Amid the chaos of digital retail, quality online comparison shopping engines – otherwise known as price comparison tools – are bright guiding lights for shoppers short on time and money. With a few simple clicks, you can see prices across numerous sites, in addition to those offered by brick-and-mortar stores, to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible, without having to spend a ton of time on research.
This guide covers some of the best price comparison app options on the market right now. But first, let’s review how comparison shopping engines work and how they can help shoppers looking to save money on everyday purchases.
What Are Comparison Shopping Engines (Price Comparison Sites)?
Comparison shopping engines, or CSEs, are basically retail search engines that facilitate comparison shopping for consumers of every stripe. While each CSE has a slightly different format, layout, and capability suite, the primary function is the same: to minimize shoppers’ out-of-pocket spending on items they plan to buy anyway.
Some CSEs work as browser plug-ins that alert online shoppers to better deals in real time. Others have barcode scanners that compare brick-and-mortar pricing on scanned items with list prices at dozens or hundreds of other retailers. More than a few feature multiple price comparison capabilities, the better to accommodate the multifaceted reality of modern shopping.
For example, PriceGrabber (not featured here due to functionality issues) uses a handy onsite search function that filters through thousands of deals at once. Several PriceGrabber competitors have similar features.
Others, such as Shopzilla and its sister company Bizrate, focus more on curation. Shopzilla and Bizrate simply display the best price for a particular product and link to the retailer offering it, saving the shopper time and simplifying the decision process.
CSEs are particularly useful during the holiday shopping season when deals come and go in a matter of hours and retail holidays like Black Friday and Cyber Monday increase competition for digital shelf space.
CSEs are also helpful planning tools for consumers anticipating big-ticket purchases at any time of year. A price change of a few percentage points might not mean much if you’re buying a $15 lawn chair, but the bottom-line impact is significant when you’re online shopping for a $1,000 computer.
Like other companies in the fast-changing world of online retailers, CSEs come and go. Once-popular options like Nextag have sadly gone the way of defunct online retailers before them. Nextag shuttered in late 2018, according to eCommerce Bytes, depriving shoppers of a potent asset in the fight for better pricing.
Relevance is also an important consideration for online shoppers. For example, while PriceRunner is a super-popular and effective CSE for European shoppers, it’s not designed to find the best prices for North American customers. Place an order through Pricerunner’s U.K. site, and you could find yourself with an eye-watering international shipping bill (not to mention a distant delivery date).
Nevertheless, price comparison tools add incalculable value to the shopping experience and save shoppers millions every year. They do have unintended consequences, like the decline of decline of credit card price protection benefits (detailed by Business Insider). But few online shoppers would trade occasional credit card perks for a near-guarantee of the best price every time.
Best Price Comparison Websites for Online Shoppers
Wherever markets exist, so does comparison shopping and so do CSEs. For practical purposes, however, we’ve limited this list to price comparison tools that can accommodate tangible goods with scannable barcodes (UPCs) or unique SKU (item) numbers.
1. Capital One Shopping
Capital One Shopping doesn’t have a built-in barcode scanner, although it could help you find a lower price on one. That’s because it is a free browser extension that searches thousands of online merchants to see if you’re getting a better deal on the products you need. And because it’s totally free, there’s virtually no downside to using it.
Capital One Shopping automatically searches for better offers from other merchants as you browse Amazon products. If savings are available on the product you’re searching for, the tool displays any lower-priced matches along with product summaries that include total price (including tax), price history, delivery cost estimates, and more.
When you browse other retailers’ inventories, it tests coupon codes from major merchants with a single click, then automatically applies the best coupon to your selection.
Capital One Shopping is an essential companion for the savvy comparison shopper. Activate it whenever you browse products online – there’s no reason not to.
Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the browser extension using the links provided.
- Available for iOS and Android
ScanLife is a mobile scanning app that can read barcodes and QR codes. It’s ideal for on-the-go price comparisons at brick-and-mortar retailers; simply scan the product code and review real-time price matches without missing a beat. If you find a significantly lower price from another vendor, you can navigate to that merchant’s website on your phone or wait till you get home to pull the trigger.
Many ScanLife product listings have detailed information about the specific SKU: dimensions, technical details, color, and other physical characteristics, as well as a qualitative description. Some listings also have user reviews.
ScanLife is ideal for determining the lowest possible prices on low- to moderately priced consumer products, such as home goods, toys, and clothing. It’s not appropriate for online-only comparison shopping. Think of it instead as a retail guardian angel that stops you from making questionable purchasing decisions in-store.
3. Amazon App
- Available for iOS and Android
The Amazon App is a miniature version of Amazon’s ubiquitous browser-based shopping portal, complete with order tracking, sophisticated shopping list tools, a watchlist with price alerts for limited-time deals, and voice search.
