If you like to save money, you know that the best way to save starts with choosing the right stores to shop at.
But knowing which stores offer the lowest prices isn’t always as straightforward as it might seem. After all, most of us believed the common myth that Walmart is much cheaper than Target, but it turns out the gap is so small that it hardly makes a difference.
Now, we’re about to find out which store is cheaper: Costco or Walmart.
While Walmart is touted as the cheapest store around, Costco is known for offering great prices on bulk items–but which will really save you the most money?
To find out, we created a total grocery list that includes basic items most families will need.
Keep in mind that prices vary per region, and the prices in this comparison reflect those in the southwestern region of the United States during May 2021.
Comparison Methodology: How We Compared Prices at Costco and Walmart
When you look at most price comparison articles online, you’ll see that many choose to calculate the price per pound. This is a great method when you’re shopping to quickly discover which item will deliver the most bang for your buck.
However, when it comes to comparing a store like Costco, which offers most items in bulk to reduce costs, the price per pound comparison method wavers. Instead, we’ve compared the price per item (according to the smallest amount you can purchase at Costco).
So, keep in mind that the total prices for Costco are the absolute lowest price you’ll be able to get, while the total prices listed for Walmart reflect buying bulk quantities when you could be getting less for, well, less.
As you read this list, you need to ask yourself, is it really cheaper to buy three gallons of milk because the price per pound is less than one gallon at Walmart?
Which store will you really save the most money at?
That’s the question we’re going to answer today. And we’re going to answer it for every section and every basic item you might need to buy when shopping at either of these two superstores.
As a savvy shopper, you’d probably opt for the cheapest in-store items, too. So, instead of creating a side-by-side price comparison that looks at the exact same brand item, we compared the cheapest store-brand items.
When possible, we did compare the same brand items. And when there was a discrepancy in brand, we noted it in parenthesis.
So, let’s find out if Walmart’s Great Value products really are a great value after all.
Costco vs. Walmart Price Comparison Summary
If you don’t have enough time to analyze our charts below, here’s a quick summary of our shopping trip comparison.
|Perishable Groceries||$113.75||$82.16||$31.59 (27.77%)|
|Non-Perishable Groceries||$79.37||$79.29||$0.08 (0.1%)|
|Health and Beauty||$64.45||$66.55||$2.10 (3.16%)|
|Home Essentials||$143.82||$130.78||$13.04 (9.07%)|
|Pet Care||$189.65||$150.53||$39.12 (20.63%)|
|Total Cart Price||$1,311.94||$1,061.16||$250.78 (19.12%)|
In a shocking discovery, we found that you could save nearly 20% by shopping at Walmart instead of Costco–and that doesn’t even include the club fees you’re skipping out on.
Although you’ll save some money by shopping for care products in the health & beauty, and baby sections at Costco, Walmart wins out on almost every other category, including groceries, home goods, electronics, and pet care.
If you’re curious about what exactly you should be buying, then read on.
Costco vs. Walmart: Perishable Groceries Price Comparison
Perishable goods like eggs and milk are staples for any home, and they also tend to be the items you buy the most frequently since they spoil quickly once you get them home.
Here are 13 basic perishables and their prices at both Costco and Walmart.
|Two Dozen Eggs (Wilcox Cage Free vs. Great Value)||$3.79||$2.56||$1.23 (32.45%)|
|1.5 Gallons of 1% Milk (Kirkland Organic vs. Great Value)||$9.89||$4.05||$5.84 (59.05%)|
|80 oz Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (Kirkland Signature vs. Great Value)||$13.99||$13.85||$0.14 (1%)|
|4 lb Unsalted Butter (Kirkland Signature vs. Great Value)||$8.99||$11.92||$2.93 (24.58%)|
|20 oz White Bread (Wonder vs. Great Value)||$3.89||$0.88||$3.01 (77.38%)|
|3 lb Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast (Kirkland Signature vs. Great Value)||$14.97||$6.12||$8.85 (59.12%)|
|4 lb 80/20 Ground Beef (Kirkland Signature vs. Great Value)||$21.99||$14.72||$7.27 (33.06%)|
|3 lb Bananas||$1.29||$1.65||$0.36 (21.82%)|
|3 lb Broccoli||$4.49||$4.44||$0.05 (1.11%)|
|2 lb Organic Strawberries||$6.49||$5.04||$1.45 (22.34%)|
|10 lbs Carrots||$6.99||$8.20||$1.21 (14.76%)|
|15 lb Russet Potatoes||$8.99||$5.96||$3.03 (33.7%)|
|5.5 lb Apples||$7.99||$2.77||$5.22 (65.33%)|
Although Costco’s bulk offers may seem like a deal, when compared to the cheapest options at Walmart, Costco’s selection just doesn’t stand up to the competition.
