The following is a guest post by Jacob with My Personal Finance Journey.
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 big one-time expenses like lab work or fixing a broken lab, 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 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.
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
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
- 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 like flea medicine that you only buy once a year 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?
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. Thanks Jacob for the very thorough post!