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Don't fall for the Prime Day hype -- unless it's deserved

Are these really the best prices of the year? Here's how to find out for sure.

Surprise! That Fire TV deal is good, but it's not the best ever. CamelCamelCamel helps you check any Amazon product's price history, so you know if it's really the best deal.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Amazon Prime Day -- which is actually two days this year, July 15 and 16 -- will attract zillions of buyers seeking Black-Friday-in-July pricing on zillions of products. But here's the thing: While there are sure to be some solid bargains, it's a mistake to assume that every deal is the best deal.

For example, Amazon is currently touting a few pre-Prime Day sale items, including a Toshiba 43-inch 1080p Fire TV for $179.99. That's a hefty $120 off the list price, and because this is a Prime Day deal, it must be the best price ever, right?

Not quite: According to CamelCamelCamel, a tool that monitors Amazon pricing, this particular TV has already been on sale for $179.99 twice this year. And it very rarely sells at full list price; mostly it jumps between $200 and $230. 

Meanwhile, Amazon recently ran a sale on the Amazon Echo smart speaker: $65, which was $35 off the regular price and an all-time low for that model. It remains to be seen whether it'll be priced even lower on Prime Day (my guess is at best, it'll go for $60), but there's an important truth coming out of all this: Don't just assume that Prime Day pricing is the best pricing.

Indeed, it's easy to get caught up in the FOMO (fear of missing out), same as with Black Friday -- the idea that every single item has been priced at rock-bottom, and if you don't get it now, you'll never have another chance.

Likewise, it's easy to forget that other stores exist, and that they'll be pulling out all the stops to beat Amazon at its own game. For example, eBay just announced its plans to upstage Prime Day with a big sale of its own, and Target will kick off its answer to Prime Day during the same July 15-16 period. 

My advice: Browse, sure, and if you see something on your shopping list that's on sale, by all means grab it.

But check the price history first. As noted above, CamelCamelCamel can show you at a glance whether it's even been priced lower. (Some at CNET swear by the site, and I'm a big fan of its browser plug-in.) And if it's a pretty mainstream product, check stores like Best Buy, Target and Walmart to see if they've matched or even beaten it.

Now playing: Watch this: Amazon Prime Day 2019: Everything to know

Originally published on June 12, 2018.
Update, June 26, 2019: Added new information.

CNET's Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on PCs, phones, gadgets and much more. Note that CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured on this page. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page. Find more great buys on the CNET Deals page and follow the Cheapskate on Facebook and Twitter!