How Wirecutter Finds Deals
Illustration: Sarah MacReading
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How Wirecutter Finds Deals

You can follow Wirecutter’s Prime Day coverage here. For great everyday deals, you can visit our Deals page, follow us on Twitter @WirecutterDeals, and subscribe to our daily deals newsletter.

When we’re not scanning and posting during deal holidays like Prime Day, the bargain hunters on the Wirecutter Deals team can often be found shopping the Deals page ourselves. On Amazon Prime Day 2019, I picked up Wirecutter’s former top headlamp pick for some under-sink plumbing work I had planned. I also nabbed our pick for concert earplugs at the recommendation of Wirecutter senior staff writer Lauren Dragan. I was confident in my purchases because I knew the items had gone through Wirecutter’s rigorous testing process, and I was thrilled that I got them at the best available price, because the value-based research for each of those deals is built into my Deals team’s vetting process. That, in the world of deals websites, is a pretty high bar to clear.

Over the course of our reporting on Prime Day 2019, Wirecutter’s staff of dedicated deal gumshoes scanned over 55,000 potential deals. Many of them offered better-than-usual pricing. But we posted only slightly more than 300 deals on Wirecutter, far fewer than the thousands other deals sites pushed out. Why? Because we don’t just post every price drop out there. You can find loads of aggressive price reductions on mediocre gear during deal holidays like Prime Day or Black Friday, as well as so-so discounts on truly great gadgets. But we’re committed to a higher standard: The Wirecutter Deals team posts only exceptional deals on the best stuff.

Every day, our Deals team scours the Internet, specifically seeking discounts on gear and gadgets that our expert journalists have vetted through rigorous and thoughtful testing. Our site offers a curated selection of more than 4,000 recommended picks, any of which could be on sale on a given day. Wirecutter picks are based on thorough reporting, interviewing, and testing by teams of veteran journalists, scientists, and researchers. Most of the deals we recommend are not only things we’ve tested ourselves but also items that emerged as the best of the best in their categories. So although our Deals team may see an introductory price we like on a newly released item—a refreshed MacBook Pro, perhaps?—we aren’t going to post a deal on something that isn’t yet Wirecutter-approved. (We do post deals on items that are staff favorites, even if they haven’t gone through the wringer of Wirecutter testing. We make sure to label these as staff picks, so you can decide for yourself if you really want to buy a giant bag of gummy bears or a tiny hat for your dog.)

That’s the first requirement of a deals post: truly great stuff. But we also insist on truly great prices.

Our pledge

When our Deals team chooses to post an item to our Deals page, Twitter account, or daily deals newsletter, we’re posting a substantially better price than you’d find by doing a typical Internet search or ambling into a retail store on a random weekday. We strive to hold our deals to a very high standard: the best price we’ve seen in the past 90 days.

Of course, we also take into account nuances such as seasonal pricing, and we’re not rigid to the point of ignoring a price that is still excellent. But we endeavor to bring you only great deals, not just passable discounts. (For more information, read about our deals rubric.)

We also post deals only from approved retailers or seller storefronts that fall under a given retailer’s umbrella. That means stores or sellers we’d be comfortable recommending to a friend. We continue to add to, refine, and subtract from our internal list of trusted retailers as their policies and customer feedback change over time. We research any new retailers we discover with a particular focus on returns, warranty, and customer experience. We also take the time to assess stock availability and shipping dates to ensure you won’t end up waiting forever for those sought-after wireless earbuds to arrive.

Prime Day, as well as the preceding days and weeks (we’re seeing more and more great discounts in the prelude to Amazon’s flagship event), will offer some of the highest-quality deals we’ll see during the course of the year, matching—and in some cases, beating—the prices we’ll see on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. We commit dozens of hours to research during events like Prime Day so we can continue to hold ourselves, and the deals we investigate, to the highest standards.

Deal assessment

Finding a great deal is only the first step for us. Once we’ve confirmed that the discount we’ve found on a Wirecutter-approved item is available from a viable retailer or seller, we assess (or reassess) the street price of the discounted item. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) nearly always overstates the item’s value. That’s why we use street price, which is the typical price we actually see for an item or the average nonsale price (if the price undergoes a lot of fluctuation). Here’s an example: Our top pick for stand mixers, the KitchenAid Artisan Series 5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer, has a whopping $380 MSRP. But our recorded street price for it is $280, which reflects near-constant sales at $220 (for certain colors) throughout 2019 and 2020 (so far), with rare dips to $200 or even less. If an item is constantly discounted, our street-price determination reflects that. Additionally, if an item’s price rises or falls seasonally, we adjust our recorded street price accordingly.

Even if the deal looks solid on the surface, we run an additional battery of checks, searching for any extra coupons or promos that may make it even better. We also take the item all the way to checkout, making sure there are no issues and keeping an eye out for unexpected shipping fees, like additional charges for a heavy item. Then we cross-check the price with other reliable retailers to see if it can be matched or beaten elsewhere. If it’s matched, we often share it from that retailer as well. Our priority when we do this is you, so we always look to post from retailers who offer the best mix of convenience and trustworthiness.

This process takes time, but our Wirecutter Deals experts apply this rubric to every deal you see on our page. The price-research methodology we’ve refined, and the internal systems we’ve put into place to allow for more efficient vetting, have taken years to develop. Ultimately, our historical preparation and our research-based approach ensure that any deal we post is one we’d be excited to see ourselves—and I have seven of Wirecutter’s current or former Bluetooth speaker and headset picks in my home office to prove it.

How Wirecutter Finds Deals on Prime Day

During a deal event like Prime Day, Wirecutter kicks our normal deal scanning process into overdrive. Internal deal conversations heat up. Any Wirecutter staffer with an interest in deals can drop sale leads for the Wirecutter Deals team to investigate. Our deals team pieces together those clues to surface only the best discounts for you.

Just like with our everyday deals coverage, our writers and editors play a huge part in our success throughout Prime Day. We invite our writers to join our deal event coverage—that means product category experts are available to answer questions, assess value, and drop in sales they might make note of in their beats. Even on Prime Day, we only post Wirecutter picks or products that are otherwise approved by Wirecutter writers. Outside of that, you may see staff picks that are more subjective in nature, like movies or comics, and (hopefully) give you a window into who we are. What you won't see is low-quality products or mediocre sales in our Prime Day coverage—only legitimate deals on products we can vouch for.

About your guide

Nathan Burrow

Nathan Burrow

Deals Editor

Nathan Burrow is the deals editor at Wirecutter. He is an avid reader and a parent to a poorly behaved beagle mix. He resides in Kansas City (the Missouri one). He is a longtime content contributor for Wirecutter, and his work has also been featured in The New York Times.

Editorial note: The evaluations of financial products in this article are independently determined by Wirecutter and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any third party.