Before you buy...

When planning to make a big purchase, what key factors influence your selection process? Do you go to the store and pick based on the best sale? Do you read through customer reviews on the retailer websites and pick the item with the highest number of stars? Or do you stick with brand loyalty, and only review items with a certain label?

When I make a major purchase, I tend to do a mix of all those methods. I factor in brand names, customer ratings, and especially consider the sale prices before making my selection. But above all, I always check Consumer Reports.

Did you know your library card gives you full access to the Consumer Reports website? The research tab of the library’s website offers card holders access to over 50 online resources, featuring Consumer Reports at the top of the Featured list.

Once you are in the website, you can search for a broad range of products, including appliances, cars, home and garden, products for children, electronics, and more. I just bought a new camera, so when I did my research, I searched Consumer Reports for digital cameras.

My favorite features of Consumer Reports are the list of overall product ratings, which include all products tested, and the list of recommended products, sorted by overall score. This breakdown style is offered for all products, from point and shoot digital cameras to recommended dishwasher detergents! A cursory scroll through the ratings list shows icons of the items, along with the type, average price, and a brief overview. Clicking on an individual item opens a full breakdown of that item’s performance under various tests, and includes user reviews as well.

This information was immensely helpful as I considered different camera models, and helped me make an informative purchase. I’m so pleased with my new camera, I plan to consult Consumer Reports for all my future purchases, both large and small!