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Amazon vs. Walmart - Who’s cheaper?

Walmart started off as Walton's Five and Dime, a humble store in rural Arkansas. Amazon started as a quaint online bookshop based in Seattle. My, how things have changed!

Today, both retail titans are battling to become the largest stores in the world. They're still very different, of course: Walmart is the quintessential suburban "box store," while Amazon is the quintessential "virtual market." But both companies curate aggressive websites, and they deliver online orders to hundreds of countries around the world.

So which company will provide you with a better bargain?

The answer is confusing and complicated because it depends on what kind of shopping you want to do. In order to decide which option is best for you, consider the following questions:

1. Do you need to subscribe?

If airlines have price wars, then Amazon and Walmart are tangled in a shipping war. To really reap your Amazon rewards, you should consider becoming a Prime member. This will grant you free two-day shipping, access to streaming movies, a bunch of downloadable music and even some free eBooks.

But there's a price: $99 per year, to be exact, or $10.99 per month if you don't want to shell out all at once. Walmart doesn't require any kind of subscription; any order over $35 is entitled two-day shipping for free. You can also order things on Walmart.com and have them shipped to the store for free. If you just need your basic accouterments and you like to order in bulk, Walmart might be the way to go.

2. Do you like multiple vendors?

At Walmart, you're ordering Walmart products. Yes, these objects are manufactured by thousands of independent companies, but the ultimate vendor is Walmart. In contrast, Amazon is more like a massive digital bazaar; they sell tons of their own products, but they also provide online storefronts for independent vendors to sell their own stuff.

That can be daunting if you want to buy something but the vendor doesn't have a lot of street cred yet. If you don't want to take any risks at all, Walmart is the way to go. If you're looking for a bargain from some little-known retailer in Kennebunkport, you may thank yourself later for choosing Amazon.

3. How many different services do you need?

Amazon is involved in practically everything: You can publish a book through Amazon. You can make a movie and stream it through Amazon Instant Video. Amazon Drive provides unlimited cloud storage. If you're a very active person with a lot of needs and interests, Amazon is mind-bindingly versatile, and many of these platforms are cheap or even free.

But you may not require any of these things. You have no plans to write an eBook for Kindle, and you already use Dropbox to backup your computer. Instead, Walmart's website is simple and direct, and the physical chain also specializes in all the real-life things that you can't really do at Amazon, like rotating your tires and setting up a smartphone in person.

4. Which streaming service do you prefer?

Amazon hit pay dirt with its streaming services, forcing even Netflix to provide downloadable content. But Walmart acquired Vudu in 2010, another useful platform for watching films online. Amazon is certainly more popular than Vudu, with more than 50 million subscribers, and Amazon Studios has been pumping out award-winning films and acclaimed TV series over the past few years.

Vudu was also an early proponent of 3D viewing, and a lot of consumers say the quality is higher than other streaming services. Either way, you won't be able to watch your content on Apple TV unless you use Airplay.

5. What kinds of things do you actually buy?

If you're accustomed to ordering lots of household items online, or your business requires the same supplies again and again, you may have to put together an itemized list and figure out which retailer is cheaper for your specific needs. Analysts have suggested that, generally speaking, Walmart is slightly cheaper on its most popular products: One 7-quart manual slow-cooker cost $32.97 on Amazon, while Walmart offered the same crockpot for $19.77.

You might also fish for deals among Amazon's independent vendors, where you'll find one-cent paperbacks and tons of used and refurbished tech items.

For a brief comparison of the prices, we did a little shopping. Check out what we discovered below:

ProductWalmartAmazon
Nikon Coolpix L340 20.2 MP Digital Camera$204.94$159.99
 Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker III $299.95 $269.00
 LyxPro HAS-10 Closed Back Over-Ear Headphones $49.95 $39.99
 Samsung 60" 6200 Series Full HD Smart LED TV $597.99 $608.14
 Battlefield 1 (Xbox One) $38.99 $39.80
 Meccano - Meccanoid XL 2.0 $174.58 $174.58
 SanDisk Ultra 32GB Micro SDHC Memory Card $14.17 $14.31
 Hoover WindTunnel Pet Rewind Bagless Vacuum $149.98 $117.80
 Keurig K425 Coffee Maker $109.00 $124.99
 "Doctor Strange" Blu-ray DVD $22.99 $22.99
 Gain Flings Original Laundry Detergent Packs $19.97 $19.97
 IAMS Proactive Health Smart Puppy Food (30.6 oz) $28.96 $27.30
 Advil Liqui-Gels (200 count) $18.74$17.42

*Note: Prices subject to change.

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