How do price comparison engines work

price comparison

You can find the best price with these price search engines

Matthias Urbach
Consumer Policy Expert As of November 18, 2020

Matthias Urbach

Matthias UrbachAs deputy editor-in-chief, he is responsible for the newsletter, cooperations and special editorial projects at Finanztip. As a graduate physicist and graduate of the Henri Nannen School, he combines analytical and editorial know-how. Before that, he worked, among other things, as publishing director at Springer-Wissenschaftsverlag and as head of taz.de.

  • If you want to buy something cheap, you shouldn't rely on special offers or wild discounts.
  • The best way to find good prices is with price search engines. We recommend Idealo and billiger.de. If you buy very expensive things, you should compare the prices on both portals.
  • When you find something you like, copy the exact product name and search for the best price on Idealo or billiger.de.
  • When comparing prices, pay attention to three things: The shipping costs should be taken into account in the price, the product should be available immediately and the retailer should have a reasonable rating.
  • With expensive products, it may be worth waiting to buy. To assess this, it is worth taking a look at the price development.

Special offers everywhere. Hardly any retailer advertises normal prices, everything is supposedly somehow "reduced": by 20, 30 or more percent. You shouldn't let that impress you too much. The recommended retail price of the manufacturer is usually used as a comparison. But hardly any retailer sticks to it. For clothes and shoes, prices tumble everywhere towards the end of the season. Cell phones, cameras and televisions have already lost a lot of their value a year after they appeared. Therefore: Do not be blinded by the alleged discounts. Do the price comparison!

What distinguishes a good price comparison from a bad one?

There are many portals for price comparison. At first glance, it's hard to tell how good they'll find the best price. We therefore have examined the 15 most popular price search engines. You can expect from a good comparison portal that it clearly lists many providers for a product and sorts them according to the final price. That you can filter according to decisive criteria such as color, size and performance. That you can see at a glance what you can pay with - and that the product is ultimately available. In the end, of course, all the information and prices must be correct. You can read at the end of the article which price search engines we examined and what was important in detail.

What makes a portal a bad price comparison

There are now many portals that offer price searches on the Internet. At first glance, they look very similar. However, many of them do not offer a useful comparison, but only have a limited range of products and dealers. Some only showed a single dealer for many products. Others even display eBay auctions. Particularly curious was a provider who sorted the starting bid of "1 Euro" as the final price upwards. Price search engines that could not sort according to the final price (price plus shipping costs) have also been eliminated from the preselection. So there were five providers left for the actual test: Idealo, billiger.de. Geizhals, Check24 and Google.

Google: Misleading results

Even those who do not consciously look for a price comparison have probably already seen one. Because Google now delivers it automatically. All you have to do is search for a manufacturer or a product, and offers from dealers will appear - an offer marked as "advertisement"that flows smoothly into “Google Shopping”. All you have to do is enter "guitar" and you will be presented with a selection of shopping options.

It is noticeable that Google mixed many other products into the results on Google Shopping. Even offers from other brands or used goods. Also, the results we found in the test were often not sorted according to the best price. (Even those that were not marked as “Advertisement”.) Google did not want to explain to us in detail why cheaper providers are not listed above in the first list view, even after repeated inquiries. Overall, our testers found Google's results to be misleading.

In his own way Amazon is just as dominant as Google. Some do a rough price check in the largest online shop before making a purchase. Many products are listed there and are easy to buy. So you won't necessarily find the best prices. That is also not what Amazon claims.

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Which price search engines do we recommend?

In our comparison, the providers Idealo and billiger.de were convincing: They found almost all the products they were looking for, tracked down good prices, and usually the product was actually available at the retailer at the same price. Idealo was the only provider in the test field where we found all searched products, at billiger.de this only failed once. Both presented the products very clearly and forwarded to the dealer. The deviations from the best price that we found on the five portals were very limited - averaging 3 percent (Idealo) and 5 percent (billiger.de).

The search for fashion

A lot of fashion is bought online: Nine out of ten buyers state that they have already ordered clothing, shoes or accessories - more than for any other product category. To find a good price here, it is important that you Filter search results by size and color at the same time can. This will make it easier for you to discover good offers from your favorite shops and you will not be lured to sellers who are not your size. In addition, you can switch to other colors if your favorite piece is not available in the color of your choice.

Both Idealo and billiger.de manage this well. However, only common articles could be filtered according to size and color. In our impression, this happened more often with Idealo - and the selection of one hit was often greater.

Our tip: If you type a search term in the search box and you below Your searched product will be shown as a search suggestion then it is worth clicking directly on it. This usually leads to a clearer results page with more offers than if you typed out and clicked on "Search". And it's more likely that you can filter size and color.

Is the price good right now?

It happens that products are very cheap because several shops are competing. They can then be significantly more expensive again. Our two recommendations observe the price development and display it. There you can see whether the opportunity is favorable, or whether you should wait a little longer. A good tool to check on Black Friday, for example, whether a current special offer is really that special. Or maybe you should wait a little longer to find the really best price.

