Sometimes, paying a premium price doesn't necessarily ensure better performance.
Take antibacterial soap. With the growing concern about the spread of infectious diseases like the
avian flu, everyone should be taking basic precautions such as thoroughly washing your hands and making sure not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth since these are
common ways to catch colds, according to the Center For Disease Control. Another step that many people take is to use antibacterial soap and other cleaning products.
study, however, suggests this may be a waste of money. Researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health recently looked at 27 past studies done on antibacterial products containing the active ingredient triclosan to determine their safety and effectiveness. The conclusion was that antibacterial cleaning products are no more effective at killing bacteria and preventing infectious illness than standard soap.
In another study by the same researchers on the effectiveness of antibacterial cleaning products, 238 families were split into two groups where one group used antibacterial products and the other group used regular cleaning products. The results also concluded that the antibacterial products were no better than the standard cleaners for killing germs.
Here are a few more products for which you may be paying a premium on the belief that they are better, when they really aren't:
: Many people shy away from generic prescription drugs because they feel that they are not as good as their
brand-name counterparts. Generic drugs are simply drugs made by another company because the patent on the drug has expired.
The government requires the same active ingredient in the same dosage for all generic drugs as with their brand-name equivalents. That means that they are exactly the same, except for the huge price difference and the look of the pills, since
the law does not allow generic drug to look exactly like the brand drug it copies, according to
. There are cases in which brand-name drugs may be preferable to generic alternatives, so you should always check with your doctor before making a switch,
says. But using generic drugs, where applicable, can save a lot of money.
: While generic foods in the past have been of noticeably inferior quality to brand-name foods, there has been a change building over the past few years. The quality of generic and store brands has greatly improved. In fact, many store brands are basically the same as a brand-name product with a different label on the outside.
While the brand-name companies take great care to keep very quiet about it and won't say if the ingredients are exactly the same, more and more are using their facilities to make store brands. For example, when Peter Pan peanut butter was recalled by the Food and Drug Administration in February on the concern it was tainted with salmonella, the recall also included Great Value Peanut Butter, which is Wal-Mart's store brand. Both
were made in the same facility and their product codes began with the exact same number sequence.
While a generic alternative won't be available for every brand product you buy, you are likely paying extra for many food brands that are not better in quality than the store-brand equivalent.
: For most cars, premium gasoline is not any better than cheaper, regular unleaded. Both types of gas will burn properly, your car's performance will be the same and its fuel system will be just as clean. There is absolutely no reason to pay extra money for premium gas.
exception is for high-performance engines in some sports cars and some older, heavier automobiles. How do you know if you car needs it? Simply look at your owner's manual. If it says "premium unleaded only," then your car needs it. Otherwise, it doesn't.
As I explained in my
article last week, bottled water is a good way to drain your bank account. It doesn't necessarily provide you with a better product and there is a good chance that it originally came from the same source as your tap water.
It's important to take the time to find out whether the products you are paying a premium for provide added value that justifies the higher prices.
Jeffrey Strain has been a freelance personal finance writer for the past 10 years helping people save money and get their finances in order. He currently owns and runs SavingAdvice.com.