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4 types of Prime Day deals to avoid (and 1 to jump on)

It’s hot, your friends and family and frantically texting deals to one another, and your credit card is nearing its limit. It must be Amazon Prime Day.

While Amazon’s annual summer sales-a-thon brings a cornucopia of must-have deals every year, it also brings out a truckload of junk, faux deals, and ancient tech masquerading as modern. Our intrepid deals team is here to help you sort the wheat from the chaff, but we can also give you some tips to help you size up deals on your own. We look at enough deals every year to go cross-eyed, and a few themes seem to surface every year. Here’s how to avoid falling for the stuff you’re better off leaving in a warehouse, and our take on the stuff you should absolutely snap up while you can.

Discounts that aren’t really deals

You’re browsing Amazon and a surge protector pops up for $16. You forgot you needed one of those! And it’s Prime Day, so it must be a killer deal. Add to cart.

APC surge protector on kitchen counter charging iPhone and powering coffee machine.

We’ve all done this. The ticking clock of Prime Day makes it tempting to just punch “buy” before looking into it too deeply. But a little extra research would reveal that you can get a two-pack of surge protectors any day of the week on Amazon for $11.17. Whoops.

Just because it’s on sale for Prime Day doesn’t make it a good deal. Many overpriced items may be heavily discounted … and still more expensive than comparable competitors. Make sure to browse the competition before jumping, and even take a peek at historical prices if you’re able. Camelcamelcamel tracks the price history of every product on Amazon and lets you search it for free, so you can see whether the item with a massive 50% discount is really a steal, or was marked up right before Prime Day to look like one.

No-name products with few reviews

This is not a knock on knockoffs. Some of my favorite Amazon purchases come from manufacturers with comically nonsensical brand names like Kaiweets (they make a great multimeter). But they also typically have hundreds, sometimes even thousands of positive reviews. Somebody else took the risk to make sure these aren’t junk.

On Prime Day, you’ll often see discounts on products with just a few reviews. Are you really sure the eight people who reviewed that product positively in the span of one week weren’t friends of the retailer, or paid reviews? I’m not.

I certainly wish I’d spent more on the no-name $14 propane adapter that broke my $100 Jetboil stove.

If you insist on rolling the dice with them, make sure to check the return policy: Are returns free? How long is the return window? Will you know whether or not it works in that time?

Also ask yourself whether this is a product you can afford to have fail. I’ve returned some faulty strobing LEDs that turned my kitchen into an unwanted rave – no harm done. But I certainly wish I’d spent more on the no-name $14 propane adapter that broke my $100 Jetboil stove and subsequently spewed explosive gas around my garage. Or the no-name car jump-starter that couldn’t actually jump a car when I needed it in a jam.

Outdated products

Who can resist a $30 Android tablet? I’ll admit it: I looked twice. It’s incredibly tempting to look at tech from 2019 and want to scoop it up now on deep, deep discount, but remember there’s a reason it’s that cheap. Technology has come a long way in three years, and technology ages as gracefully as a box of leftover Thai food sitting on a dashboard in summer. I’ve had the displeasure of owning a dated Android tablet, watching it get slower and slower, and then eventually being unable to load modern apps because they simply weren’t supported. I wouldn’t have even paid $30 for it.

Amazon Fire 7 (2019) review
Simon Hill/Digital Trends

MacBooks seem like a safer bet – Apple makes good stuff! – but the M1 processor introduced in 2020 represents such a quantum leap in performance that buying a MacBook from before that era will still disappoint you compared to the modern equivalent.

In many instances, spending a little more for something newer gets you a lot more. Read the reviews before you leap, because some old tech isn’t a good deal at any price.

Gadgets you don’t plan to use immediately

Supply chain disruptions and inflation may have tested the old axiom of everything getting cheaper over time, but it’s still an ironclad rule in technology: Prices drop fast. That means if you don’t intend to use a tech device today, don’t buy it today. It will almost certainly be cheaper by the time you actually need it – or maybe even so antiquated that there’s a better option. Think of that $30 Android tablet.

This rule also applies with games, which have a short shelf life and routinely go on sale through platforms like Steam and the PlayStation Store. If you’re not planning to play it for months, just buy it when you’re ready.

So don’t stock up on Christmas presents in July. That 1TB SSD, cheap as it may be, is likely to get even cheaper. Come back on Black Friday and it will look even better.

Amazon hardware is a steal

So is Prime Day just a scam? Nope. There are still tons of screaming deals, and some of the most reliably eye-popping deals come from hardware Amazon makes itself. It’s not charity, exactly: Amazon wants to pull you into its ecosystem, and it’s willing to practically give stuff away to get you in the door. If you’re already a happy Amazon user, it’s a great opportunity to round out your collection with some obscenely cheap additions.

This year, the $20 Amazon Echo Dot (4th Edition) tops my list, since it’s an affordable smart home gateway drug if you’re just getting started, and a useful add-on if you’re already down that rabbit hole. I’ll be getting a fourth for my garage, thank you very much.

Prices on the entire Fire TV line have also been slashed, with the Fire TV Stick Lite coming in as low as $12. That’s a great 1080p device for a bedroom TV or to travel with, but we’d recommend the $25 Fire TV Stick 4K for your living room – you’re going to want 4K on your main screen.

Finally, if you’ve been struggling with shoddy Wi-Fi at home, Eero routers (owned by Amazon) are substantially discounted. No, they’re still not cheap, but they’re highly reviewed and highly recommended from our own staff that own them, so you’re getting a killer deal on a killer device that usually demands a healthy premium. The Wi-Fi 6 three-pack would make a super-capable system for most average homes.

But that’s just the beginning! We’ve rounded up the best Prime Day deals of 2022 and have plenty more to share.

See Prime Day Deals

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