Price Survey: Walmart and Target vs. Auto Parts Stores

car repair
By Louis DeNicola

New cars and trucks lose value as soon as they're driven off the lot, but owners who want to preserve a vehicle's remaining value can do so with a little tender loving care. This means changing the oil regularly and replacing parts as soon as necessary. Automotive parts and supplies can be expensive, though, and the specialty stores aren't necessarily the cheapest. To help vehicle owners save money, compared the prices of eight common automotive products at AutoZone and O'Reilly Auto Parts with those available at Walmart and Target. The big-box stores beat out the auto parts retailers every time.

With the lowest price on seven out of eight products, Walmart saves vehicle owners up to $39.50 in this comparison. Identical items were selected when possible, although in some cases a similar item had to stand in. The specialty chains stock many more options than the big-box stores; the selection at Target is particularly limited. Prices are listed online and may vary by location or be reduced with coupons. In store, customers may find employees at retailers that specialize in auto parts and accessories to be more knowledgeable than those at the mass merchandisers.

Here's how the prices compare on products from brake pads to wax.

Windshield wipers. Driving in the rain without working windshield wipers invites an accident. Although there are some very cheap options, it may be worth spending a few extra bucks for wipers that work well. The prices below are for a single, 22-inch Rain-X brand wiper.
  • Target: $16.99 (Latitude)
  • Walmart: $13.97 (Latitude)
  • AutoZone: $28.19 (Quantum)
  • O'Reilly Auto Parts: $23.99 (Latitude)
  • Winner: Walmart (up to $14.22 in savings)
Spray-on wax. Waxing can add a protective coat and nice shine to a vehicle, which also helps maintain its value. The prices below are for a 26-ounce bottle of Turtle Wax 1-Step Wax and Dry. (Mr. Miyagi from the 1984 movie "Karate Kid" might be disappointed to learn just how easy waxing a car can be, as this wax comes in a spray bottle.) After washing, spray the car down, then dry and shine with a cotton towel or microfiber cloth.
  • Target: $4.99
  • Walmart: $4.00
  • AutoZone: $7.49
  • O'Reilly Auto Parts: $7.49
  • Winner: Walmart (up to $3.49 in savings)
Motor oil. An at-home oil change is one of the more common facets of DIY car maintenance. The comparisons below are for a single quart of Mobile One synthetic 10W-30 motor oil. Many vehicles require four to five quarts during an oil change, and it's important to check the vehicle's manual to see which type of oil to use.
  • Target: $7.99
  • Walmart: $7.98
  • AutoZone: $8.99
  • O'Reilly Auto Parts: $9.19
  • Winner: Walmart (up to $1.21/quart in savings)
Antifreeze and coolant. Coolant keeps a vehicle's engine from overheating, which could lead to a dangerous and costly breakdown. At the same time, drivers who live in cold climates must watch out for coolant that freezes. The prices below are for 1 gallon of Prestone 50/50 prediluted antifreeze and coolant, which should address both issues.
  • Target: $9.59
  • Walmart: $9.42
  • AutoZone: $13.99
  • O'Reilly Auto Parts: $14.99
  • Winner: Walmart (up to $5.57 in savings)
Battery jumper. A smart backup, especially for drivers headed out on a road trip, a battery jumper holds a charge for months and comes with attached cables that can restart a dead engine in a pinch. Several options below also double as air compressors.
  • Target: $67.99 (Wagan 900-amp with air compressor)
  • Walmart: $86.60 (Wagan 900-amp with air compressor)
  • AutoZone: $89.99 (Duralast 900-amp)
  • O'Reilly Auto Parts: $99.99 (Super Start 1,000-amp with air compressor)
  • Winner: Target (up to $32 in savings)
Jumper/booster cables. Drivers who forgo a full battery jumper can keep a set of jumper cables in the trunk and hope that nearby drivers will lend a hand. Each set of cables in this comparison comes from a different brand, but they are all 8 gauge. Lower gauge means more power, but that's generally enough for a car.
  • Target: $19.99 (AAA)
  • Walmart: $17.94 (Everstart)
  • AutoZone: $19.99 (Duralast)
  • O'Reilly Auto Parts: $21.99 (Super Start)
  • Winner: Walmart (up to $4.05 in savings)
Brake pads. Changing brake pads can be daunting, but with many cars it's relatively simple. Instructional videos on YouTube can walk car owners through the process. Alternatively, lower the cost of a professional job by buying brake pads and bringing them to a mechanic. This is another category where finding the same brand (or, in the case of Target, any brand) wasn't possible.
  • Target: N/A
  • Walmart: $10.86 (Centric)
  • AutoZone: $11.99 (Duralast)
  • O'Reilly Auto Parts: $18.99 (BrakeBest)
  • Winner: Walmart (up to $8.13 in savings)
Mud guards. Whether smaller trucks need mud guards is often a back-and-forth debate, but for drivers who are interested, PlastiColor makes inexpensive 9x15-inch flaps. Some are simple, blank, black flaps, but many have decorative symbols.
  • Target: N/A
  • Walmart: $17.16/pair (PlastiColor with Chevy symbol)
  • AutoZone: $19.99/pair (PlastiColor)
  • O'Reilly Auto Parts: $19.99/pair (PlastiColor)
  • Winner: Walmart (up to $2.83 in savings)
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