Previously I indicated that I was reconsidering joining Angie's List. I've since taken the plunge and joined Angie's List for 1 month.
With a discount code that I got at Money Smart Life's page it ended up costing me just $7.50 to join for one month. I'm using this as a trial period. If I don't like it or get enough value out of it then I'll cancel the membership.
Provides Useful Data
Angie's List does what it advertises and offers reviews from customers on contractors. In my city they have thousands of contractors with 10's of thousands of reviews. There is simply nowhere else that I can get this kind of useful data. If you live in a small city then the number of reviews in Angie's List may make it a lower value. I'd check the Angie's List site to see the # of contractors per state and city.
Saves You Research Time
I spent about 2-4 hours one day looking up about 100 HVAC contractors in my area and checking out their websites. I googled each of the contractors and tried to find reviews about them, checked their BBB rating if they had done and compiled what I found in an Excel sheet. Its a lot of work to do that kind of research. With Angie's List I can easily find top rated contractors in my area within a couple minutes. In fact it takes me just about 1 minute to search Angie's List for HVAC contractors in my area and get a list of the top rated contractors.
I don't Like their Search engine
Their search functions seem pretty limited. It basically only lets you pick a category then set the distance from your home. Unless it is hidden somewhere that I can't find, they don't seem to have an 'advanced' search option. When you're trying to sort through 100's of contractors it really helps to have more options in the search system. I find this lack of capability pretty inexcusable for a website like Angie's List.
I don't Like how they display ratings
The normal view that they give to show the ratings for a contractor are to just tell you their average grade. The grades are on the A,B,C,D,F scale. They also tell you how many reviews the contractor has. I would like it if they provided more detail like a breakdown of how many A's, B's, etc that they got. It helps to know if someone got a bunch of A's and a few F's or if they got all B's. Or sometimes the average will be an A but they'll have a few bad scores mixed in that you don't know about unless you skim all the reviews.
This is how Angie's List shows you the score:
I'd prefer it if they gave you a view like Amazon's reviews do such as this:
That way you'd be able to see quickly the breakdown of a businesses reviews. Then you can also click on the 1 star ratings and see what those people had to say and why. Sometimes a B score could be due to one crackpot who gave an F rating for no good reason.
My impression of Angie's List is that : it provides a valuable service that can make it worth paying for but their website could use some improvement.