Walmart vs. Amazon: What’s the best place to shop for deals?


Table of Contents

It’s a tale of two retail behemoths vying for your dollars.

In one corner is Amazon, the scrappy bookseller-turned-global ecommerce empire that’s the reason why we’re all a tad impatient. In the other is Walmart, the veteran department store with one-stop, starburst-studded supercenters in every neighborhood.


Amazon Prime Day 2024 is July 16 and 17: Everything you need to know

From speedy shipping to sitewide sales and members-only perks, both retailers pull out stops to entice shoppers to buy from them instead of their rival. But in the battle of Walmart vs. Amazon, whose deals are actually better?

Mashable’s shopping team has spent years tracking discounts on popular tech that the two of them have offered. Here’s how we see things.

Amazon and Walmart are both massive mega-marketplaces, but Amazon has an advantage in terms of product selection. Its virtual shelves are stocked with more brands and more items at different price points, and it hosts considerably more third-party sellers, so there’s simply a bigger pool of products for it to put on sale. That includes more newer releases, too, which reliably prompt price-drops on older models when they launch.

The other pro to shopping on Amazon is that consumers have more deal-finding tools at their disposal (beyond your usual shopping browser extensions or Google Shopping features). If you have Amazon’s mobile app, there’s an option under your account settings to get notified when specific products go on sale — look under Your Account > Message center > Deal alerts. You’ll also see available and upcoming discounts on related products there.

a screenshot of the amazon app

Credit: Screenshot: Amazon

Members of Amazon’s Prime service who have a newer Echo smart speaker can enable a similar “Advanced deal alerts” feature on the device that flags them when items on their Wish List are about to go on sale (up to 24 hours ahead of time).

When it comes to verifying those deals, a dedicated Amazon price-checking website called CamelCamelCamel is a helpful tool that can pull up an item’s complete price history using the URL of its product page. (There’s also a supplementary browser extension.) The site occasionally misses coupons and skips over limited-time deals during sitewide sales, including its flagship summer Prime Day event. But it’s generally great for determining whether a discount is even worth considering. The Mashable shopping team relies heavily on it to appraise Amazon deals year-round.

a screenshot of camelcamelcamel's amazon price history data for the bose quietcomfort ultra headphones

Here’s the Amazon price history of the Bose QuietComfort Ultra headphones as of late June 2024, per CamelCamelCamel.
Credit: Screenshot: CamelCamelCamel

There’s no CamelCamelCamel equivalent for Walmart, though there is a tool in the free browser extension Honey (called “Droplist“) that can offer some Walmart price history insights for products. However, it only uses data from the past 120 days, and it doesn’t appear to take third-party sellers into account — which can sometimes pose a problem. (More on those later.)

Where Walmart wins: Already-low prices and hidden gems

Walmart sells a smaller selection of products compared to Amazon, and that selection mainly revolves around low-end and/or older products. (The M1 Apple MacBook Air appeared on Amazon at release in 2020, for instance, but it only made its way to Walmart when it was discontinued in early 2024.) This is a drawback for shoppers in search of new, upgrade-worthy products. But it also means things can be pretty cheap at Walmart from the jump, outside of any sale or deal, which has its appeal for bargain hunters. (To continue my example, Walmart permanently priced the M1 Air at only $699 — $300 off Apple’s MSRP — when it finally landed there.) 

Walmart also occasionally does this thing to on-sale items where it lists deflated sticker prices — prices that are lower than the items’ actual MSRPs — which makes their discounts seem worse than they really are. (We’ve run into this on Amazon, too, but it seems to happen far more often at Walmart.)


Walmart+ is offering new limited-time perks like Apple Music — here’s how to sign up

Take this 65-inch Samsung QLED TV: Walmart had it marked down from $997.99 to $798 during its Deals Holiday Kickoff Event in October 2023, advertising a discount of $199.99. But when the Mashable shopping team searched for the TV’s model number on the Samsung website, we discovered that it had an MSRP of $2,699.99 there — meaning Walmart’s deal was actually saving shoppers just over $1,900.

We’re not exactly sure why Walmart chooses to do this, since it kind of works against its bottom line. (Wouldn’t the bigger discount entice more shoppers to buy…?) But it can result in pleasant surprises for meticulous shoppers who cross-check prices before adding items to their carts; you’re saving more than the retailer lets on, and snagging a deal that may have sold out sooner had it been advertised accurately.

