicated to specific brands, screen sizes, features and more. These TVs are great options any time of year, but this is the time to score a big discount. 

Even some of the top models on our best of lists are getting discounts, like the Samsung Neo QLED QN90A, the LG C1 OLED and the TCL 5-Series Google TV. These aren't just some of the best TVs you can get, they're smart buys at full price, making the savings all the sweeter.

Samsung 85" QN90A Neo 4K QLED TV: was $4,999 now $3,297 @ Amazon

Samsung 85" QN90A Neo 4K QLED TV: was $4,999 now $3,297 @ Amazon
The Samsung QN90A is the king of QLED TVs, using mini-LED backlighting for unmatched picture brightness. With its 1-inch thin profile, it's also one of the best-looking sets you can buy. It features HDR10/HDR10+/HLG support, 120Hz refresh rate, Samsung's Tizen OS, and a voice remote. (If that's too big, Amazon has the 65-inch model for $900 off).

LG 48" C1 OLED: was $1,299 now $1,096 @ Amazon

LG 48" C1 OLED: was $1,299 now $1,096 @ Amazon
LG's smallest C1 OLED packs in everything we love from the best TVs, like Dolby Vision IQ, Dolby Atmos sound, HDMI 2.1 and Nvidia G-Sync. It all adds up to a great TV, and a killer gaming display, and it's selling for the lowest price we've seen. (And if Amazon runs out, Best Buy has a similar deal.)

TCL 65" 4K QLED Google TV: was $899 now $799 @ Best Buy

TCL 65" 4K QLED Google TV: was $899 now $799 @ Best Buy
This killer deal saves you $100 on one of the best 65-inch 4K TVs on the market. This model features a massive 65-inch 4K LED UHD QLED display, Dolby Vision/HDR10 support, and compatibility with AI home assistants. 

3. Check those prices (including the price history)

Most retailers will show the original price alongside the lower sales price. Having personally looked at thousands of Black Friday sales pages this year alone, I feel comfortable saying that most of these savings claims are accurate. But it never hurts to check.

Using a site like CamelCamelCamel or Keepa, you can see how much that product has really been selling for in recent months, to determine how much you'd really save over the regular price. 

4. Watch the model numbers

One sneaky move that you'll see during Black Friday, if you know to watch for it, is the use of retailer-specific models. These products look like the top models we've reviewed, bearing the same name brands and boasting many of the same features. But when you start hunting for reviews or even product pages from the manufacturer, you're likely to find sets that look very similar, but differ in one or two key details. What's going on here?

The simple version is that a big name retailer will approach a manufacturer about building a unique version of a product as an exclusive offer. These models will usually be indicated by a small distinction in the model number – a 3 when most models use a 5, a W for a model exclusive to Walmart, that sort of thing. 

But these exclusives are built to be a little cheaper from the start, letting the store run them as a loss leader without taking as deep a cut in profits. This is done by making everything slightly less expensive, and that usually means cutting corners. Lighter plastic construction, lower quality components, and even losing features that they think shoppers won't notice, ranging from a third or fourth HDMI port to downgrading the display technology.

The different model number also lets retailers sidestep promises of price matching, because they are unique products that other stores can't offer. That Walmart-only model won't have a matching number at Best Buy, so neither company has to worry about price matching the other, even if they both offer essentially identical products.

5. Be wary of refurbished products

Under normal circumstances, a refurbished product can be a good way to save a bit more on a popular TV. Sure it's lightly used, but if you buy a refurbished model direct from a manufacturer, you can feel relatively secure in your purchase, knowing that it's passed inspection and has been certified by the people that made it to be in good working condition.

You can usually count on similar guarantees from major retailers, but pay close attention – many online retailers have started serving up offers from independent sellers, and that makes it impossible to determine who gave the okay to any refurbished unit.

Buying direct from the manufacturer or a big-name store will often come with additional coverage options that help balance out the fact that you're getting a TV that has wear and tear right out of the box. Getting two years of peace of mind for a used TV is worth the price of a protection plan, especially on a set that may already be out of warranty.

In the other 11 months of the year, the general advice would be to know who you're buying from and be sure to buy some added protection for your purchase. But during Black Friday season, that advice changes. With so many genuinely great deals on brand new TVs, you can save hundreds on even the best TVs out there, brand new. There's no good reason to buy used when prices are this low for the unopened product.

More TV advice from Tom's Guide

Brian Westover

Brian Westover is currently Lead Analyst, PCs and Hardware at PCMag. Until recently, however, he was Senior Editor at Tom's Guide, where he led the site's TV coverage for several years, reviewing scores of sets and writing about everything from 8K to HDR to HDMI 2.1. He also put his computing knowledge to good use by reviewing many PCs and Mac devices, and also led our router and home networking coverage. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he wrote for TopTenReviews and PCMag.