One of the main reasons shopping online can be so daunting to the average consumer is the bewildering variety of choices that it presents. It's often much easier to go into a store and choose between product A and product B. Or to know that Best Buy has a better deal on IPODs currently than CompUSA. People rarely enjoy decision making, and comparison shopping requires you to evaluate multiple options and make a final decision. With two products, or two retailers, that process is simple. But with the Pandora's box of choices internet shopping opens up, how do you truly compare prices and products to feel certain you truly are getting the most bang for your buck?
Use comparison shopping websites.
Like much of everything else, there are multiple sites on the internet that have already done your work for you! Comparison shopping websites will give you quotes from a wide variety of stores, given that you know the specific item you are looking for. Most of these sites are free, so don't get suckered into paying for them or becoming a member. These websites do not usually feature used items, so make sure that you also check EBAY and its affiliated sites.
http://www.bizrate.com/ - Provides reviews with product prices
http://www.nextag.com/ - Includes comparison rates for mortgages and travel
http://www.monstermarketplace.com/ - Contains helpful "how-to" shopping guides for the major shopping categories (electronics, computers, auto, apparel, home and health etc.)
Know how much the item costs in your local stores.
This price can be usually be discovered by accessing their online sites. Do a Google search for the store name or just type it in with a .com after it. Some common examples would include:
http://www.walmart.com/, http://www.bestbuy.com/, http://www.target.com/, http://www.compusa.com/, http://www.americaneagle.com/
Read Product Reviews
Some online sites will have product reviews to help you differentiate between superior and inferior products. Understanding the differences in products is key to comprehending price differences. For example, a $30 bookcase may look exactly like a 180$ bookcase, but reading the product reviews reveals that one is made of real hardwood, and the other of pressboard. Some websites with a wide variety of product reviews are:
My favorite site synthesizes hundreds of reviews and hits the high points about what customers are saying about a particular product.
You can also simply type in the name of the product, or the general area, with the words "reviews" or "consumer reports" after it into a basic google search. I.E. "Chi Reviews" or "Appliance Reviews."