Things cheaper on Amazon

When shopping for something online, most people’s go-to store is Amazon. The perception is that Amazon, without fail, offers the products you want cheaper than anywhere else. In actuality that’s not entirely true, but Amazon has very cleverly tweaked its product pricing to make online shoppers think it is.

So how does the e-tailer trick you into thinking it’s the cheapest option for everything? By focusing on really popular products and discounting them significantly. That’s the finding of Boomerang Commerce, which did a study on the Price Perception Index and in particular how Amazon goes about pricing the goods it sells so you perceive it to be cheapest.

It works as follows: Amazon identifies the most popular items it sells and applies large discounts to those products, to the point where they are cheaper than the competition. Lots of people want these products, end up at Amazon because they are cheapest, and then walk away thinking Amazon is awesome because they got the best deal. (And they might have.) The more that happens, the more you think Amazon is the best place to go, and maybe you just start going to Amazon first and buying with confidence that you’re getting the best deal, without confirming that was the case.

Of course, that’s not always the case. Amazon can actually be much more expensive for particular unpopular or add-on products. The example Boomerang gives is HDMI cables and routers. The TV you purchase may be the cheapest at Amazon, but the HDMI cable you also placed in your cart can be over 30% more expensive than elsewhere. The most popular router may be the cheapest on Amazon, but the second or third most popular? Nope.

So, next time it comes time for you to purchase something online and Amazon turns out to be cheapest, why not try looking at a less popular alternative/brand and seeing how the prices compare. Chances are that super cheap Amazon pricing may be beaten if you don’t mind purchasing a product that isn’t a top seller.

15 Things You Should Never Buy on Amazon

Amazon isn’t always the retailer with the lowest price. | jahcottontail143/iStock/Getty Images

A whopping 64% of U.S. households have an Amazon Prime membership, according to Forbes. With 80 million Amazon Prime members, it’s no wonder four of every 10 dollars spent online is with Amazon. Whether you’re a frequent Amazon shopper or just use the site for occasional purchases, there’s no denying the convenience of one-stop shopping for just about everything under the sun.

However, just because you can buy everything but the kitchen sink (OK, maybe that too) on the mega-shopping site, that doesn’t mean you should. As they say, time is money, and sometimes there is a price to pay for convenience. But if you’re on a budget — or simply don’t want to pay more than you need — there are some items you should purchase elsewhere.

It’s usually worth taking at least a few minutes to compare prices online by looking up a given item on the websites of Target and Walmart. Or, you can use a price comparison website such as PriceJump to see if Amazon has the lowest price on a given item. In either case, it’s worth it not to simply assume one retailer always has the lowest price. Amazon is great for a lot of things, but deals on these 15 items aren’t among them.

1. Clothing

As you may have noticed, shopping for clothing can be quite confusing on Amazon, as often the price of an item varies based on color and size. Shipping can be free for some colors and sizes and not others. A black Halston Heritage evening gown is priced at $725 on Amazon – except for size 2, going for just $379, or size 14, going for just $281.

Once you do find a clothing item in your desired size and color, do a quick price comparison before adding the item to your cart. For instance, The North Face women’s Crescent Full Zip Hoodie, size large, in Black Heather runs $98.95 on Amazon. The same item is currently selling for $59.20 on eBay in the section that allows direct purchases (instead of bidding). That’s savings of almost $40 if you go with eBay over Amazon. If you select an eBay seller with good reviews, there’s no reason to choose Amazon instead, especially since both retailers offer free shipping for the hoodie.

Next: Hold off until you hit the warehouse club.

2. Batteries

Costco might have better prices on batteries. | iStock/Getty Images

Batteries are an important part of many gadgets, and it’s been recommended that you don’t buy batteries on Amazon. While you’ll likely save money by purchasing your typical AA batteries from Amazon compared to your local grocery or hardware store, you may want to consider going with the Kirkland Signature brand from Costco. If you snag a stockpile on your next Costco trip, you’ll pay around $0.56 per AA battery. As an added bonus, Costco batteries were given an excellent rating by Consumer Reports.

Next: Saving $0.15 per roll really adds up.

3. Paper products

You’ll likely save a few dollars on paper towels at Walmart. | iStock/Getty Images

One of Amazon’s popular programs is its Subscribe & Save option, which allows you to automatically send yourself paper goods, baby items, and other household goods on a pre-scheduled basis. It’s kind of like getting a monthly subscription box, only it’s filled with paper towels or diapers instead of your cheese of the month. However, even with this program, some items aren’t the deal they seem to be.