Walmart’s Great Value products beat Costco’s go-to brand, Kirkland Signature, almost every time. Out of these 13 items, Costco’s prices only beat Walmart’s three times.
And the margins of savings are immense. They were over 50% for some items! Walmart is the clear winner for perishable groceries, saving us over $30 even when we choose to buy non-bulk items in bulk quantities!
So far, it seems like Walmart does offer great value. Let’s see if they do just as well with non-perishables.
Costco vs. Walmart: Non-Perishable Groceries Price Comparison
Many of us look to Costco for non-perishable items. After all, eating 5 lbs of one food is much more reasonable when your deadline is longer. But is it really a deal?
|41 oz Cheerios||$4.99||$7.85||$2.86 (36.43%)|
|40 oz Jif Peanut Butter||$5.44||$5.72||$0.28 (4.9%)|
|10 lbs Old Fashioned Oats (Quaker Valley vs. Great Value)||$9.49||$9.37||$0.12 (1.26%)|
|2 L Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Kirkland Signature vs. Great Value)||$14.49||$12.50||$1.99 (13.73%)|
|8.8 lbs Spaghetti Noodles (Garofalo Organic vs. Great Value)||$11.99||$7.22||$4.77 (39.78%)|
|180 oz Tomato Sauce (Kirkland Signature vs. Great Value)||$9.49||$5.52||$3.97 (41.83%)|
|5 lbs Honey (Kirkland Signature vs. Great Value)||$13.49||$20.53||$7.04 (34.29%)|
|51 oz Folgers Coffee||$9.99||$10.58||$0.59 (5.58%)|
When it comes to groceries for your pantry, Costco may be the better option–depending on what you need. Some items, like cereal and honey, are much cheaper at Costco, while others, like pasta sauce and spaghetti, are cheaper at Walmart.
Overall, Walmart wins this category by a mere 8 cents, but savvy shoppers know that doesn’t meal Costco and Walmart offer the same prices. Your savings will be highly dependent on your weekly list.
Costco vs. Walmart: Health and Beauty Price Comparison
When it comes to your health, knowing how to save money may not seem like the highest priority–but stretching your paychecks on hygiene products can give you more to spend on other things.
Here’s our price comparison of five basic hygiene products from Costco and Walmart.
|32 oz Colgate Toothpaste||$17.49||$10.52||$6.97 (39.85%)|
|3 L Listerine Mouthwash||$13.49||$23.82||$10.33 (43.37%)|
|4.2 lb Bar Soap (Kirkland Signature vs. Zest)||$11.49||$7.82||$3.67 (31.94%)|
|160 oz Softsoap Hand Soap||$9.99||$15.04||$5.05 (33.58%)|
|38.2 oz Pantene Shampoo||$11.99||$9.35||$2.64 (22.02%)|
Although Costco comes out on top for health and beauty, when you look at the numbers, the cheaper option is a toss-up–and the margins are wide. Costco is cheaper for products such as mouthwash and hand soap, but when it comes to shampoo, bar soap, and toothpaste, Walmart pushes ahead.
Our recommendation? Scope out which specific products are cheaper at your local stores, and only buy the cheapest option. That way, you get the best of both worlds.
