Here are some useful consumer-oriented links that we use and weblinkrecommend.  (editor’s note:   we have no financial relationship with most these sites.  We disclose where there is a financial connection)

link Recommended price comparison sites

Amazon –  www.amazon.com.   This is our very favorite shopping site.   It is the bomb.  We are a Prime member, meaning for a fixed annual fee we receive free two-day shipping as well as free access to select streaming videos, unlimited photo storage and an extensive (and free) music library.    Not always the best price, but most always competitive.

Google – http://www.google.com/shopping.  A fairly comprehensive shopping site, but should always be checked with some of the other sites below.

Craigslist – www.craigslist.org .   This free “classified” service has revolutionized classified ads.   It an invaluable shopping resource in too many ways to list.

Overstock –   www.overstock.com.   Has some pretty decent stuff on sale, but not consistently great prices.

Price Grabber http://www.pricegrabber.com/  – books, music, video, electronics, bicycles.

Shopping.comwww.shopping.com –  broad selection of categories.  Works in tandem with epinions.com and cnet.shopper.com.

Consumers’ Checkbook –  www.checkbook.org –   a subscription site that is especially good for people living in Boston, DC, San Francisco or Chicago.     It is a reasonably priced, web-based resource.

Shop.com –   http://www.shop.com/ –  a decent comparison site with some good prices.

NexTagwww.nextag.com/ –  one of the first comparison sites, however it has not evolved as quickly as others.

PriceWatchwww.pricewatch.com/–  specializes in computer and electronics.

Yahoo! Shoppinghttp://shopping.yahoo.com/ – fairly robust site for general shopping.

Add-All –  www.addall.com –  specializes in books, videos, music, magazines.  Boasts a very strong search engine.    You might also want to try Bookprice24

Costco –  www.costco.com –  If you have a membership,  Costco offers some very good deals on some bigger or more expensive items that you can’t find in their warehouses.

link   Useful consumer apps for mobile devices

Gas Buddy – www.gasbuddy.com.    Best way to find the best prices for gasoline in San Diego County.

Showrooming –  The 21st Century way to shop is showrooming – that is showrooming,  the term for consumers scouting purchases in real stores but then buying the products online for a lower price   Amazon and Red Laser both help you use bar codes to check on the best prices available to you.   Load them onto your mobile devices today.

Price Bidding –  Just as Priceline and Hotwire have done for travel,  we are beginning to see similar bidding services for other consumer items, including electronics.  You make an offer, with help from the site, which then notifies retailers of a potential buyer. The first retailer to respond makes the online sale to you.   Greentoe is currently offering this app — others will be popping up.

Mobile Coupons.    A number of sites will help you shave some prices at your local supermarkets or department stores with mobile coupons while also affording price comparisons.    Try Cartcrunch,  SnipSnap, Shopular and Reclipit

Shopping Rewards –  There are an increasing number of shopping rewards aggregators who automatically track your “points” whenever you shop anywhere and then let you “cash in” these points — generally for gift cards.    Try Shopkick to get a glimpse into the future of rewards programs.

link   General consumer information sites

SDCANhttp://sandiegocan.org–  Hey, it is our organization’s website.  Whaddya think, we’re not going to  mention it first?   Perhaps the best page is the one that contains the Highly Effective Complaint Letter form.

Consumer Reports –  www.consumerreports.org.   This is the granddaddy of all consumer sites and still a trusted source.  we’ve been a subscriber since we were in diapers  but it also offers useful free information.

Consumer Federation of America  – http://www.consumerfed.org/.    This organization is more policy-oriented than Consumer Reports, but still a good resource for high-level consumer policy information.

Consumer World –  www.consumerworld.org –  one of my favorites.   The first place we go when we are treading new purchasing territory.   Run by a very knowledgeable consumer advocate.

Nolo –  www.nolo.org.  It is a  well-respected legal education web site that offers self-help law books and a fair amount of free legal information. A great first-step for almost any consumer dispute.    Other useful legal sites are avvo.com and legalzoom.com;  they will assist you in finding attorneys as well.

Epinionswww.epinions.com.   A site designed to post feedback from consumers about their purchases.   Fairly good for products that are sold nationally.    A useful place to share any good or bad experiences that you’ve had.

link   Recommended phone/wireless sites

ABellTolls –   www.abtolls.com  –  Probably best price comparison Web site on the Net.

Bill Busters –  www.phone-bill-busters.com –  a site with good comparative information for different phone services.

Residential Phone Alternatives –  www.1010phonerates.com –  offers very good information about domestic and international dial-around services which can be used instead of signing up with a long-distance company, as well as residential phone service alternatives to AT&T/Verizon.

www.amazon.com –   Offers a decent selection of wireless carrier plans at pretty reasonable prices and terms.

www.myrateplan.com –  One of the better comparison sites for phone service.   Other comparison shopping tools for phone service include: www.letstalk.com.

www.getconnected.com  & www.buyphone.com.    These sites also have comparison functionalities, although not as easy to use as others.

Telecom Policy – www.hearsusnow.org.   This is Consumer Union’s excellent contribution to communications  education and advocacy.