Take paper towels, for example. On Amazon, you’ll pay $27.54 for a box of four, six-roll packs of Viva Choose-A-Sheet paper towels (or $1.15 per roll). This is if you are signed up for Subscribe & Save. (If that’s not the case, you’ll end up paying $28.99 for the item.) By way of comparison, Walmart charges $5.98 for one package containing six rolls. Do the math, and four of those will cost you $23.92 (or about $1 per roll). That’s a savings of $3.62 if you go with Walmart instead of Amazon.

What are the odds you can find toilet tissue and paper plates for a cheaper price at Target, too?

Next: Get your granola bars elsewhere.

4. Some grocery items

Shopping on Amazon for groceries is convenient, but you might end up paying more. | Choreograph/iStock/Getty Images

Amazon’s convenience factor is hard to beat, especially if you’re looking to buy snacks like granola bars in bulk. However, it doesn’t always pay to order in large quantities, despite what conventional wisdom tells you.

A variety pack of 48 Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain cereal bars costs $22.50 on Amazon, plus shipping for non-Prime members. Compare that to $14.99 from online retailer Jet, which comes with free two-day shipping if you order more than $35. (Otherwise, shipping is $5.99.) That comes out to $7.51 in savings if you buy Nutri-Grain bars at Jet rather than Amazon. Even if you purchase the Nutri-Grain bars in 8-count, regular boxes from Target, you’ll still see big savings compared to the Amazon price. Six boxes of the bars at regular price from Target retail for $15.

If you are an Amazon Prime member and you really enjoy the convenience of having groceries delivered to your door, you could pay $14.99 per month for AmazonFresh (in addition to your $99 yearly Prime fee). However, the prices on AmazonFresh groceries aren’t always competitive.

Next: Get more bang for your K-Cup bucks.

5. Beverages

You might spend more if you get your K-Cups on Amazon. | leekris/iStock/Getty Images

Stocking up on staples from Amazon isn’t always ideal when it comes to beverages. If you brew your coffee from Keurig K-Cups and happen to enjoy the Dunkin’ Donuts brand, take note: A 16-pack of the Original House Blend variety runs $14.99 on Amazon, with free shipping for Prime members. However, Target sells the same item for $11.89. You can avoid any shipping charge by making a trip to your local Target. Or, during certain times of the year, namely the holiday season, Target ships all items free.

A Boomerang Commerce analysis found that the most popular beverage items at Target cost 97% more at Amazon than they do at Target. And for the most popular beverage items at Wal-Mart, Amazon’s prices are 105% more expensive.

Next: Back-to-school savings can be found elsewhere.

6. School supplies

Amazon tends to mark up school supplies. | iStock/Getty Images

When it comes time for the school season, it’s still your best bet to head to your nearest Walmart and battle the other thousands of students for some school supplies. Amazon might sound easier, but the markup on products like notebooks can be more than 300%. On Amazon, a one-subject, 100-sheet Mead Five Star notebook costs $9.94 (plus shipping costs if you’re not a Prime member). That exact same notebook at Walmart is $2.76.

There also may be some higher-cost items required by schools that you don’t want to order from Amazon before shopping around. Take the Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus CE Graphing calculator. If you want to purchase this in black, you’ll pay $118.98 on Amazon (plus shipping if you’re not a Prime member). Or, you can head over to eBay and pick it up for $107.59 with free shipping. Or, you can get it for $108.99 on Best Buy, which does offer free shipping on everything at certain times of the year.

Next: Keep technical support in mind.

7. Electronics

Purchasing from a physical retailer makes it easier to get tech support. | Amazon

Electronics are an item you should definitely shop around for before deciding to buy on Amazon — especially from Black Friday through the end of the year, when retailers are competing desperately for your dollars on big-ticket items like gaming consoles, laptops, smart watches, TVs, and so on. Sometimes, prices are lower elsewhere because brick-and-mortar stores feature get-them-in-the-door teaser rates for big-ticket items.

When buying electronics, another factor to keep in mind is the advantage of purchasing from a retailer like Best Buy, where you can take the item to a physical location for help or an exchange if you run into any technical issues.

