- Amazon is the biggest retailer in the world.
- But not everything for sale on Amazon is worth your money.
- We asked experts and scoured the web for 21 products you should consider buying on Amazon and 22 more that you should skip.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Amazon is a one-stop shop beloved by millions of people.
In fact, according to Forbes, the online megastore recently overtook Walmart as the biggest retailer in the world.
But that doesn’t mean everything on Amazon is worth buying.
We asked experts for their advice on the best things to buy on Amazon and which products you should consider looking elsewhere. They gave us tips for buying electronics, food products, helpful tools for around the house, and more.
Here are 21 products that are worth buying on Amazon, and 22 you should skip every time.
Buy: Workout basics
“Shopping for clothes on Amazon can be a crap shoot, but plenty of brands you know and love sell directly on the site,” Patrice J. Williams, author of “Looking Fly on a Dime.”
“For workout and athleisure apparel, I love Starter leggings and hoodies. The customer reviews are super helpful when finding the right fit or determining how they hold up during certain activities.”
Skip: Subscription boxes
“While Amazon does sell some subscription boxes, there isn’t a huge selection,” Marianne Szymanski, founder of Toy Tips, told Business Insider. “I always suggest to go directly to the company to order these.”
Buy: Amazon toy exclusives
“These items are picked and chosen just for Amazon customers and you can’t find them anywhere else,” Szymanski said.
Skip: Wall sconces
Interior designer Blanche Garcia told Business Insider discourages buying sconce lights on Amazon because the images and descriptions for certain items can be deceptive. A light described as “warm” and “dimmable” online may be nothing of the sort when it actually arrives, for example.
“Be careful buying sconces if you’re not familiar with the exact models and/or brands,” she said.
Buy: Engagement rings
It sounds crazy, and you have to be very careful and do your research, but some couples have had amazing luck buying their engagement rings on Amazon.
One Refinery29 reader who bought a ring on Amazon said it “really fits my style so I immediately fell in love with it. Once we got it appraised it was valued at a lot more than he paid – like 7k more! It came with an appraisal certificate that was already more than he paid but we took it to a reputable jeweller who went NUTS for it and appraised it even higher.”
If you’re one of the growing number of couples today that doesn’t place as much importance on a diamond ring or how much it costs, buying on Amazon could be the move.
Skip: No-name electronics
“You should stay away from purchasing no-name electronics on Amazon,” Joanna Stahl, CEO and founder of Go2Practice, told Business Insider. “While some products may be authentic, others are low-quality knock-offs and can ruin your iPhone battery, shock users, or even catch on fire.”
Buy: Amazon devices
“While Amazon devices like the Echo, Alexa devices, Fire tablets, Fire TV, and Kindles can all be found at different retailers, the availability and price may vary by location,” Sara Skirboll, senior director of public relations at RetailMeNot. “Amazon offers great deals on their different devices and even their parts and accessories that other retailers don’t.”
Skip: Fresh produce
Everyone has a slightly different preference when it comes to what they consider the perfect fresh produce. Don’t leave the picking to someone else.
“It can be difficult to select the optimally ripe fruit or veggie, so I suggest selecting produce in-person,” Meyer said.
Buy: Wishful Seasoning everything bagel seasoning
Customers are obsessed with Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel seasoning, and so is Instagram. The blend of salt, garlic, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds goes great on anything from eggs to sandwiches to chicken.
But if that’s too expensive, you can get a similar versatile blend from Wishful Seasoning that offers a better bang for your buck – a nine-ounce container costs $US9.49, compared to $US6.55 for 2.3 ounces of the Trader Joe’s variety.
If you’re going to go carb-load, you might as well do so with steaming hot, fresh-from-the-oven loaves.
“Bakery-quality bread is nearly impossible to get via grocery delivery services, so I tend to stick to my favourite local bakeries,” says Megan Meyer, director of science communication at the International Food Information Council Foundation.
