The Number One Mistake to Avoid When Purchasing a New TV

TVs for sale

I’ve been telling my readers that since 2006, the Federal government has mandated that all TVs include a digital tuner to allow you to receive free broadcast TV using a cheap antenna. This is one of the main ways that I promote on to save money!

But recently, I’ve been getting messages from readers who claimed that their TVs did not come with a built-in tuner! So, I looked up the specs of one of these: the Vizio E55u-D2 SmartCast E-Series 55″ Class Ultra HD Home Theater Display. Sure enough – this TV had no coax antenna input, nor did it have a tuner!!

TV vs. Display

How could this be??? The answer is that the manufacturer is not calling this a TV, but rather a “Display”. This allows them to save a few bucks and get rid of the broadcast TV tuner. I find this to be very misleading to the consumer!!!!

You Can’t Watch Free Broadcast TV

Not having a tuner on your TV means that you can’t hook an antenna up to your TV directly. You would have to purchase a tuner separately, which means you have two remote controls to mess with. All of that so that the manufacturer can save a few bucks on your TV!!!!

Watching Cable TV Could Be a Problem Too

One reader pointed out that her apartment complex offered complimentary cable distributed via coax cable.  Unfortunately, she had a Vizio TV with no coax input, so she would have to buy a cable TV box with HDMI output!! That bites!!!

The Manufacturer’s Explanation

Here’s what Vizio’s website says about this:

The VIZIO SmartCast™ E-Series Ultra HD Home Theater Display is now tuner-free. Most households commonly stream or watch live TV from cable and satellite boxes – neither of which requires a tuner, so you shouldn’t notice any differences in setup.

Now if you use an external antenna to watch free local channels, you will need to get a separate tuner adapter to connect your antenna to your display.

Everything they say here is true, but this statement is buried way down on their site. If you look on Amazon, it’s really hard to tell that this “TV” has no tuner!

Plus, few people will know to look for this. Ever since TV’s first came out, they included a tuner which allowed you to connect antennas to them.  Now all of a sudden, some don’t!

Heck, I bet most people don’t even know what “tuner-free” means!

How to Avoid this Pitfall

Here are some tips to help you be sure you’re getting a TV with a tuner included:

  • Make sure the word “TV” is in the product title, as opposed to “Display”, “Home Theater Display”, or “Monitor”. TVs must contain a broadcast TV tuner, by Federal law!
  • In the TV specs, make sure it has an antenna, “RF”, coax, or cable TV input. Note, not all TVs with this input will list it. So, if you see this input, you’re good. If you don’t see it, you may or may not be good.
  • Find a photo of the TV’s rear panel (Amazon sometimes has these) and make sure it has the coax round connector like the one shown here:
    TV coax inputNote that you are looking for a single round connector, not the set of two or more colored round connectors
  • Be extra careful when purchasing a Vizio-branded TV.

What to Do If You Already Have a TV with No Tuner

As I’ve mentioned, if you already own one of these “displays”, you can purchase a TV tuner separately. This gets a little complicated because you have to make sure that you get a TV tuner that is high-definition and includes an HDMI output. Here are some I recommend:

DISCLOSURE: This is a professional review site that receives compensation from the retailer or manufacturer when you purchase through the affiliate links such as the ones on this page. I test and/or research each product or service thoroughly before endorsing it. This site is independently owned and the opinions expressed here are my own. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

The other bummer is that now you’ll have yet another remote control in your pile of remotes on your coffee table. That’s why having the tuner integrated into the TV is so much better.

If you want broadcast TV DVR capabilities and are willing to spend more money, then you can go with a Channel Master DVR+ or Tablo if you have more than one TV.

To Sum Up

I really hope other manufacturers don’t expand the practice of selling TVs without tuners. I find this practice misleading and greedy, because it only costs the manufacturer a few dollars to put in a tuner, whereas it costs you up to fifty dollars to buy one!

Some commenters have said that they don’t want to pay this cost and don’t want a tuner in their TVs because they have cable.  That is valid.  My beef is that the manufacturers are making it so hard to tell the difference between TVs with and without tuners that many consumers don’t understand what they are missing!

Also, you never know when you might want to ditch cable.  Isn’t it good to have the option of using an antenna?

If you see any other brands doing this, please let us know in the comments below! Thanks! – Brian

  • Jennifer Blaker McElroy

    Hello, I rent from a man that worked for Comcast. When we moved in he said basic cable was included. It worked great on our old TV with coax. I recently bought a vizio and purchased a digital TV converter box. I hooked it up and done my scan for my channels and the only channels i can get are a bunch of music channels. What am I doing wrong? Why can’t i pick up the other channels I got before? Thanks!!

    • Hi Jennifer,

      A digital TV converter box is for picking up broadcast TV signals from an antenna, not cable TV.


