Amid the coronavirus pandemic and its associated stay-at-home declarations, Sonya’s washing machine quit in the middle of a wash cycle. Since it didn’t make sense to spend money to repair a 20-year-old washer, she decided to buy a new one.

Purchasing a major appliance in the middle of a pandemic was a bit daunting, but she knew she was not alone. Since April 21, online purchases in the U.S. and Canada have risen 146 percent. Many consumers have had to make major purchases ― including cars ― online and often sight-unseen. With so many options, Sonya wondered, which washing machine would be right for her and her budget?

Although many retailers had instituted safety measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, Sonya was not about to traipse from one big box store to another as she might have done pre-pandemic. (Waiting in long lines didn’t appeal to her either.) So, like many other consumers who have embraced the homebody economy, Sonya opted to do her research and shopping online. However, she wanted to base her purchasing decision on advice and recommendations she could trust.

Sonya’s public library provides free access to a variety of helpful electronic resources, including which offers expert reviews, ratings and buying advice for thousands of products (from TVs to cars) and services (from airlines to homeowner’s insurance) along with a way to compare prices and shop seamlessly at major retailers.

To begin her research, Sonya logged in to using her library card number and easily navigated to the section on washing machines. Since she didn’t know which type of washer she wanted, she started with the Buying Guide. Sonya read the pros and cons of front-loaders versus top-loaders. She learned that the high-efficiency top-loaders have a higher capacity than traditional agitator top-loaders and use less water, thus shortening dryer time. They are also less likely to experience mold issues like front-loaders. However, wash times are much longer, and the deep tub might make it difficult for Sonya (at a mere five-foot-one-inch) to reach items at the bottom. Ultimately, the pros outweighed the cons.

By providing access to research tools like, libraries not only empower their patrons to become savvy shoppers, but also give them peace of mind.

Once she decided on the high-efficiency top-loader, Sonya’s next step was to find a highly rated and reliable model that fit within her budget. The experts at Consumer Reports test products and rate them on a variety of criteria, including performance, brand reliability and customer satisfaction. Recommendations can be filtered by brand, features, price range and more. Sonya narrowed her options to two models, clicked the “Shop” button to see online retailers and prices, made her choice, and submitted her order through the retailer website. She liked knowing that when she shopped through one of the retailer links on, 100 percent of the affiliate fees collected would support the organization’s nonprofit mission to drive truth, transparency, and fairness in the marketplace. Being able to research, shop and save in one trusted place enabled Sonya to feel confident in her final decision and eliminated her risk of contracting the coronavirus while out and about.

In addition to helping shoppers find the right products, also shares valuable money-saving tips. While she was researching washers, Sonya consulted laundry detergent ratings as well as related articles with advice such as “Should You Wash Your Clothes in Hot Water?” (The answer is, “No!” Cold water does just as good a job as hot or warm water, does not require energy to heat the water, and protects the color of your fabrics longer.) She even stumbled upon CR’s Guide to the Coronavirus, a special section featuring evidence-based reporting and advice to help consumers and their families stay safe during the pandemic. People often associate Consumer Reports with product ratings only, but it offers so much more.

By providing access to research tools like, libraries not only empower their patrons (like Sonya) to become savvy shoppers, but also give them peace of mind.

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