Discount showdown: Costco vs. Sam's Club

July 13, 2011 at 2:10 PM ET

Our pals over at Cheapism recently took a look at two bastions of discounting – Costco and Sam’s Club – to see which of the big two members-only, bulk discounters is worth the price of admission.

The verdict: Cheapism said both were exceptional deals, and much cheaper than going the traditional supermarket route. But Sam’s Club, a unit of Wal-Mart, won out by the slimmest of margins.

What made it such a close race? The folks at Cheapism said that in their shopping cart test, Sam’s Club was nearly $12 cheaper overall, but that was partly because Costco offered some items in larger quantities. By unit cost, Costco was 3.6 percent cheaper.

What’s right for you? It depends on what you would be using the membership for. In its final verdict, Sam’s Club got higher marks for things like pharmacy and electronics, while Costco was the victor in areas such as auto services and online shopping.

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