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OUR PICK

Petco

Petco

Petco is a great choice for affordable pet care. The store has thousands of locations nationally and carries everything you need to make sure your beloved pet gets the life they deserve. Petco runs some of the best deals on things like bulk food, toys, treats, and healthcare products.

Try Petco

They also have a host of other useful services, like pet grooming, campaigns to support animal welfare, and other special events. That makes Petco a great place to get supplies and advice on the best way to make sure your pet knows just how special they are.

What We Like

There’s a lot to like about Petco. Whether you go for the great everyday deals on food, treats, and toys, their extremely affordable pet grooming service, or as the place to go to get healthcare essentials like flea and tick or heartworm medication. We also like the staff training and business culture at Petco. Any staff member we’ve interacted with has always been kind, courteous, and knowledgeable. As a result, Petco makes it easy to get the things you need for your pet without the hassle of trying to find the perfect food, meds, toys, or whatever it is you need. Check them out the next time you need pet supplies!

My Personal View of Pet Expenses

For many of us, our pets can be just as much a part of the family as a child (I am a dog-lover myself). As a valued member of the family, it can be very easy to spend large amounts of money on toys (my Pug's favorites are below), clothes, bedding, food, and health care products for your pets. After all, you want them to have the best life possible!

However, I am a firm believer that giving your pets a good life should not come at the detriment of your own personal finances. For example, even though it might sound a little cold-hearted, I am a believer that someone should not go into $100,000 of 20% APR debt to pay for a year’s worth of chemotherapy for their favorite cat, Felix.

(Crystal's Comment:  Our pet emergency fund can cover one-time expenses like killing off fleas, lab work, or even fixing a broken leg, but we have to draw the line at expensive long-term treatments like chemotherapy too…)

Going along with this same idea of giving your pets a good life while trying to optimize your own personal finances is the idea that where you shop for your

cheap pet supplies

can have a big impact on the amount that you spend.

It truly amazes me the ENORMOUS price range (and going along with this, quality) that exists in the realm of pet products. For example, you can feed your dog with a $10 30-lb bag of dog food from Aldi’s, or you can spend $142 for a small 16 lb bag of Only Natural Pet EasyRaw Dehydrated Grain-Free Turkey & Sweet Potato Dog Food.  Also, when looking for a specialized item such as doggie doors, you will want to search online for the best niche item providers.

Now, while I definitely believe a certain level of quality of the food/products is crucial, I feel that most of the HIGH priced products are simply out of control. 

Petsmart and Petco

However, a happy medium can be found in two pet stores that I think we all know and love – Petsmart and Petco. 

Petsmart and Petco seem to be everywhere! They were all over the place in the three places I’ve lived in the past 2 years or so – Arkansas, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, so I think I can safely say that most people have been exposed to both stores.

These stores have a reputation for delivering quality, but at the same time, not being too out-of-this-world expensive that all customers are driven out the automatic double doors and directly to the nearest Wal-Mart.

However, one question that my friend brought up recently was rather perplexing:

Is Petsmart or Petco More Affordable?

When my friend asked me this question, I admit that I did not have any resemblance of an answer! I had definitely shopped both stores, but would usually just go to the store that was nearest to my current location (according to the Garmin GPS “shortest route” option).

What Data Is Currently Available On This Question?

When I started researching this question, I found the following:

  • According to SlyMiser.com – Petsmart vs. Petco – Price Shootout, Petsmart had significantly cheaper prices both online and in-store.
  • According to ChaCha.com – Is PetCo or Petsmart Cheaper?, Petco is generally about a Dollar cheaper on similar items.

Because the analysis on SlyMiser.com was much more extensive and a Dollar is not very much at all, my initial feeling from these results was that Petsmart probably would be cheaper.

My Cost Comparison Findings

However, I also wanted to check on the answer to this question using some of my own personal findings with current data as of April, 2011. To do this, I decided to compare the online prices (excluding shipping) of 10 of the most common pet products to see if any significant differences could be found.

