In This Article:
Walmart vs. Target
Common wisdom is that there are Target shoppers and there are Walmart shoppers and never the twain shall meet. But before you draw a permanent line in the sand, you might want to take a look at our latest Target vs. Walmart showdowns. We’ve compared prices on hundreds of items at both stores, from the pharmacy to the grocery department, and the results may surprise you.
- For cheapest pharmacy, the winner is Walmart, with prescription prices nearly 40% lower than Target’s overall.
- Walmart’s groceries are a great value, too. A full cart of store-brand staples was more than 25% cheaper.
- Although Walmart takes the crown for store-brand value and near ubiquitous presence, Target woos customers with competitive pricing on everyday health and wellness products; high-quality grocery items, including private-label organics; and, quite frankly, a less-stressful shopping experience.
Target vs. Walmart Pharmacy Price Comparison
All prices and availability are subject to change. Unless otherwise indicated, prescription drug costs are for a one-month supply. To compare store-brand items of different quantities, the unit price was used to calculate the cost of equivalent items.
Prescription Drug Prices
|Amlodipine Besylate |
(Norvasc, 5 mg)
|Atorvastatin Calcium |
(Lipitor, 10 mg)
(Zithromax, 250 mg)
(Celebrex, 200 mg)
(Plavix, 75 mg)
(Propecia, 1 mg)
(Prinivil, 10 mg)
(Prevacid, 15 mg)
|Losartan Potassium |
(Cozaar, 50 mg)
(Glucophage, 500 mg)
(Zoloft, 25 mg)
(Ambien, 5 mg)
Prices surveyed October 2019.
|Flu shot (seasonal)||$39.99||$39.88|
|Flu shot (high dose)||$69.99||$69.78|
|Hepatitis B (adult)||$88.99||$70.50|
|Pneumococcal (Prevnar 13)||$239.99||$198.54|
Prices surveyed October 2019.
Over-the-Counter Medication/Vitamin Prices
Up & Up
|Abreva Cold Sore |
(98¢ for 40ct.)
|Centrum Silver Adults |
(4 fl. oz.)
|Claritin 24 Hour |
($5.98 for 45 ct.)
|DayQuil Severe |
Cold & Flu
|Flonase Allergy Relief|
|Icy Hot Extra-Strength |
Medicated Back Patch
(2 fl. oz.)
|Midol Complete |
|Mucinex DM |
Expectorant and Cough
|One A Day Prenatal 1 |
|One A Day VitaCraves |
|Orajel 4x Medicated |
Toothache and Gum
($7.49 for Orajel)
($3.83 for .25 oz.)
|Pepcid AC |
(16 fl. oz.)
|Plan B One-Step |
|Rogaine Men’s Foam|
|Vicks VapoCool |
Sore Throat Spray
(6 fl. oz.)
Prices surveyed February 2020.
Which Pharmacy Is Cheaper, Target or Walmart?
For our price showdowns, we zeroed in on Target and Walmart locations in the same western Ohio market area. To determine the cheapest pharmacy, we surveyed prices on 13 common generic prescription drugs, 10 immunizations, and 20 common over-the-counter drugs and vitamins. For the latter, we also scanned each retailer’s selections for store-brand versions of the items on our list, trying as much as possible to choose like products of the same size/quantity. We relied on retail prices for our analysis rather than sale prices, as there's no guarantee that a better deal will be available at any given time.
When we compared prescription drug costs for the 13 generics on our list, Walmart was hands-down the cheapest option, with a final tally of $669.61 vs. $1,097.67 at Target — a savings of just over $428, or 39% overall. Walmart’s low prices are in large part thanks to a long list of $4 generics automatically offered to any customer paying out of pocket rather than with health insurance. Target’s discount generic drug program was discontinued after CVS acquired its pharmacies in 2015. Now, the best deal at Target is a $5 coupon after filling 10 prescriptions using a CVS ExtraCare Card. There are no additional discounts, and prescriptions are excluded from the items that Target Circle members can purchase using accrued rewards.
Along with prescription savings, Walmart boasted the best per-dose vaccine prices. But here Walmart’s advantage was slightly less, with an overall difference between the two retailers of just $156.72, and literally only a matter of pennies separating the prices quoted for flu shots — probably the most common vaccination that shoppers have administered in stores.
