Buying a new smartphone or cellular plan is a major headache, with smartphones released monthly and carriers continually adjusting their plans to entice consumers. You could spend a solid week visiting every carrier website looking at plans, working out costs, doing phone comparisons and hunting for deals. Trust me, I've done it myself, and even a basic comparison took hours.
If you get it wrong, you can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars each year. Fortunately, there is another way to scope out your options thanks to sites online that bring together all the information in one place.
One good site that's been around for nearly two decades is MyRatePlan. It helps you find the best of everything from credit cards to Internet service and travel-to-phone plans. In this case, you want to look under the "Cell Phones & Plans" section.
To find a plan, simply select the phone you want (or you can leave it blank), the amount of minutes, messages and data you want, and the number of lines you need. Then, click the "Show my plans" button to get dozens of results from major carriers and even no-contract smaller carriers. You can further filter the results by carrier, adjust the information you started with, or sort by price, minutes, data, deals and more.
Not sure what phone to get? MyRatePlan has a cell phone comparison feature. Simply select the brands and carriers you like and you can see what phones are available. Most carriers are going to have the same high-end phones like the iPhone 6s or Samsung Galaxy 6S. But if you're after less-expensive phones, it varies wildly by carrier. Check out our smartphone comparison charts to get a better idea of which phone is right for you.
MyRatePlan also has other tools like coverage maps, a termination fee calculator and buying advice. You can also get more information on the most popular phones at the moment, or see the latest deals on specific phones.
If you want an even more powerful comparison tool, whistleOut boasts the ability to search 239,000 plan combinations. Like MyRatePlan, it starts with selecting what you're after, but whistleOut gives you even more options.
Select the number of lines you want. Then for each one, you select the phone you want and your ideal usage. When you're selecting a phone, you can select "new phone" and choose from more than 160 options, or stick with one you already have. If you say you already have a phone, you can give specifics on it to make sure whistleOut only shows networks that work with it.
Once you have your phone and line information in, you can select what network you want to use or have it show all the carriers. You can also select which carrier you're currently using so it can factor in termination fees if needed. Speaking of fees, make sure you know the fees your cellular carrier might put on your bill that it hopes you don't notice. Otherwise, you won't save nearly as much money as you'd hope.
When you've got your information entered, hit the "Search Cell Plans" button to see the results from practically every carrier in the country. You can sort or filter the list further. For example, you can look only for no-contract options, deals for families, what kind of phone financing you need, if the site can swap in similar phones to find you a better deal and more. If you go into the advance filter options, you can also set your target phone or plan prices and other options.
To make things easier, whistleOut also has preset searches such as iPhone 6s Plans, No Contract Plans, or instructions on how to find the best Family Plan. It also includes guides that help you make more advanced decisions or explain trickier terms or tactics you can use to save money. It also features smartphone reviews and has a section dedicated to buying tablets. If you are looking to buy a tablet, you can also check out my comprehensive tablet buying guide.
Bonus: One more way to save
Both MyRatePlan and whistleOut can suggest deals on phones and plans; however once you have your carrier nailed down, there's another option to check. Talk to your employer or any organizations you associate with to see if they have special deals.
You might be able to get activation fees waived or even a monthly discount. Some companies also help cover part of the cost for certain smartphone models.
On the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com. Kim also posts breaking tech news 24/7 at News.Komando.com.