Buy: Formal dresses
There’s a special kind of pain involved in having to buy a dress for a wedding (that’s not your own) and having to spend upwards of $US100 on it, especially if you know you’re hardly ever going to wear it again.
Enter Amazon. For this dress, priced at $US31, one satisfied customer wrote that she impressed her boyfriend and all of his coworkers, all of whom assumed she had spent much more money on it than she did.
You obviously have to read the reviews very carefully, and make sure you allow plenty of time to return or exchange in case the sizing isn’t correct, but as long as you take the proper precautions, this could save you quite a lot of money, and nobody would ever be the wiser.
This isn’t only a great idea for wedding guests, either. Future bridesmaids and parents whose kids’ proms are coming up should take note, too.
Skip: Kitchen appliances
Across the board, kitchen appliances tend to be cheaper at department stores than on Amazon.
You can do your own research, of course, but for almost all kitchen appliances you’ll find the same types of savings at retailers.
Buy: Throw pillows
Throw pillows at department stores can be pretty expensive, usually running around $US20.00.
Meanwhile, on Amazon, you can get a set of two throw pillow inserts for $US16.99, and then you can buy any number of pillow covers from their limitless selection.
The covers usually cost somewhere around $US10, and you can switch them out seasonally if you want to. (So no more shelling out an extra $US20 to $US40 on special pillows for Christmas or Halloween.)
“Cutlery often all looks the same on Amazon and the pictures don’t usually reflect real life,” Lisa Jacobs, founder of Imagine It Done, told Business Insider. “Cutlery needs to be seen and felt in real life.”
Buy: Field Trip beef jerky
Skip: Gadgets from third-party vendors
Avoiding counterfeit gadgets on Amazon is easier said than done, but there are obvious red flags to look for. The easiest way is to buy directly from the brands via Amazon – skip the third-party sellers.
Buy: Winter coats
You may be used to spending over $US100 on a decent winter coat, but if you’re willing to forego trying them on in-store, then you can save a ton by buying on Amazon. Its brands sell coats for a wide range of prices, between $US30 and $US200 on the outer edges, but most of them cost closer to $US60 or $US70, and the reviews are all pretty solid.
Skip: Add-on items
Add-on items are small and inexpensive products Amazon doesn’t normally sell on their own, but lets customers add to their orders of $US25 or more to save on shipping costs.
They may sound like a great deal, but if you didn’t really intend to buy them in the first place, it’s a waste of money.
“While the extra $US5 or $US6 for a product doesn’t seem like a big deal, it can be a major money drain if the product isn’t something you really need,” Williams said.
Buy: Specialty food items
Specialty items that might be hard to find in local, smaller stores are easy to find on Amazon.
“I love to cook and try new recipes, but can sometimes get discouraged from making dishes that have ingredients like black rice, buckwheat noodles, or Szechuan peppercorns that can be hard to find in my local grocery store,” Meyer said.
Skip: Fresh fruit baskets and gift boxes
“When it comes to buying and gifting fresh fruits, it’s always best to either see it first or buy from a local company known for their quality,” Fischer said. “If you skim through Amazon reviews, you’ll find reports of brown spots and damaged fruit.”
Buy: Zeller key cabinet
“I actually ordered this for my own house and I love it,” Garcia said. “It’s really hard to find a modern key cabinet and when you do they come from overseas, so you pay high shipping costs. Amazon gave me access to this company from overseas and I was able to get it within two weeks, which sounds like a long time but isn’t for what it is, and the price and quality were great.”
“Amazon has gorgeous serveware – like marble platters and pretty cake stands, but, if you’re looking for a good deal and plan on stopping by a local store any time soon then you can often find similar items for significantly cheaper,” Fischer said.
Buy: Art supplies
Paint, brushes, canvas – yes, you can buy these things at an art supply store, or you can buy them in bulk from Amazon and save money.