My findings are listed below:

  • Purina Dog Chow (34 lb bag)
    • Petsmart = $23.99
    • Petco = $21.99 (From Crystal:  Petco – Up to 20% Off Dog & Cat Food at Petco.com!)

    • Winner = Petco = $2 less
  • Science Diet Cat Food – Light Version (17.5 lb bag)
    • Petsmart = $32.99
    • Petco = $34.99
    • Winner = Petsmart = $2 less
  • Midwest 42″ LifeStages Two-Door Dog Crate
    • Petsmart = $89.99
    • Petco =  $109.97
    • Winner =  Petsmart = $19.98 less
  • Arm and Hammer Super Scoop Cat Litter (28 lb container)
    • Petsmart = $11.99
    • Petco = $14.97
    • Winner = Petsmart = $2.98 less
  • Dingo Flavor Blast Mini Dog Bones (12-pack)
    • Petsmart = $6.99
    • Petco = $9.59
    • Winner = Petsmart = $2.60 less
  • Frontline Flea/Tick Medicine Plus – Cats (6 pack)
    • Petsmart = $104.99
    • Petco = $84.79 (From Crystal:  Flea medicine coupon)
    • Winner = Petco = $20.20 less
  • Premier Pet Products – Gentle Leader Leash – Large Dog Size
    • Petsmart = $19.99
    • Petsco = $17.97
    • Winner = Petco = $2 less
  • Aqueon 5-gal Mini Bow Fish Aquarium Kit
    • Petsmart = $59.99
    • Petco = $47.99
    • Winner = Petco = $12 less
  • Miller's Forge Dog Nail Clippers
    • Petsmart = $12.99
    • Petco = $15.97
    • Winner = Petsmart = $2.98 less
  • Fiesta Bird food Mix for Parakeets (4.5 lb bag)
    • Petsmart = $15.99
    • Petco = $11.26
    • Winner = Petco = $4.73 less

Petsmart vs Petco Results

Of the 10 products studied, Petsmart and Petco were tied in that each offered the lower-cost item exactly 50% of the time. Truly amazing!

By doing some simple arithmetic averaging, we see that when Petco is cheaper, the average savings over Petsmart is $8.20. However, when Petsmart is cheaper, the average savings is $6.12 over Petco (slightly less).

While the results were slightly less definitive than I was hoping for, I think we can still draw meaningful conclusions. Since Petsmart and Petco featured the lower-priced item exactly half of the time, we can conclude that both are good options. Furthermore, if you are going on a general pet-supply-buying trip (planning to purchase multiple items), probably the best strategy is to do a quick Google Maps search and find out which store is closest to you and go there.

However, if you are in the market for a specific item (especially if it is high-dollar) that you don't need to buy frequently, the best approach would be to compare prices online between the two stores to decide which to buy from. For example, a dog crate or something that you only buy once a year or more would good candidates for this specific price comparison.

How about you all? Do you shop at Petco or Petsmart? Which do you prefer? Does store layout play a role in which you prefer? Buying pet supplies online can also make a big difference so make sure to look into that. 

You also need the best pet insurance for your pet. It doesn't matter what kind of expensive healthy food you've been feeding your pet because they still may have a surprise health issue or injury. Trust me this insurance coverage pays for itself in the long run. Make sure to check out our review! 


Share your experiences by commenting below!

Crystal's Comments:  Based on the Science Diet and Blue Buffalo dog food prices I had seen when first shopping around a few years ago, I just assumed Petsmart was always cheaper than Petco.  I hadn't even entered a Petco since 2007.  Now I might take a look at their site as an option when researching pet item prices for Mr. Pug and Miss Doxie. I've been saving money on pet supplies lately by earning surveys on the survey junkie app. Try it out if you have some free time.  Thanks Jacob for the very thorough post!