15 Products You Should Never Buy Generic

These generics might be cheap, but they could cost you big time.

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Updated July 18, 2024
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Generics can save you some serious cash. But that doesn’t mean these value-priced store brands are always better buys than the competitors’ products.

While generics like bathroom cleaners and freezer baggies are often just as good as the name-brand versions, you may need to spend more money on other must-have items.

Here are 15 things you should never buy generic, even if you’re trying to get ahead financially.

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Makeup products

road to millionaire/Adobe makeup products on shelves

High-end makeup isn’t cheap. But there’s a reason why the beloved brands you find at stores like Sephora and Ulta cost more than generic buys.

While some exceptions exist, designer beauty products generally contain higher-quality ingredients and last longer than drugstore dupes.

The pricey foundation, concealer, bronzer, or blush you splurge on could outperform the bargain-priced generic.

Facial skincare

monticellllo/Adobe cosmetics and skincare products

Like makeup, you get what you pay for when it comes to facial skincare products. Brand-name cleansers, toners, moisturizers, masks, and anti-aging products often have superior, higher quality, or more consistent ingredients than generics.

If your value cream doesn’t provide the moisture the label promises, you might want to pay more for a designer product.

Razors

Atlas/Adobe female razor

Generic razors may not have the sharp blades you need to get a close shave. These non-name-brand buys are bargains that could nick or irritate your skin.

Beyond the shave, generic razors may not last as long as pricier options. This means you could spend more money over time on replacement blades.

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Televisions

Nomad_Soul/Adobe TV in electronics store

You want a clear, lifelike picture, plenty of audio options, and a long-lasting product with a reliable warranty.

An off-brand TV may not meet all your expectations. Quality matters in a television, especially if you’re buying a smart TV, are a gamer, or want the latest technology.

Even though brand-name TVs are pricier, look for discounts and deals at retailers like Walmart, Target, Sam’s Club, and Costco.

Earbuds and headphones

Daniel/Adobe modern headphones in store

Off-brand earbuds and headphones may not sync with your smartphone or other device, could fail prematurely, and may not have the sound quality you need.

Like smart TVs, you’re better off spending extra to buy the brand name. However, if you can score a deal from a warehouse club or big box store, you may pay less for Apple and Beats products than a non-name-brand.

Computers, laptops, and tablets

Korta/Adobe sale of laptops in store

Computers, laptops, and tablets are investments you should research thoroughly before buying. While off-brand devices may seem like a bargain, these budget-friendly options may not have the memory, power, lifespan, or features you need.

Instead of a generic product, shop at discount stores and retailers like Walmart, Target, and Costco for instant savings or a promotional deal.

Coffee

Stockah/Adobe glass jar of instant coffee

A gourmet blend's rich aroma and flavor aren’t easy to duplicate. Bargain-priced coffee may leave money in your wallet, but it could also leave a bad taste in your mouth.

If you’re a java aficionado, stick with a name brand.

Pet food

ColleenMichaels/Adobe wet cat food aisle

Fluffy and Fido may not know the difference between generics and brand-name foods. What your pet eats matters.

Generic dog and cat food may contain questionable ingredients. Brand-name products that are additive, preservative, and chemical-free are typically better options.

Soda

mandritoiu/Adobe soft drinks aisle in supermarket

Do you mix soda into cocktails or mocktails? You might not taste the difference between a generic and a brand-name product. But if you drink the beverage as-is or have a favorite flavor, a generic won’t have the taste you crave.

Coupons, BOGOs, and promo deals from grocery stores, warehouse clubs, and national beverage retailers could help cut a brand-name product's cost from a splurge to a bargain.

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Macaroni and cheese

Brett/Adobe mac and cheese pasta

Mac and cheese is a family favorite at mealtime. Generics offer deep discounts compared to Kraft and other well-known brands. However, these savings may force you to sacrifice flavor, quality, and nutrition.

Bulk buys from warehouse clubs like Sam’s and Costco could lower your total price for a name-brand.

Condiments

Yanukit/Adobe bottles of chilli sauce

Keep your backyard barbecue guests happy and avoid watery ketchup, sort of sweet relish, and flavorless mustard. While some generics may offer an almost comparable taste, many leave you wanting more.

Whether you have a preferred brand or enjoy gourmet toppings, skip the generics and shop for the beloved brands you know and trust.

Eyecare products

megaflopp/Adobe soft contact lens

Quality matters when it comes to contact solutions, artificial tears, and allergy drops. Skimping on eyecare products could affect your vision or health.

Always follow your eye doctor or medical provider’s directions and skip questionable generic products.

Haircare products

JackF/Adobe hair care products

Can generics give you lush locks or shiny tresses? Brand-name salon shampoo, conditioner, and styling products have high-quality ingredients that may do a better job than off-brand buys.

Some generics include harsh chemicals, synthetics, or water down the formula to save on manufacturing costs.

To make your haircare purchases budget-friendly, shop in bulk at Costco and Sam’s Club or wait for seasonal sales at specialty stores.

Garbage bags

Nate/Adobe hand placing a garbage bag

Bargain-priced bags may not have the same strength and durability as brand-name competitors. This could leave you with trash on the ground.

Minimize messes and splurge on garbage bag purchases. These bags may have added features like easy-tie handles, increased flexibility, and odor-eliminating scents, reducing the likelihood of holes and tears.

Athletic shoes

JackF/Adobe  shelves of the store

Hoka training shoes and On Clouds are expensive for a reason. Sometimes, you get what you pay for.

The wrong athletic shoe could pinch your toes, leave your arches unsupported, or cause friction-related blisters. Joggers, runners, avid walkers, and athletes will appreciate the comfort of brand-name shoes.

Bottom line

Rawpixel.com/Adobe friends shopping in a mall

Even though the initial price is lower for these off-brand items, you could spend more on additional purchases, repairs, or replacements down the road.

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Author Details

Erica Loop

With more than a decade of experience writing about everything from e-commerce to pets and parenting, Erica Loop has written for sites such as BuzzFeed, Brit+Co, Tinybeans, Family Education, and Care.com. Erica has a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts and an MS in Applied Developmental Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh.