Research & Insights

By Lukas Biewald, December 19, 2008

Do Meta-Shopping Engines Find Better Deals?

I always shop on Amazon, but for big purchases I wonder if I should use a shopping meta-search engine like pricegrabber.com or shopping.com. Theoretically they should always be at least as good as Amazon, but how are they in reality? And does it make sense to look on more than one?

It’s very tricky to scrape shopping sites to do this comparison. On Amazon you often have to put an item in to your shopping cart to see the price, or on pricegrabber.com you might need to check that the seller is a trusted merchant. Further, it’s difficult to know if you’re really finding the exact same item.

So I decided to try using Mechanical Turk to answer the question. I took 41 items from various Amazon best-seller feeds (specifically the Apparel, Baby Products, Photography and Wireless categories) and asked people to check the price on Amazon, EBay, PriceGrabber, and Shopping.com. To ensure accuracy I used multiple workers to check the work against each other.

It turns out that you can find cheaper deals on the shopping search engines, and in fact the different search engines find different better deals. Using PriceGrabber.com, you would find the item 90 percent of the time, and find a cheaper item from a reputable seller twenty percent of the time. Overall you would save an average of 6.3 percent of the cost on Amazon by checking PriceGrabber.com (note that this methodology doesn’t account for shipping which can obscure prices, especially on EBay).

Website Item Found? Better Deal
than Amazon?
Average
Savings
Average
Pct. Savings
Shopping.com 90% 28% $0.37 2.90%
PriceGrabber.com 90% 20% $1.15 6.30%
EBay.com 68% 38% $1.54 7.20%
Combined 98% 58% $2.29 11.40%

Checking EBay, PriceGrabber and Shopping.com will find you a cheaper price than Amazon 58% of the time and on average you will save more than 11 percent of the cost. Seems like it pays to shop around a little, and it does make sense to try a few different websites. You can check out our raw data here.