An example of electronics that are cheaper elsewhere is the PlayStation 4. You can get the Slim 500GB Console in the Unchartered bundle on Amazon for $301. However, the same model is available from Target for $269.99. That’s a $31 savings by going with Target over Amazon.

Next: Amazon can’t compete in this arena.

8. Power tools

Home improvement stores have better connections with suppliers. | Amazon

When it comes to hardware and tools, Amazon has a hard time competing because the big box home improvement stores have more leverage with suppliers and are therefore able to keep their costs lower. In turn, they pass along the savings to you.

Whether you’re looking to add to your power tool collection or buy one as the perfect holiday gift, definitely shop around without assuming Amazon will give you the best price. Some power tools may be listed on Amazon from third-party sellers, and that could jack up the price. That looks to be the case with this Apollo Tools pink cordless drill set. While shipping is free, the cheapest seller is charging $71.70. By way of comparison, at Walmart, you can get the same drill for $56.22, currently with free shipping as well.

Next: Will it spill on the way?

9. Household products

Always compare prices with other major retailers. | Jevtic/iStock/Getty Images

While it’s definitely worth a check to see if particular household products are cheaper on Amazon than elsewhere, there’s a good chance you find the prices are lower at places like Walmart, Target, or the dollar store.

For instance, the same bottle of Windex can be found for $8.99 on Amazon and $3.98 on Walmart’s website. That’s a savings of over $5.

As for laundry detergent, the general consensus on a lengthy Reddit thread was not to buy laundry detergent from Amazon. The reasons? Well, the price was a big one. Most people said they were able to find detergent cheaper elsewhere, often at brick-and-mortar retailers like Dollar General and Target. Others expressed concerns about the possible of liquid detergent spilling in transit.

When the price of Tide detergent is compared on Amazon and Walmart’s websites, 100 ounces will cost you $13.10 on Amazon and only $11.97 from Walmart. That’s a savings of $1.13 by going with Walmart over Amazon.

Next: Look elsewhere for kitchen appliances.

10. Small kitchen appliances

Amazon isn’t very competitive in this area. | Dmitry_Evs/iStock/Getty Images

If you’re looking to pick up some small kitchen appliances, you may be hard-pressed to find competitive prices on Amazon. This includes microwaves, mixers, and blenders. For instance, a standalone KitchenAid mixer retails for $265 on Amazon, whereas it can be found cheaper from Target, for $239.99. That’s a savings of just over $25 by buying from Target over Amazon.

If you wanted to compare the cost of microwaves, a compact RCA model which runs for $49.40 on Amazon costs $39.99 from Walmart.

Next: Beware of counterfeits.

11. Beauty products and cosmetics

You might not find higher-than-usual prices on cosmetics from Amazon; however, third-party sellers offering counterfeit beauty products is a documented problem on Amazon, as well as on other retailers like Alibaba and eBay. Be sure to read what Amazon has to say about the problem before making purchases. The scary part about it all is fake cosmetics and skincare products may contain toxic levels of chemicals as well as arsenic, mercury, and even urine.

Next: Face-to-face consultations make all the difference.

12. Fine jewelry

You might not be getting a quality product on Amazon. | grinvalds/iStock/Getty Images

If you browse the site, you’ll find Amazon offers a wide selection of jewelry. If fine gemstones are what you’re after, however, you would probably be better off getting them from a reputable website that specializes only in jewelry. A better option yet for some jewelry seekers may be to visit a brick-and-mortar jewelry store. “You’re almost always better off putting in the extra effort and buying your bling in a physical store where you can talk to real people and touch and feel and analyze the product,” writes Gizmodo author Leslie Horn.

Next: It’s convenient but maybe not worth it.

13. Meal kits

AmazonFresh recently jumped on the meal kit bandwagon when it started offering Martha Stewart meal kits. While the meal kit industry is poised for growth, according to Forbes, the concept is definitely high on convenience and low on value. If you’re looking to save money, you’d be much better off making a DIY meal, especially if you like to cook extra to have leftovers.

Next: Another area Amazon can’t compete

14. Photography supplies

You’re better off going to specialty photography retailers. | iStock/Getty Images

Like with power tools, Amazon just has a hard time being competitive in this area. Specialty photography retailers are making a big effort to offer hard-to-beat prices, especially when up against high-quality smartphone cameras of today. Amazon has a hard time keeping up, especially with higher-end cameras and the equipment associated with them.

