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5 Tips to Help You Buy Satellite Dish

by Jack Berkins on February 18, 2012

If you’ve finally gotten fed up with the random price hikes and fees associated with cable, you’re probably looking to buy a satellite dish system and start fresh. Before you dive right in, it’s always a good idea to step back and give your entertainment needs a closer look — you’ll be much happier after installation and probably save some money as well. Here are our top 5 ordering tips:

1) Carefully pick a programming package
Sure, you may think you know which channels and types of programming you like, but there are literally hundreds of different, full-time channels available, so make sure your favorites are covered. If you’re looking to maximize your savings, the Direct TV Choice Package starts at just $34.99/mo (150+ channels) while DISH carries the Smart Pack Plan at $19.99/mo (50+ channels).

With either service, you can switch packages fairly easily, so if you end up missing a channel or two, chances are you’ll be able to upgrade for another $10/month and get it added. Be sure to check out the latest satellite TV promotions to take full advantage of current specials and free bonuses, they may already include a few of your select premium channels at no extra charge.

2) Go with a reputable retailer
A satellite TV retailer helps you with your initial order, schedules your installation (usually – and hopefully – with their own in-house team) and follows up post-installation to make sure everything went smoothly. There are plenty out there, but only a handful that really excel at what they do. Nothing’s more frustrating that getting the wrong the equipment or having your installer cancel during your expected delivery window. Check out our recommended providers here.

3) If you’re hooked on HD, get it free
Chances are you have an HD TV or are in the market for one, and satellite broadcasters are well aware of that…and trying to keep up. Over the past few years, DIRECT and DISH have competed heavily to bring you the most high definition channels. As of this writing, DISH technically has more (200+ to DIRECTV’s 160+), but a good 50 of those aren’t full time HD channels, so it’s closer than it seems. Cost-wise, both services have offered free HD for life (~$10/mo value) during one promo or another, so if HD is incredibly important to you (it is for me!), you may want to wait until you can lock in that bonus.

4) Don’t get stuck with a clunky receiver
Your receiver connects you to your programming…in more ways than one. A slow or out-of-date one can take forever to change channels or perform a search while a top flight model may add unnecessary fees to your bill. These days, equipment is getting cheaper to manufacture, so you can usually get a free HD or HD DVR receiver upgrade during your order; just make sure to inquire about it. If you’re leaning towards dual tuners (that allow you to control two TVs from one box), you can find that with DISH – here’s a quick rundown of all the DISH receivers available.

5) Nothing beats quality customer service
Too many companies overlook that point. Sure, they offer around-the-clock access to operators, but they’re farmed out overseas or just too junior level to really help when a sticky problem arises. The good news is both DISH and DIRECTV have put a premium on training their customer service agents…and keeping them domestic. If you call late at night, you’ll find some calls still do get switched overseas, but over the years we’ve had quite a bit of experience with various call centers, and I can’t remember a single bad experience.

Bottom line, buying a satellite dish can be a pretty big move — with all the options and ads, it can be overwhelming at times. Just stick to the basics above and you’ll be well on your way to creating the perfect system. Remember, it’s your service, so be sure you get it on your terms and at the best price available.

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