Planning on buying a new computer, a new DSLR camera, a new power tool, a new appliance, or a new piece of furniture? If so, you should always take your time before making a big purchase. I’ve always told friends and family to wait a bit and do a little research before going out and just buying something from a local store they are used to going too.

It’s not always about just saving money either, you could potentially buy the wrong item or buy the right thing only to find out that two weeks later a newer model came out and you’re now stuck. Whenever I buy anything, even smaller items like computer speakers, etc, I do a fair amount of online research to make sure I’m getting the best bang for my buck.

Online buying guides have become really popular and even though most of them are not all that useful, there are some of exceptional quality. Of course, you can always subscribe to something like Consumer Reports, but you have to pay for it. I’m going to stick with free online buying guides. If you use something else not mentioned here, feel free to leave a comment.

Mac Buyer’s Guide

I’m a huge Apple fan, so the Mac Buyer’s Guide is simple awesome. You should never buy a Mac, iPhone, iPod or any other Apple device until you look at the buying guide from MacRumors.com. At the top, it gives you a red, yellow or green icon to reflect a Don’t Buy, Neutral and Buy recommendation based on the average time for an update to the product and how many days have passed since the last update or refresh.

Mac buying guide

If you scroll down, you’ll get an individual listing for each Apple product along with other information like the Recommendation, Last Release, Days Since Update, Recent Rumors, and a history of all the releases for that product. It’s the best guide out there for buying an Apple product.

Macbook pro guide

Digital Camera Buying Guides

When it comes to digital cameras and camcorders, there are literally millions of sites that provide guidance and advice. I personally like the sites that not only write in-depth reviews, but also have lots of reviews by real-world users. To me, the opinion of hundreds of people who have already bought the camera is more important than the review written by one or two people.

Digital Photography School

Before you ever buy a digital camera, you should read the How to Buy a Digital Camera guide on Digital Photography School. It’s an awesome site with tons and tons of information on everything from camera equipment to photography tips and post-production processing. The site also has an excellent page that is constantly updated with the most popular digital cameras purchased off Amazon by the huge community the site has:

http://digital-photography-school.com/popular-digital-cameras-and-gear

Poplular cameras

CNET Buying Guide

Another really good buying guide that I like is from CNET. I’m not always a big fan of CNET, but I do like their digital camera buying guide. What’s nice is that it breaks it down by categories ranging from Budget, Ultracompact all the way up to Pro dSLR. After that, it goes into a lot of details about key specs to look for and other features that cameras have like WiFi, GPS, etc.

Cnet buying guide

My other two favorites for digital cameras are Digital Camera Resource Buying Guide and DPReview’s Buying Guide tools. DPReview has some other cool tools for those of you who are more advanced and are looking for certain specific features. For example, they have a camera feature search, a camera side-by-side comparison tool, lens feature search, lens side-by-side tool, and more.

Buying Guide for Household Items

I have to admit that I am not a handyman around the house. I’m so bad that I don’t even hang my own pictures on a wall. That’s why the Home Depot buying guide is so useful to someone like me. I would love to buy a new grill for this summer, but I have no idea about grills and how they work. The only one I ever used was when I was a kid and it was basically a metal bowl that you filled with charcoal.

Home depot buying guide

They have guides for everything from appliances to paints to power tools to gardening. If you’re a home owner, being clueless about your house is not a good thing. I’ve learned a ton from this site and have always been happy with the item I finally purchased (not necessarily from Home Depot!).

When it comes to home stuff, another great site is IKEA. I think a lot of people love IKEA and it’s not just because they are cheaper. All of their stuff is very modular and therefore can be fitted into just about any size or shaped home or apartment. They have a bunch of buying guides for bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, living rooms and more.

IKEA buying guide

Other Buying Guides

There are lots of other buying guides and I’m going to mention the ones I use for other stuff like cars, TVs and more. Again, these are my favorites and if you use something different, post a comment!

Auto Buying Guide – Edmunds

TV Buying Guide – CNET

Laptop Buying Guide – Engadget

National Geographic Green Buying Guide

On top of all of this, it’s good to know when to actually buy certain products. For example, if you’re buying a boat, it’s better to buy one during Jan/Feb/March as it’s off-season and there are a lot of boat shows held around that time. Lifehacker has an awesome article on the best time to buy stuff during the year. Enjoy!