15 Things You Should Never Buy on Amazon
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.com.” Amazon had not commented on the lawsuit.
Editor’s note: All prices current as of Dec. 4, 2017.
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