Is Amazon Prime Worth It? The Pros and Cons of Amazon Prime Shipping

I am thinking about getting Amazon Prime Shipping but to make my decision, I decided to fully research and explore the question is Amazon Prime worth it. In this guide to Amazon Prime Shipping I will fully lay out all the pros and cons of Amazon Prime and mathematically breakdown whether it’s worth the cost.  Warning: It is crucial you read this guide all the way through to fully understand the Amazon Prime pros and cons.

Looking for the actual Amazon Prime Shipping page instead?

amazon prime shipping

Amazon Prime Shipping costs $79 but huge value comes over the course of the year.

Amazon Prime Shipping Facts

Cons:

$79 membership price for one year
Not all items eligible (actually many items not eligible)
Free Super Saver Shipping already exists for purchases over $25
Guaranteed 1 day shipping is $3.99 PER item

Pros:

Free shipping from Amazon on most items
Guaranteed 2 Day Shipping Free
Guaranteed 1 Day Shipping for $3.99
Free access to Amazon Prime Instant Videos – see movie selection and tv selection
No minimum order price
Super Saver shipping takes 5-8 days

You can read the complete plus and minus details on the Amazon Prime Help page.

What items aren’t eligible for Amazon Prime Shipping?

This is a very important question to ask when deciding if Amazon Prime is right for you. A lot of items on Amazon are sold by third party vendors and not by Amazon so shipping eligibility varies across items. In general, if you buy mainstream items sold by Amazon, then they will be available for Prime. However, if you buy products that are handled by third party sellers, a lot of these will not be eligible for free shipping.

There is no place to go where you can see exactly what products are eligible and what items aren’t eligible but to help you get a better idea, I took 20 items off the top of my head and searched whether you could get free shipping on them.

Captain America DVD – eligible
SanDisk Cruzer 32 GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive – NOT eligible
Timex Men’s T5E231 Ironman 100-Lap FLIX System Watch – eligible
Jessie Steele Cupcakes Apron – eligible
KitchenAid Artisan 5-Quart Stand Mixers – eligible
Angry Birds: Knock On Wood Game – NOT eligible
Hewlett Packard 3050A Wireless All-in-One Color Photo Printer – eligible
Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus Graphing Calculator – eligible
Xbox 360 Console – NOT eligible
Steve Jobs Hardcover Book – eligible
Large Charm Hobo Handbag – eligible
Bananafish Migi Little Tree 4 Piece Crib Bedding Set – eligible
Clif Kid Organic Fruit Rope, Variety Pack – eligible
PearlsOnly Heart Black 9-10mm AA Freshwater Sterling Silver Pearl Pendant – eligible
Zebco 33 Spincast Combo Fishing Pole – eligible
Skil 3540-02 4.2-Amp 7-Inch Wet Tile Saw – eligible
Black & Decker LM175 18-Inch 6-1/2 amp Electric Mower – NOT eligible
GUESS Lincoln Seasonal Jeans – Black Coated Wa – NOT Eligible
Shany Carry All Trunk Professional 48 pc. Makeup Kit, Gift Set – eligible
Nike Men’s NIKE LEBRON 8 BASKETBALL SHOES – NOT eligible

As you can see, I got pretty random here. I choose items from several different categories while leaning towards the more popular products while mixing in a few less popular products.

free amazon shipping

Want to know if something is eligible for Prime Shipping? Look for the dark orange button below the regular add to cart.

With a sample size of 20 products, 6 were not eligible for Amazon Prime shipping.  All of the items that were not eligible were sold by third party vendors.  This is not to say that all third party sellers don’t allow for free Prime shipping.  The Shany Carry Makeup Kit was sold by a third party and was still eligible.

Although this sample was random, the sample size is still fairly small so you can’t take away that 30% (6/20) of items on Amazon aren’t eligible for Prime shipping but what you can take away is that if you buy things mostly from third parties, Amazon Prime will likely not be available for any of your purchases.  This is a very important factor for you to keep in mind in your quest to find how to get free shipping from Amazon.com.

Should I Get Amazon Prime?

Of course, the answer depends on what you buy, how often you buy, AND, AND how fast you want it shipped.  The charts below (credit Amazon.com) give you an idea of how much shipping costs for standard shipping, 2 day shipping, and 1 day shipping.  Remember Super Saver shipping is free for orders over $25.