Art products sold on Amazon are often the same brands sold at craft stores, but for less, and you can have them delivered to you instead of running out to buy them.
Plus, Amazon has an even bigger set, with more colours, for $US18.39. Joann has the same brand, but only sells them individually for $US0.99. A little more expensive, and far less convenient.
Skip: Bully sticks
It’s important to always read the fine print on Amazon, especially dimensions and weight as images can be very deceiving.
“I once purchased bully sticks for my dog, which looked normal size in the photo, but they turned out to be enormous, and I had to ask my renovation contractor to cut them down into smaller sticks,” Babba C Rivera, a brand marketing professional, told Business Insider.
Skip: Google and Apple products
Naturally, Amazon promotes its own products like the Echo or Kindle over those from competitors.
“That usually means you won’t find the absolute best deals on Google or Mac products,” Williams said. “It’s best to go directly to the source for electronics like this.”
Buy: Pacifica Beauty Kale Lux oil-free skin cream
Amazon might not be as fun to browse as Sephora or Ulta, but it has a ton of deals. Take this superfood-enriched skin cream for example, which at just over $US8 costs about half as much as it does at other retailers.
Skip: La Colombe vanilla draft latte
Even on Amazon, La Colombe’s vanilla draft latte comes to close to $US4 for a can,” Silverman said. “You can get a fresh coffee for that price.”
Buy: DAPU French linen and cotton-blend sheets
“I was searching for linen sheets but all the high-end brand companies sell for $US4-500 and up. I’ve had my sheets for a couple months now and they just get softer and softer,” another reader told Refinery29.
“These are the same price as my nice Pottery Barn sheets but the quality will last me a lifetime.”
It can be tempting to buy familiar brands of cosmetics on Amazon, but even brands like Maybelline and Covergirl cost more on Amazon than they would in drug stores if you’re a member and you buy what’s on sale.
it is worth noting that the product is $US7.99 without the discount, so if you don’t want to become a rewards member at your local pharmacy, Amazon is cheaper. However, given the amount of money you could save on other things by joining, not doing so just doesn’t make much sense.
Buy: Getter makeup sponge set
There’s the old saying, “beauty is pain,” but that pain shouldn’t have to refer to your wallet. Beauty Blenders are expensive, but a Refinery29 reader told the publication about the great alternative she found in the Getter Beauty Blender:
“Under $US2 a sponge vs $US20 for [this] beauty blender and I like it better,” the reader said. “I went back to the beauty blender for a day when I ran out of these sponges and I didn’t like it anymore! I’m never spending $US20 on a sponge again!”
Business Insider’s Aine Cain wrote that when it comes to furniture, “while Amazon has a better overall website, perks for Prime members, and less expensive products, Wayfair offers a more straightforward and organised experience for furniture shoppers.”
Additionally, if you’re looking for something even cheaper than Wayfair, IKEA has both sites beat on price, although you do have to assemble the furniture yourself.
Buy: A 36-pack of assorted scrunchies
If you’re a scrunchie junkie, this Amazon find is an amazing deal.
“Not only do you now have a scrunchie for every outfit, you can theoretically go a full month (plus about an extra week) without repeating a single one,” another reader told Refinery29.
“Plus, at $US14, each one comes out to less than 50 cents each.”
Skip: Bathing suits
It’s really impossible to tell the quality of a swimsuit without trying it on and feeling what it’s made of. Amazon has comparable prices to department stores, but there’s always a decently high risk that a suit you buy won’t look like the photo.
Sure, there’s a chance that a suit you buy on Amazon will fit perfectly, but with something as finicky as swimwear, it’s advisable to go somewhere you can try it on. It’s not worth the risk if the prices are almost the same.
Buy: Reusable zip-shut bags
For consumers looking to cut back on their use of plastic products, these reusable storage bags are one great way to do so.
You can find other bags like these online for similar prices, but this is definitely the best deal. Most of them are 5-6 dollars per bag, and you get fewer bags. This is five bags at about four dollars each.
