February 24, 2009

Using reviews to improve your shopping around

Shopping around is a great way to save money. But if we focus too much on the cost of an item then we may pay less to get a poor product. Saving money and getting a worse product may cost you more in the long run. So for this reason when I shop around I always try to get reviews on the products.

Here are some good resources for getting general product reviews:

Epinions : The Epinions website is a database of reviews on products and services written by users like you and me. Its a good source of independent reviews on a variety of topics and more popular items can have hundreds of reviews. They also have reviews of many services and reviews for stores in general.

Amazon.com: Amazon's website allows users to reviews products. There are usually a few reviews for most items. Even if I'm not buying at Amazon I still like to check out the reviews they have there. Of course Amazon is selling those items but you don't need to buy at Amazon to make good use of their reviews.

Google searches: If I'm buying a product I'll do a Google search with the keyword of the product and 'review'. For example if I'm looking at cars I might search Google for "toyota camry review". Google can help you find reviews on more obscure products.

You can also look to specialty sources for information. If you're buying a car then check out Edmunds.com for reviews. If you're buying a computer then look at PCMag.com. Information on local restaurants or services can be found on Yelp.com or Citysearch.com. If you're planning on traveling then Tripadvisor.com has a lot of hotel reviews. JD Power and associates has general satisfaction surveys on various categories and they are a good source of high level information on brands and companies.

Thus far I've focused on online sources of information. You can also find information in your local library. Consumer Reports magazine is a good source of unbiased professional reviews of various products. I'd recommend their website but most of the content there seems to be exclusive to subscription members.

There are a ton of sources for reviews on all sorts of products, services and companies. Whatever review source you use, just make sure that you do some research first before making a purchase to help ensure that you're getting a quality item or service.

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