Image by Mat Honan, San Francisco, USA
If you are looking for ways to save money on your purchases, comparison websites are a great place to start. Whether you're buying insurance, booking holidays, buying a credit card, or simply shopping online, it's extremely useful to be able to compare a large number of companies at once, and see who is offering the best deal for your requirements.
However, not everything is fantastic in the world of comparison sites; there are some downsides to using them:
- Comparison websites do not list every company. If the site charges fees the best deal might come from a small business that can't afford to advertise on a comparison website.
- Some companies choose not to advertise on comparison sites at all, as they want customers to, visit their website directly to promote other products or focus on the other benefits of choosing their product.
- Sometimes the comparison website won't take into account additional costs. If we take the example of booking flights, a cheaper airline may charge extra for large baggage, for in-flight meals, in-flight headphones etc. Whereas an airline that is more expensive on the surface, might provide these things complimentary as part of the service. Keep this in mind when you are doing you are budgeting for your holiday or other purchase.
- There are many different factors in choosing the best product that are difficult to quantify in an online search and comparison tool. Comparison sites tend to focus entirely on price, and ignore quality. Customers often find a correlation between higher prices and better products. Some companies may charge more but provide better customer service, more flexible refund options, etc., that the price comparison site user will not be made aware of.
- While most comparison websites claim to be independent, it is very difficult to know for sure that they are providing you with the right data. Often sites will list ‘sponsored listings' higher in the search results, in exchange for a fee charged to the advertiser.
- Accuracy cannot be assured by price comparison websites. Shopping comparison sites may include sellers with a very limited inventory and, especially in the worlds of finance and travel, prices can change daily. Price comparison sites do not always update their listings this regularly, or a technical problem may have caused an aggregation feed to not transmit the latest product information and prices properly. It can be very frustrating for a user to move to finalize their purchase of the cheapest product, only to find it is more expensive that they had been quoted or worse, is sold out.
It is sensible to use price comparison websites; they save customers a lot of time, and do some of the legwork on your behalf. However, it is still worthwhile shopping around yourself to try to find a better deal. You can even try comparing the results of multiple comparison websites.