When it comes to warehouse clubs, I have to say that I’m a fan! Even as a single person (sans family), I’ve found that Costco and Sam’s Club both do a good job earning their annual membership fee. Usually the savings in gas alone (typically .10 cheaper per gallon) will pay for your membership. And while I’ve been mostly a Costco guy, I have a Sam’s Club two miles away so what the heck, I’ve got a membership for both. And I have to say, they are both good places to shop for different reasons! At some point and time, I may give up one of my memberships but for now, I’ll use both of these membership clubs. Here’s what to expect when you visit, I’ll spend a bit more time on the food part of my experiences!
If you’re looking for the “Target” of warehouse clubs, Costco is your choice! The parking lot is usually jammed and filled with high-end SUVs and other vehicles. The crowd here is upper middle class and it shows. Costco shines in its housewares, kitchenware, and lighting selection. I’ve purchased most of my small appliances here, including lighting. They have good brands for most of their housewares: Cuisinart, Mikasa, Shark, for example.
Costco offers a great selection of baked goods (great for parties) and easy to prepare meal items like packaged meatloaf-mashed potatoes, taco kits and gyro kits. The wine selection is also excellent, given that Costco is one of the largest wine distributors in the country. And the meat selection (particularly beef) is top-notch, especially for larger cuts and packs. You’ll also find a nice assortment of unique and authentic Asian food items here, which I enjoy.
Overall shopping at Costco is usually a bit of an adventure but delivers a lot of value for the time spent here. After shopping and saving money here, grabbing a $1.50 hot dog and drink or $2.49 slice of pizza just hits the spot!
|High-quality homeware from bedding to kitchenware, appliances, and more
|Tough parking, access, and egress into the parking lot, it is busy!
|Great selection of quality Choice and Prime beef
|Slower check-out process than Sam’s Club, there’s no mobile app check-out and you have to use a Visa card
|Great bakery for both off-the-shelf and custom cakes
|A limited selection of national-brand food items
|Great service/staffing from beginning to end, they get you in and out, quickly
|Longer lines at gas station vs. Sam’s Club
Given Sam’s Club parentage (Walmart), the crowd here runs more middle class. Late model pick-up trucks, sedans in need of bodywork, and older vehicles dot the parking lot and it’s usually pretty busy here. Sam’s runs a little light on the housewares-kitchenwares and goes heavy on the branded, canned, and frozen food. Sam’s also has a good assortment of Latino/Hispanic food items which you may enjoy!
Their in-store brand, Members Mark, is probably a touch below what Kirkland offers at Costco but it’s still very good. And like Costco, Sam’s Club offers an in-house bakery, rotisserie chickens, and an inexpensive cafe for a snack on the way home. You can order online in their app, while you check out, the menu is pretty similar to Costco (hot dogs, pizza, pretzels, yogurt, salad).
Where I find Sam’s Club particularly strong is in their snack section! Candy, chips, salty, and sweet, you’ll find it all here and in your favorite national brands. I’m also a fan of the pork selection here, from ribs to butts and pork chops, I’m guessing they are sourced locally given we’re in NC. And as a single guy, check-out is pretty simple with their Scan and Go app which allows you to self check-out and pay with your smartphone. You’ll have to get checked on the way out but it’s usually pretty quick.
|Sam’s Club Pluses
|Sam’s Club Minuses
|Stronger grocery selection, especially for frozen goods and national brands
|Bad shopping carts, not cleaned or maintained well, sometimes they run out
|Great selection of branded snacks, sweet and savory
|Spotty selection of home goods, housewares
|Slightly lower prices overall than Costco
|Members Mark private label is not as strong as Kirkland (Costco house brand)
|Online check-out through Sam’s Scan and Go app, no need to visit the register
|Usually slow service at cafe and canteen, minimal staffing
Conclusion: Which one should I join, Costco or Sam’s Club?
While it’s not easy to compare the two, I would still have to give the edge to Costco, given it’s more like a Target shopping experience vs. a Walmart shopping experience. It has a more consistent, higher-quality selection of goods vs. Sam’s Club but if you own a food business or have a large family, the strong groceries, snacks, brand-items, and dry goods at Sam’s will likely appeal to you. The standard Costco membership is $60 for Gold star, $120 for Executive with 2% cash back. Sam’s Club is $50 for Club and $110 for Plus (2% cash back, free delivery, earlier store hour), a slight discount compared to Costco. And you’ll usually find specials online for first-time members so check on Google.
But both have strong return policies meaning you can take a chance and try products out, both clubs take back most products, no questions asked. Both Costco and Sam’s Club have solid optical and tire stores within their walls, I don’t have any preference here. All I can say is that a single guy with no kids/dependents, I find it worthwhile to shop at BOTH warehouse clubs but I’m lucky to have both within 15 minutes of home. If you own your own place and have the storage area to buy their larger, family-sized products, I think you’ll find many ways to save (and spend) money at Sam’s Club and Costco, enjoy!