The Amazon App’s comparison shopping feature is built around a barcode scanner that instantly searches Amazon for similar items. If Amazon can beat the item’s price, great. If not, you’re free to buy the item on the spot or use another price comparison tool to cast a wider net across the e-commerce universe.
Either way, the app delivers the same wealth of information available in regular Amazon listings: specs, qualitative descriptions, shipping options, and lots of user reviews.
The barcode scanning feature’s ideal use case is showrooming – that is, visiting a brick-and-mortar store for the express purpose of comparing its pricing and selection with Amazon’s. This app comes in handy whenever such an opportunity arises in the course of your daily routine.
And because the Amazon app has a slew of additional capabilities, such as one-click ordering through the Amazon online store, it’s definitely worth keeping on your phone.
- Available for iOS and Android
Price.com is built around an e-commerce hub with a staggering selection of consumer goods marketed by dozens of affiliate merchants. Though its main website is a perfectly functional retail hub, Price.com’s comparison shopping power really shines in two places: a browser plug-in capable of scanning prices on demand at hundreds of retailers and a photographic app made for on-the-go price comparisons.
If you’re shopping from the comfort of home, use Price.com’s browser plug-in to make sure you’re getting the best deal on an item you know you want to buy. On the go, use the app to snap a photo of the item or scan its barcode and obtain instant price comparisons across the entire e-commerce universe.
Price.com’s website and app have some nice value-added features too, such as recommendations for similar products, cash-back opportunities made possible by Price.com’s affiliate relationships, and exclusive and non-exclusive coupon codes.
Price.com is a versatile comparison shopping tool that’s equally useful for at-home and on-the-go shoppers. Coupon codes and cash-back opportunities might entice you to complete purchases within the Price.com ecosystem, but don’t feel obligated.
- Available for iOS and Android
ShopSavvy is more than a price comparison engine. As the owner of consumer-friendly brands like Tom’s Guide and Top Ten Reviews, ShopSavvy is a price comparison site carrying the torch of product-testing trailblazers like Consumer Reports.
If you don’t have time to read detailed product reviews backed by real-world testing and expert analysis, ShopSavvy’s price comparison app will have to do. Its main feature is a barcode and QR code scanner that returns unbiased, real-time pricing on similar and identical items from hundreds of major retailers.
The results are easy to parse, with the lowest price headlined and the brand hidden until you click through. Affiliate-driven cash-back opportunities sweeten the pot.
Come for the educational content, stay for the user-friendly scanner app with exclusive opportunities to earn cash back. The biggest drawback is the absence of in-app purchasing capability.
Shopping.com is an eBay-owned price comparison engine that curates deals from hundreds of different online retailers, covering more than 1 million distinct products in all. Use the simple search bar to find the products you’re looking for or browse participating retailers’ inventories using common product keywords.
If you’re in the mood to be inspired instead, peruse Shopping.com’s Top Products and Top Deals sections. You’re sure to find the best prices here as well, and without sorting through dozens of confusing search results.
There’s nothing revolutionary about Shopping.com, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth checking before you make a purchase.
7. Google Shopping
Google Shopping is a fantastic app for shoppers who prefer digital browsing to the real-world alternative. And it’s not just for Android users.
Google Shopping is simply a retail-oriented version of Google’s famously Spartan search bar. Search for “umbrellas,” and the only returns you see are portable rain-shields, with no Wikipedia entries or “history of the umbrella” articles clogging up the results. Google Shopping lists items for sale at third-party retailers and resellers, usually displaying the lowest final price, including shipping and online retail taxes, first.
We’d be remiss not to mention similar price comparison and comparison shopping tools built into the Microsoft Edge browser and Microsoft’s Bing search engine. But let’s be honest: With the vast majority of online shoppers choosing Google over Bing and using browsers other than Microsoft Edge, those shopping sites simply don’t carry the same weight as Google Shopping (even if they do offer a comparable breadth of different retailers and discounters).
Google’s in-house price comparison tool is great for online shoppers who would begin their buying journeys by searching Google anyway.
Comparison shopping isn’t a retail-only phenomenon. If you’ve ever used a travel booking engine to find and book a flight, hotel room, or rental car, you’ve used a price comparison tool whose capabilities lie entirely outside the retail realm.
If you’ve ever used an auto listing engine like Autotrader or Kelley Blue Book to find a vehicle for sale in a private-party transaction, you’ve used another type of price optimization tool. If you’ve scanned Craigslist or eBay for gently used furniture, you’ve found yet another target-rich comparison shopping environment.
No matter the setting, however you choose to go about it, you owe it to your household budget to use price comparison sites to comparison shop for the best available deal. Your future self will thank you.