While hunting for our washer and dryer, I must have looked at half a million review sites. I found that I kept returning to the same few sites over and over again. Some were better than others, but I compared them all to narrow down my options and get buying advice.

Consumer Reports
This is the oldy but goody of the bunch. It’s also the only one that costs money, however I found their in-depth testing of the products to be very valuable when comparing machines, especially when trying to sort out just how water efficient a washing machine really was. Although they can’t lab test EVERY product, I found that they had fairly even performance across several versions of a product in the same brand and line. If it got a poor review in CR, it didn’t make the potential list. The downside of Consumer Reports is the cost. Since we’re planning to buy several appliances and a car this year, I sprang for the one-year membership, but you can also pay by the month.

CNET
When it comes to consumer electronics, CNET is my first stop for lab reports and reviews. I find their recommendations for digital cameras, printers, etc. to be top-notch and accurate. It’s also incredibly easy to search. Of course, like Consumer Reports, they can’t test everything, but you can get a general idea of a manufacturer’s quality.

ConsumerSearch
I found this one while searching for washing machine reviews. This features a buying guide and snapshot reviews of the other review sites, which comes in handy if you don’t want to pay for Consumer Reports. I also like that it breaks down reviews by price point and other important differences, such as gas vs. electric dryers.

Cheapism
If your focus is buying cheap, then stop by Cheapism to check out their specific buying guides and advice. They’ll tell you what you can really expect from a cheap product, both good and bad. It looks like we’ll soon be in the market for a new laptop (earlier than planned), so I’ve been reading this site as well as CNET to form our potential shopping list.

Epinions
I’ve been using epinions for years, although I have to admit it’s not my favorite anymore. It simply doesn’t have as many reviews as it used to, and I often wind up in the shopping portal when I want to find reviews. That said, you can find very detailed and helpful reviews from real people.

Online Stores
Finally, I browse around a few of the most popular online stores to get a picture of what real consumers think of products. For the laundry machines, I looked at Sears, Best Buy, and Home Depot. For Blu-Ray players, I looked at Best Buy, Costco, and Amazon. Whatever sites you choose, they should carry a wide-range of products within that category and be large enough chains that they have a strong user-base. Don’t rely on one site – look at two or three to get a true picture of what people think.

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