When it came to over-the-counter medications and vitamins, the two retailers ran almost neck and neck. You’ll likely save a bit more at Walmart, but with total price differences of less than $5 for the 20 brand-name items on our list, it would hardly be worth a special trip — or a reconsideration of loyalties if you’re a Target fan. (It’s also worth noting that, in a broader pharmacy comparison, we found that Target and Walmart offered the very best deals on everyday health products. Barring in-store specials at the other chains we surveyed, the two retailers handily beat prices at stand-alone CVS pharmacies, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and Kroger.)
Truly frugal consumers opting to purchase store-brand products from Target’s popular Up & Up line or Walmart’s Equate house brand can rest assured that they’ll score deep discounts no matter which private label they choose. After subtracting the cost of the Plan B contraceptive from each retailer’s totals (there were no generic options), substituting equivalent store brands where available brought costs down roughly 43% at Target and 46% at Walmart. Walmart's price advantage over Target here was more than double what it was for the brand-name price comparison, but the final tallies were still less than $10 apart — a total of $8.77 in Walmart’s favor, to be precise.
Target vs. Walmart Grocery Price Comparison
All prices and availability are subject to change. Listed prices are for the cheapest item available at each store and for store brands unless otherwise indicated (Good & Gather, Market Pantry, Simply Balanced, and Archer Farms from Target; Great Value and Marketside from Walmart). To compare items of different quantities, the unit price was used to calculate the total cost of the most commonly available quantity.
Store-Brand Grocery Prices
|2% Milk (1 gal.)||$2.69||$1.29|
|American Cheese (24 slices)||$1.99||$1.96|
|Large Eggs (12)||$1.29||48¢|
|Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (16 oz.)||$4.58|
($2.29 for 8 oz.)
|Unsalted Butter (16 oz.)||$2.99||$2.94|
|Yogurt (32 oz.)||$2.79|
|Romaine Lettuce (3 hearts )||$2.99||$2.78|
|Bagged Spinach (9 oz.)||$1.99||$1.78 |
($1.98 for 10 oz.)
|Russet Potatoes (5 lbs.)||$2.59||$2.49|
|Strawberries (16 oz.)||$2.99||$1.78|
|Gala Apples (3 lbs.)||$4.99||$2.66|
|Organic Baby Carrots (16 oz.)||$1.59||$1.46|
|Ground Beef 80/20 (1 lb.)||$4.59||$3.98|
|Frozen Tilapia (24 oz.)||$6.99||$4.61 |
($6.17 for 2 lbs.)
|Chicken Breasts (1 lb.)||$2.99||$2.93 |
|Boneless Pork Chops (15 oz.)||$4.99||$4.10 |
($4.38 for 1 lb.)
|Thin-Sliced Oven-Roasted Deli Turkey Breast (16 oz.)||$4.79||$3.28|
|Ketchup (32 oz.)||$1.69||$1.72|
|Hummus (10 oz.)||$2.99||$2.73|
|Ranch Dressing (16 oz.)||$1.19||92¢|
|Natural No-Stir Peanut Butter (16 oz.)||$1.29||$1.18|
|Strawberry Preserves (18 oz.)||$1.99||$1.84|
|Rising Crust Pepperoni Pizza (29.85 oz.)||$4.99||$3.10 |
($2.78 for 26.6 oz.)
|Lasagna with Meat Sauce (38 oz.)||$7.49|
|Ice Cream (48 oz.)||$3.99||$1.97|
|Mixed Vegetables (12 oz.)||89¢||$1|
|Spaghetti (16 oz.)||85¢||82¢|
|Spaghetti Sauce (24 oz.)||95¢||88¢|
|Rice (white enriched, 5 lb.)||$3.99||$2.24|
|Bread (white, 20 oz. loaf)||$1.39||88¢|
|Hamburger Buns (8, white)||$1.19||87¢|
|Chicken Broth (32 oz.)||$1.29||$1.22|
|Diced Tomatoes (14.5 oz.)||49¢||46¢|
|All-Purpose Flour (2 lbs.)||$1.09||$1|
|Sugar (4 lbs.)||$1.89||$1.37|
|Tuna (5 oz.)||75¢||98¢|
|Chicken Noodle Soup (10.5 oz.)||$1.49|
|Cereal and Snacks|
|Organic Honey Nut Toasted Oat Cereal (12.25 oz.)||$3.19||$2.98|
|Chocolate Chip Cookies (13 oz.)||$1.59||$1.36|
|Cola (2 l.)||$1.79|
|Apple Juice (64 oz.)||$2.19||$1.23|
Prices surveyed March 2020.