Skip: Artificial flowers
You can buy beautiful bouquets of fake flowers on Amazon, but you basically have two options: Pay between $US10 and $US15 for a bouquet of exactly one type of flower, or pay around $US20 for a pre-arranged bouquet.
With just a little extra effort and an eye for what looks good, you can assemble a bouquet just as gorgeous as those pre-arranged ones from Dollar Tree, customised to perfectly fit your tastes, for just $US1 for each stem of three to five flowers.
Buy: Amazon-brand T-shirt bras
“Ordering a bra sight-unseen is always a crapshoot, but this one was a winner,” one reviewer wrote on Amazon. The fabric is soft, with no seams to chafe; the band is true-to-fit … the straps stay on my shoulders and have plenty of space to tighten as they stretch out over time.
Many commenters said these bras were great for everyday wear, and many said it was their new favourite bra.
Skip: Paper towels
As great as Amazon’s Subscribe & Save option is for a lot of things, it isn’t always what it seems, according to Showbiz Cheatsheet writer Karen Bennett.
“Take paper towels, for example,” Bennett wrote. “On Amazon, you’ll pay $US28.99 for a box of four, six-roll packs of Viva Choose-A-Sheet paper towels.”
“By way of comparison, Walmart charges $US5.98 for one package containing six rolls. Do the maths, and four of those will cost you $US23.92.”
Buy: Foldable storage bins
If you have a small home or a big family, attractive storage bins that you can use to hide your stuff in plain sight are almost a must. You can go to a home goods store or a Walmart and buy these for around five bucks each, but there’s a set of eight available on Amazon for $US24.99, which makes them a little over $US3 each.
Skip: School supplies
It might seem like less of a headache to browse online with your kids for all the things they need for the new school year, but Bennett warned against this inclination:
“When it comes time for the school season, it’s still your best bet to head to your nearest Walmart and battle the other thousands of students for some school supplies,” she wrote. “Amazon might sound easier, but the markup on products like notebooks can be more than 300%.”
Buy: KAI dermaplaning razor beauty guard
Dermaplaning is a relatively new trend in beauty treatments, in which a sharp straight razor specifically designed for the task is used to shave away dead skin and peach fuzz from the face.
One Refinery29 reader told the publication that she looked into various brands of dermaplaning razors, and she found that the only ones that worked cost $US35. Until she looked on Amazon, that is.
“I came across these razors from the brand KAI for less than $US5 for 5,” she said. “They do a fabulous job of exfoliating and removing any and all unwanted facial hair … leaving my skin feeling insanely soft and smooth.”
Skip: Household cleaning products
You can buy your household cleaners on Amazon, and maybe save a little money, and maybe even save a little more if you buy in bulk or use the subscribe and save option, but it’s almost a guarantee that whatever you save, you could save more by buying those same products at a Dollar Tree. They aren’t name brand products, but they perform the same function for a fraction of the cost.
Buy: Feminine hygiene products
Most women automatically think when they run out of period products that they need to go to the drug store to get more, but buying them online is actually more convenient for a number of reasons.
First, you can save money, even if it isn’t that much, as most tampons and pads on Amazon are at least ten to fifteen cents cheaper than in stores like Rite Aid or CVS, and the difference is usually closer to a dollar or two.
Second, you can buy them in bulk the way you might at a wholesale club; compare this 200-pack of tampons that’s available for only $US33.16 to the $US45.96 you would pay to buy four boxes of the same product at Rite Aid.
Third, for some products, Amazon gives you the option to subscribe and save by having them automatically delivered at regular intervals, anywhere from once a month to every six months. If there were ever a product to do that with, this would be it.
Skip: Power tools
According to Bennett, “when it comes to hardware and tools, Amazon has a hard time competing because the big-box home improvement stores have more leverage with suppliers and are therefore able to keep their costs lower. In turn, they pass along the savings to you.”
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.