Finally, Walmart periodically releases extra-cheap products as “Special Buys” during sales. It doesn’t attach any original MSRPs to these products, so there’s no way of determining how much you’re actually saving, but the prices tend to be low enough that it almost doesn’t matter. (See: this 65-inch onn. 4K TV, which went on sale at Walmart for $278 a few weeks before Black Friday 2023. We don’t know how much it’s truly worth, but compared to other TVs of that size, it’s absurdly cheap.)

Where both win: Memberships are useful for scoring deals

In addition to other benefits, Amazon and Walmart’s membership services both unlock varying degrees of access to certain deals during tentpole sales throughout the year.

For its part, Amazon’s Prime membership ($14.99 per month or $139 per year) is non-negotiable if you want to shop the best deals during Prime Day (scheduled for July 16 and 17 this year); that includes several invite-only deals. No Prime, no access — but making use of its free 30-day trial still counts you in, which is nice.

This members-only restriction doesn’t apply to Amazon’s Cyber Weekend sales as a whole, though it did introduce some invite-only Black Friday deals for Team Prime as part of them last year. We wouldn’t be shocked if those became permanent fixtures.


Amazon’s invite-only deals are back for Prime Day 2024: What to expect from this year’s lineup

Meanwhile, a Walmart+ membership ($12.95 per month or $98 per year) unlocks early access to Walmart’s biggest sitewide sales throughout the year — usually three to five hours before they’re open to the general public. Those sales would be its summer savings event, which is usually competes with Prime Day (simply called “Walmart Deals” this year, and set for July 8 to 11), as well as its end-of-year Cyber Weekend programming. Featured deals can sometimes sell out during this early-access phase or get slightly more expensive once the paywall lifts, so it’s worth taking advantage of this membership perk if a sale includes a steep discount on something you’ve been shopping around for.

There’s one catch, which is that early deals access for Walmart+ members is restricted to paid members; you don’t count if you’re using its free 30-day trial. On the plus side, we usually see subscriptions go on sale for half price immediately before Walmart’s summer and Black Friday sales.

Where both lose: Sketchy third-party sellers and inflated prices

Bagging a truly good deal from either retailer involves a good deal of due diligence on the part of you, the shopper.

For starters, be sure you know exactly who you’re buying from — because it may not be Amazon or Walmart themselves. Amazon is better known for hosting myriad third-party merchants, but Walmart’s listings are also rife with them. 

Some of these merchants are simply storefronts for verified brands, like Roborock or Dyson. But many, many others across both retailers are shady sellers who may be shipping counterfeit products or operating under funky refund and return policies that are different from their platform’s guidelines.

a screenshot of an hp laptop sold by a third-party seller on amazon

Credit: Screenshot: Amazon

a screenshot of an hp laptop sold by a third-party seller at walmart

Credit: Screenshot: Walmart

These are typically easily identifiable by their names, like Superdealstore, Delight Tech Electronics, and busylittlebee. (None of those words are in the bible.) However, we’ve encountered one instance where an unauthorized seller was using the same name and branding as the real one on Amazon.

This isn’t to say that all third-party sellers are malicious or scammy, but enough are that we recommend avoiding them entirely. Your best bet is to stick with products that have “Ships from/Sold by” or “Sold and shipped by” labels underneath the “Add to cart” buttons on their listings.

Amazon and Walmart also both periodically dabble in something called price anchoring, which is when they inflate products’ MSRPs to make discounts look higher than they really are. (They don’t do this as often as they used to, but we still catch it from time to time.) Think of these as the Warios of Walmart’s secretly amazing deals with deflated MSRPs.

a screenshot of a laptop listing at walmart

This laptop has a two-year-old mobile processor — there’s no way it usually costs more than $1,000. (That odd-numbered MSRP is a strong indicator of some strangeness, too.)
Credit: Screenshot: Walmart

This underscores the importance of price-checking deals whenever possible. Plugging a product’s name or model number into Google and seeing what it’s going for on its manufacturer’s website is a solid rule of thumb that can be extremely revealing — sometimes in a good way, sometimes not.

When the competition heats up: More insights about Prime Day and Cyber Weekend

Amazon and Walmart both reliably drop their prices to new or year-round record lows when major savings events roll around — the biggest ones being in midsummer around Prime Day, plus Black Friday and Cyber Monday. (As mentioned, Walmart typically hosts its own festivities alongside Prime Day.) These sales also seem to prompt them to get their acts together in categories that are normally dominated by third-party sellers, like laptops, and offer more (legit) deals of their own.

