With the churn of prices on the Internet, even the most intrepid electronics shopper can't keep track of every deal as it appears. Two types of website promise to help. Another blog will soon cover deal-a-day sites that sell a single bargain-priced product—manufacturer's surplus, end-of-product closeout, refurbished item, or occasionally, introductory model—for just 24 hours. Today, we look at so-called bargain-aggregator sites that find, check, and link to limited-time-only deals from a host of retailers, some of which may last only a few hours.
Such sites, which include dealnews.com, dealslist.com, techbargains.com, and techdeals.net, can help you find good deals. But they aren't for everyone. Rather, they're most useful if you're open to a range of different models or brands. If you're shopping only for a specific model, look elsewhere; it may never rise to being a good deal compared with other models—and so may never be listed by a bargain-aggregator site.
To get the best bargain with a deal-linking site, follow these tips:
Use price-comparison tools. Some deal aggregators include a price-search engine like PriceGrabber.com. Take advantage of it to see if any better deals for an item can be found online. To be sure you're getting the lowest price, consult more than one bot.
Consumer Reports has not rated deal-aggregator sites, but our reporter tracked 10 deals for laptop computers, TVs, monitors, digital cameras, and GPS navigators listed on dealnews.com or techbargains.com against PriceGrabber, Google Product Search and Yahoo Shopping. One of the best deals depended for its lowball price on a mail-in rebate, which can result in delays. The best immediate bargain (without shipping) came to nearly 10 percent less than all bots on a $600 Olympus camera. But more than half the time at least one of the bots matched or bettered the price on the so-called "deal" sites.
Be flexible with your timing. Don't settle for bargains listed at the moment. You could find a price you're more comfortable with if you're willing to wait until the right deal comes along. Check the lists for week-end specials and be aware of price drops as a product nears the end of its life cycle.
And in assessing deals you reach from these sites, follow the same prudence as for any other online transaction. With prices that are too good to be true—say, half what mainstream sites are typically selling the item for, or less—do some research. Be cautious if the site isn't listed in our Ratings of online retailers (available to subscribers) or well-regarded by previous customers, as reflected in the user ratings left on bots. Also, check if the item in question is an open-box or refurbished item, which may require additional cautions. Regardless of the item's status, before you buy, check the retailer's return policy and any warranty coverage that applies.
The information above originally appeared in the Winter 2009 edition of our Electronics Buying Guide, a print publication that brings together the buying advice found on this site, along with some other information. You can order it on our online store.