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How I Research a Purchase

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Personal finance sites put a lot of attention on saving money, investing, even career advice. I haven't read a lot of information on how research a product before you buy it. Today I'd like to share with you my thoughts and maybe in comments you can teach me a thing or two.

How much research should I put in a purchase?

I look at two major factors in answering this question. How much is it going to impact my life and how much is the item? I'll actually put some research into something like pillows because I them every day. More often than not, the bigger factor is how much something costs. I'm simply not going to spend a lot of time and energy hemming and hawing over the price of a piece of chewing gum. However, a costly purchase like a home, car, even a flat-screen television... those are the kind of things that I want to research.

Five Tips for Researching Purchases

  • Almost Anything - Amazon has a lot of reviews on more products than you can shake a stick at. Even if you aren't going to make your purchase there it's worth checking it out to see what people are saying.
  • Technology - I'm sure some of you will cringe, but I love the reviews of Walt Mossberg. I also like to check Gizmodo and Engadget.
  • Cars - Edmunds really has a wealth of knowledge. I supplement that with Kelly Blue Book. If I was buying a used car, I'd probably pick up a Car Fax report.
  • Homes - When I was buying my home, using Bankrate was instrumental in finding my best mortgage rate. I always like to give Zillow a look, even if it might not be accurate in your area. I'd like to recommend a local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) - but it seems like there are some areas where you can better information if you partner with a Realtor. Since it's been a few years since I've been home shopping, perhaps I'm missing some great resources.
  • Restaurants & Shops - Word of mouth is still king in finding a good restaurant. However, I'm starting to depend a little more on Yelp ratings. Yelp provides more than just restaurant ratings, it's good for shops and businesses of many varieties.

What research do you do before you buy a product? Please share your best tips in the comments below.

Posted on August 8, 2008.

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7 Responses to “How I Research a Purchase”

  1. Miranda says:

    I don’t research much, because my husband really, really likes to look for the best products for the best prices. His favorite research tool is Consumer Reports.

    We also like reading user ratings and reviews on products that we are considering. In the end, we usually feel good about what we purchase. Very rarely do we experience buyer’s remorse, since everything is meticulously researched.

  2. Jim says:

    strong post. I tend to buy a lot of books from Amazon. I am always open to reading others reviews and commentary. I tend to really enjoy going back and reading the reviews after I have finished the book to see if I agree with their stance on how good/bad/helpful the book was.

  3. Another Personal Finance Blog says:

    Checking blogs, forums and groups is a great way to see what has been written about something both positive and negative. Additionally, commenters will offer up alternatives.

  4. pfstartup says:

    I personally check out cnet.com whenever I’m researching technology purchases. They really know what they’re talking about. They tend to have great reviews of products and articles that answer general questions like 1080p vs. 720p

  5. I nearly check Amazon before purchasing most products even if I am not buying it from there because they seem to have the most reviews. Also, I love Edmunds.com for car purchases and also used Zillow for pricing my house when we sold it by owner.

    Although, I think there are a few great sources that you are missing:
    – Consumer Reports
    – BBB
    – When I am at the store and I want to purchase something I am unsure of or it costs more than $50, I usually check frucall.com.

    pfstartup mentioned cnet which is a good source for techie items. If it is a technology component such as a monitor, hard drive, etc I also always check the ratings at newegg.com.

  6. Robert says:

    I also use Amazon.com for most things except cars for which I use http://www.truecar.com and cnet.com for tech specific items

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