BEWARE: Don’t buy a cheap DIRECTV receiver, even on Amazon

This question seems to come up every few months, and never quite goes away. So, every so often I’m inspired to write an article about it, in the hopes that the conversation can change. This time, it came in as a comment on one of our YouTube videos.

Will this work if I buy a box on Amazon, AT&T wants to charge me $99 and I don’t want to pay that much

“Will this work?” Well it’s not really important what “this” is. The real meat of this comment is that this person is trying to get a receiver for less than $99. And here’s what you need to know.

Don’t. Just. Don’t.

Here’s the simple fact: Anyone who is “selling” you a receiver is swindling you. This is doubly true if they’re trying to offer it at a price lower than what AT&T offers for similar hardware. You should avoid this person, because there’s a very good chance you’ll lose your money. Let’s look at why.

All DIRECTV boxes for home use are leased.

DIRECTV hardware is classified for use as home or business. Receivers that are classified for business use can be owned, but ones for home are leased. So if someone is trying to sell you a receiver that was in their home, there’s a problem.

You won’t be able to get that receiver added to your account, plain and simple. And the other person will get a charge added to their account equal to the cost of that receiver, so they won’t be able to refund your money.

As far as receivers for business, they can be reclassified for home use, but you’ll be charged the full lease amount and you won’t get your money back from the other person. So you’ll end up paying twice for the same receiver.

Receivers that people think are owned

There are two cases when a receiver isn’t classified as leased, even though it’s equipment for home. In some cases, the receivers belonged to employees. This is very, very rare now.

The other case involves older hardware. When a receiver is old enough, the customer will be told not to return it when a new receiver is activated. There’s often nothing wrong with the older hardware, but the whole model line has been moved to “end of life” status. Those receivers can’t be re-activated and should be recycled. Again, the only thing that will happen is you’ll lose your money.

AT&T hardware is price-controlled.

Real AT&T dealers can only offer receivers at an approved price. That price is never less than $99 for a receiver and $199-$399 for a DVR. Many times it’s higher than that. So if someone is offering out a receiver at under $99, they’re not AT&T dealers. Or, at the very least, they’re about to lose that dealership.

Let me say that again. When someone tells you they can get you an AT&T receiver for under $99, they are wrong.

If you get a receiver from a non-dealer, there’s a very good chance you won’t be able to activate it. And therefore, it will be useless to you.

What can you do before you spend money?

The best choice is simply not to do business with someone who puts DIRECTV boxes out there as a “sale.” But if you really want to go further, you can call ask for the receiver ID number. It’s found on a green sticker somewhere on the box. You can take that information and call AT&T directly. This is one of the few times when Solid Signal techs can’t be of help. AT&T’s people can tell you if that receiver is OK. You’ll have to wait on hold a while, generally.

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About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.