There was a time when Amazon was simply an online bookstore, but now you can purchase almost anything you are looking for there through third party vendors. While Amazon is one of the heavy-hitters in online shopping, there are other alternatives that can provide you with different options and pricing comparisons. (For some of the dangers of shopping online, check out 5 Pitfalls Of Online Shopping.)

TUTORIAL: Budget Basics

eBay
eBay differs from Amazon in that you can purchase both new and used goods from the site. Some vendors only sell their old goods that they don't want anymore, much like an online yard sale. Some are professional businesses that sell new goods. eBay offers both auction-style and store-type purchasing. With auctions, you bid on the item and others can come and bid higher. Whoever has the highest bid at the end of the auction gets the item.

With the "Buy it Now" feature, you can buy the item right away. One of the main benefits of eBay to buyers is the feedback system, which gives you information about the vendor's prior history of sales. Most vendors on eBay are not household names, so looking into what other customers have to say is more important than with a big-name store. Higher-rated sellers are a safer risk when buying from someone you have never purchased from before. eBay does provide limited protection to the buyer if the item is not received or is not what was advertised.

Yahoo! Shopping
This site operates a little differently than Amazon and eBay. It is, for the most part, a comparison site. It aggregates online shopping listings from different sites and gives you the range of prices. You then purchase directly from that site, rather than Yahoo!. It is a useful site to compare prices and features for goods before purchasing. If you enter your zip code, the site will also include the shipping costs and tax for each online store. Each online store has a rating by other Yahoo! shoppers, so you can see which stores are popular with shoppers.

QVC
QVC has been around since 1986 and has grown into one of the largest online shopping portals in the world. QVC has a television channel that runs 24/7, showcasing products that it sells on its site. You can purchase either on the website or over the telephone. Vendors provide QVC with product so everything comes directly from their warehouse. An important benefit of QVC is that its site includes video clips from its on-air presence, so that you can see the item in operation. You can also look at product feedback from other shoppers and find other alternatives.

Online Store Websites
Many bricks-and-mortar stores now have an online shopping feature and you can order directly from their website. This is a great way to order from reputable stores that you already know and shop at. If dealing directly with an online store, it is still prudent to go to a site such as Yahoo! Shopping to do some comparison shopping first before purchasing. Some online sites, such as Wal-Mart, will also allow you to purchase online and pick the items up at your local store without being charged shipping and handling. It gives you access to a much wider variety of goods than would normally be available at store.

The Bottom Line
There are several alternatives when it comes to online shopping. The more you know about the reputation of the vendor and the quality of the product, the better your purchase experience will be. (For more ways to save money online, read 6 Ways To Save Online.)

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