(Updated 3/12/18) The retail giant known as Amazon.com does a fantastic job of making shoppers think everything on their site is a good deal, or at least competitive in terms of price. But the fact of the matter is Amazon has their good and bad buys just like any other store. By knowing which is which, you can become a smarter shopper and the savings is bound to follow.
To determine the worst and best buys at Amazon, I did a bunch of research and price comparison tests and the results are below. I hope it helps you save some money on future purchases.
First, the Best Things to Buy on Amazon:
1. Electronics Add-Ons
I’m talking about add-ons like HDMI cables, HDTV mounts, and various cables for your electronic components. While Amazon use to have the reputation of pricing TV’s cheap and gouging you on accessories, that is simply not the case any more.
These days you can score a quality Amazon Basics High-Speed HDMI Cable for only $5.99 compared to a similar cable at Costco for $14.99. And before you ask, more expensive HDMI cables are NOT any better in terms of picture or sound.
2. Snack Foods
Snacky foods at Amazon like peanuts, chips, granola bars, and jerky, are for the most part, 15-20% cheaper than stores like Costco and Walmart.
This is especially true if you use Amazon Subscribe and Save and get the extra 15% off your total if you have at least 5 items in your monthly subscription.
Batteries are a really good deal at Amazon. From watch batteries, to larger varieties, you can typically find some big time values. For example, on Amazon, you can buy a 24 pack of Duracell AA for $10.22.
4. Magazine Subscriptions
When I think magazine subscriptions, I never think about Amazon, until now that is. The deals are pretty darn amazing, especially when renewing your existing subscription. A 1-year renewal for Sports Illustrated will only run you $10 on Amazon, which is practically free at $0.18 per issue.
5. High Customer (Star) Rated Items
One of Amazon’s pricing strategy tricks is to come under the competition, in terms of price, on items that are highly rated. I’m talking about products with a star rating of 4 or higher. This is one of the few times when it’s smart to follow the pack and save.
When a customer sees a highly rated product, at a great price, it creates a “I flipping love Amazon” mindset that tends to carry over to every purchase, even stuff that may not be the best deal or not very highly rated.
So when price comparing different models on Amazon, always head toward the product with the highest star rating and you’ll typically get a very good price.
6. Highly Visible Items
Amazon purposely keeps the price low on these items to give shoppers the perception that they’re a low-price leader. Use this information to your advantage when shopping for highly visible, and “cultural touchstone” type items.
Buying diapers from Amazon is definitely a good buy. For example, they sell Luvs #4, 160ct, for $31.34 (.19/ea), while Walmart has the same diaper for $0.20/each.
They also sell Huggies #4, 192ct, for $44.83 (.23/ea), while Costco has the same diaper for .22/ea. For an extra penny per diaper it’s worth it to many, especially in terms of the convenience of having them show up on your doorstep with free shipping.
And of Course, the Worst Buys at Amazon:
1. Hardware and Tools
Rather than shopping at Amazon, shop at the Home Depot and Lowe’s for the best deals on hand tools and power tools. For example, Amazon has a DeWalt Drill Combo Kit for $188, while Lowe’s has the same product for only $149.
The same holds true for hand tools and hardware like hammers, saws, nails, screws, and levels.
Amazon has a hard competing on price because the big box home improvement stores have more leverage with suppliers and can get their costs down and pass the savings along to you.
2. Cleaning Supplies
Hard to beat the prices at Walmart on products like Windex, Pledge, Comet, Pine-Sol, Drano, and the like. For example, Amazon sells a 32oz bottle of Windex for $8.85, Walmart has the same size for $3.12.
Also, Amazon sells Comet for $0.31 an ounce while Walmart has it for $0.11 an ounce. For those of you (like me) who suck at math, that’s like 3 times cheaper at Walmart.
3. Brand-Name Apparel
Due to the lack of coupon codes and sales, you’re going to easily spend 20% more buying name brand clothing from Amazon compared to clothing specific websites like Lands’ End, American Eagle, and Macys.com.
By timing your purchase at online clothing websites, and waiting until you have a coupon code in hand, it becomes very easy to undercut the Amazon price on similar items. This is especially true if you can wait and buy clothing on clearance at the end of the season.
4. Home Furnishings
Generally speaking, home furnishings, bookcases, and home decor are not a very good deal at Amazon. For the money, you’re much better served shopping at IKEA, Cost Plus World Market, and Target and can typically save an additional 15-30% by avoiding Amazon.
5. Pet Food and Supplies
You’re much better off buying dog food, cat food, and pet supplies from Costco or Walmart.
As an example, Amazon has Iams Adult dog food, (30 lb for $51.49 – 1.71/lb) and Costco has a 50 lb bag of the same food for $42.99, which comes out to an affordable .86/lb. Pretty much every brand Amazon carries can be found cheaper at Walmart or Costco.
6. Back-To-School Supplies
Finding deals on back-to-school supplies can be a bit tricky if you don’t have a plan. One way to ensure you get a good deal on binders, backpacks, pencils, and the like, is to avoid Amazon.com as much as possible.
At the very least, don’t do ALL of your shopping with them. Buying a couple items that are a decent deal is cool, but you’ll save much more if you can “shop around” and buy screaming deals when you find them.
Also, keep a close eye on sales flyers from office supply stores like Staples, Office Depot, and Office Max. They typically have some amazing deals like penny pencils, 25 cent glue sticks, dime folders, and 25 cent crayon boxes.
Be aware that they sell-out pretty quickly so be sure to always check the sales flyers in your local newspaper and jump on the deals as they come out. If they’re sold out, take the flyer to Walmart or Target and they’ll happily price-match the item if they carry the exact same model.
7. Athletic Shoes
The reason is because many online stores have coupon codes in the 20-30% off range that will always bring the price down below anything Amazon can reasonably touch.
For example, a new pair of top of the line women’s New Balance 990V3 running shoes is currently selling for $149.95 at both Amazon and Shoebuy, both with free shipping. But with a little bit of digging, I found a 20% off coupon code for Shoebuy.com, bringing my total down to $119.96 — a price Amazon can’t touch.
Ask the Reader: Any good or bad buys at Amazon that I may have missed? Let me know in the comments section below and I’ll get it added to my article.
By Kyle James