The best price comparison websites find great deals on products you want across a wide selection of companies. The next time you want to buy a gift, your next household appliance, or a nice TV, skip the stores and venture online.
In my research, I made sure vendor variety was at the top of my list. I also looked at several other factors to narrow my search, and discuss them at length in my review.
What Does a Price Comparison Website Do?
First thing's first: let's talk price comparison sites. Price comparison shopping sites (or price comparison engines) serve as an aggregation of product information from various retailers. In other words, information on the products you are interested in buying are compiled and displayed on the site for your convenience. The information typically includes the retailer's price, shipping options, reviews, and filter options.
Price comparison sites are also of great value for eCommerce merchants, who can flash their products to consumers searching for the best deal on the product they are already dead set on.
Ultimately, price comparison sites are a great tool for any consumer wishing to save money.
Price Comparison Websites: What to Consider
The best price comparison websites allow you to evaluate prices of your favorite products, across a variety of vendors in one place, which eliminates the need to hunt down the best deal for hours on end.
It is important, however, to make sure that you are getting your information from a reputable site, especially if you are buying directly from the web. When you do your own research, here are some things to consider:
1. Wide Variety of Products and Retailers
With the best price comparison site you only need to type in an item, whether by description or exact model, and the results you're looking for should appear without issue. If you're having a difficult time tracking down the item on a price comparison site, then perhaps it is best to refer to a different site.
2. Accurate Pricing and Deal Information
A reliable price comparison site should contain results that are up-to-date, preferably in real time, and accurate. It is a frustrating experience to discover a 50% off deal for a videogame that retails at $60 on a price comparison site, only to find that the deal has ended hours earlier.
3. Helpful Search Options to Filter Results
It would be unbelievably annoying if you couldn't sort out your results, right? Well, the best price comparison sites should have the option that filters by common categories such as price, reviews, and brands. Bonus points for categories that are more obscure or more tailored to the type of product, such as by thickness (in the case of a mattress) or by RAM size.
4. Trustworthy Vendors
Vendors need to be trustworthy. No buyer wants a bad experience with a service. That's why the best price comparison sites provide vendors that are reliable. Vendors who are deemed shady would certainly harm the reputation of not only the vendor, but also the price comparison engine. Price comparison sites need to be completely clear and honest with listings and other information. Just like a healthy relationship, honesty is crucial to maintaining a loyal and mutually beneficial relationship.
5. Helpful and Available Customer Service
Price comparison engines should offer customer service for not only the issues the consumer may encounter on the site, but also for businesses who may have any inquiries or issues regarding advertising on said engine. Again, loyalty must be built between the consumer, the business, and the price comparison site in order to maintain a lasting bond.
6. User Friendly Site
No one likes a site that is messy or impossible to navigate. The best price comparison sites feature user-friendly tools, a powerful filter, and a navigation system that is easy to use rather than frustrating and ultimately deterring. A site that doesn't fulfill any of these criteria aren't fit to use. Furthermore, it can be considered not only unprofessional but shady.
The Best Price Comparison Sites
- Variety of vendors and items
- Up-to-date deals
- Helpful search tools
- Helpful customer service
- Section to read vendor reviews
- Some problems with customer service
PriceGrabber is fantastic and extremely user-friendly search-and-compare site that offers you ways to track the top searches, weekly deals, and coupons. They have a variety of vendors and items for sale, as well as up-to-date listings to make sure that you receive the lowest possible price. I think any negatives found on this site are vastly outweighed by its positives.
The feature I like most about PriceGrabber is its Buying Guides section. This tab, located on the homepage, takes you to a wonderful series of articles that help you make informed purchases in a variety of areas. For example, let's say you are a new parent looking for a way to change your baby's play area. You can read the site's article about infant activity centers in order to absorb the information necessary to make a safe and frugal purchase.
Although there have been complaints regarding customer service, those seemingly unbiased and helpful buying guides go a long way in making up for it.
- Simple, attractive aesthetic
- In-depth filters and easy-to-use search tools
- Extensive amount of merchants and brands
- Specific products may not be available
- Items may not always be representative of categories
- Some items are only featured by one or two vendors
Shopping.net, which has been owned by eBay since 2005, is a sleek price comparison site that lures in over 100 million consumers monthly with its alluring and informative layout. The site offers a vast array of categories and subcategories to choose from, ranging from Auto Parts and Accessories to Video Games.