Neither Amazon nor Walmart formally offer price-matching, but if they’re selling the same products during these sales, you can expect to see very similar or identical numbers across the board. (Matching each other’s freak, as it were.) Sometimes it takes a bit for one retailer to adjust its prices to rival the other’s, but it usually happens eventually. We tend to see the most overlap among low-end TVs, robot vacuums, laptops, headphones, and other budget tech, in addition to certain Apple products (particularly iPads, Apple Watches, and AirPods) and gaming consoles.

Prime Day

With respect to Prime Day specifically, Amazon religiously sticks to a 48-hour formula for its flagship sale, whereas Walmart’s competing event normally lasts twice as long. 

Mashable Deals

That said, Amazon does offer weeks of official “Early Prime Day Deals” ahead of time, giving shoppers a chance to nab certain promotions before the chaos of the event. It will also tease some of its top day-of deals in a press release ahead of time, though they come in the form of a discount range, not exact pricing. (“Save up to 75% on select Amazon devices,” for example.)


Walmart’s new Prime Day-rivaling sale is already much better than Walmart+ Week

On the flip side, Walmart always waits until its anti-Prime Day sale actually starts to put any deals up for grabs, but it will usually preview some of its best offers in a release well before then and use exact numbers — “Nintendo Switch Joy Con with Game for $69.00 (was $99.00),” for instance. (We use the word “exact” loosely because we frequently encounter inflated and deflated MSRPs here.)

Black Friday

In recent years, Amazon and Walmart have both moved to kick off their holiday shopping seasons extra early with Black Friday sales that begin in October. They both still save some of their deepest markdowns for Black Friday proper — it’s always the fourth Friday of November — but it’s always worth combing those early deals in case they wind up selling out (or getting pricier) down the road. As with Prime Day, both retailers preview these Black Friday deals in their own ways: Amazon’s discounts are “up-tos,” and Walmart’s are (sometimes inaccurate) “before-and-afters.”

Walmart takes a more structured approach to its Black Friday festivities, staggering its deals into a couple of mini week-long events leading up to Black Friday proper, so shoppers have a better idea of how long certain offers last. (They can stick around beyond that timeframe, but it’s not guaranteed.) 

Alternatively, Amazon simply starts its Black Friday season sale on a certain day and adds or removes deals seemingly whenever it feels like doing so. Sometimes they’ll run the course of the whole event, sometimes they’ll be gone in a day. It’s more of a revolving-door approach.

In the off-chance that something you buy from Amazon or Walmart during their Black Friday sales gets cheaper there later, you won’t be able to get a price adjustment — but you can take advantage of their extended return policies. In the past, eligible year-end purchases from either retailer have been returnable through January 31 of the following year.

The bottom line: Where should you shop for the best deals?

To recap: Amazon is the place to shop if you want the most options, if you need help finding deals, and if you care how steep or elusive a discount is. For these reasons, it’s our preferred retailer by a small margin: We like knowing exactly how much money a deal is saving shoppers, and we think an offer’s rarity is important context. But Walmart can also fit the bill for value seekers who aren’t super concerned about a product’s brand, release date, or true MSRP — just that its price is low. Keep in mind that both retailers host huge savings events in the summer and before the holidays, which is when they bring their most competitive prices to the table.

If you’re already an Amazon Prime or Walmart+ member, you might be inclined to peruse the respective retailer’s wares first. It might give you exclusive or early access to certain deals. For those who haven’t signed up yet, those free 30-day trials can be useful.

Ultimately, though, you’re not doing yourself any favors by being loyal to a single retailer. One of the best ways to make sure you’re getting the very best deal is by cross-checking prices across the web, comparing offers at Amazon, Walmart, and elsewhere… especially elsewhere. (For what it’s worth, we have a lot of luck at Best Buy when it comes to deals on big-ticket items like TVs and laptops — and it’s not swarming with questionable third-party sellers.)

For extra help finding the best, most up-to-date discounts on popular tech, consider bookmarking the Mashable shopping team’s dedicated deals coverage, too. We only highlight the best deals we’ve personally vetted at Amazon, Walmart, and beyond.

Senior shopping reporter Leah Stodart and lead shopping reporter Bethany Allard contributed to this story.


Leave a Comment