Just about everyone has a strong opinion about Walmart. Whether you love it or hate it, for many families, it’s hard to argue with the rock-bottom prices at America’s largest retailer. Still, not everything here is a wise buy. In some instances, competitors like the dollar store still manage to undercut Walmart’s prices on certain items. In others, the quality just doesn’t justify the price — even a very low one. Here are 18 things that you’re probably better off buying elsewhere. (And here are 13 Hacks and Secrets for Shopping at Walmart.)
Onn. or Sceptre TVs
Walmart-brand Onn. TVs are certainly cheap. For instance, you can snag a 65" smart TV with a 4K display for under $400, while a comparable Samsung would still run $100 more on sale. But the temptingly low price comes with a tradeoff: namely, ho-hum picture and sound quality that lagged behind other brands in independent testing. Tech Radar is similarly underwhelmed with Sceptre, also primarily sold at Walmart, noting that the sets are light on features and picture quality.
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Phone cases, chargers, HDMI cables, laptop cases — Walmart has ’em all, but you’re better off buying online. As Brad’s Deals notes, the reason is simple: They’re overpriced, because Walmart has to make up for slim profit margins on competitive big-ticket items like TVs. You can even get cheapie mini USB chargers, screen guards, earbuds, and other accessories at the dollar store for way less than Walmart’s store brand.
If you’re in the market for soft-sided luggage from Walmart, chances are good you’ve run across the store’s Protege brand. Protege luggage is backed by a five-year limited warranty, which might seem good, but many brands offer at least 10 years. A second consideration: Most product descriptions don’t note what the bags are made of, though one did indicate 600-denier polyester, which is among the least-durable choices for luggage. The biggest red flag: Many positive reviews are from people who received the product for free. You tend to get what you pay for in this category, and even if you don’t want to pay a lot, Cheapism has some more reliable budget-friendly recommendations.
Even if you’re a fan of Walmart for other grocery staples, it might be best to shop elsewhere for produce. In Consumer Reports’ national survey, thousands of shoppers gave the store the lowest possible marks for produce quality and only marginally better ones for produce variety. If quality seems like a fair tradeoff for low prices, consider this: Shoppers give Aldi higher marks for quality, and the store beat Walmart on produce pricing in our recent price comparison.
Like most major retailers, Walmart usually has a packed display of gift cards toward the front of the store. And just as we would with most other retailers, we’d advise you to walk on by. There are a few major ways to save on gift cards, and none of them involve shopping at Walmart. First, warehouse clubs offer bulk packs of gift cards on the cheap; for instance, you can score $100 in O’Charley’s gift cards for just $70 at Costco. Second, check out online marketplaces like Cardpool where you can get someone else’s unwanted gift card at a discount. Finally, buying gift cards at a grocery store with a fuel-perks program like Kroger will at least give you a price break at the pump for your purchase. Wait for a promotion that gives you double or even quadruple fuel points for gift-card purchases and your next fill-up may cost next to nothing.
Most of the furniture you’ll find at Walmart, especially in-store, is as basic as it comes. Online, you’ll find a much better selection, but not necessarily the lowest price, as Quartz found in an investigation of online furniture shopping. Ikea is a more tried-and-true option for budget shoppers, and often sells comparable pieces for less, such as this popular Kallax bookshelf. The Walmart equivalent is still $15 more even on sale.
Unless you (or your impatient kid) needs to have it now, now, now, check Amazon first for toys. This is one of the most competitive categories in a brutal price war between Walmart and Amazon, and on anything popular, one of these giants will always be trying to match or undercut the other. The Krazy Coupon Lady recently crowned Amazon the winner in a small price comparison, and it’s certainly hard to beat the e-commerce giant when it comes to selection. Not having to head to the store and drag kids through a crowded toy aisle also sounds like a win to us.
No one expects to find top-tier sheets lining the aisles at Walmart, but we also know you can do a lot better without spending a lot more. Target, Kohl’s, and Bed Bath & Beyond all offer budget-friendly picks that have cracked The Wirecutter’s list of the best sheets after extensive testing, and none of those sets will break the bank. If you’ve got to buy at Walmart, steer clear of the cheapest options. For instance, reviewers particularly warn against the very inexpensive Mainstays Basic Microfiber sheets, with many saying they are too scratchy and fit only on the thinnest mattresses.
If you’re looking to get into cycling, a trip to a bike store, or at least a sporting goods store, will probably hook you up with a better bike. As Bicycling magazine warns, bikes sold at Walmart are inexpensive for a reason, so make sure your expectations are realistic. Most are made of steel, which can make them much heavier, and they are typically one-size-fits-most, which can make them uncomfortable to ride for long periods. They are also more likely to roll off the assembly line with manufacturing defects that Walmart won’t spot before selling them.
Parent’s Choice Diapers
Walmart’s store-brand diapers can be a tempting pick for parents on a budget, but Baby Gear Lab has found that they are prone to leaks — arguably a parent’s No. 1 concern when choosing a diaper brand. To be fair, many other budget diaper brands fared similarly in testing, but the testers found Costco’s Kirkland brand to offer better performance for an even lower price. Good Housekeeping testers were underwhelmed, too, also finding subpar absorption.
Experts are divided when it comes to Walmart’s photo-processing services. On one hand, PCMag reports that the chain is able to churn out basic prints that are surprisingly good quality at prices that are hard to beat elsewhere. On the other hand, if you want something a little fancier, you may want to steer clear. Tom’s Guide says making photo projects like albums, calendars, and other items is a frustrating process because of clunky software and limited options for customization.
Walmart’s in-store selection of jewelry is fairly anemic, especially if you’re in the market for something that costs more than $50. Online, you have plenty more options, but we’d still advise steering clear for any significant purchases. Just as we warn against buying fine jewelry from Amazon, we warn against a Walmart.com purchase for similar reasons: You won’t know what the item really looks like until you get it, your return options will be limited, you won’t have an expert to guide your purchase, and you won’t have the cleaning, repair, and insurance options typically offered by a jeweler.
Anyone who prioritizes buying organics knows that Walmart, despite efforts to expand its selection, still can’t compete with the likes of Whole Foods or even Kroger, with its extensive Simple Truth line. And while some buyers may be willing to put up with a more limited selection in exchange for lower prices, it turns out that Walmart is often just as expensive or even more expensive than its competitors in this category. For instance, The Simple Dollar found Whole Foods often matched or beat Walmart in a price comparison, and CNBC found similar results in a comparison that also included Aldi — which carries a surprising number of organics despite its small size — and Trader Joe’s.