Name-Brand Grocery Prices
|Kraft Singles (24 slices)||$3.99||$3.97|
|Eggland's Best Large Eggs (1 dozen)||$2.69||$2.67|
|Land O Lakes Unsalted Butter (1 lb.)||$3.99||$3.97|
|Kraft Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (16 oz.)||$3.49||$4.58|
|Dannon Yogurt (32 oz.)||$2.79||$2.66|
|Chicken Breasts (1 lb.)||$4.99 |
|Hillshire Farm Oven-Roasted Deli Turkey Breast (9 oz.)||$3.29||$3.28|
|Heinz Ketchup (20 oz.)||$2.39||$2.26|
|Sabra Hummus (10 oz.)||$3.29||$3.34|
|Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing (16 oz.)||$2.99||$2.96|
|Jif Peanut Butter (16 oz.)||$2.29||$2.22|
|Smucker’s Strawberry Jam (18 oz.)||$2.99||$2.84|
|DiGiorno TraditionalCrust Pepperoni Pizza (9.3 oz.)||$3.99||$3.50|
|Stouffer's Lasagna with Meat & Sauce (38 oz.)||$7.49||$6.98|
|Breyers Ice Cream (48 oz.)||$4.59||$4.42|
|Birds Eye Steamfresh Mixed Vegetables (10 oz.)||99¢||$1|
|Barilla Thin Spaghetti (16 oz.)||$1.29||$1.28|
|Ragu Spaghetti Sauce (24 oz.)||$1.79||$1.48|
|Uncle Ben's Original Rice (2 lbs.)||$3.59||$3.88|
|Nature's Own Butterbread (20 oz. loaf)||$2.29||$2.74|
|Pepperidge Farm Hamburger Buns (8 ct.)||$2.79||$2.78|
|Swanson Chicken Broth (32 oz.)||$1.99||$1.94|
|Hunt's Diced Tomatoes (14.5 oz.)||$1.09||98¢|
|Gold Medal All Purpose Flour (5 lbs.)||$2.59||$2.08|
|Domino Sugar (4 lbs.)||$2.49||$2.08|
|Starkist Tuna (5 oz.)||89¢||83¢|
|Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup (10.75 oz.)||$1.49||$1.48|
|Cereal and Snacks|
|Cheerios (18 oz.)||$3.79||$3.64|
|Chips Ahoy Chocolate Chip Cookies (13 oz.)||$2.69||$2.56|
|Coke (2 l.)||$1.79||$1.68|
|Mott's Apple Juice (64 oz.)||$2.49||$2.36|
Prices surveyed March 2020.
Target vs. Walmart Grocery Prices: Which Are Better?
For our grocery comparison, which took place after coronavirus shutdowns in late March 2020, we conducted our price survey online. Setting the store location to our local ZIP code, we scoured grocery pages for a host of everyday refrigerator and pantry staples, from milk and dairy items to fresh produce, pasta, grains, and meat. We compared each store’s prices on name-brand favorites and also on cheaper private-label versions of popular items.
Our main finding was that consumers who are loyal to certain brands for food purchases can take their business to either big-box store without seeing much difference in price. Although Walmart’s prices on name-brand grocery items were about 4% lower than Target’s overall, on many items Walmart’s prices beat Target’s by a mere penny or two. In fact, the difference between our virtual shopping basket totals was less than $4.
Walmart was the big winner when it came to store-brand products, however. When we compared the final bills for our carts filled with mostly generic groceries, Walmart beat Target by nearly $30, or 27%.
