How to Find Out How Much Something Costs


Like most people, you probably like to know how much something costs before you decide whether to buy it. From a pack of gum to a new car, you have a right to know the full price of an item before you take out your wallet. Unfortunately, a sales price is not always available. Sometimes a business simply forgets to list the price. Other times, the seller may think a high price tag will scare potential buyers away. Regardless of the reason, find out how much an item costs before you agree to buy it.

  • Look for a price tag. Price tags are not always visible from the shelf; sometimes, a price sticker may be stuck to the bottom or side of a product.

  • Ask someone how much the item costs. It's not always necessary to ask an employee; customers shopping in the same aisle may have purchased the item before.

  • Look for a price scanner. Price scanners are usually located near the beginning or end of the aisle, not the middle. Hold the item with the UPC code facing the bottom of the scanner. Move the item back and forth slowly until the red laser picks up the bar code. A price should show up on the screen. Talk to a manager if the price seems a bit high. Price Check II, a study from the Federal Trade Commission that tested the accuracy of checkout scanners, found accuracy errors in 57% of the inspected stores. Checkout scanners and price scanners often use the same computer pricing system.

  • Search for information about the item online. Find different types of items on different websites; a one-size-fits-all website for pricing information doesn't exist. Use a price comparison website such as Nextag to find prices for electronics, jewelry, clothing, food, and other consumer goods. In addition to being able to determine the average price of an item, you will also find the best price. If you want to find the price for gasoline before you leave your house, offers data about current gas prices for most major cities. Find pricing information for high-ticket items, such as cars and SUVs, by visiting the automobile manufacturer's website. AutoBrag is another website that has information about vehicle prices.

  • Read the fine print in an advertisement or catalog. Be careful if you are trying to estimate the full cost of an item by adding up the installment prices, especially when it comes to rent-to-own agreements. The Iowa Attorney General warns that "the total you pay can be astronomical." The Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation (OCABR) agrees that it is important to read the fine print, adding that you should "not forget to add sales tax and the postage and handling charges to the cost of the merchandise." Some companies charge several different fees, including tax, shipping, handling, processing and installation. If you are a high-risk borrower who is receiving a loan, check the agreement for an "at risk fee". Risk-based loans allow lenders to charge additional fees and higher rates for individuals with poor or limited credit.

Tips & Warnings

  • Negotiate a price by being assertive, not aggressive.
  • Review all rental agreements and purchase contracts before signing your name.

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