What to get at Costco and what to forget

Winners and washouts from Consumer Reports' tests

Published: May 01, 2014 02:00 PM

Joining Costco can lead to big savings in your household budget. But you need to shop strategically, or that oversized shopping cart will fill up, even when you're just popping in for a few staples. The lack of signage in store aisles doesn't help matters. Knowing which products to avoid does—and that's where Consumer Reports' testing comes in. We've rated a slew of Costco products, from small everyday products, like dish detergent and paper towels, to mattresses, grills and other big-tickets items. Here are the winners and losers from our latest tests.

Costco winners   

Bacon. Mmm, bacon—to quote the great ham-loving Homer Simpson. We think he'd go along with our testers, who gave Kirkland Signature Regular Sliced Bacon, $14 for a 64-ounce package, top marks in our latest bacon test. The strips crisped up nicely, with a balance of fat and meat flavors, complemented by wood smoke and a hint of sweetness.

Car battery. Suitable for large cars, trucks, and sport-utility vehicles from Ford or Mercury, the Kirkland Signature 12866, $85, aced all of our tests, nearly beating out the category's top-rated pick from Interstate, which sells for $280. If you drive another type of vehicle, see our full battery Ratings, since there are other Kirkland batteries that performed very well in our tests, though they missed our recommended list.      

Coffeemaker. Costco's well-priced Mr. Coffee BVMC-EHX33CP, $30, is one of the highest scoring models in our Ratings of drip coffeemakers. Its brew performance was outstanding, and we also found it convenient and easy to handle. Programmable settings let you set when the machine starts to brew, helpful if you like waking up to the aroma of coffee.    

Ice cream. Beating out brands such as Breyers and Baskin-Robbins, the Kirkland Signature Super Premium Vanilla was described by our ice cream tasters as full and dense with big dairy flavor and complex vanilla-extract flavor, though some commented that it could be slightly gummy at times. It works out to about 30 cents per serving, compared with a dollar per serving for the top-rated Ben & Jerry's.       

Laundry detergent. Our winner's list of detergents that can be used in all types of washing machines includes the Kirkland Signature Ultra Clean, a CR Best Buy that works out to just 9 cents per load. The powder detergent was tough on grass, blood, and ring-around-the-collar. If you prefer the convenience of a laundry pod, consider the Kirkland Signature Ultra Clean Pacs, 14 cents per load.

Urban Islands 4-Burner by Bull

Costco washouts

Gas grill. At $1,600, the Costco exclusive Urban Islands 4-Burner by Bull is actually more expensive than most midsize grills in our gas grill Ratings. And it's nowhere near as proficient as our top-rated models. It's particularly bad at maintaining even heat at high temperatures, a must for perfectly seared steaks. A better bet from Costco is the KitchenAid 720-0733A for $750, which misses our recommended list but was very good overall. 

Gel dishwasher detergent. With an overall score of 34, the Kirkland Signature Gel is one of our lowest-rated detergents. It struggled with dishes, pots and pans, and resistance to water spots. But all is not lost in the Costco detergent aisle. While it fell short of our picks list, the Kirkland Signature Dishwasher Pacs was very good or better in each of our tests. 

Facial tissue. With an overall score of 60, Kirkland Signature facial tissue, $1.23, is middle of the pack in our facial tissue Ratings. So-so strength is its big shortcoming, though the tissue is pretty soft. A better bargain buy is the Puffs Basic, $1.23, which combines superb softness with very good strength.      

Mattress. The best mattresses in our Ratings offer very good, if not excellent, support for back or side sleepers. Costco's $1,100 Ara 13" 100% Visco Memory Foam is just so-so for side sleepers and even worse for people who sleep on their back. It's also mediocre at providing stabilization.  

Toilet paper. Though it's quite soft, Kirkland Signature toilet paper offers only so-so strength and tearing ease, making it an also ran in our toilet paper Ratings. Though it costs twice as much, White Cloud 3-Ply Ultra, a Walmart exclusive, combines superb strength and softness, making it our top-rated toilet paper by a wide margin.

Shop at Walmart? Check out what to get and what to forget.

—Daniel DiClerico (@dandiclerico)  

Find Ratings

Bacon Ratings

View and compare all Bacon ratings.

Car batteries Ratings

View and compare all Car batteries ratings.

Coffee Makers Ratings

View and compare all Coffee Makers ratings.

Dishwasher detergents Ratings

View and compare all Dishwasher detergents ratings.

Grills Ratings

View and compare all Grills ratings.

Ice Creams & Frozen Desserts Ratings

View and compare all Ice Creams & Frozen Desserts ratings.

Laundry Detergents Ratings

View and compare all Laundry Detergents ratings.

Mattresses Ratings

View and compare all Mattresses ratings.

Toilet Paper Ratings

View and compare all Toilet Paper ratings.

E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters! Choose from cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Cars News


Cars Build & Buy Car Buying Service
Save thousands off MSRP with upfront dealer pricing information and a transparent car buying experience.

See your savings


Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more