Personal Finance

Does Costco Always Have the Best Prices?

A man pushing a full grocery cart up to the cashier's register.

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While Costco offers a lot of great deals, it often pays to shop around.


Key points

  • Costco is known for its affordable prices.
  • In some cases, you may get a better deal purchasing goods elsewhere.

Like many people who live in suburbia and have a gaggle of kids to feed, I rely heavily on Costco for groceries — produce and dairy products in particular — as well as household essentials. But that’s not all I buy at Costco.

Costco tends to rotate products on a seasonal basis, so often, I’ll buy gloves and hats there in the winter, Halloween costumes for my kids in the fall, and sunscreen in the summer. Purchasing these items at Costco often means paying a lower price than what I’ll find elsewhere. The result? A lower credit card tab at the end of the month.

But while Costco often has the best prices around, that’s not always the case. And you may find that certain items can be found elsewhere at a lower price point than what Costco has on offer.

It pays to comparison shop

When it comes to things like electronics and household items, my experience is that Costco often has the most competitive prices around. The last time we made a large purchase in the form of an upgraded TV, we compared Costco’s price to what retailers like Amazon, Target, and Best Buy were charging, and Costco was the clear winner.

But some items aren’t necessarily worth buying at Costco. Take clothing, for example. Sometimes, Costco will have great deals on apparel. But if you do your shopping strategically, you might manage to save money on attire by looking outside of Costco.

See, Costco’s inventory tends to align with the season at hand. If you want to buy a winter coat at Costco, you’ll generally find those available starting in the fall through the early stages of winter — and at decent prices for sure. But if you wait until April or May to replace a winter coat, you might snag a much better deal once the season is over.

Costco, however, may not have winter coats for sale at that point. But if you go to another retailer that has leftover inventory from the winter, you might land a discount.

It also makes sense to review your local supermarket’s weekly circular before purchasing bulk grocery items at Costco. In my experience, I’ve found that all I need to do is wait for things like pasta and cereal to go on sale at my nearby grocery store for me to get a better price there as opposed to at Costco.

And also, don’t forget the fact that Amazon often has daily deals on random items that might drive prices below those Costco has to offer. If you’re buying a kitchen gadget, for example, it could pay to see if Amazon has it on special before adding it to your Costco cart.

A little research could go a long way

There may be certain staple items you buy at Costco on a regular basis. And sometimes it’s worth paying a touch extra for the convenience factor alone.

Say your favorite cereal brand is $1 cheaper this week at the supermarket, but you’re out of that cereal and you’re not planning a return trip to the supermarket until the following week. In that case, spending the extra $1 at Costco probably makes sense, especially if you account for not having to spend money on gas to make an extra supermarket trip.

Similarly, if you’re not particularly pressed for cash, then you may not want to stop and research prices for less costly items like eggs and bread. But if you’re buying a more expensive item, it definitely pays to spend a little time seeing if there’s a better price outside of Costco — especially if you can order that item online and avoid having to drive across town to scoop it up.

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