Costco vs. Sam's Club: How do they stack up against each other?

PHOENIX - There's one thing that can always make or break your shopping experience: final cost.

Our Smart Shopper team wants to make sure your pantry and your wallet are full, so it's a clash of the titans -- our contenders are Costco and Sam's Club.

We picked 12 items and headed out to these warehouse clubs to see where we could score the best prices.

The first expense that's hard to avoid: the membership.

Sam's Club wins this battle. To be a card carrier, you'll pay $45. Costco's lowest priced membership is $55. To make up this expense, you'd have to buy a few more items at Costco than you would at Sam's Club.

RELATED: No Costco membership? No problem!

Also, something to keep in mind: the location of the store in relation to where you live. If there's a Costco around the corner from you, and a Sam's Club 12 miles away, it may simply make more sense to get the Costco membership. Let's face it, our time is invaluable.

Like to buy organic? Costco carries a better selection of organic food. Everything from juices to coffee to fruit snacks, it's easy to find the organic version of what you're looking for at Costco.

But the bottom line: which warehouse giant will take the least from our wallets?

Of all 12 items we shopped, Costco was cheaper than Sam's Club, but Costco's membership fee made the combined cost more for the first visit.

Just for reference, we also took a look at some of these products on Amazon. It didn't have all of the exact items, but for the ones it did have, Amazon charged more than both warehouse stores. But with free Prime shipping, for some, a click of the mouse may make more sense than going out to save cents. 

Here are all of the items we compared. These prices do not include any sales or incentives.  They were valid as of February 5, 2018. 

  Sam's Club Costco
Clementines, 5 lb. $5.98 $5.98
Member's Mark hamburger or hot dog buns 24 ct. $3.68 $2.29
Rotisserie chicken, 3 lb. $4.98 $4.99
Ground beef 90% lean $3.28/lb $3.29/lb
Kiwi $2/lb $1.69/lb
Bananas 3 lb. bunch $1.38 $1.39
Apothic red wine, 27.5 oz $6.96 $6.95
ibuprofen, 1,000 ct (adjusted for comparison) $8.56 $8.59
Columbian ground coffee, 48 oz. $8.95 $8.96
Smuckers Uncrustables, 18 ct. $10.98 $10.25
Pepsi cans, 36 ct., 12 oz. $9.98 $9.99
1/2 sheet cake $18.63 $18.99
Total $85.36 $83.36
Base Membership Fee $45 $55
Grand total $130.36 $138.36
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