Money & Career

When you should buy name brand goods over generic

Sometimes it pays to spend a little more on brand-name items, but other times you might as well flush that money down the toilet. MoneySense poured through studies and Consumer Reports data to learn which generic goods make the cut and whether readers agree.*

Woman reading a jar of tomato sauce in the grocery store

Photo, Getty Images.

Diapers

Name brand: Huggies Little Movers, 136 count (29¢/diaper)
Generic: Kirkland Costco Brand, 201 count (18¢/diaper)
Our verdict: Buy generic. Absorbency rates are similar and there’s no medical reason why generic brands are unsafe for your baby. It’s all about fit.
Reader verdict: 62 percent agree.

MP3 Players

Name brand: Sony 4GB Video MP3 Player, $60
Generic: Hipstreet 4GB Video MP3 Player, $30
Our verdict: Buy name brand. Software on generic brands isn’t as user friendly and the battery won’t last long, not to mention the poor sound quality.
Reader verdict: 67 percent agree.

Garbage bags

Name brand: Glad Size Large, 15-pack, $6.99
Generic: Life Size Large, 40-pack, $8.49
Our verdict: Buy name brand. Name brand bags tend to be more durable reducing the chances of stinky mess.
Reader verdict: Take the poll.

Paint

Name brand: Origins by Benjamin Moore, 3.7-L can, $40
Generic: Premier, 3.7-L can, $27
Our verdict: Buy name brand. Generic brands tend to be thinner, so you may need extra coats and it may not last as long.
Reader verdict: 62 percent agree.

USB flash drives

Name brand: Hewlett Packard 8GB USB Flash Drive, $29.95
Generic: Hipstreet USB 8GB Flash Drive, $8.99
Our verdict: Buy generic. As long as it’s virus-free, any storage device will keep your documents equally safe.
Reader verdict: 80 percent agree.

Pet food

Name brand: Whiskas, 3 kg bag, $10.78
Generic: Special Kitty, 4 kg bag, $7.97
Our verdict: Thanks to stringent labeling laws, experts say you’ll know exactly what you’re feeding your furry friend no matter which bag you choose.
Reader verdict: 58 percent disagree.

Sunscreen

Name brand: Coppertone SPF 30, 237 ml, $12.99
Generic: Life SPF 30, 240 ml, $10.49
Our verdict: Buy generic. Generic and name brand formulas offer the same UVA/UVB protection when used as directed.
Reader verdict: Take the poll.

Batteries

Name brand: Duracell AA, 4-pack, $8.47
Generic: Eco AA, 4-pack, $4.93
Our verdict: Buy name brand. You’ll have to replace generic batteries more often and they may not pack enough punch for high-tech devices like remote control helicopters.
Reader verdict: 63 percent disagree.

Cereal

Name brand: Kellog’s Raisin Bran, 350 g, $4.99
Generic: Simply Food Raisin Bran, 475 g, $3.99
Our verdict: Buy generic. Basic cereals that have few ingredients hardly vary between brands so try the cheaper option and let your taste buds be the judge.
Reader verdict: Take the poll.

Cotton swabs

Name brand: Q-Tips, 400-pack, $5.49
Generic: Life, 400-pack, $4.49
Our verdict: Buy name brand. Name brand swabs are plusher therefore better suited for delicate jobs.
Reader verdict: 78 percent disagree.

Condiments
Name brand: French’s yellow mustard, 400 ml, $3.49
Generic: Simply Food yellow mustard, 400 ml, $2.79
Our verdict: Buy generic. Most condiments are full of preservatives to maintain shelf life so you aren’t necessarily getting better quality when you spend more.
Reader verdict: Take the poll.

 

*All prices as of May 2013.

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