Both price comparisons even offer the option of a "Price alarm" or "Price alarm" to put. Attention: It happens again and again that individual shops transmit incorrect prices or assign prices incorrectly. Then there is a false alarm. These outliers are also noticeable in the price trend: prices are more meaningful if they have been stable over several days.

Because no price comparison always finds the best price, you should use both comparisons if you are buying something very expensive, such as a new refrigerator or a high-quality computer.

The tested price search engines in comparison

 

found

Products

Best price

easy to find

Mode filterable

according to colors

and sizes

Fake shops

in the search result

Idealo100 %YesYes-
billiger.de96 %YesYes-
Curmudgeon88 %YesNo1,2-
Google shopping96 %No1YesYes1
Check2464 %1YesYes-

1 leads to devaluation
2 only colors filterable, filters difficult to find
Source: Finanztip (as of November 2020)

  • good prices in our sample
  • very clear search
  • Price development displayed
  • Clothes and shoes can be sorted by size and color
  • larger deviations from the best price possible
  • good prices in our sample
  • very clear search
  • Price development displayed
  • Clothes and shoes can be sorted by size and color
  • larger deviations from the best price possible

Why Check24, Google Shopping and Geizhals are not a recommendation

During testing, it was found that Check24 had by far the fewest of the products we were looking for. Our testers have on the portal only found the goods they were looking for in just under two out of three cases. In addition, Check24 had by far the largest outlier for the final price. In the test, Check24 only rarely allowed forwarding to the retailer. Check24 has now completely removed redirects from its price comparison. That's not what we'd expect from a price search engine.

Google Shopping cut a better figure in this regard; our testers even found slightly better prices there on average than on our recommendations. The bottom line, however, was that this lead was not so great that it could outweigh the disadvantages mentioned above. Compared to the competition, Google delivered a particularly large number of results, that did not match the search, sometimes even products from other manufacturers; the search results were displayed unsorted.

In fact, Google often knows the best price for the product they are looking for, but as a user it is difficult to find - and is easily misled. Google also shows very prominent advertisements that can easily be confused with the actual search results. And something else was unpleasant: the internet company was the only one to show us in the test also fake shops among the results at.

Geizhals was closest to our recommendations in the test. Unfortunately, we were unable to filter by size for clothing and shoes. There is only one filter for colors - and that was not found in most test situations. That is also the reason why Geizhals was not a financial tip recommendation. Otherwise, the portal performed just as well in the test results as Idealo and billiger.de. Curmudgeon has a particular strength in computer partswhere it offers unmatched possibilities to filter the search result. Overall, however, our testers found the design of Geizhals' website to be confusing.

How are you safe when shopping in unknown shops?

If you search on a price comparison portal, you will quickly find that very unknown retailers often appear at the top. There is a reason for this: small providers sometimes only offer a handful of products at particularly low prices in order to win new customers. Whether such a dealer is any good, users can judge by the shop ratings, both of which offer recommendations. As a rule, you don't need to fear fake shops either. Idealo and billiger.de check shops before listing them. Even so, you can't completely rule it out.

And of course that doesn't mean that every shop that the price comparison flushes up is good in the end - and the purchase doesn't end up being annoying or something arrives damaged. The payment method is therefore also important. If you pay with credit card, PayPal, Amazon Payments or Klarna, you get a very useful buyer protection, in case something goes wrong. You can find more information about payment providers in our online payment guide. And of course everyone has their preferences here.

What do you have to pay attention to when returning?

The best price is not enough. It happens again and again that there are difficulties with online purchases. Sometimes the goods are not as beautiful as expected. Sometimes something is broken, for example during transport. Sometimes the goods arrive very late. The good thing is: You can do most of the products Revoke your purchase for 14 days. This is required by law. Sometimes the dealers allow longer return periods. This is convenient, but there are pitfalls here: because then the retailer can make the return subject to special conditions. We therefore recommend that you always withdraw your consent within 14 days of delivery. What you have to consider is in the sales law guide.

Processing via the portal

Check24 now handles all purchases for affiliated retailers in its price comparison. The dealer is only an external shipper. With Idealo it will as an additional service offered by some retailers - and as a user, you always have the option of clicking your way directly to the shop.

In the case of unknown sellers, processing via the portal can provide additional protection. In any case, it saves you having to log in again if you already have an account with the comparison portal. Important: The provider still receives the address data. At Idealo, however, you can only pay with PayPal and Sofortüberweisung, at Check24 you can use practically all important means of payment. We haven't tested this service.

When the TV doesn't do it anymore

When buying high-quality goods, it can happen that you want to use the guarantee or warranty. Then it is sometimes better to buy from a large supplier with branches where you can speak directly. And where you bulky goods like a television can bring over. Also consider this before you decide on a dealer. If you buy in the online shop in another city, then it is better to keep the original packaging: Then you can safely send the television back.

How does the price search engine find the best price?

