8 low-cost products that outperform their expensive name-brand equivalents

It's one of the most difficult decisions you have to make when shopping. You're looking at an item from a brand that you believe is reliable and puts out a good product ... but right next to it is a product from another brand that's far lower in price. The decision often comes down to whether the perceived "guarantee" of the name brand is worth the extra cost.

Sometimes, though, the low-cost item isn't just a better bargain, it's a flat-out better product. You don't always get exactly what you pay for – sometimes the cheaper item really is best, even when you're not considering the cost.

[See: 12 Shopping Tricks to Keep You Under Budget.]

Below are eight examples of when the low-cost product matches or exceeds the quality of the name-brand version of that product. It's worth noting that these are just eight examples of this phenomenon – there are many cheaper products that exceed their name-brand equivalent.

1. Kirkland Signature products. In area after area, from items as disparate as bacon and car batteries, the Costco store brand Kirkland Signature comes out on top in quality comparisons with the name brand, according to Consumer Reports. As the store brand for Costco, Kirkland Signature is almost always substantially cheaper than the equivalent brands. If you're a Costco member or considering a membership, simply buying the Kirkland Signature products is likely to save you a bundle in addition to the usual warehouse club savings.

2. Evenflo Titan infant car seat. This great car seat clocks in at less than $100, even at full retail price, but it ranks ahead of most car seats that cost hundreds of dollars more, according to Parenting.com. This car seat excels both on safety tests and convenience.

[See: 12 Money-Saving Ideas for New Parents.]

3. Market Pantry (Target store brand) condiments. Condiments often taste like their name-brand equivalents. But according to a Consumer Reports survey, condiments sold under the entry-level Market Pantry name at Target stores usually exceed the quality found in the name-brand equivalent condiments. In direct comparisons, such as a comparison of Market Pantry and Heinz ketchup, the store brand consistently came out on top in terms of quality while carrying a much lower price on the shelf.

4. Panasonic RP-TCM125 headphones. These headphones can be found for $15 in many places and consistently rank at or near the top in surveys of consumer-grade headphones, often beating out headphones that cost hundreds of dollars (like in this Consumer Reports headphone roundup). These humble headphones offer incredible sound quality for the dollar.

5. Monoprice 6105 6-foot HDMI cable. If you need a HDMI cable in order to get your home entertainment system up and running, skip the overpriced name-brand Monster cables and purchase the humble Monoprice 6-foot HDMI cable. It gets the top recommendation in this Wirecutter survey of HDMI cables, which points out that for most home "plug it and leave it" uses, most HDMI cables are functionally identical. But the Monoprice cable stands out because it "sells for way less than $1 per foot, can handle resolutions up to Ultra HD 4K, including 1080p and 3D, plus it has Ethernet and Audio Return Channel capabilities. It also has a lifetime warranty," says Wirecutter.

6. Equate Ultra Protection SPF 50 sunscreen. You can find this sunscreen at Wal-Mart in incredibly large containers for just a few dollars, yet it protects against the sun better than all of the other sunscreens in this Consumer Reports survey. It does an incredible job at blocking the sun's rays, keeping you and your family safe during a day at the beach or in the great outdoors without costing you an arm and a leg.

[See: 12 Habits of Phenomenally Frugal Families.]

7. Anker PowerLine charging cables. In a side-by-side comparison with Apple Lightning cables for charging iPhones and iPads, Wirecutter found that Anker PowerLine cables were sturdier and lasted longer under repeated usage. They withstood cable bends and twists better than the more expensive cables sold by Apple.

8. Up and Up (Target store brand) generic medications. Consumer Reports found that the Target store brand's generic medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen and cough syrup, consistently matched or beat out the name brands and store brands from drugstore chains, such as CVS and Walgreens. The prices on these items are low and often lowered further by discounts regularly offered via Target's Cartwheel smartphone app.

It can often be a mistake to overlook a generic product because you think the name-brand version provides better quality. When you look a little closer, you might just find the best of both worlds by buying the lower-cost product.

Compare prices of name-brand and generic products below:

Generic vs. brand name products
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