Next: A counterfeit high-end car part?

15. Mercedes-Benz wheel caps

Beware of counterfeits. | Mercedes-Benz

According to a lawsuit filed in October 2017, German automaker Daimler alleges that “Amazon refuses to take reasonable steps to police intellectual property infringement” by continuing to sell fake versions of Mercedes-Benz wheel caps on its website. The filing stated that the counterfeits are being sold by third-party sellers as well as products “shipped from and sold by” Amazon had not commented on the lawsuit.

Editor’s note: All prices current as of Dec. 4, 2017.

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Amazon’s pretty much the go-to place for cheap gadgets, books, music, food, and just about everything else. But we wanted to see how much cheaper it really is compared to other stores. So, we tallied up a few shopping lists and compared.

Amazon is an incredibly easy way to shop and with a service like the $79 a year Amazon Prime, you get free two-day shipping…which makes buying mighty convenient. As a result, most of here at Lifehacker use Amazon for pretty much all of our shopping, from books and gadgets down to hand soap and other household items. Amazon is certainly easier to order from than walking over to an actual store, but that doesn’t mean it’s cheaper.


So, we decided to get down to brass tacks and compare Amazon to other retailers, using an unscientific mix of random items and actual shopping lists. We’re skipping the taxes and shipping costs (or assuming you have Prime) for the sake of simplicity here, but the price overview should be about the same regardless of where you are. Obviously these items all tend to shift in price, but the general snapshot we grabbed did reveal a few trends. Here’s what we found.

Household Items Compared: Amazon vs Walmart


It’s no secret that Amazon and Walmart are both on a race to the bottom for pricing of general household items, but we were still pretty surprised at how close the two were for most items. That said, a small study from last year by Kantar Retail found that Amazon was usually 20% more expensive than Walmart, and that trend seems to continue with a lot of the items we checked.

Our random collection of items showed that Walmart is about 15% cheaper than Amazon for household items. There were some general consistencies that we found. Walmart was cheaper for small appliances with the exception of the Cuisinart DCC-1200 coffee maker. The best example here is Walmart’s price on the KitchenAid mixer, which is $60 cheaper than Amazon’s price. For the most part Walmart’s prices on small appliances, from dutch ovens to slow cookers were cheaper than Amazon.


For smaller items like batteries, tupperware, or Swiffer cloths, the price difference was negligible, but more often in favor of Amazon. Generally speaking, the benefit with Amazon is that you can get more of these types of items in bulk for cheaper, but if you’re looking for smaller amounts you’re not going to notice that big of a price difference.


For the most part, we’d say that Walmart tends to be cheaper than Amazon. Of course, the problem is that you usually need to walk into an actual Walmart location to get these deals because they’re not offered online, which means you’ll spend a significant amount of time wandering the aisles. Still, if money’s your only concern, it looks like you’re more often going to get a deal on household items at Walmart.

Gadgets Compared: Amazon vs Best Buy


In 1990, the San Francisco 49ers destroyed the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV by a score of 55-10. That’s the kind of blowout we saw here between Amazon and Best Buy, where Amazon absolutely destroyed Best Buy in pretty much every item we checked.

For the most part, this seems to be because Amazon changes their prices way more often than Best Buy, and that means they can mess around with the prices on items a lot more. Some items stuck pretty close to their retail pricing, like higher priced items such as the Epson PowerLite projector or anything from Apple, but everything else favored Amazon by a wide margin. Even items with less leeway for price reductions like the Logitech M510 mouse were also $15 cheaper on Amazon. We stuck with name brand items, but it’s also worth noting that things like cables are cheaper at Amazon since you can buy generic versions (which are ). It looks like a huge margin, but overall our particular cart at Amazon was only about 8% cheaper than Best Buy.

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Of course, Best Buy offers in-store discounts based on inventory as well, so mileage in your town may vary. Weekly specials are also worth noting, since Best Buy changes those every week at specific stores. Which is to say, you might still occasionally score a sweet deal at Best Buy if you look at the right time.

If you’re curious where we picked most of our items from, we got a bulk of them from you with your choices for the Hive Five. Amazon’s prices on electronics tend to fluctuate a lot, so keep that in mind when you’re shopping around.