Standard Shipping

Product Category Per Shipment Per Item
Apparel, Beauty, Jewelry, Watches, Loose Stones, Shoes, Software, VHS videos $3.99 $0.99
Books $3.00 $0.99
Kindle $3.99 $2.99
Music CDs, Cassettes, Vinyl, DVDs $1.99 $0.99
Video Games & Accessories $3.99 $0.99
Video Game Consoles $6.99 $0.99
Toys $3.99 $0.85/lb
Computers $7.99 $0.65/lb
Automotive, Baby, Cell Phones & Accessories, Electronics, Furniture, Grocery, Health & Personal Care, Home & Garden, Kitchen & Housewares, Luggage, Outdoor Living, Sports, Tools & Hardware, Industrial & Scientific, Office Products $4.99 $0.59/lb
Pre-Denominated Gift Cards $0.00 $0.00
Any combination of the above items Highest applicable per-shipment charge As above

2 Day Shipping

Product Category Per Shipment Per Item
Apparel, Beauty, Jewelry, Watches, Loose Stones, Shoes, Software $6.99 $1.99
Video Games & Accessories $5.99 $1.99
Video Game Consoles $12.49 $1.99
Books, VHS videos $9.99 $1.99
Kindle $9.99 $1.99
Music CDs, Cassettes, Vinyl, DVDs, Video Games $5.99 $1.99
Automotive, Baby, Cell Phones & Accessories, Computers, Electronics, Furniture, Grocery, Health & Personal Care, Home & Garden, Kitchen & Housewares, Luggage, Outdoor Living, Sports, Tools & Hardware, Toys, Industrial & Scientific, Office Products $9.99 $0.99/lb
Pre-Denominated Gift Cards $0.00 $0.00
Any combination of the above items Highest applicable per-shipment charge As above

1 day shipping

Product Category Per Shipment Per Item
Apparel, Beauty, Books, Jewelry, Watches, Loose Stones, Shoes, Software, VHS videos $12.99 $4.99
Music CDs, Cassettes, Vinyl, DVDs $7.99 $3.99
Video Games & Accessories $7.99 $1.99
Video Game Consoles $12.49 $4.99
Toys $16.99 $1.99/lb
Kindle $16.99 $1.99
Automotive, Baby, Cell Phones & Accessories, Computers, Electronics, Furniture, Grocery, Health & Personal Care, Home & Garden, Kitchen & Housewares, Luggage, Outdoor Living, Sports, Tools & Hardware, Industrial & Scientific, Office Products $15.99 $1.99/lb
Pre-Denominated Gift Cards $0.00 $0.00
Any combination of the above items Highest applicable per-shipment charge As above

So whether to get Amazon Prime all comes down to how much you buy, what you buy (price), AND how important delivery speed is to you. This is the understated value of Amazon Prime: you can get your orders expedited at a low cost. This means that if you want your products now or wait to the last minute to do birthday shopping, Christmas shopping, etc., then Amazon prime can be a tremendous value for you.

Let’s illustrate this point by looking at what I was about to buy before I stopped and asked myself life’s biggest question: is Amazon Prime worth it. I’m going to buy the Kingston Digital DataTraveler 101 Generation 2 – 32 GB Flash Drive. This 32 GB jump drive is $36.68 at Amazon. A nearly identical model is available at my local OfficeMax for $79.99. I want this extra storage ASAP because I’ve recently downloaded several software programs that are slowing down my computer.

So putting aside the $79 price tag for Amazon Prime for a second, it comes down to this:

$40.67 ($36.68 + $3.99) + 1 day wait > $79.99 + tax instantly

$36.68 + 2 day wait > $79.99 + tax instantly

Either way, you come out ahead with Amazon Prime because you’re eliminating the fluffy markups that physical stores need to survive.

The physical stores we go to have a lot of costs associated with doing business that go into their prices. They have to take into account: making a profit, paying employees, paying for store location, customer damage to the store, potential law suits, theft, air conditioning, marketing, advertising, and on and on.

In contrast, websites don’t have nearly the overhead so it makes sense they can make prices much lower.

Back to Amazon Prime, you can see how even with $3.99 one day shipping can still save great money vs. buying at a store. But what about this $79 up front fixed cost?

Don’t let the price sticker of $79 intimidate you. Let’s look deeper into the numbers and evaluate costs.

Ok so let’s say you purchase 40 items (notice I said items, not orders) per year off Amazon. This means you pay approximately an extra $2 for each item. Let’s plug this $2 associated cost back into our formula above:

$42.67 ($36.68 + $3.99 + $2) + 1 day wait > $79.99 + tax instantly

$38.67 ($36.68 + $2) + 2 day wait > $79.99 + tax instantly

Can you see how – when you buy 40 or more items – Amazon Prime is an absolutely tremendous value to you? And if you buy more eligible products, that’s just that much more you save with Prime.

