Vol.1, No.5

Tips for shopping for electronics online

Got to have that latest electronic gadget and want to buy it online? Consider these tips before you purchase.

Online electronics shopping
Photo Credit: Valerie Loiseleux
Digital cameras, MP3 players, portable video gaming systems, palm-sized camcorders, wireless communication products, and DVD players are just a few of the thousands of electronics for sale online. Before you input your credit card number, there are some questions you will want to ask yourself.

What do you want? By asking yourself this question up front you will cut your research time in half. There are some features or "bells and whistles" that won't interest you as much as others. For example, if you're purchasing a digital camera, decide if you will primarily use the camera photos for emailing/viewing online versus printing and displaying in a frame or photo album. Making this decision before you buy will steer you to the appropriate camera with the right amount of mega pixels for your needs. Create a prioritized list of the features that are most important to you before you boot up that computer. This will save you money and time.

How much do you want to spend? After knowing what you want, figure out your budget. Oftentimes, some online company in some part of the world will have that electronic product you are looking for in your price range. There are many web sites that compare pricing for you, so as you search for your product use the word "comparison" in the search engine and you'll see those types of links in your results. At a glance you'll be able to see a full range of pricing available before you purchase. This will also tell you if the item you want is really in your budget.

Are you using the product in conjunction with another item you already have? For example, I own a pocket video recorder. One of the features of my pocket video recorder is a memory card reader. This is a great feature since I have the ability to upload hundreds of pictures directly onto the pocket video recorder without any software. But, it only reads one type of card. So, when I was in the market for a digital camera, I made sure the camera used the same card that my pocket video recorder accepted. Ensuring this compatibility saved me money and time because I didn't have to purchase any additional adapters or interfaces to enable the two gadgets to work together. Knowing your products compatibility is important especially when purchasing items that will work with existing televisions, sound systems, VCRs or computers. Skipping this step could waste time and your hard earned money.

What brand do you want? Or more importantly, is a brand name electronic important to you? If you have a certain brand loyalty, immediately use that brand name along with your electronic type in a search engine. This will greatly target and refine your research. If brand names don't matter, be sure and read user and expert reviews of the product before you purchase. Placing the exact name of the product in a search engine can also do this. Then follow those links that specifically say they contain user's reviews and comments. Oftentimes, you can avoid a lot of grief and wasted money by reading someone else's reviews of a certain online vendor or product.

How much are shipping costs? Do you have to pay sales tax? Sometimes you'll find comparable electronics at the same prices. As you get to the checkout, which you can do without purchasing, you'll see all the other charges. Check the shipping costs. That same product might ship for 10-15% less depending on where you live. The same applies for sales tax. That same priced product might end up being a better bargain when shipping and sales tax are factored into the equation.