That being said, when you're on the front page, you'll find yourself face-to-face with the search bar. It's a clean, simple design that goes straight to the point. Just search for what you want.
For a price comparison site, it has what the customer desires: an easy-to-use interface, an option to automatically select items that are on sale, and an in-depth filter. For example, if you select the category of "laptops," you'll be able to narrow your options by whether the products are on sale or if free shipping is offered. Not only that, but you can further filter by Brand, Store, Operating System, Product Line, Input Method, Video Card, Platform, Laptop Type, Max Video Resolution, and Price Range.
Unfortunately, while there is a wide variety of categories to choose from, some products are only offered by one or two merchants, which makes price comparison rather nonexistent. A lack of options defeats the purpose of a price comparison. Overall, Shopping.net offers a deep experience that is simple to use for the consumer, which will essentially save time and energy.
- Plenty of vendors, both big name and obscure
- Price comparisons are thorough
- Filter options are extensive
- User-friendly site
- No price alert emails
- Prices aren't always accurate
- Searching can be a little slow compared to competitors
Shopzilla is one of the largest comparison sites around, having served millions of customers over its lengthy existence. When you click on a product you're interested in you'll be taken directly to the product's site where customer reviews are listed right to the side.
The filtering is as grandiose in comparison to Shopping.net. In the case of Shopzilla.com, if you search for a laptop, you'll be able to narrow your selection by Price Range, Brand, Store, Operating System, Networking Type, RAM, and more. There is a list of "More Options," if you choose to be a tad pickier in your search.
Yet, Shopzilla is not without its flaws. First of all, the prices listed for every product is not always up-to-date. This can cause some confusion for the consumer. Second, the customer service isn't the greatest. Some people have complained that questions could take more than a couple of days for responses. Third, searching can take a bit of time. Not because it's difficult to search for a product, but because of the load and the fact you are visiting external sites. Finally, you won't be able to sign up for email sales alerts, unlike other competitors.
Overall, Shopzilla's offerings are hefty in number, with many different merchants to select from.
- Variety of vendors and items
- Up-to-date deals
- Helpful search tools
- Interesting email feature
- Easy-to-use site
- Some merchants aren't trustworthy.
BizRate allows you to compare prices in a variety of areas like clothing, computer software, electronics, children's products and many more. You can search by the lists they provide at the top or use the search bar. Once you've searched for an item, the site takes you to a list of products and prices in that category.
You can also refine the search by specifying your price range, searching only certain brands, or checking specific boxes that only include items that are on sale or items with free shipping.
I like how BizRate helps you find a deal if you're having difficulties navigating the site. A window will pop up offering to let you know, by email, when the item you are looking for goes on sale. This means that the site keeps looking for deals for you even after you've stopped. Also, the large variety of products and vendors mean that you are more likely to find exactly what you are looking for.
Unfortunately, BizRate is not very strict in screening their merchants, according to consumer based review sites like Epinions. This means that you are on your own when deciding whether or not you should trust a vendor.
- Variety of vendors and items
- Up-to-date deals
- Useful search tools
- Helpful customer service
- Interesting "radar" tool
- Some merchants aren't trustworthy
NexTag is old, at least in terms of internet years. The site has been in operation since 1999 but it is not yet past its prime. NexTag offers similar features to other sites like BizRate with a few interesting features.
Aside from a good search and compare system, it has a site tab that says "deals." If you click on it you can see the day's best deals in all categories or in specific ones. If you have an account you can also use the site's "radar" feature to track big price drops and new deals on the products you are looking for.
The consumer reviews for NexTag are overall very positive. Although, it is possible to run into an untrustworthy vendor, the length of time NexTag has successfully operated in this business lends itself to earning your trust.
The Benefits of Using Price Comparison Websites
As I've said before, price comparison sites are an amazing way to save money. But that's not the only advantage these sites offer. Here are just a few more benefits, in case you're on the fence about venturing onto these sites:
1. Save Time
These sites would save a buyer several literal hours to find the best price for a deal, especially if the buyer is rather inexperienced with online shopping. This time could instead be used for other productive activities.