Now not all your purchases offline have this type of markup, but this illustration goes to show how with just a few big ticket purchases a year, you can easily overtake the initial $79 price of Amazon prime and save substantial money against buying retail.

That said, whether Amazon Prime is worth it for you, is completely up to your interaction with Amazon.com. This is why Amazon Prime Reviews are almost worthless. If you are someone who buys mostly from 3rd party sellers on Amazon, buys items with negligible discounts on Amazon vs. in the stores, or whatever the case may be, then Amazon Prime most likely is not going to save you money.  However, if you buy steadily from Amazon.com – like say 1 to 1.5 times a month – , then Prime shipping can be a huge money saver for you.

To make it simple, here are the four questions you need to assess when deciding whether or not to get Amazon Prime.

1. How important is shipping speed to me? Does it matter if my shipment comes in 1-2 days vs. 5-8 days?
2. How often do I buy from Amazon?
3. Are the products I buy or might buy eligible for Amazon Prime?
4. Do the products I buy – or at least a handful of the products – have significant markups if I buy them on-location?

To answer these questions, determine whether you:

1. Find yourself buying gifts in the last days before the occasion or want to get an online order right away.
2. Buy from Amazon about 12 times a year or once a month on average*.
3. Buy or will buy products from Amazon that are eligible for Amazon Prime. Check product eligibility right now.
4. Buy items at the store that you can get substantially cheaper on Amazon.

If you’re getting a lot of yes’s, then it’s starting to look like Prime is a good idea.

At first blush, there’s a nice array of benefits to Amazon Prime, but also consider these collateral benefits:

1. Save time. No driving to the store. No waiting in line. A drive to Office Max for a jump drive is a minimum 30 minutes real time for me.
2. No taxes. This drives cost down right off the top.
3. Save on gas. No money spent driving to the store or waiting in traffic.
4. Purchase tracking. You will have an online history of your purchases for you to analyze your spending in one centralized location. Note to small business owners, you can also easily identify tax deductions. No more jumbled receipts in shoe boxes.
5. Potentially less extra pickup purchases. Arguable point but you may actually buy less extra stuff you didn’t intend on buying when you buy online vs. buying in person.

A common response to recommending Amazon Prime is, “well I don’t buy that much from Amazon”. In that case, given what I’ve illustrated in this blog post, isn’t it worth buying more from Amazon rather than area stores as this will only make you more efficient in saving the BIG TWO: Time and Money.

Going to the store will always have its place in certain circumstances but with the scope of things you can buy from Amazon, why not transfer more of your purchases for everyday life from Wal-Mart and Target to Amazon? Amazon isn’t just for gadgets and gifts, you can also buy hand soap, cereal, toothpaste, gum, and other everyday purchases. By the way, soap, cereal, toothpaste, and gum are all Amazon Prime eligible. (Most toilet paper appears not to be eligible.)

Miscellaneous Bonuses:

If you like any of the videos on Amazon Prime, you just got an additional perk. See the free movie selection and tv selection.

If you’re a student with a .edu email address, you can get Prime for 6 months for free. Talk about a deal for the college student on a budget. Visit the Amazon Prime Student sign up page.

Even if you’re not a student, you can still enjoy a free month long trial of Amazon Prime. By the way, if you want to just order a bunch of stuff for Christmas (I wrote this December 15) and get 2 day shipping free, it’s perfectly ok to take advantage of the free trial and cancel according to the Amazon rules and conditions. Sign up for just the Amazon Prime free trial.

I have gone over many of the vital details for Amazon Prime Shipping but make to visit the Amazon Prime Overview page to get a quick guide on all the ins and outs.

In conclusion, I highly recommend Amazon Prime as a strong value and a tool in which you can spend more efficiently.

If you have found this blog post helpful, please share it with your friends and family via email or Facebook.  Please leave any questions or comments you have and I will make sure to help any way I can.

TT-Timber.com on The Pros and Cons of Amazon Prime - Is Amazon Prime Worth It

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4 Responses to Is Amazon Prime Worth It? The Pros and Cons of Amazon Prime Shipping

  1. john stephenson says:

    Wow, this is a great rundown! I was skeptical about Amazon Prime but now I’m strongly considering getting it for 2012.

    Just curious, do you think there will be sales tax on Amazon for 2012 or 2013? I’ve heard they might start charging sales tax. Either way, you might be right about Amazon Prime. Thanks for the guide!

  2. carry says:

    This was fantastic. You helped me out a lot.

  3. Sarah says:

    This is excellent. Thank you for putting time into it! I will strongly considering joining. Cheers!

  4. Mike says:

    Great run down! Thank You, this is awesome. On another note, how am I just now finding out about this Amazon Bargains Page?

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