Skip to content   Skip to footer navigation 

Is a Costco membership worth it?

We look at whether you'll get great deals or if it's all just a jumbo-sized novelty.

costco sign on roof of australian warehouse
Last updated: 07 June 2024

Need to know

  • A Costco membership costs $65 per year and there are 15 stores across Australia
  • Of the 44 items we spot-checked against similar items at Coles and Woolworths, Costco had the cheapest unit price 33 times
  • Favourite buys from CHOICE staff and members include nuts and dried fruit, roast chickens, cleaning products, protein powder, bagels, cheese and fuel

It's the Aldi Special Buy aisle on steroids. A place where you can buy a bucket of Nutella as big as your head and pick up a coffin or a piece of Swarovski jewellery on your way to the checkout. It's also heralded as a mecca for great deals on household staples, bulk buys that are perfect if you're catering for a crowd, and cheap fuel.

But is it actually a cost-effective and convenient alternative to the major supermarkets, or are we all just being lured in by the thrill of a bargain? And more importantly, is it worth handing over the cash to become a member? 

We look at the pros and cons of shopping at Costco, plus share tips from CHOICE staff and CHOICE Community members. 

What is Costco?

Costco is a wholesale warehouse club that hails from Seattle and now has branches in 14 countries. There are currently 15 stores across NSW, ACT, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. You need to be a member to shop there, and membership costs $65 per year.

What can you buy at Costco?

Members can buy everything from fresh food, groceries and electronics to clothing, alcohol and cleaning supplies, all in one warehouse. 

There are also speciality departments, such as an optical centre, hearing aid centre, tyre centre and fuel station.

all aisles of costco store

Inside an Australian Costco warehouse.

Is it cheaper than shopping at my local supermarket?

Not always. 

CHOICE staffer Kate says: "Don't assume everything is cheaper at Costco – some things are and some things aren't – that's how they get you. Consider if you'll use bulk-sized items before the expiration date. I don't usually buy food there unless I'm certain we can eat it all or it has a long shelf life."

CHOICE Community members commented that they stock up on specific items a few times a year, but that it's not really suitable for everyday shopping.

Don't assume everything is cheaper at Costco and consider if you'll use bulk-sized items before the expiration date

Some members even prepare spreadsheets comparing prices from other retailers such as Coles, Aldi, Big W and Woolworths so they can refer to it while shopping.

Of the 44 items we spot-checked against similar items at Coles and Woolworths, Costco had the cheapest unit price 33 times. Coles and Woolworths tied for the best deal on six products, Coles was best on three items and Woolworths on two. Sometimes the difference between Costco and "Colesworth" was only a few cents and to get that saving you had to purchase large quantities.

CHOICE staffer Uta says: "It's always a good idea to price Costco against Aldi in particular as you get similar products at Aldi, often cheaper with the added advantage of smaller, more sensible sizes."

Also keep in mind things such as the distance you have to drive to get to your nearest outlet, how much storage space you have at home and whether you actually really need that much Nutella in your life. 

If you're not going to shop there at least a few times a year, it may not be worth forking out for a Costco membership.

CHOICE tip: Use unit pricing while shopping to make sure you're actually getting a good deal. 

person with shopping trolley compariing shopping list with price on phone

Comparing prices to those available at other supermarkets helps ensure you're getting a good deal.

What are the bargains? 

CHOICE staffer and Costco fan Mark says: "If you want to cook a gigantic amount of meat for some reason (and there are lots of good reasons to do this) Costco is good."

For CHOICE member Briony, it's all about the protein powder. "The brand I get – Hemp Gold – is $38 for 450g at Harris Farm or $63 for 1.5 kg at Costco. I go through that in a month, so for me, it's worth the annual membership just for that."

More popular products hailed by our staff and community as being particularly good value are kids' books, organic olive oil, ready-to-eat roast chickens ($6.99 for a size 14 chook in 2024, just as it was when we first looked at Costco in 2019), bagels, cheese, yoghurt, laundry and dishwashing detergents, and a host of pantry staples such as sugar, flour, sauces, and cooking oil. 

When we checked the prices of fuel at Costco service stations we found it was sometimes as much as 30c less per litre than at other nearby fuel retailers

Petrol and diesel from the Costco fuel outlets can be substantially cheaper than at other petrol stations. When we checked the prices at Costco service stations in NSW, Qld, SA, Vic, WA and ACT in May 2024 we found it was sometimes as much as 30c less per litre than at other nearby fuel retailers.

If you're a regular visitor, it might mean you can recoup your $65 membership fee quite quickly (but make sure you factor in the distance you've had to drive to get to your nearest store).

full trolley of groceries in a costco store aisle

We heard from people who lamented how easy it was to spend more than intended and come home with stuff they didn't really need

Not everyone is a fan

Just like everything in life, Costco isn't for everyone. We heard from plenty of people who lamented how easy it was to spend more than intended and come home with stuff they didn't really need. 

"I tried to like it," said one jaded Costco veteran. "I can see why it works for some people, but I don't like mass buying because I don't have a heap of storage space, so I don't get the potential value from it. My youngest, who is the bluntest person I know, would always say, when I got home, 'So what stuff that we've never used before and will live just fine without have you bought home this time?' He was rarely wrong."

"I always wind up spending money on things I don't need and still need to go to the supermarket anyway," said another.

Similarly, CHOICE staff member Uta found the attraction waned. "We did it for a few years but then found that if you include tolls to get to the closest one to where we live and all the stuff you tend to buy that you don't actually need, it wasn't worth it," she says.

"I used to have a membership, but worked out by the time I drove there and back the savings and cost of membership didn't save that much money. I find quality and pricing at Aldi is ultimately better," another former member told us.

long queues of shoppers at costco checkouts

Costco warehouses can get very busy at peak periods.

Is it crowded?

It can be. It depends on when you go. The crowds and queues can be pretty confronting, particularly on weekends and around key times like Christmas.

Experienced members suggest shopping on weekday afternoons or evenings if you want to avoid the crowds, but it will vary from store to store. You might like to try the Google Maps "popular times" tool to find out when the outlet you wish to visit gets the most foot traffic. 

Another problem can be navigation. One CHOICE Community member says that aisles aren't clearly marked, so it's hard to find where things are and even harder to find someone to help you.

CHOICE tip: Head to Costco on a weekday or weeknight if you want to avoid crowds and glide down empty aisles.

Where is my nearest Costco?

Here's where you'll find the 15 Costcos in Australia.

  • NSW: Auburn, Casula, Lake Macquarie, Marsden Park
  • ACT: Canberra Airport
  • Vic: Ringwood, Epping, Moorabbin Airport, Docklands 
  • Qld: Bundamba (Ipswich), Gold Coast, North Lakes 
  • SA: Kilburn
  • WA: Casuarina, Perth Airport

About our price spot-check: We visited a Costco store in May 2024 and recorded prices of 44 items including fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy, bread, pantry staples such as rice, flour, cooking oils, sauces and crackers, as well as some cleaning and paper products. We then looked at prices for the same-brand or comparable products at Coles and Woolworths, comparing the Costco unit price to the item with the lowest unit price at the big two supermarkets.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.