Dollar Tree vs. Dollar General: The Store With the Better Values May Surprise You

Not all dollar stores are the same. Some are worth visiting while others are a total letdown. In a shocking twist, some of them have merchandise that costs way more than a dollar.

The recession spurred an interest in off-price retailers that cater to shoppers looking for deals. As shopping malls become ghost towns and once-thriving retailers close stores all over the country, discount retailers like dollar stores are thriving. Industry wide, dollar store sales jumped from $30.4 billion to $45.3 billion between 2010 and 2015 and show no sign of slowing down.

But not all dollar stores are destined to win. Ahead, find out what happens when two of the bigwigs of the dollar store world go head to head. Which one has better bargains: Dollar Tree or Dollar General? The results may surprise you.

There are some key differences between the two retailers

Dollar Tree

Dollar Tree | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Dollar Tree, which just acquired Family Dollar, has more locations than Dollar General, though both have between 14,000 and 15,000 stores nationwide. Dollar General boats $23.5 million in sales while Dollar Tree has $22 billion.

The biggest difference between the stores? Dollar Tree only carries merchandise that costs $1 or less. Meanwhile, Dollar General is more like other discount retailers with offerings in a range of low prices.

Next: One store is much prettier than the other.

Dollar General has cleaner, brighter stores

Dollar General

Dollar General | Random Retail/Wikimedia Commons

If your visual shopping experience matters, then Dollar General is a better option. They tend to be more modern looking and better stocked than Dollar Tree locations with a bigger focus on aesthetics. Dollar Trees are typically more run-down looking with more empty shelf space.

Next: Here’s how to get the most bang for your buck.

Adjust your expectations

Dollar General aisle

An aisle in a Dollar General store. | Excel23/Wikimedia Commons

While both dollar stores stock name brand products, you’re likely to get more for your money when you opt for private-label merchandise. Even when you find name brand stuff, check the quantities: you’ll often be paying the same price per ounce as you would in the grocery store. You just save money by purchasing less at one time.

Dollar Tree and Dollar General both carry name brand and cheaper private label products.

Next: This is the category where Dollar Tree excels.

Dollar Tree has more seasonal merchandise

Dollar Tree window

Dollar Tree is the place to go for seasonal merchandise. | Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

When comparing the two stores, it’s clear that Dollar General focuses on day-to-day essentials while Dollar Tree devotes its attention to constantly rotating seasonal merchandise. One study found that almost half of Dollar Tree’s profits came from seasonal item sales like holiday decor — and it shows.

Next: This is the place to stop to get ingredients for dinner.

Dollar General has a few perks

Dollar General

Dollar General register | Excel23/Wikimedia Commons

One thing that Dollar General has and Dollar Tree doesn’t? Fresh produce. You could conceivably make Dollar General your quick stop after work if you needed to throw together a quick, healthy dinner.

Dollar Tree has plenty of non-perishable items like cereal and canned goods. But as with other items in the store, the sizes might be slightly different than what you’d find in a traditional grocery store.

Next: This Dollar Tree section is impressive.

Don’t miss the kitchen aisle in Dollar Tree

Dollar tree table setting

Dollar Tree table setting | Dollar Tree via Facebook

If you’re on the hunt for plates or glassware, then Dollar Tree is your spot. Their kitchen section is impressive and best of all, everything costs a buck or less. Their wine glasses are sturdy, solid, and look like they cost way more than $1.

Next: Here’s which store is cheaper.

The total cost of goods is about the same

dollar tree store

Dollar Tree | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Penny Hoarder did an item by item comparison between the stores, purchasing basic essentials and adjusting the prices to make products of different sizes comparable. What they found was that you’d pretty much spend the same amount in either place.

The total at Dollar Tree was $36.53 and the total at Dollar General for the same stuff was $37.96. Meanwhile, getting those exact same items at Walmart would have cost $45.19. At Amazon? $61.88 before shipping.

Next: Overall, this is the better store.

And the winner is…

Dollar General storefront

Dollar General | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

You’ll spend about the same amount shopping at Dollar General and Dollar Tree, but what exactly are you getting? At Dollar General, the shopping experience is more pleasant, but you’ll still save money. This type of store has a bigger selection of everyday merchandise like name brand cosmetics, food items including fresh produce, housewares, apparel, and other necessities.

Business Insider concluded that Dollar General poses a bigger threat to other off-price retailers like Walmart. Unless you’re on the hunt for cheap holiday décor, that’s where you should be shopping most often.

Read more: 7 Tempting Things You Should Never Buy at the Dollar Store

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