When we shop online, most of us stick to just a few familiar sites. But if you want to be sure you’re getting the best price, specialty sites called shopping bots can help you sift through literally millions of online companies. Consumer Reports Money Adviser just sized up the best ones for bargain hunters.
Say you want to buy Consumer Reports' top-rated digital camcorder. It's the Elura 50 from Canon. It's selling online at Best Buy for 599 dollars.
To see if there's a better deal, Consumer Reports' Helen Popkin checked out comparison shopping sites called shopping bots. There were six in all — Bizrate, mySimon and NexTag, as well as PriceGrabber.com, PriceSCAN.com and Shopping.com.
"Well, they all work about the same way. You type in the name of a product you're looking for. In this case the Canon Elura 50. And you get back a list of sites where that product is available."
A shopping bot can sort the results by price.
"At Shopping.com the camcorder is available at prices ranging from 419 dollars to 699 dollars."
But be aware, the way to find the best deal is to sort by total price, which includes shipping and handling and any taxes.
"When you include shipping, handling and taxes, 419 becomes 479 and it's no longer the lowest price."
The cheapest price is actually 459 dollars at another site.
Shopping bots can also tell you about other shoppers’ experiences. You'll want to avoid sites with comments like "very poor customer service" and "I would not shop here again."
Consumer Reports Money Adviser found some shopping bots are better than others. Top ratings went to BizRate.com and Shopping.com.
They're easy to use — with the best combination of product availability and lowest prices.