One of the fastest growing trends on the internet involves service sites that connect consumers with the local businesses that can service their needs. Companies like Angie's List and Yelp have long been the leaders in the industry, but other groups like Amazon have recently attempted to grab their own share of the market. Independent startups like Thumbtack are also gaining some traction.

As a consumer, knowing which local service site to use can be a challenge. That's why I've put together this handy little guide that highlights the details about each of the major online platforms. Enjoy!

Angie's List

Angie's List is the industry leader for a reason. They boast a massive user base of over 2 million households and have a rich database of service companies in more than 700 different categories. While Angie's List does cost money to join--typically just a few dollars per year--they argue that the fee is a good thing. It's supposed to ward off people who don't take reviews seriously and allows Angie's List to have an operating budget to continually improve services.

Benefits of Angie's List include the fact that no reviews are anonymous, there's a complaint resolution team to intercede if something goes wrong, and they offer some discounts and coupons for certain services. The biggest con is that it obviously costs money, whereas the large majority of local service sites are totally free.

Yelp

Yelp was founded in 2004 and currently averages more than 80 million unique site visitors per month. There are also 83 million reviews and counting, making Yelp one of the most active review sites for local services. Whether you're looking for a great place to eat or the right mechanic for your car, Yelp can help.

The biggest pros of Yelp include the fact that the mobile app is incredibly intuitive and simple, making it perfect for on-the-go usage. It's also free, meaning there's no risk to using Yelp. If you want to find a con, it may be that Yelp allows businesses to pay for advertising space. However, these ads are clearly labeled as such, and businesses are never able to change or re-order reviews.

HomeAdvisor

HomeAdvisor has recently taken over a large portion of the market share because of its simple and streamlined format. Let's start with the quick hitters: HomeAdvisor is free, has more than 2 million reviews, and is used by more than 30 million homeowners. People love the service because it simply asks users about their project, uses a proprietary technology to match users with service professionals, and then automatically sends that information to recommended pros.

The hands-off nature of HomeAdivsor is what so many love. It really can't compare to Yelp or Angie's List in terms of the volume, but the quality of the services and the ability to sit back and let someone else handle the process is extremely valuable. HomeAdvisor also has helpful cost guides that give homeowners an idea of how much they should expect to spend on a given job.

Amazon Home Services

You can't expect a company like Amazon to sit back and watch as other companies carve out a profitable internet niche, can you? Sensing that this industry is just in the beginning stages, Amazon launched Amazon Home Services this year. The service's selling point is that it only invites professionals with a track record of quality and success--meaning all businesses on the site are prescreened and approved. During this screening process, things like background checks, licensure, and referrals are reviewed.

Another one of the big benefits is that customers actually buy services upfront. Prices are clearly labeled, meaning there are no surprises on the backend. There are obviously some kinks to be worked out--since the service is new--but it wouldn't be a surprise to see Amazon jump its more established competitors in a matter of months.

Thumbtack

This industry isn't just filled with large corporations, though. There's enough room for startups like Thumbtack to gain some market traction. While relatively new, Thumbtack has a promising future. This company was given a $100 million investment led by Google Capital and is seen as a real-time marketplace, rather than a matching service. Service professionals--whether attorneys, electricians, or personal trainers--actually bid on jobs and compete for customers. That obviously benefits users and is one of the reasons Thumbtack will be so successful.

From a consumer point of view, Thumbtack is easy to use and actually pretty fun. The businesses are the ones who pay, so you don't have to worry about annoying subscription fees. The site already boasts millions of users and hundreds of unique categories in all 50 states. Thumbtack is certainly a rising player to keep an eye on.

Good Time to be a Consumer

There's never been a better time to be a consumer. In an age where businesses often try to hide the truth, the internet has given way to transparency. While there are dozens of local service sites, these six represent the best. Feel free to try each one and discover which works best for you. They all have their nuances, benefits, and disadvantages, so do your due diligence and find the one you like. You never know when you'll need help, and it's good to have a reliable service that points you in the right direction.

Published on: Nov 29, 2015