Hiring a babysitter used to mean asking one of the neighborhood teenagers to watch your kid for a few dollars. Thanks to the internet, parents these days have access to a large pool of caregivers with various levels of experience — not to mention rates.
We took a look at the websites and apps out there to help you narrow down the options by the most important factors: price, quality of applicants, and safety features.
Care.com and Sittercity
These websites are the market leaders, and they essentially work in the same way. It's free to post a job or browse profiles. But if you want to contact a caregiver or respond to a caregiver's message, you have to sign up for one of these plans:
- Care.com: $39/month, $78/3 months, $156/year
- Sittercity: $35/month, $70/3 months, $140/year
Both websites also offer 25% discounts for military families. Care.com gives parents the ability to pay caregivers through the website or app, and they offer robust features for helping parents navigate paying a caregiver on the books.
Sittercity has a slight edge when it comes to safety features, with more background check options for potential hires than Care.com. Both services charge an additional fee for background checks.
With so few differences between the two websites, choosing one may ultimately come down to figuring out which is more popular in your area. For example, when my family lived in New York City, Care.com had a much larger pool of applicants. Now that we're in the suburbs, Sittercity is where most of our local caregivers post profiles.
If you decide to try Care.com or Sittercity, always look for promo codes before you sign up. They are always offering promotions, usually for the 3-month plans.
If you live in one of the 60 cities currently served by UrbanSitter, you can use some of their unique features to help you find a babysitter. It's free to search for caregivers, but if you want to contact someone, you'll have to pay $14.95/month or $99.95/year.
UrbanSitter allows you to see which caregivers are used most frequently in your community, so you know who the good sitters are — unlike offline, where parents will never tell you about their great babysitter, out of fear of losing them. You can search caregivers by availability, book and pay them online or through the app, and see which ones have completed background checks.
This free app allows you to create networks of trusted babysitters by connecting with friends and acquaintances in your neighborhood and sharing your pool of caregivers. The service doesn't offer any security features, but if you're hiring babysitters your connections regularly use, it's a step up from a stranger on the internet.
Additional features of the app include booking, payment, and searching for sitters by location — regardless of whether or not you share connections.
If you don't want to go through the hassle of reviewing profiles and messages, setting up interviews and running expensive background checks, your local Facebook groups can be a great resource, especially in the summer when all of the college kids are home and looking for work.
In my local Facebook parenting group, the Girl Scouts troop leaders always post when the babysitter badges go out and the girls are available for jobs. I've also seen many a mom post a "Help! Our sitter canceled for tonight and we need someone!" and get recommendations within minutes.
Other Things to Consider When Hiring a Babysitter Online
According to Care.com, the average babysitter rate is $12.25/hour. Depending on where you live, that number may be higher or lower. Ask around your community to find out what people are paying — again, your local Facebook group would be a great place to ask. The ranges that caregivers ask for on the above services will also give you an idea of what's expected.
A word of advice: Run the background checks and check references, but do some digging on your own. We recently interviewed a potential sitter we really liked whom we found through an online service. But after speaking to one of her references on the phone, I felt like something was off. I plugged the reference's phone number into Facebook search and got the profile of a woman who didn't share the name of the woman I'd just spoken to — she was a friend of the woman we'd interviewed, not a former employer. That's not something that would show up on a background check. Search for social media profiles, Google liberally, and always trust your gut.
This article first appeared at Dealnews.com.