  • Holly

    Thank you so much for the info on Vizio TVs without tuners. I am so fed up with Vizio right now, only because I have spent the last 4 years bragging about them, how they build their electronics in the U.S. and their support is in the U.S. Now I find out about them leaving tuners out of the TVs to save a couple of bucks. I have a Vizio M3D550KD which is HD and 3D bought in Dec. 2012. I’ve only had one problem with it and that is just recently that the input automatically changes sometimes. If I have to get a new TV it would have been a Vizio, so thank you so much for letting us all know about the tuners. I doubt that I would have thought to check for that.

    • Hi Holly,

      Thank you for taking the time to write and share your experience! I’m glad my site was useful to you, and I too, am disappointed in Vizio removing their tuners.


  • Hi Orv,

    Usually if a service sounds too good to be true, it is. I haven’t tried that device or service, but there could be a catch or it might not be entirely legal. I couldn’t find much info on it from third party sources. Try at your own risk. I prefer the mainstream boxes like Roku, Amazon Fire, etc.

    There are way too many TV’s for me the review and recommend any, but I will caution you to make sure it has a built-in tuner if you want free broadcast TV’s. Some Vizio TVs are now shipping without tuners:


    • Orv Neconie

      The Nuclius Ursa device isn’t available yet. I’m hoping to have it delivered to me and beta test it for a few months. That’s why I came upon your page. I need a new TV with 4K resolution. I’m torn between the Vizio and Samsung with tuners. I appreciate your help and recommendations.

  • Orv Neconie

    I posted earlier about what TV you would recommend and I can’t find my post? Was it deleted?

    • Hi Orv,

      I did not delete your post. Please re-post your question.


      • Orv Neconie

        Thanks, Brian. I just started a new discussion.

  • Ron Green

    I have a Samsung LED tv that has NO audio out ports at all. Can I use one of the tuner/converter boxes you have listed above to grab the audio off the signal to send to my home theater system for OTA signals? I don’t need the converter part of this, since the tv is already digital. Will the signal it sends to my tv be readable?

    • Hi Ron,

      Oh, how frustrating! Yes, you could use a tuner box, but make sure it has the right kind of audio outputs for you before buying. Also, you would probably end up using the video output of the tuner box, or else when you change channels you’d have to do it on your TV for the picture and your tuner box for the sound.


  • Rondabay Liggins

    Thanks for this info. I will purchase one of the tuners you recommend above to see if I can salvage my TV before I spend more $$ on a new one. I purchased a LG Google TV 3 yrs ago. Paid a lot of $$ for it and a warranty. Something with the software has stopped the tuner from working. HH Gregg wont preplace it even though we purchased a warranty. They say “software” is not covered. LG wont fix it either they say there is no software fix, but for $350 they will send a tech to see if he can fix it. Smh!

    • Hi Rondabay,

      Thank you for sharing – that is terrible! Hope it works out.


  • Cliff

    I live in a city that has 18 OTA broadcasting stations in my zip code and all of them are UHF or Hi-V within a 35-mile radius of my home. I was gifted a Toshiba TV. I bought an antenna from Walmart (that works within 40 miles according to the instructions) and connected it to the TV and did a channel scan. The scan only found 4 channels. Three of the channels have perfect HD reception. The 4th station is black and white and very grainy. So, why can’t I get the other 14 stations with strong green signal strength according to the FCC DTV Reception Maps website? Is it a problem with the TV tuner, antenna or both or neither? I’ve tried 2 different brand name antennas and got the same results. How can I get more or all of the 18 OTA broadcasting stations and disable my cable for good?

  • Trisha

    My mother-in-law received a Vizio E-series for Christmas and she has cable TV. I have looked a several different converters and they all say will not work with cable providers, can you recommend one that will work?

    • Hi Trisha,

      It depends on the cable company. You’ll have to contact them to see which boxes will work.


  • Ak

    We’ve just purchased a Vizio 65″ 4k ultra hd…. No co ax hook up. Display mode says all the amazing things about the tv… Says ‘tuner free’. Wish I knew that or I wouldn’t have purchased it!

    • Hi Ak,

      Ah, sorry to hear that. Maybe you can return it?


    • Bill Eastman

      Did it say TV or monitor or display. Would be awesome if box said No OTA tuner. Get a refund and another that sayTV.

    • rhonda pace

      Same here they got me too! Im pissed. I cant use my free coax apt cable on that tv

  • DJ_Rome

    Am I missing something here? Buying a TV or “Big Display as some call it”, like Vizio is an advantage. First off only 5-10 percent of the Nation uses OTA transmission. Second your saving hundreds of dollars buying a Tuner-less TV and this savings could be used to buy a 40 dollar tuner if you really need it so your still saving money. Third OTA reception only gives a few channels and are very basic so this shouldn’t really matter. Lastly most households are using HDMI connection from there cable box straight to the TV. Bottom line is the hassle of buying a separate tuner and saving money in the long run and getting a very good product is an advantage to the consumer. No Brainer

    • HI DJ Rome,

      Thanks for your comments. The problem is that many people who have written to me didn’t know what they were getting (or not getting, as the case may be). There is not a clear enough distinction on the packaging and marketing materials to tell the consumer that a tuner is not there.