Walmart’s generic grocery items, with its headlining Great Value label, were copious and sometimes almost ridiculously inexpensive. For nearly every product imaginable there was a Great Value version that sometimes shaved the cost by more than half. Compare Walmart’s Great Value ice cream, selling at just $1.97, to a similar-size container of Breyers for $4.42. The Great Value product was also about half the cost of ice cream from Target’s Market Pantry brand. What’s more, Great Value vanilla ice cream is widely hailed by consumers and experts as the store brand that comes closest to Breyers’ coveted creaminess.
In the end, Target’s private food labels — which currently include Market Pantry, Archer Farms, Simply Balanced, and Good & Gather — couldn’t match Walmart’s on scope or savings, no matter the product category, with frozen foods, meat, and dairy showing the biggest price differences in Walmart’s favor. Walmart’s grocery departments are also more akin to traditional markets than Target’s — they commonly house bakeries and delis in addition to multiple aisles of foodstuffs and more plentiful produce offerings. In a larger grocery store comparison, we found that Walmart’s prices beat the big supermarkets’, as well.
Target vs. Walmart: Policies, Quality, Shopping Experience, and More
Of course, the Walmart vs. Target debate turns on so much more than just bottom-line prices. So, in comparing the two, we also looked at price matching and return policies, rewards programs, the quality of the products offered at each store, customer service, shopping experience, and overall convenience.
Target Circle members are eligible for a bevy of discounts throughout the store and 1% earnings on purchases. A quick scan of Target Circle pharmacy offers at the time of our comparison turned up deals for 20% off assorted vitamins and allergy relief products as well as special discounts on other health-related products. Customers taking advantage of these additional opportunities to save on their favorite items might find that membership benefits actually give Target a price edge over Walmart in the final analysis. Walmart no longer hosts a rewards program, instead advertising “everyday low prices” on a multitude of products, with no loyalty card required.
Both Target and Walmart will match their own online prices and those of select online competitors for identical items. But only Target will match in-store prices in the same local market for customers who present an original print ad or digital copy of the ad verifying the offer. There’s a lot of other fine print — customers also must make their claims within 14 days of purchase — but overall Target’s policy is more generous.
Walmart's return policy gives shoppers up to 90 days to request a refund or exchange for most items accompanied by a receipt. Returns without a receipt qualify for a cash refund of less than $25; a gift card will be issued if the amount exceeds $25. Customers can also return Walmart.com items to a store within 90 days with a receipt — and this applies to groceries, as well, although there’s a special procedure for requesting refunds on perishable items, which cannot be returned in-store or via mail. All told, Walmart’s policies are really quite liberal (although pharmacy shoppers should know that prescription drugs and diabetic products — lancets, meters, strips, and the like — are notably ineligible for return.
Target offers a similar 90-day return policy with a receipt, extending that window to 120 days for Target RedCard holders, but specifies that items must be in new condition. Any Target-brand item can be returned for up to one year. Groceries are covered under these policies, with no caveats for perishables listed. Goods purchased online can be returned to a Target store if the packaging slip indicates eligibility. Returns without a receipt may be accepted, but customers receive only merchandise credit. At the same time, Target is one of the few retailers that does not explicitly prohibit returns of prescription drugs. Its policy states only that pharmacy purchases must be returned to that specific department as opposed to the general returns center. When it comes to personal care items, Target’s policy also breaks with the crowd: The store claims it will accept most cosmetics for return, even if opened.
While Walmart’s house brands generally rang up cheaper than Target’s, in our informal surveys of shoppers, and in online reviews we read, many consumers voiced a strong preference for store-brand items at Target, saying the quality is superior even if the price is sometimes higher. With grocery items, in particular, Target has a reputation for offering healthier options than Walmart. Target is launching its latest brand, Good & Gather, contra to the price-first approach of Walmart’s Great Value brand, offering low-cost options that are free of synthetic dyes, artificial flavors and sweeteners, and high-fructose corn syrup. (It will eventually replace the Archer Farms and Simply Balanced lines; Market Pantry products will be cut back.) In addition to organic offerings and wholesome kids’ fare — hello, organic apple mango fruit purée pouches — Good & Gather represents an expansion into higher-brow but still relatively affordable specialty food items, like an Avocado Toast Chopped Salad Kit we spotted for just $3.99 (13.85 oz.). In the personal care realm, many parents highlight Target's Up & Up baby products as store-brand favorites.