Costco vs. Walmart: Home Essentials Price Comparison
Costco might seem like the given winner for home essentials like toilet paper and paper towels, so these results may surprise you.
|12 2-Ply Paper Towels (Kirkland Signature vs. Bounty)||$19.99|
|30 Rolls of Toilet Paper (Kirkland Signature vs. Great Value)||$19.99||$17.10||$2.89 (14.46%)|
|20 Rolls of Scott 2-Ply Toilet Paper||$23.49||$13.97||$9.52 (40.53%)|
|200 13 gal Trash Bags (Kirkland Signature||$18.99||$24.75||$5.76 (23.27%)|
|225 Paper Plates (Chinet vs. Great Value)||$18.99||$6.03||$12.96 (68.25%)|
|Tampax Pearl Regular Tampons||$15.99||$17.79||$1.8 (10.12%)|
|158 Loads of All HE Liquid Laundry Detergent||$16.69||$19.94||$3.25 (16.3%)|
|102 oz Palmolive Ultra Strength Dish Soap||$9.69||$11.32||$1.63 (14.4%)|
Even though it’s common practice to shop for paper products like toilet paper in bulk at Costco, Walmart features lower prices on both the cheapest per pound toilet paper and the brand name teepee, with the margin of savings for Scott at almost 50%.
Overall we saved about $13 shopping for home essentials at Walmart instead of Costco, even though each store had four cheaper items in this category.
Costco vs. Walmart: Electronics Price Comparison
Although Best Buy is a great first choice for electronics purchases, Costco and Walmart also offer necessary items for stellar prices–but which is the best?
|Toaster Oven (Oster vs. Mainstays)||$99.99||$19.88||$80.11 (80.12%)|
|Hisense 43” Roku Smart TV||$269.99||$244||$25.99 (9.63%)|
|Xbox Wireless Controller||$59.99||$59.88||$0.11 (0.18%)|
|Immersion Blender (Cuisinart vs. Hamilton Beach)||$32.99||$21.96||$11.03 (33.43%)|
|Drip Coffee Maker (Cuisinart vs. Mainstays)||$99.99||$9.88||$90.11 (90.12%)|
|40” Oscillating Fan (OmniBreeze vs. Better Homes & Gardens)||$34.99||$42.92||$7.93 (18.48%)|
Shopping for a large haul of electronics and appliances, we managed to save almost $200 by choosing Walmart instead of Costco.
Some side-by-side comparison items, like the Xbox controller and the TV, featured slight savings from Walmart, but most other products offered steep price cuts.
The reason for this is likely due to the fact that Walmart carries a variety of brands, so the cheapest options at Costco are comparable to the higher-end products at Walmart. You might be losing out on some quality, but the savings are immense.
For example, at Costco, the cheapest coffee maker will run you about $100–at Walmart, you can spend as little as $10.
Costco vs. Walmart: Pet Care Price Comparison
Let’s not forget about pets! The results on this front may be surprising as well since there is a clear winner for this category.
|35 lb Small Breed Dry Dog Food (Kirkland Signature vs. Pedigree)||$29.99||$30.24||$0.25 (0.83%)|
|42 lb Cat Litter (Scoop Away vs. Special Kitty)||$21.69||$14.79||$6.9 (31.81%)|
|48 oz Doggy Dental Chews||$32.99||$32.58||$0.41 (1.24%)|
|Pet Carrier (Swissgear vs. TrustyPup)||$49.99||$27.96||$22.03 (44.07%)|
|Dog Bed (Kirkland Signature vs. Serta)||$54.99||$44.96||$10.03 (18.24%)|
Walmart had lower prices on nearly every single item in this category, and the total cart savings in this section were $39. If you’ve got a furry friend at home, Walmart might be their new favorite store.
Costco vs. Walmart: Baby Items Price Comparison
Kids are expensive, but that doesn’t mean you should accept high prices for the things you need the most for your children.
|366 Count Size 1-2 Diapers (Kirkland Signature vs. Parent’s Choice)||$29.99||$30.15||$0.16 (0.53%)|
|40 oz Enfamil NeuroPro Infant Gentlease Formula||$42.99||$57.39||$14.4 (25.09%)|
|192 oz PediaSure Vanilla Shake||$29.99||$44.48||$14.49 (32.58%)|
|14.4 oz Diaper Rash Ointment||$19.99||$21.31||$1.32 (6.19%)|
Alright, Costco needed another win, and here it is. Overall, we saved $30 by choosing Costco instead of Walmart for baby products–and we only bought four different products for junior.
