I live in the way out hinterlands of northern Michigan. If I buy online, how do they service their products? Who do they have ship it? How much of a hassle is it to have it serviced, and/or shipped back?
Panasonic has you pay one way for service, Pioneer picks up the tab both ways to ship it back and forth. Not sure about the rest. You can pick up an extended warranty pretty cheap (4 years) and I'm pretty sure that they offer in home service. If any goes wrong (after the manufacturer's warranty expires) the extended picks up, then all you do is make a call and wait for them to come to you.
Many dealers (e.g., Dell) will exchange a defective unit within 30 days and pay return shipping. After that you will have to deal with the manufacturer.
Many extended warranties will provide in-home service only if it was included in the original manufacturer's warranty. Thus, in the case of Panasonic, for example, you would still have to ship the unit to a service center at your expense to obtain warranty repairs.
BTW, many credit cards will extend the original warranty for an additional year on merchandise purchased using their cards. Check the fine print in your cardholder's agreement or call the cc company for details.
You will have find out where the nearest service center is for the particular brand of TV in which you are interested, and contact a shipping company to get specifics for your location. Plasmas are large, awkward and delicate to ship; most should be strapped to a pallet to keep them upright which adds to the cost.
Eagle Freight is the company used by many dealers, and has a pretty good reputation. (FedEx, on the other hand, seems to have a lot of trouble handling plasmas.) If I were to hazard a guess, I would say most such shipments would probably cost $150-$200 or thereabouts, for a 42" set.
IMO, the best plan mught be to buy from a dealer who offers a 30-day free replacement policy, including shipping; and cross your fingers that any troubles show up during this period. If you have to ship the unit somewhere for service, it is bound to be a hassle and cost a fair amount.
Finally, even if you buy a set with in-home warranty service, they may not really have access to qualified technicians in your area who understand plasmas. You might want to find out exactly what repair shops they have under contract, and call a few of these shops to see if they actually know anything about plasmas.
A forum community dedicated to home theater owners and enthusiasts. Come join the discussion about home audio/video, TVs, projectors, screens, receivers, speakers, projects, DIY’s, product reviews, accessories, classifieds, and more!