When it comes time to consider joining a national warehouse club, there are basically two choices facing consumers: Costco or Sam’s Club. Both offer to deliver big savings on not only groceries, but on everything from electronics and clothing to cars and home mortgages. So which one should the discerning shopper choose?
Our esteemed colleagues over at Consumer Reports surveyed the magazine’s subscribers and then compared that feedback about the retailers’ prices, membership fees, product quality, and customer service.
It’s worth noting that while the two retailers both offer things like groceries and electronics, each offers some unique services as well. For example, Costco offers home mortgages, a way to invest in securities, and car insurance. On the other hand, Sam’s Club has online auctions for popular electronics and an option to order items you need often on a recurring basis, like diapers or printer ink.
That being said, the warehouse clubs start out on a pretty even keel, with customers rating both chains about the same on prices. There isn’t a huge difference in membership costs, either: a yearly Costco membership starts at $55, while a Sam’s Club membership will cost at least $45 a year.
Consumer Reports found that both clubs have the same quality electronics, but Costco rated higher for many other things, including jewelry, women’s and kids clothing, and eyeglasses.
As for customer service, Costco won out in that category — but only slightly. Both have flexible return policies, with a 90-day limit on some electronics. Neither retailer has anything to brag about in category, however, Consumer Reports notes, with reader scores ranging from “poor” to “fair” for both.
The final verdict? Costco gets the edge, but both stores are worth their membership fees.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Consumerist.