Some items featured especially high savings, such as the baby formula and PediaSure, so be sure to pick these up in bulk if you need them.
Costco vs. Walmart: Services and Public Perception Comparison
While there is a toss-up between which store is truly superior, Costco and Walmart’s services and public perceptions may have more to do with who shops there than the prices themselves.
|Free Shipping||Costco offers plenty of shipping options for shoppers, but none of it is free.||Walmart offers free 2-day shipping on any order over $35, and if you’re a Walmart+ Member, you always qualify for free shipping.|
|Delivery||When you shop at Costco, you can get standard express delivery via UPS and a special “White Glove” service–however, the costs vary.||Policies vary by location, but some Walmarts offer next-day delivery.|
|Curbside Pickup||Costco offers same-day curbside pickup to members who shop online.||You can always opt for curbside pickup at Walmart, but some stores can’t offer same-day pickup.|
|Return Policy||Most products can be returned within 90 days of purchase, whether purchased online or in-store.||Most products can be returned within 90 days of purchase.|
|Loyalty Programs||You need to pay for a membership to shop at Costco. It costs $60 annually for an everyday value card and $120 annually for an executive member card. Both come with unique perks||Walmart+ costs $98 a year, but it is optional. You get free shipping, free delivery, and other deals.|
|Customer Service||Costco ranks highly when it comes to customer satisfaction. Employees are well-paid, which may affect how open they are to helping customers.||Although Walmart ranks higher in customer service than most cable companies, that doesn’t say much. Walmart offers great value, but great service isn’t in stock yet.|
Although Costco’s membership fees may seem to outweigh the savings, the effect of fostering an exclusive community of shoppers may influence people to shop at Costco more than the low prices.
In the same vein, some people may avoid shopping at Walmart thanks to its reputation and poor customer service–even though it offers lower prices than Costco in many regards.
If your priorities are higher-quality items and a better reputation, then Costco is a good choice, but if your bottom line is the final price tag, Walmart is the winner of this price comparison.
FAQs About Costco and Walmart
Is it cheaper to shop at Walmart or Costco?
There’s no clear-cut answer to which store is cheaper since prices per item vary–but overall, Walmart’s Great Value brand does offer the lowest prices on many items, including groceries, home essentials, and more.
For a complete price comparison between Costco and Walmart, check out our full guide.
Does Costco pay its employees more than Walmart?
Yes. Costco pays employees more than Walmart does. Costco pays employees at least $16 per hour, but the average pay for hourly workers at Costco is $24. Costco pays way more than Walmart’s minimum wage of $11 an hour and its average wage of $16 an hour. And competitors like Amazon and Target have raised their minimum wage to $15, making Walmart one of the worst employers for hourly workers.
Which store is better: Costco or Walmart?
Depending on how you look at it, Costco may be a better brand than Walmart. Between their high minimum wage, charitable donations, and quality products, Costco is better when it comes to the quality of their product and their team. However, Walmart offers lower prices, so if saving money is your goal, Walmart might be better for you.
How can I save the most money at Costco and Walmart?
There are tons of tips for saving money out there, and if you want to save the most when you shop at Walmart or Costco, you should use all of them. When you shop:
– Use sales to your advantage
– Compare prices
– Redeem price adjustments
– Clip coupons (included manufacturer coupons)
For more savings tips at your favorite stores, check out our saving blog.
Final Thoughts: You Get What You Pay For
When it comes down to it, the choice between Costco and Walmart is between quality and quantity–how do you want to stretch your money?
Costco does offer higher quality products, which likely accounts for the higher prices. After all, Kirkland Signature products are of better quality than most Great Value products. But, it’s important to know that if you want lower prices, Walmart is the place to go.
With that said, you shouldn’t write Costco off. There are still great deals waiting to be discovered–if you know where to look.
Keep in mind that prices will vary, and you should always shop around sales.