Groceries Compared: Amazon vs Safeway


Amazon’s new Fresh delivery service is only available in Seattle and Los Angeles right now, but we decided to take a look at it combined with a wide variety of grocery items and compare it with the typically reasonably priced grocery chain Safeway.


For the most part, the local Safeway here in Seattle was cheaper across the board on items and our total cart was 20% cheaper at Safeway than Amazon. The big reason here is pretty simple: Amazon doesn’t carry generic items. So, for anything where a generic was an option, Safeway won out. Likewise, with fresh fruits and vegetables, Amazon was a bit more expensive. For instance, bananas were more than twice the price of Safeway, but it’s hard to really gauge why without seeing what the bananas actually look like. This one’s a little more difficult to really quantify because size, shape, and quality vary, but overall it seemed like Safeway was cheaper for most fruits and vegetables.


The same was true for most other items we checked out. Safeway’s prices seemed to be cheaper in most cases, although rarely by a significant margin. Of course, groceries fluctuate in prices a lot, AmazonFresh is only available in limited markets, and more than any other comparisons on this list grocery prices change depending on the region. Even still, for now it looks like the brick and mortar grocery store is the cheapest option. But really, this is the toughest one to compare. Unlike our other scenarios, we’re forced to compare different brands, and different brands mean different prices. We tried to keep it as close as we could, but it wasn’t always possible.

Books Compared: Amazon vs Barnes and Noble


Chain bookstores are disappearing these days, but they’ll be around long enough to at least run off and pick up a few choice books while you can. We decided to check the prices on some of The New York Times best sellers and some older classics.

For most of the best sellers, the prices were pretty similar between Barnes and Noble and Amazon. Amazon was cheaper in all regards, but it was typically by less than a dollar. The big difference was with older paperbacks. Amazon consistently dropped at least a dollar off the retail price, whereas Barnes and Noble just stuck with the suggested price on the book. Amazon wasn’t always a huge discount, but you can typically save a dollar or two from buying Amazon.


Ebooks Compared: Amazon vs iBooks


Amazon has had a lock on ebooks for a long while, but a number of alternate retailers have popped up over the years. The biggest is probably Apple’s iBooks, and although they had some legal trouble over ebook pricing, they’re still one of Amazon’s biggest competitors.


iBooks was consistently more expensive than Amazon on both new releases and older books. The price differences were rarely more than a couple cents on new releases, but our Amazon total was about 10% cheaper than our iBooks total. Older books see a more significant price difference, with Amazon being a dollar or more cheaper for a bunch of classics. For example, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit was a whole $3 cheaper at Amazon.


The lesson here is that you’ll probably want to stick with Amazon for most ebooks you purchase when you have the choice. Amazon tends to be cheaper, and if nothing else they have apps on pretty much every device out there so you can actually read your books on all your devices now and in the future. iBooks, of course locks you to Apple’s devices.


MP3s Compared: Amazon vs iTunes


Last month we saw a study showing that Amazon tended to be cheaper than iTunes for MP3s 78% of the time. While that might be true overall, the actual price difference between the two overall was under 1% for us.


As far as current Billboard top singles were concerned, Amazon and iTunes were identical across the board. So, if you’re just buying the hot new single of the week, it probably doesn’t matter which store you go to. This is likely record companies working to lock down the $1.29 price point, and we saw similar prices in other stores.

Albums were a little different. Again, using Billboard’s top albums of the week, the prices ended up splitting down the middle. Amazon was a bit cheaper on both Drake and Pusha T’s newest albums, but iTunes took the cake with Panic! At the Disco and Justin Timberlake. The fact is, both stores are DRM-free, and both offer crazy discounts occasionally so it’s worth shopping around and checking out both options.


Overall, we had pretty mixed results on whether Amazon’s actually cheaper than other retailers. For some items, like small appliances, it’s clear that shopping in a store like Walmart is usually your best choice. Likewise, if you’re looking for electronics, Amazon is going to get you a better deal than a big box store like Best Buy. For groceries, we’d stick with your local store for the time being, but that could change as Amazon expands AmazonFresh to other markets. For digital goods, Amazon seems to have a lock on the cheapest ebooks, but MP3s are up in the air. Obviously Amazon has millions of different products, and some items are going to be cheaper than others. We live in a world where it seems like Amazon is probably always cheaper than retail, so it’s good to keep in mind that that’s simply not always the case.


Photo by FotoYakov ().