Buying in Bulk: Does Your Dollar Really Go Further at Costco?

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

With Costco bumping up its annual fee for basic level membership to $60, you might be wondering if paying to shop at the store is really worth it. To complicate the equation, in some states you can go shopping at Costco to buy prescription medication, pharmacy items or even alcohol at the warehouse store without having to buy a membership.

To help you get the best deal when shopping, GOBankingRates checked out 10 common items to see if the price you pay at Costco is the best price you’ll find anywhere else. Keep reading to see which Costco deals get you the most for your money.

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Costco Kirkland Bath Tissue vs. Sam’s Club Bath Tissue

Costco: Kirkland Signature two-ply bath tissue, 30 rolls, $20.89

Sam’s Club: Member’s Mark two-ply bath tissue, 45 mega rolls, $21.23

Winner: Costco

When you’re looking for Costco deals to stock up on toilet paper, check out Costco’s Kirkland Signature bath tissue at just 1.3 cents per square foot. Don’t worry, Sam’s Club members. Its Member’s Mark brand comes in a close second at 1.4 cents per square foot — but the 45-roll package delivers only 1,468 square feet per package compared with Costco’s 30-roll package containing 1,594 square feet.

If that second ply doesn’t matter to you, you can save even more at Walmart where the 24-roll Great Value bathroom tissue costs $12.52 and serves up a whopping 2,528 square feet.

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Costco Grade A Pure Maple Syrup vs. Walmart Grade A Pure Maple Syrup

Costco: Kirkland Signature Organic Pure Maple Syrup, 1 liter (33.8 oz.), $16.99

Walmart: Butternut Mountain Farm 100% Pure Vermont Maple Syrup, 1 quart (32 fl. oz.), $14.94

Winner: Walmart

There’s nothing quite as scrumptious as pure grade A maple syrup drizzled over hot pancakes. Costco’s $16.99 tag on Kirkland Signature Maple Syrup prices the treat at 50 cents per ounce.

You’ll find the better buy at Walmart, where Butternut Mountain Farm 100% Pure Vermont Maple Syrup sells for 47 cents per ounce. That’s nearly as sweet of a deal as you can get on Amazon where a quart of Highland Sugarworks syrup sells for 46 cents per ounce — but you don’t have to wait for delivery.

Costco Secrets Revealed: Shop Smarter With These Savings Tips

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Costco Whole Milk vs. Local Grocery Store’s Whole Milk

Costco: Kirkland Signature Whole Milk, two 1-gallon containers, $6.64

Fry’s Food Stores: Fry’s Whole Milk, $1.89 per gallon

Winner: Local grocery store

You’re better off buying some items at your local supermarket, and milk is one of them. It’s tempting to stock up at Costco, but you’d pay $3.32 per gallon, nearly $1.50 more per gallon more than you’ll find it in your local grocery store.

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Costco Regular Gas vs. Arco Regular Gas

Costco: $2.49 per gallon

ARCO: $2.49 per gallon

Winner: Tie

In Los Angeles, where gas prices averaged $2.92 per gallon in mid-July, Costco’s gas cost $2.49 per gallon at its Signal Hill, Lakewood and Norwalk stations. Gas prices at Arco stations in Torrance, Whittier and Downey also cost $2.49 per gallon.

So which is the better brand for your car? According to a study by AAA, Top Tier Detergent Gasoline prevents engine wear while delivering the best gas mileage. Both Costco and Arco supply Top Tier gas.

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Costco Loratadine Allergy Tablets vs. Walmart Loratadine Allergy Tablets

Costco: Kirkland Signature AllerClear, 365 10-mg. tablets, $12.49

Walmart: Equate Allergy Relief, 300 10-mg tablets, $32.42

Winner: Costco

Outdoor activities during warm weather can bring on a bout of allergies, so it’s wise to keep a supply of allergy medication on hand. Both Costco and Walmart offer generic versions of Claritin, but Costco is the clear winner in this instance. The tablets cost 11 cents each at Walmart but just 3 cents each at Costco.

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Costco 2-Liter Olive Oil vs. Walmart 2-Liter Olive Oil

Costco: Kirkland Signature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 2-liter bottle, $21.99

Walmart: Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 2-liter bottle, $19.74

Winner: Walmart

When you’re hankering for the rich taste of olive oil drizzled over a salad or bread, extra-virgin olive oil is the best quality there is. Costco sells two versions of its 2-liter bottles in both organic extra virgin and extra virgin grades for $19.99. Walmart offers extra virgin olive oil in the 2-liter size for a savings of $2.25 without the organic labeling.

With olive oil, it might not matter whether the label says “organic” when it comes to quality. Hardy olive trees don’t require pesticides or chemical fertilizers to grow. In fact, olive oil coming from outside the U.S. doesn’t contain them even if they’re not certified as organic, according to oil supplier Centra Foods.

Find Out: How to Save $100 on Your Next Trip to Costco

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Costco Whole Bean Coffee vs. Sam’s Club Whole Bean Coffee

Costco: Kirkland Signature Colombian Supremo, two pack of 3-pound bags, $29.99

Sam’s Club: Member’s Mark Colombian Supremo, 2.5 pounds, $14.67

Winner: Costco

Both Costco and Sam’s Club offer their signature version of Fair Trade-certified Colombian Arabica coffee that’s sure to deliver the flavor boost your morning needs. Costco has the best value, at $4.99 per pound, compared to Sam’s Club, at $5.89 per pound.

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Costco Contact Lens Solution vs. Walmart Contact Lens Solution

Costco: Kirkland Signature Multi-Purpose Disinfecting Solution, three 16-ounce bottles, $11.99

Walmart: Equate Multi-Purpose Solution, two 12-ounce bottles, $5.98

Winner: Tie

Both Costco and Walmart offer generic multi-purpose contact lens disinfecting solution at exactly the same price of 25 cents per ounce. Both solutions clean, condition, disinfect and remove protein from soft contact lenses. The Kirkland product comes with a free contact lens case — a bonus that might make the Costco deal a slightly better value.

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Costco Baby Formula vs. Sam’s Club Baby Formula

Costco: Kirkland Signature Non-GMO Infant Formula, three 34-ounce containers, $49.99

Sam’s Club: Member’s Mark Infant Formula, 48 ounces $22.98

Winner: Sam’s Club

Shopping at Costco is a good choice when it comes to buying powdered infant formula for your baby. Walmart’s Parent’s Choice Premium Powder Infant Formula might seem like a good buy at $19.98 for 35 ounces, but you can save 8 to 9 cents per ounce at both Costco and Sam’s Club.

Sam’s takes the honors for the best deal at 48 cents per ounce for its Member’s Mark Infant Formula. However, if you want a formula guaranteed to contain no GMO ingredients, head over to Costco to stock up on the Kirkland Signature Non-GMO Infant Formula, which costs 1 cent per ounce more.

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Costco Canola Oil Cooking Spray vs. Walmart Canola Oil Cooking Spray

Costco: Kirkland Signature Canola Oil Cooking Spray, two 17-ounce cans, $11.99

Walmart: Great Value Canola Oil Cooking Spray, 8-ounce can, $1.97

Winner: Walmart

Two 17-ounce cans of Kirkland Signature Canola Oil Cooking Spray might take care of your pan spray needs for the year, but the Costco deal isn’t the best value. The price point costs you 35 cents per ounce to coat your pans, 10 cents more per ounce than you would spend at Walmart. Look for Great Value Canola Oil Cooking Spray in the 8-ounce can and buy four cans if you want to stock up for the year.

Prices current as of July 12, 2017, and don’t reflect any Costco coupons or other limited-time discounts.

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