2. Eliminate Boredom of Deal Hunting
Face it: for many shoppers, deal-hunting is not only tedious but absolutely soul crushing. Price comparison websites eliminate the difficulty and boredom by doing the work for you.
3. See Prices From Lesser Known Retailers
While some retailers and brands carry high-quality products, they may be overshadowed by more notable competitors. Price comparison websites help expose these smaller retailers, which would help them expand their recognition and grow their brand.
While these benefits are great, not all price comparison sites are equal. It's important to ensure that a price comparison site is upfront and transparent about its policies.
In 2014, the BBC reported that the Office of Fair Trading (which has since been closed) stated that while price comparison sites pushed forward the idea of financial value, becoming a "major step forward," a review of 55 unique aggregates proved that these sites needed to improve their privacy settings, the complaints process, the display of results, and a clear indicator of the owner of the site.
The OFT not only wrote to 100 leading operators, asking them to make information on their sites clearer, but also urged all consumers to be aware of the following when using price comparison sites:
- The ability to opt out of sharing any personal information
- How results are displayed, whether by relevance, price, or popularity
- Using more than one website and not simply rely on words "best deal"
- The owner of the site
- Reviews for the site
- Accreditation of the site
Price Comparison Websites: What's the Catch?
If you're particularly worried about these sites charging you to utilize their services - don't. Typically, price comparison sites do not charge users to make use of the tools. But how exactly do they make money? The engines are monetized via payments made by the retailers listed on the site.
Retailers usually pay a flat fee, a fee for every time a user accesses the retailer site from the price comparison engine, or when the user completes a particular action, such as when purchasing a product from the retailer's site.
Price Comparison Site Alternatives
Price comparison websites are quite reliable when shopping for the best price, but there are other, similar tools to consider that will aid in providing you the greatest savings.
Make sure to also refer to price comparison apps that mobile devices offer. According to a survey by Statista, as of March 2015, 74% of U.S. consumers between the ages of 18 - 34 claimed that they used a smartphone, mobile device, or a computer, to search for the best prices on a product. Of those surveyed between the ages of 35-44, about 57% of claimed that they also compared prices for a product online. So price comparison is an important factor in the lives of the average U.S. consumer, at the very least.
Mobile devices aren't the only tool for consumers to utilize. Take advantage of browser engine add-ons.
You can also install a price comparison add-on to your search engine, which will hunt down the cheapest bargains for you automatically as you visit a product's page.
Furthermore, if possible, always be on the lookout for discount codes and coupons to take advantage of. This will provide you with the maximum amount of savings possible.
And finally, there are other price comparison sites out there. Some sites are fortunately tailored to specific types of products, such as insurance.
Choosing the Best Price Comparison Website
Searching for general price comparison websites that suit your needs is a rather difficult endeavor. There are a few sites out there that simply do not fit the bill of "best price comparison sites," mainly because they don't feature the best online shopping sites, offer a wide variety of vendor options, or the user interface is far from friendly.
So with those options in mind, I have compiled and ranked the best price comparison sites by performing the following steps:
I initially sought results from Google with the keywords "price comparison sites," "price comparison website list," "shopping search engines," and "price comparison engine," utilizing results from several sources.
From there, I eliminated the sites that were deemed unsuitable for the best price comparison site list. I narrowed down the results based on the user-friendliness of the site, the variety of vendors, the timeliness of updates, and the helpfulness of customer service.
Finally, after clipping down to the final five sites, I ranked the engines based on the same criteria expressed in the previous step, with the ending results posted above for the consumer to review and enjoy.
Price Comparison Websites Recap
The best price comparison websites can help you get great deals that you didn't even know were available. Remember that they are tools that should be used carefully. Make sure you read the fine print before making any purchase and if you buy online be sure you are buying from a reputable retailer. By shopping safely, you will be able to find the best possible deal for whatever you are looking for.
Sometimes it's difficult to shop for the perfect gift for a colleague or a loved one, but that's where gift cards come in. But where should you shop for gift cards? Check out our review of the best places to buy gift cards. What also makes for a great gift on special occasions, especially for a dearly beloved, is jewelry. Before you hunt for that sparkling trinket, please take a look at our review of the best online jewelry stores.