Shopping Experience and Customer Service
In online reviews, Target often surfaces as a favorite among shoppers for its pleasant ambience. Many customers assert that the stores are clean, the atmosphere is calm, the merchandise is attractive, and the employees are obliging. On the other hand, Walmart has developed a bit of a reputation for chaos and clutter, and for many shoppers the stores are just too big and overwhelming. One customer in our informal survey told us it's tough to get in and out quickly, so trips are reserved for large shopping hauls when low prices really count. Others stated that Walmart is always too crowded and the frenzy just isn't worth the cash savings.
Obviously, given recent events it’s difficult to talk about a “typical” shopping experience at either store, but in our past visits to Target and Walmart, our impressions aligned fairly closely with those customer reviews. On our earlier pharmacy tour, we noted that while Walmart has been doing its part to declutter stores in recent years, and while we’d certainly say that our local outpost was generally tidy and well-kept, the aisles and shelves were a little cramped and crowded and we did have some difficulty finding the items we were looking for. Target bested Walmart in having the most organized displays and the largest selection of health and beauty products.
When sourcing online prices for groceries more recently, the overall shopping experience was similar to what we’d encountered firsthand in stores. The design of the grocery landing page on Target’s website was more aesthetically pleasing, less busy, and better organized than Walmart’s. On Target’s site there were lots of simple buttons that allowed us to jump directly to categories of food items or brand names that we were looking for without having to crawl endless menu scrolls to get there. We also found that when items were listed as out of stock at our local store — which many were as a result of COVID-19 shortages — it was easy to see which locations in our area still had products on shelves, thanks to an option on to “check nearby stores.” On Walmart’s site, if an item was sold out at the location we’d set as our home store, it simply wouldn’t appear when searched. This was frustrating to say the least and ended up requiring lots of extra time and browser searching to find what we needed — or to find that no local Walmart store had our item in stock.
With more than 4,700 retail locations in the United States, there’s likely a Walmart nearby. Target has less than half that number of stores: only 1,871 according to their corporate profile.
As far as extended pharmacy services go, both stores offer in-store immunizations at many outlets (although the range of vaccinations offered may vary), but only a limited number of Target and Walmart locations include health clinics. Select Target stores in Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia operate MinuteClinics that in addition to providing basic shots handle minor illnesses and injuries, skin treatments, many basic physicals (for camp, for instance) and other wellness services. Video visits are also an option. While Target’s MinuteClinics are owned and operated by CVS, in Southern California Target Clinic care is provided by Kaiser Permanente. Most major insurance plans are accepted at all clinic outposts.
Walmart also hosts Care Clinics similar to Target’s in select locations in Georgia, South Carolina and Texas. Two Georgia locations even boast new Walmart Health Services for customers, which include dental exams, eye exams, and x-ray imaging.
Target’s Drive Up service, now available in all 50 states, extends the convenience of curbside prescription pickup to its customers at participating stores, along with a variety of other store items, including non-perishable grocery staples, cleaning supplies, and health and beauty items. Many Target locations also offer same-day home delivery of online groceries and more — from bedding to sporting goods — via personal shopping service Shipt. But, unless you sign on for a Shipt membership, you’ll pay $9.99 per delivery for the privilege of avoiding the crowds.
For its part, Walmart has also rolled out a free grocery pickup program, currently available at about 3,000 stores, and many Walmarts also provide delivery. Fees are slightly cheaper than those at Target, but as of now it appears that only food items and home staples are on the menu items that Walmart will deliver to shoppers’ doors.
Walmart’s extended store hours are the clincher, however, when it comes to overall convenience. Although the company has recently cut back the number of 24-hour stores, reducing hours at about 100 locations in 2019 — and most locations as of March 20, 2020, are operating under special schedules due to the COVID-19 crisis — Walmart stores are typically a go-to for late-night necessities. A few locations even house pharmacies that are open through the wee hours. 24-hour Targets remain a bit of a rarity and, in our immediate area at least, in-store pharmacies tend to close earlier than those at Walmart; when operating under normal schedules, most of our local Target pharmacies cap closing hours at 7 p.m. as opposed to 9 p.m. at our nearest Walmart.