      Second, I really doubt the tuner adds “hundreds of dollars” to the cost of the TV.

      Also, I get over 100 channels using an antenna, not just “a few”. Granted many of those are foreign language, and stuff I don’t watch, but that’s true of cable too.

      I think you might underestimating how many people are dropping cable because they don’t want to pay $100+ dollars every month.


      • DJ_Rome

        Thanks for the reply,
        On a comparison with the TV I have to one with a tuner is a 3 hundred dollar difference. This may not be the case with every TV but in my case it was there.

        When I said a few channels I should of explained it better. Only a few a watchable is what I meant.

        I actually know many people are ditching cable and moving to streaming whether that be Live TV or a streaming app, “Me being one”. I no longer have cable but still have Live TV and TV shows and you are right the savings have been tremendous.

        Thanks for the article

        • Hi DJ Rome,

          Thanks for the info!!


      • Rondabay Liggins

        Brain, you are correct. Many, many people don’t have cable and don’t want it. The TV manufacturers and cable companies should not decide for me how I spend my money. That’s why there are gov’t regulations in place to stop them from doing this. They need to be transparent and let people know that the new TVs they’re selling are not “TVs” but are displays or monitors.

  • Carolina

    Thank you so much for your information! I bought a Vizio 43″ Display and I just realized that I am not able to connect the antenna so I have to buy and additional box with an additional control! I wish I have read this article before buying.

    • Hi Carolina,

      I’m sorry to hear that. Maybe you can exchange it?

      This has happened to so many people. Please forward this article to warn your friends and family.


  • Stephen Yoder

    FYI: The converter box that you need to connect to the Display does not need to have hdmi connection. It can instead be connected by using the rca jacks (yellow, red, and white). If the Display doesn’t have a yellow jack, then just plug the yellow cord into the green jack, nothing gets plugged into the blue and red video, and white and red audio is plugged in as usual. You may also have to change input to “composite” or “av”.

    • HI Stephen,

      That is true, but if you do it that way, it won’t be High Def quality. HDMI will give you hi def if your TV is capable of it.


  • Alan Smithee

    Vizio TVs are already garbage, omitting internal tuners just further shows this company doesn’t know what it’s doing!

  • Bill Eastman

    If it called itself a TV then it has a tuner BUT ifit calls itself a display it most likely doesn’t have a tuner.

    • Yes, exactly.


  • Margaret Mclaughlin

    I made the mistake last week to buy a Vizio E series only to find it has no coaxial in the back to plug into the cable provided by the condo. Are there connectors available to be able to plug in the cable? Do you have internet in order to use the TV?
    Very confusing, not impressed with Vizio.

  • Kristen Keller

    Thank you for this so very much! My roommate was given a “TV” since she didn’t have one and I only a small one. We were so excited! Living out in the country I have a really good antenna, but do not want to pay for cable since my internet is so high already… Well, no coaxial output. We are dinasours when it comes to technology and are bummed that there is no tuner. I really appreciate your article, for it so conccisely answered all my questions!!!!

    • Hi Kristen,

      Ah, I’m sorry to hear that. Thanks for sharing your story and best wishes/merry Christmas!


  • Online Observer

    I wound up buying one of these unknowingly without a tuner and I’m not sure how I feel about it! There is a feeling of uncertainty, as I would frequently switch back and forth from live OTA channels to streaming content on my old TV. Now, looking for a solution to get those back without cable (I just signed up with cable last week coincidentally, but I don’t plan to keep the tv service, I just wanted their internet!)

    • You could get a cable converter box if you want OTA channels, but yeah, I hate how the manufacturers are not making it clear what people are getting.


  • Nitin Sharma

    Being a digital tv service provider, couldn’t agree more. Display is a combination of hardware and quality of channel provider. But at times we ignore the hardware part.

  • jlh1221

    This is nothing new. I purchased a Westinghouse monitor in 2007 or 2008 knowing it had no tuner. I thought I would always have cable. When I decided to cancel cable in 2012, I bought a TV tuner (I had not acquired a free one when they were available). The tuner remote also controls the monitor power and volume; I only need the separate remote if I want to change to one of the other inputs. The next TV I purchased, however, does have a tuner.
    Amusing story: I once called customer service at my cable company when the cable box stopped working The company tech insisted I tune my TV to channel 4 as part of troubleshooting the problem. I told him it was a monitor, not a TV, and did not have a tuner. He still insisted I tune it to channel 4. I finally told him that I had tuned it to channel 4 so he would get on with his spiel.

  • Bill Eastman

    You might want to add Tablo and Roku for a solution and have links to them too to make a little.

    • Hi Bill,

      Thanks – good points! I’ll add these.


      • Bill Eastman

        Don’t know if you’ve tried it but Winegard FL5500A which is designed for both VHF and UHF is the best indoor antenna for 78758.
        Somehow with signal bounce, etc. I get channel 62, which in the Austin market i learned is broadcast on 13.

        • Thanks for sharing this Bill!