Selling used cell phones –  Don’t throw your old phones away. Sell them.  A number of sites offer decent prices for used phones.

link   Energy Saving sites

Home energy monitoring –  An increasing number of companies will offer on-line energy tracking services.   One of the first is Wattzon.  Local utilities are beginning to offer similar monitoring services. You can download them onto your computer as well as your mobile devices.   After asking a few questions about your home, they will offer suggestions on how to cut energy use, for example and link you to your utility account to monitor electricity and natural gas use in almost real-time.

 

link   Privacy protection sites

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse – www.privacyrights.org.   This is among the best privacy sources on the Internet, but because Michael  was one of its founders, we can’t be objective on this point.  Hard to resist being a proud papa.

The Identity Theft Resource Center – www.idtheftcenter.org.  This is another great resource on identity theft.    Yes, Michael helped create this California-based consumer resource as well, so decide for yourself.

Electronic Privacy Information Center – www.epic.org.   This organization is more policy-oriented but still a good resource for all things privacy.

link   Financial/Banking/Insurance sites

There is a tremendous amount of information  readily available on the Internet, perhaps too much.   Excellent web sites, such as www.bankrate.com will give you this information in a neat comparative format.  Here are my favorites.

To do some of the economic calculations necessary to compare your options, try out:  www.financecenter.com/consumer/tools/calculators/

FTC –  www.ftc.gov/bcp/menu-credit.htm –   Cautionary alerts from the government about so-called credit repair services and other credit information.

HSH – www.hsh.com,  An excellent source of consumer loan information

Bankrate – www.bankrate.com.   We love this site.   Good comparative shopping tool.   One of the first sites that we go to for financial or credit-related matters.  Good place to start your mortgage search.   Lenders “compete” for your business.

NFCC –  www.nfcc.org.   This is a good source of information from professional credit counselors.

LendingTree –  www.lendingtree.com.   Another “competition” for your business.

Lower My Bills –  www.lowermybills.com.   Provides a number of different companies that allow you to compare financial or phone service plans.

Consumer Action –  www.consumer-action.org –   Offers some excellent primers on banking/financial services.   Designed more for the neophyte than the sophisticated customer.

FDIC –  www.fdic.gov/bank/individual/online/safe.html.     This  is a government site that offers tips to safe online banking.  Some useful information.

ATM Locator –  www.supersuite.net/atm_locator/atm_locator.php   One of many ATM locators on the Web.  Visa and MasterCard have their own ATM locators.   Can be useful tool in avoiding “foreign” ATM fees.

Bauer –   www.bauerfinancial.com    It contains useful financial institution comparison information.   Not as comprehensive as www.bankrate.com,  but a decent second source.

My FICO –   www.myfico.com  It offers some useful personal credit tools, just don’t feel obligated to buy any of the services.

How consumers rate homeowner insurance companies is available from J.D. Power and Associates at  www.jdpower.com/homes/insuranceratings

www.naic.org/cis/ –  allows consumers to view a variety of information about insurance companies and to file a consumer complaint with your state insurance department

I-CAN –  www.ican2000.com.   A decent insurance advocate’s web site.   Good basic info on consumer questions and place to lodge a complaint.

link   Recommended auto buying sites

Some useful web resources to help you narrow your car selection are:

http://carpricesecrets.com

http://carfax.com

www.autoweb.com

www.autotrader.com –  especially good for used cars.

They are all useful sites and will give useful price data.    We’re not quite as high on www.kbb.com (Kelly Blue Book) or www.edmunds.com. However, none of them will give the real price data that you really need.  The most accurate price information we’ve found is only available through Consumer Reports’ Auto Buying Service.

Then go to epinions.com, Edmunds.com Town Hall page or other such interactive sites to get insights from other shoppers about their buying experiences.

If you’ve chosen to buy through a dealership, check with the local Better Business Bureau on complaints about that dealership. If you are buying a used car, go to www.nhtsa.gov  and check out how many recalls there have been on that model.   Our most important suggestion – saved for last – is that if you are planning on buying a used car, spend the $100 for an independent mechanic to check out the car before you buy it.   Many are “mobile” and will come to where the car is located. These mechanics are wonderful sources of information and have often steered me in the right direction on a car purchase. They are worth their weight in gold.   As long as we’ve used them, we’ve never had a bad used car experience.

link   Home buying information sites

www.hud.gov/faqs/faqbuying.cfm –   Comprehensive website about buying and selling homes, as well as renting.

www.housebuyingtips.com/realtor.htm.   Good info about agents and brokers.

www.rondavisrealtors.com/forms/agent_interview.htm – For a more exhaustive list of good questions to ask a prospective broker/agent.

www.helpusell.com –  National network of discount brokers for purchase and sale of a home

www.owners.com –  For sale by owner network with good information.

www.ourfamilyplace.com/homebuyer/index.html –  Some very useful tips on home buying.

www.newbuyer.com/homes –  More tips and generic home buying  information.

link   Recommended clothing sites

www.ifi.org –    International Fabricare Institute offers some good information about fabrics and clothing care.    Useful for dry cleaning disputes, among other things.

Nine Lives –  www.los-gatos.ca.us/nine.html.    An  online clothing consignment shop worthy of your attention.   An increasing number of consignment shops are showing up online.

www.suitsource.com – low cost suits for men.

www.indochino.com –   custom fitted clothing for men at a reasonable price

www.makeyourownjeans.com –  tailor-fitted custom jeans starting at $49.   Who woulda thought!