Normal comparison portals do not search for prices themselves, it usually works the other way round: the dealers feed their prices into the system. How good the prices of a portal are depends on how many of the important dealers are listed there. And how often and how quickly the prices are updated on the portal. Do some comparison portals additional small checkswhether prices are still plausible or whether products marked as in stock are really still available.

That's how we tested

In order to find the most important comparison portals, we have included all the pages that the German Society for Consumer Studies (DtGV) considered in their test in January 2019, as well as all others that we found during a keyword search for price search engines on Google in December 2019 (with the search terms "price comparison", "mobile phone price comparison" and with seven products in combination with the keyword "price", for example "Samsung s7 price" or "Sodastream price").

We examined these 15 price comparison portals for our test:

  • preisvergleich.de
  • idealo.de
  • check24.de
  • verivox.de
  • billiger.de
  • geizhals.de
  • guenstiger.de
  • meta-preisvergleich.de
  • compare.de
  • price.de
  • preisvergleich.org
  • bestdeals.today
  • bestcheck.de
  • auspreiser.de
  • google.de/shopping

We examined the portals for the following criteria in January 2020: Do they have the most important shopping categories? Can you sort by price plus shipping costs? And is the result displayed with a price list with (usually) several dealers?

If two of these criteria were not met, the website was not included in the test. In one case, the provider did not show its own sorting performance. Another showed nonsensical results. These two were also sorted out.

In the end, we examined the following five price comparisons in more detail:

  • idealo.de
  • check24.de
  • billiger.de
  • geizhals.de
  • google.de/shopping

Between January and October 2020, we then made 31 price inquiries in five batches on the five portals for a total of 25 selected products. We have both
Frequently and rarely searched goods selected from the six most important shopping areas: clothing and shoes, computers and electronics, sporting goods, entertainment media, bags and toys.

The top 6 categories come from two Idealo surveys from 2018 and 2019. We include all categories in which more than half of the respondents in at least one of the two surveys stated that they were more likely to buy these products online.

We didn't just take the first price mentioned, but rather the cheapest on the results page that met our criteria for payment method, delivery times and so on. In a second step, we checked this for correctness in the dealer's webshop.In Google Shopping, the cheapest provider could not be found at the top several times. Only after we filtered the search result did we get the sorting by price.

Idealo, billiger.de, Geizhals and Google Shopping all performed very similarly in terms of price quality. Check24 made an outlier because it had incorrectly stated the shipping costs. If you disregard that, Check24 was also in a similar area. Overall, the differences in the prices actually found were quite small, which is why other criteria were given greater weight.

In addition to the price found, we assessed the clarity of the price comparison and the lists of results delivered as well as the possibility of filtering according to different categories such as size or color. This seems important to us, especially when it comes to clothing and shoes, in order to actually find bargains in the search results. (Incidentally, the most frequently purchased products are clothing, shoes and accessories, as confirmed by a Bitkom study.)

In the end, the decisive factor was whether the user also gets the cheapest price displayed or can easily determine it on the examined portal. The proportion of products found, the possibility of being forwarded to the dealer - and whether fake shops were displayed were also very important. We also looked for useful tools such as a price history or a price alert to find the right time to buy.

Google Shopping was the only provider in the test to show us two fake shops. How these came into the search results, Google did not want to explain to us on request. Unlike the other shops in the test, the group also gave no information about what it was doing against fake shops.

 mean deviation
Best price

maximum

deviation

found products

(of 25)

Idealo3 %23 %100 %
billiger.de5 %16 %96 %
Curmudgeon3 %17 %88 %

Google

Shopping

2 %11 %96 %
Check248 %37 %164 %1

1 leads to devaluation
Source: Finanztip (as of November 2020)

 Clarity

Best price

easy to find

Fakeshops in the search result

IdealoWellYes-
billiger.deWellYes-
CurmudgeonmoderateYes-

Google

Shopping

badNo1Yes1
Check24WellYes-

1 leads to devaluation
Source: Finanztip (as of November 2020)

total

Mode filterable

according to colors

and sizes

Price development

and price alert

Forwarding to the dealer

IdealoYesYesYes
billiger.deYesYesYes
CurmudgeonNo1,2YesYes

Google

Shopping

YesNoYes
Check24YesNono more1,3

1 leads to devaluation
2 only colors filterable, filters difficult to find
Already hardly possible in the test, now completely abolished
Source: Finanztip (as of November 2020)

Matthias Urbach

Matthias Urbach

Matthias UrbachAs deputy editor-in-chief, he is responsible for the newsletter, cooperations and special editorial projects at Finanztip. As a graduate physicist and graduate of the Henri Nannen School, he combines analytical and editorial know-how. Before that, he worked, among other things, as publishing director at Springer-Wissenschaftsverlag and as head of taz.de.

* What the star means:

With our recommendations, we want to help as many people as possible to do their own finances. This is why our content is available online free of charge. We finance our extensive work with so-called affiliate links. We mark these links with an asterisk (*).

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Whether and in what amount a provider pays us has no influence on our recommendations. What our experts recommend to you depends solely on whether an offer is good for consumers.

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