Amazon’s favorite made-up holiday is upon us, and that means you’re about to be bombarded by “deals.”
Whether it’s Prime Day sales or other retailers hopping on Amazon’s bandwagon, it can seem like there’s no excuse not to be shopping.
But slapping the word “deal” on a page and dropping the price by a few bucks doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting a good value. While some sales can save you serious cash, others are just hype, designed to entice you into buying stuff you’d normally pass over without a second thought.
The good news, though, is that if you know what to look out for, it’s much easier to figure out what’s actually worth it, and what you should skip. Here’s what to look out for.
Check the price
Obviously, the biggest consideration with any purchase will be the price. Many of us are trained to look out for the steepest discounts in order to gauge how “good” any one deal is. That may be true, but there’s more to this than you might think.
Just because an item appears to be marked down on its Amazon listing doesn’t mean you’re necessarily getting a good “deal.” Prices can fluctuate dramatically throughout the year, and companies sometimes mark up an item only to then list it as a “sale” soon after.
Keeping tabs on a product’s price history can be a good way to suss out whether a given price is actually a good deal. One of the most effective ways to do this is use a price-tracking site like camelcamelcamel, which can show you a detailed price history for Amazon listings, both directly from Amazon and third-party sellers.
Simply paste the product page into the website (or use its Chrome extension), and you’ll see a chart of recent price changes, as well as historical averages. Take a peek at the site’s price graphs, and you can quickly get a sense of whether the current “deal” you’re looking at is actually worth it.
Though camelcamelcamel may not be able to reflect prices for Amazon’s short-term “lightning deals” in its price tracker, you can still easily get a sense of how much something typically costs by checking out the price graph and average price charts.
These numbers should help you gauge just how good any one “deal” is. If the “sale” price isn’t significantly lower than the average price, for example, or you can see that the item is frequently marked down to a similar amount, then your “deal” might be more hype than substance. But if the current price is much lower than average, or lower than the previous lowest price, it’s likely a deal worth considering.
And, if there’s something you know you want to buy, you can use the site to do your research ahead of time to get an idea of how much you might want to pay. The website also lets you set up price alerts if you want to be notified when there’s a price drop.
Don’t forget to read the fine print
It’s also important to pay attention to the seller and other details that might not be immediately obvious, especially if you’re buying a big-ticket item. Is the product being sold by Amazon, the manufacturer, or is it from a third-party seller?
This is important to note because some third-party sellers may not offer the same warranty or return policy as Amazon or the manufacturer, so be sure to investigate those details before you hit the buy button.
There are other details you might want to watch out for as well. For electronics, take note if you see “Amazon Renewed” or a similar label indicating something is a refurbished item as these labels can be easy to miss.
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with buying something refurbished — and you can often get steep discounts for doing so — but it’s yet another way companies can make “deals” seem much more attractive than they actually are. A refurbished or “like new” product is always going to be cheaper than one that’s actually new, but there are some cases when you may want to pay more for something that’s never been used.
Also keep in mind that while refurbished items may offer some kind of warranty, it may not be as substantial as what you’d get buying something new.