Is Jet an Amazon Killer (Or Not)? A Savvy Shopper's Comparison

Is Jet an Amazon Killer (Or Not)? A Savvy Shopper's Comparison

Carrie McBride
Jul 28, 2015
(Image credit: Kim Lucian)

You've probably been hearing a lot about low price Amazon-challenger Jet and wondering if it lives up to the hype, especially if you're an Amazon Prime member thinking of defecting. I'm not an economist and, frankly, not terrific with numbers, but I do consider myself a savvy shopper and wanted to compare, for myself, the two services. Here's what I learned after spending some time comparing the two.

A Few Things To Know First

Fees: Jet and Amazon Prime are both membership-based and each charge an annual fee. Amazon Prime costs $99/year and Jet costs $49.99/year. Jet is currently offering free 90-day trial membership.

Shipping: Amazon Prime offers free 2-day shipping on all eligible purchases. Jet has a flat $5.99 shipping fee for purchases under $35 and free shipping for purchases over $35. Some Jet items ship in 1-2 days, others 2-5 days.

My Comparison Methodologies:

  1. I chose five random items to see see how much they cost on each site if I were to just buy that item (note, I've not included taxes in these examples).
  2. I put the same 10 items in my basket at each company and compared the total cost.

Comparison 1: Cost comparison of single items

(Image credit: Jet)

Item 1: So-Phresh Cat Litter, 15 lb. bag

I chose this cat litter randomly and, as it turns out, it is available on Amazon, but is not eligible for Amazon Prime.

Cost on Jet: $27.55 [breakdown: $21.56 + $5.99 shipping]

Cost on Amazon Prime: $43.69 [breakdown: $29.99+ $13.70 shipping]

Takeaway: Just because it's on Amazon doesn't mean it's eligible for Amazon Prime.

(Image credit: Amazon)

Item 2: Bubble Bum Inflatable Booster Seat

I chose this product because I recently purchased it from Amazon and wanted to see if I could have saved money if I'd bought it on Jet.

Cost on Jet: not available

Cost on Amazon Prime: $29.88

Takeaway: Amazon's offerings far outweigh Jet's at the moment. If you're looking for a more niche product, you may not find it yet on Jet.

(Image credit: Amazon)

Item 3: Seventh Generation Baby Overnight Diapers, Stage 4, 24 count

I chose diapers because so many parents purchase diapers through Amazon. It turns out that these diapers are part of the Prime Pantry program on Amazon. Prime Pantry items are not eligible for Prime's free 2-day shipping. Instead, once you choose a Pantry item ("everyday essentials" like groceries, shampoo, etc.), a Pantry box is started and you can fill it (up to 45 lbs./4 cubic feet) and pay a $5.99 flat shipping fee. I checked to see if this diaper item was available anywhere on Amazon that wasn't in the Pantry program and it is if you want to buy a 4-pack for $43.96, but not for a single pack.

Cost on Jet: $15.98 [breakdown: $10.99 - $1.00 discount + $5.99 shipping]

Cost on Amazon: $16.98 [breakdown: $10.99 + $5.99 shipping]

Takeaway: Since the introduction of the Prime Pantry program, buying groceries, sundries and other items in the Pantry collection on Amazon Prime has gotten more expensive since shipping is no longer free. If you just need an item or two, shop local! If you're looking to save and you want to do it online, shop at Jet and meet the $35 free shipping threshold.

(Image credit: Amazon)

Item 4: Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin (hardcover)

Although electronic books are increasingly popular, Amazon is the major seller of physical books online so I wanted to be sure to include a book in this comparison.

Cost on Jet: $21.03 [breakdown: $18.32 - $3.28 savings + $5.99 shipping]

Cost on Amazon Prime: $18.32 [free shipping]

Takeaway: Not only is it cheaper to buy this book from Amazon Prime, it's also available there for Kindle. As far as I can tell, Jet does not currently offer any ebook sales.

(Image credit: Amazon)

Item 5: Hamilton Beach 8-Quart Slow Cooker

I chose a slow cooker because I wanted to include something one might buy specifically for the home.

Cost on Jet: $39.38 [breakdown: $34.99 - $1.60 savings + $5.99 shipping]

Cost on Amazon Prime: $34.99 [breakdown: $34.99 + free shipping]

Takeaway: That $35 threshold for free shipping on Jet hurts when you get so close.

Comparison 2: 10 Items in Each Cart

In this comparison, I chose 10 random items across a variety of categories and put the same items in each basket at Jet and Amazon to see what the final totals would be. Note that all of the items are eligible for Amazon Prime and are not part of the Prime Pantry program.

Jet Shopping Cart, 10 items

(Image credit: Carrie McBride)

Amazon Shopping Cart, 10 Items:

(Image credit: Carrie McBride)

Final Tally

(Image credit: Carrie McBride)

As you can see, on this selection of goods, Jet came ahead the clear winner in price, beating out Amazon Prime by $73.39. Note that I could have saved even a bit more on Jet if I'd chosen a debit card over a credit card or if I'd waived the right to return certain items.

Strictly comparing the price of the items individually, Jet offered a better price on the cookies ($4.46 vs. $7.10) and the coffee table ($94.91 vs. $99.90). Amazon's price on the shaver was .01 cheaper ($59.98 vs $59.99). Where Jet had the edge was in its "Smart Items" (right now, it seems like the majority of the items I saw fell into this category). When you add Smart Items to your cart (designated by a special dollar sign icon) you "unlock" more savings. So the more Smart Items you add, the more you save.

Further Thoughts

Other benefits of membership. Amazon Prime offers more than free shipping so if you use its other benefits (free instant video, free ebooks, free music streaming, free photo storage), consider how much you value these (right Transparent fans? or, my favorite, Bosch). As far as extra membership benefits, so far Jet is offering Jet Anywhere where members earn Jet Cash to spend on Jet, earned by shopping at other websites (like Warby Parker, 2Modern, Anthropologie, etc.) by starting at the Jet Anywhere page.

Inventory. Although it seemed like I found everything I was looking for on Jet, there are some product categories where you'll find few or no options at this time (clothes and shoes, for example).

Search functionality. The Jet search algorithm needs some work. I entered "cheese grater" and only got one product return. Simplifying my search to "grater" yielded many more hits, but some people might just give up after one search. Amazon, in contrast, returned over 2,000 hits for "cheese grater".

Reviews. While a part of me appreciated the clean, uncluttered product pages on Jet, I found I really missed all the extra information on Amazon. I've come to rely on reading customer reviews when making certain purchases and I like the "Customer Question & Answers" feature. I also often get good ideas for similar products in the "Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed" section.

How long will theses low prices last? Can Jet keep up these competitive prices forever? What if you plunk down the membership fee and prices go up in 6 months when they find it's not sustainable? I suspect Amazon is not going to take this lying down, will they further lower prices in a game of price reduction chicken? Or will they add more membership benefits? It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Bottom line for me:

I've been a happy Amazon Prime member for several years - am I going to switch? Probably not. Free 2-day shipping (with no price threshold) plus free streaming video outweighs potential cost savings to me. But I'm considering taking Jet up on its 3-month free trial and seeing how I like it. If anything, I can imagine having both memberships.

Have you tried Jet yet? What do you think so far?

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