Comparing prices is the hallmark of a smart bargain shopper, but knowing where to start can be a challenge in and of itself, so we’ve compiled some reviews of the most popular price comparison sites to help you out. Because that’s how we roll. In the name of equal opportunity, we kept our search specific, for Ugg Classic Short Boots (on all except the tech sites, of course). Here’s what we found:
Amazon.com. Amazon.com is probably the most high-profile of the price comparision sites (and the one we reference most on TBF), and for good reason. You’ll find a wide range of products here, from sellers across the web (including auction sites like eBay), as well as exclusive-to-Amazon deals on namebrand and designer items you’ll not easily find elsewhere. The downside? Your less-specific searches can turn up an avalanche of products that don’t always seem to actually relate to your search terms, requiring you to spend a lot more time sorting than you might like.
Pricegrabber.com. Picking our favorite part about Pricegrabber.com is easy: the most comprehensive price comparison featured we’ve seen. Once we’d found our target item, we simply click “compare” and get an easy-to-scan list of sellers with your best price at the top, including how much your total will be with shipping and handling. The Ugg boots we searched, for example, retail for almost exactly the same price at Onlineshoes.com and Neiman, but with free shipping and no tax at Onlineshoes.com, our online order would have ended up costing us $20 more if we’d gone with Neiman.
Bizrate.com. A bit easier on the eyes than Pricegrabber, Bizrate is equally easy to use. Our Ugg Classic Short Boots search actually produced a much longer list of options, which we were then able to break down by most popular, low to high price, etc. including a option to give our own specific price range rather than pick from a too-broad list of pricepoint choices.
Dealtime.com. Dealtime gives you a few different options to shop—you can search your item, shop by category, or take advantage of Buyer’s Guide and Store Directory tools. We searched our Ugg boots here, and found our cheapest price yet—$20 bucks below anyone else thus far on Amazon.com—which is a good example of how not all price-comparison sites are equal (Yep, for the best deal, you’ll have to search more than one. No one said this was going to be easy). Our favorite feature here? The detailed product and store reviews, because being armed with more information can only mean smarter shopping.
Beatmyprice.com. Beatmyprice.com is far and away one of the easiest sites to use—no big menus and messy graphics to sort through—simply enter your product, hit search and get a list. Simple. This is our top pick, then, for those for whom navigating the Internet is akin to hacking through the jungle with a machete; nothing scary here, just great deals.
Pricewatch.com. The design? Completely no frills—but while it lacks all the design bells and whistles, it’s straightforward and easy to use, and produces plenty of results to compare, assuming you have a very specific item in mind. The general categories, however, are not so useful—clicking on Women’s Apparel, for example, produces a weird mix of completely random items that left us scratching our heads, and moving on to the next site . . .
NexTag.com. More tech- than fashion-based, NexTag is still a great place to compare prices for all your non-apparel needs (we have to spend money on other stuff sometime). We especially like the “My Lists” box, where we can keep track of recent searches, viewed items, and create shopping and wish lists.
ShopStyle.com. Not exactly a price comparison site, per say, but a good place to search for clothing and accessories by item type—search for what you want, then break it down by price point, store, sales, etc. We love that we can be as general as searching for “purple sweater” and come up with a ton of great options from stores we love anyway, all in one place.
MySimon.com. Not affiliated with Simon Malls, MySimon is a reasonably intuitive site that’s easy to search or navigate by category—all of which are broken down into sub-categories (for example, the Health and Beauty section includes cosmetics, men’s fragrances, skin care, etc.) and then into even MORE specific sub-categories (like price range, cosmetic type, etc.). A 2008 gift guide is a helpful tool for those of us who need to shop but don’t really know what we’re looking for to begin with.
Smarter.com. By the time we’ve worked our way down to this site, search functions start to seem, well, pretty much all the same. So what sets Smarter.com apart? Fantastic user product reviews, including video reviews that show you the product, how it works, and commentary from the reviewer (an actual regular person who has purchased the product). The site also features coupons and daily deals, so we can not only compare prices on specific items but also find discounts for stores we frequently shop . . . that is smart.
AOL Shopping. We’ve never fully understood the point of AOL—it’s a network that made sense in the original incarnation of the Internet, but since Web 2.0 has sort of gotten buried under an avalanche of equal (or better) networking sites. Still, its shopping function is just another option for comparison shoppers. Our search for—what else?—Ugg boots didn’t turn up anything earth-shattering, but we do like the front page listings of specific stores (again, in case we don’t have one particular item in mind) as well as some shopping guides for the overwhelmed among us.
CNET Shopping. We’re never too excited about sites that take us right to an ad before we can actually enter the site, but everybody’s got to make a buck, we suppose. Once on the actual homepage, we found a sort of tech-haven, with everything from camcorders to MP3 players to cell phones to GPS systems and more. If there’s a tech-head in your household, this is the site to hit—even if you don’t know the tech lingo. As it turns out, the categories are translated into layman’s terms—we like that the computer sub-headings included things like “barebone desktops” and “budget laptops.” Now that’s speaking our language.
PriceRunner.com. Another day, another typical price comparison site—perfectly adequate but not much more. Still, we did enjoy one feature in particular (which puts this one in line with Pricegrabber for us)—once you’ve searched your item, a box at the top asks you to enter your zip code so it can calculate your full price including shipping. The less we have to use our calculator to get to the bottom line, the happier we are, quite frankly.
Google Product Search. Using the Google product search is fine if you’re looking for something really specific (like, say, some Classic Short Ugg boots). However, if you’re entering a more general search term the results can be all over the place, meaning you’ll spend a bunch of time wading through stuff you have absolutely zero interest in—and your ability to sort results is extremely limited. That being said, we do like that Google pulls results from eBay, meaning we might find exactly what we want on auction and get it cheaper than any retailer offering.
Streetprices.com. While most of the sites we’ve reviewed have some redeeming qualities, we’re hard pressed to find a reason to jump straight to Streetprices.com, unless you just can’t seem to find what you’re looking for elsewhere. Why? Well, clicking around on categories we headed to apparel, then to footwear, then to women’s—and got results like a Progestacare Pump and a Yellow Roses Christmas Party Dress for American Girl dolls. Hmmm. We could have then sorted the results by brand, etc., but we really don’t want to have to put that much effort into it, when there are other more user-friendly options out there . . .