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In the world of fake reviews and shady online retailers, you may feel safer sticking to name-brand products. However, there are certain categories where you’re just paying for the name–and the advertising costs associated with it. So here are 11 name-brand product categories we think you should skip because the generics are just as good—while often being much cheaper.
1. Table salt
Morton’s salt contains: Salt, Calcium Silicate (an anti-caking agent), Dextrose, and Potassium Iodide. You’ll more or less find the exact same ingredients in every table salt brand. What you’re really paying for is packaging, which becomes a moot point if you transfer your salt into a shaker or separate container.
2. Aluminum foil
The main difference in foils is whether or not they are heavy duty. Once you take that away, aluminum foils only differ in name only.
3. Really expensive batteries
Tests done by WPI have shown that more expensive batteries rarely ever give more bang for your buck. That doesn’t mean they all last the same length of time, but cheaper batteries are just fine for most things.
4. Pricey bottled water
Water is water, and most bottled water comes from natural sources that are basically just tap water. As long as the water’s clean, you’re good to go.
5. Cereals found in commercials
For every name-brand cereal, there’s a bagged version that’s just as good. Argue all you want—you’ll never convince me otherwise. There’s no accounting for taste, but there is for all the money you’ll save buying Oat Rounds over pricier name-brand versions.
6. Expensive liquid lipsticks (among other makeup)
We’ve actually done scientific and extensive testing of liquid lipsticks, and found Giorgio Armani’s Lip Maestro to be a dud. Get Wet n Wild Megalast instead. And that’s true for many makeup brands in our experience: higher costs usually come from the advertising campaigns, not higher quality ingredients.
7. Pricey HDMI cables
According to our TV expert Lee Neikirk–who did all the testing for our roundup of the best HDMI cables—all HDMI cables provide the same performance. So it’s better to get a good deal, even if you’re putting the cable into the wall.
The quality of a spice is almost always based on its freshness, not the company that packages it. So it’s better to check sell-by dates rather than who it’s sold by.
9. Baking soda
Like salt, there’s really no difference between baking sodas, as any professional chef will tell you. The French discovered baking soda in 1791, and the formula hasn’t changed much since then. Save your money and buy the cheap version.
If a toothpaste has the ADA seal of acceptance, you’re good to go in terms protecting your teeth. Things like mouth feel and taste matter, of course, but if you just need to keep your teeth clean they’ll all get the job done.
11. Overpriced mid-range TVs
We review nearly every TV on the market each year. And while the top-tier TVs definitely offer better picture quality, many of the “name-brand” TVs around $1,000 are badly overpriced—especially early in the year. For example, the TCL 6 Series costs right around $600, but it’s an awesome 4K TV with Roku built in and picture quality on par with $1,000 TVs from the big players.