In the battle of the big-box stores, the biggest weapon is price. Walmart promises shoppers “always low prices,” while Target tells people to “expect more, pay less.” But which chain really offers shoppers the best deals?
To find out, The Cheat Sheet compared prices on 14 equivalent items, from food to entertainment products, at a Walmart and Target store in San Diego, Calif. We found you’ll get more for your money at Walmart, though Target was competitive on price for many items, and in a handful of cases, the cheaper option.
Other research confirms that Walmart beats Target in the price wars. A basket of grocery, health and beauty, and general merchandise items cost 3.5% less at Walmart than at Target, a 2015 Kantar Retail study found.
Curious which items cost less at Walmart versus Target? Check out the prices on the following 14 products at each store.
Target: $4.29 for ½-gallon of Horizon Organic milk
Walmart: $4.48 for ½-gallon of Great Value organic milk
Name-brand organic milk was on sale at Target, giving the chain an edge over Walmart’s generic offering in this category. (The Walmart we visited didn’t stock the Horizon Organic brand.) Normally, the ½-gallon of Horizon Organic milk sells for $4.69 at Target.
Target: 29 cents per banana
Walmart: 59 cents per pound
Walmart sells bananas by the pound, while Target prices them individually, which makes comparing prices difficult. Assuming three medium bananas weigh about 1 pound, Walmart’s bananas cost about 20 cents each, so you’d save if you shopped there over Target.
Target: $1.89 for 1 dozen large eggs
Walmart: $1.97 for 1 dozen large eggs
Eggs were slightly cheaper at Target than at Walmart. Bulls-eye shoppers would save 8 cents, or 4%, on a dozen.
Target: $5.99 for a 12-pack of Coke
Walmart: $4.58 for a 12-pack of Coke
A 12-pack of Coca-Cola was 24% cheaper at Walmart versus Target.
Target: $9.99 for a 6-pack of Stone IPA
Walmart: $9.88 for a 6-pack of Stone IPA
A six-pack of craft beer was 11 cents cheaper at Walmart than at Target.
Target: $5.29 for 100-count bottle of up&up brand ibuprofen tablets
Walmart: $2.48 for 100-count bottle of Equate ibuprofen tablets
One of the biggest price differences we found was between two similar bottles of store-brand pain relievers. The generic ibuprofen at Walmart was less than half the cost of a similar bottle at Target.
Target: $3.97 for Old Spice deodorant (2.6 ounces)
Walmart: $3.97 for Old Spice deodorant (2.6 ounces)
Old Spice deodorant was priced the same at both stores. However, Target was running a promotion offering a $5 gift card if you bought 3 Old Spice products, meaning you’d save if you stocked up there.
Target: $4.49 for Maybelline Great Lash Big
Walmart: $4.44 for Maybelline Great Lash Big
You’d save 6 cents if you bought your mascara at Walmart versus Target. However, Target’s online prices for this item were significantly lower than what we found in store. You’d pay $3.39 at Target.com, versus $4 at Walmart.com.
Target: $2.99 for a 5.1-ounce tube of Crest Pro-Health
Walmart: $2.97 for a 5.1-ounce tube of Crest Pro-Health
Walmart beat Target by a hair in this category. Crest toothpaste was 2 cents cheaper at Walmart.
10. Laundry detergent
Target: $12.29 for 92 ounces of Tide Ultra Stain Release
Walmart: $10.77 for 92 ounces of Tide Ultra Stain Release
Walmart was the clear winner on laundry detergent. The stain-fighting Tide was 12% cheaper at Walmart versus Target.
11. Dish soap
Target: $2.99 for a 25-ounce bottle of Seventh Generation Non-Toxic Dish Liquid
Walmart: $2.67 for a 21.6-ounce bottle of Dawn Free and Gentle Dishwashing Liquid
The Walmart we visited didn’t stock Seventh Generation brand dish soap, so we compared a similar product from Dawn. Both cost about 12 cents per ounce. A 25-ounce bottle of Seventh Generation dish soap sells for $2.97 on Walmart.com.
Target: $14.99 for 120 up&up brand diapers, size 1
Walmart: $13.16 for 120 Parent’s Choice brand diapers, size 1
The Walmart we visited didn’t have store-brand size 1 diapers in stock, so we compared prices online. Walmart beat Target again in this category. You’d pay about 1 cent more per diaper for Target’s store brand than you would at Walmart. However, the Target diapers were on sale for $14.99 — $3 off the regular price of $17.99 — so the potential savings at Walmart are much greater.
13. Picture frame
Target: $12.99 for a 10-by-13-inch picture frame
Walmart: $12.23 for a 10-by-13-inch picture frame
A Better Homes & Gardens brand black picture frame was 75 cents cheaper at Walmart than a similar item at Target.
Target: $19.99 for The Force Awakens DVD (sold online)
Walmart: $18.25 for The Force Awakens DVD (sold online)
If you were shopping online, you’d get a better deal on The Force Awakens at Walmart versus Target. But comparing Walmart and Target’s in-store prices on popular DVDs proved challenging. Many of the movies we looked for at Target, such as Disney/Pixar’s Up ($19.99), weren’t in stock at Walmart. A different Pixar movie, Brave, was $14.96 in-store at Walmart. Both stores had similar prices on bargain DVDs of old movies. Labyrinth was $5 at Target, while The Princess Bride was the same price at Walmart.
Walmart vs. Target: Which store wins?
Based on our unscientific survey, shoppers who want to save should head to Walmart. Of the 14 random items in our basket, 10 were cheaper at Walmart, 2 were cheaper at Target, and 2 were the same price. In many cases, the price difference was a matter of 10 cents or less, which might not be enough to get dedicated Target shoppers to switch stores. However, several products were significantly cheaper at Walmart, including ibuprofen and soda.
One caveat: Both Target and Walmart also offer special deals for regular shoppers that can lower prices even more. Shoppers who use Target’s RedCard save 5% off most purchases at the store, and in Kantar’s study, the store’s prices were 1.6% lower than Walmart’s once the RedCard savings were factored in. Walmart doesn’t offer a product like the RedCard, but it does have the Savings Catcher app. If you scan your receipt after shopping, you’ll get a refund if the items you bought are on sale for less at another store. (Target also price matches, but the process isn’t as seamless.)
Ultimately, paying slightly more for some items may not matter to most Target shoppers, since they tend to have higher incomes than people who shop at Walmart. But for those counting their pennies, the choice is clear: Walmart is the better deal.