I’ve been on a bit of a health kick lately and a couple of weeks ago I placed my first iHerb order. I had heard a lot about the website, but somehow never had any need for their products. However, when I found myself on the market for supplements I started looking around and comparing prices. And I realized that Whole Foods charges $10-15 more on some of the stuff I need! AND you can save $5-10 off of your first order with a referral code! It was a no-brainer for a
cheap frugal person like me.
And then I got sucked in – there is just so much to choose from. Some of the products I needed weren’t in stock on iHerb, so that is how I discovered Vitacost. Shortly after that, a second order was placed, and ever since I’ve really gotten into the whole “healthy option” thing and my purchases have ranged from eco-friendly dishwashing tablets to shampoo to vitamins with a lot of stuff in between.
When I did my initial online research, I noticed that there wasn’t much information comparing iHerb and Vitacost – most of the search results were outdated forum threads or websites promoting their referral codes, none of which is very helpful. At this point I think I have enough experience to compare the two and with that I decided to jot down a detailed review/comparison. I have to warn you that it will be pretty subjective though – I’m basing it all solely on personal preference and experience.
Okay, so first the basics:
- iHerb.com is an online retailer that offers primarily supplements, and also a wide range of eco-friendly cleaning, makeup and food products. They’ve been in business since 1996 and ship all over the world
- Vitacost.com started dealing online in 1999 and were a health and wellness products catalog before that; they also offer international shipping and sell a lot of supplements under their own Vitacost brand
Winner: tie – not a huge difference between the two at first glance
Both companies boast over 35 000 products in their catalog, however in my experience I can find most Vitacost products on iHerb (excluding their own brand obviously), but not vice versa. For example, iHerb has a great Ecotools selection, while Vitacost does not. However, Vitacost has a Drugstore section with “common” stuff, as well as a “Request a product” feature if you really want them to carry something (haven’t tried it, so can’t comment on how/whether it works!).
Winner: iHerb – they seem to have more products that fit my needs (I personally don’t need to order drugstore items online, however I can see how this would be convenient for people living abroad) and a wider selection of beauty products. Hopefully, Vitacost will start catching up! They add on average 250 new products a week.
This is a tough one. The iHerb website looks a little bit like it’s stuck in 1998 (and this with the new version of their site!), but I like how they have easy access to the daily deals section and a “Best Sellers” list. That is really awesome when you’re searching around for something, but don’t have a specific product in mind – it also makes for a lot of “ooh, I need this!” moments, but it’s all part of the fun. The Vitacost website is a little more modern looking, however their deal section is not easily accessible at all (in fact, it’s pretty confusing if you don’t know what you’re looking for). I also don’t like their “tabbed” product view where in order to access the ingredients, information and reviews you have to make several separate clicks.
One more thing – on iHerb the “Notify me when in stock” feature actually seems to work, while I’ve had no such luck with Vitacost. I leave my email address and wait patiently, only to accidentally come across the product and see that it’s back in stock, although I’ve clearly not gotten any messages about it. And I do check my spam folder!
Winner: iHerb – quite frankly neither website is GREAT, but for me the iHerb one is a little easier to navigate and has that awesome Best Sellers feature, as well as a clear and simple Daily & Weekly Specials section. Vitacost does have a neat and convenient app though!
Both companies offer a discount on your first order.
- iHerb – $5 off of $25+, $10 off of $40+ when you enter a code at checkout (my code is VMC661, or you can follow this link)
- Vitacost – $10 off of $30+ when you sign up via a link; you’ll be able to access the discount code immediately (click this link to access the discount)
Winner: tie – both are a great deal, however Vitacost sends you more email after you sign up (not necessarily a bad thing – I’ve received codes for 10-15% off in their newsletters)!
- iHerb – domestic free 1-3 day expedited shipping over $20 (best part – before the code has been applied), $4 flat rate on anything under that. International shipping to over 150 countries, incredibly low International Airmail flat rates based on weight.
- Vitacost – domestic free 3-10 day shipping over $49 (after discount code), $4.99 flat on anything under; certain products ship free on orders of $25+. International shipping to most countries, however only pricey DHL options are available.
iHerb hands down – I placed my order on a Tuesday morning and on Thursday it was at my door. And they ship from California! Vitacost took almost a full week (placed on Saturday, received on Friday). However the Vitacost order was VERY nicely packaged – all liquids were taped shut and put in ziploc bags and all glass items were in several layers of bubble wrap. It was actually one of the nicest packaging jobs I had ever seen! But for a company that has two warehouses on both coasts to speed up delivery, the actual shipping seemed to take a bit longer than it should. Internationally iHerb is also clearly the winner. Their international shipping rates start at $4 for up to 4 lbs, and you can choose whether to add tracking, etc.
ETA 12/09/2014: Unfortunately,iHerb has adjusted their international rates, losing their international advantage. At the same time,Vitacost has started offering better international shipping options, and has switched to free two day shipping via Lasership for US orders, which means that as of today the winner in the category will be changed to Vitacost! Another huge difference is that iHerb does not refund lost international orders while Vitacost does.
You can read more about the change in this blog post.
Here’s a comparison of some of the products I ordered (note: these prices change all the time):
- Beauty Without Cruelty Balancing Facial Toner – iHerb $6.69, Vitacost $6.59
- Ecover Dishwasher Tabs – iHerb $6.39, Vitacost $4.05
- Biosil 1 fl.oz. – iHerb $23.04, Vitacost $24.88
- Dr. Woods, Pure Tea Tree Castile Soap – iHerb $8.13, Vitacost $7.29
- Desert Essence Coconut Shampoo – iHerb $6.05, Vitacost $4.99
- Bob’s Red Mill Chia Seed 1lb. – iHerb $9.71 , Vitacost $8.99
ETA 05/09/2014: For another price comparison, check out this blog post I recently made – I was pretty surprised just how big the difference between the two is! It almost seems as though iHerb has gotten even more expensive over the last year (or Vitacost gotten less so?..).
Winner: Vitacost – the prices are pretty similar, but overall Vitacost manages to keep most of them a touch lower than their competitor
- iHerb offers a ton of deals – and they are so easy to check! Just click on the Daily and Weekly Deals link right on top of the website and you will see everything that’s currently on sale, as well as a special section for short-date products, freebies and trials. I absolutely love checking the “deal of the day” – those change from Monday to Thursday and then there’s a special weekend deal from Friday to Sunday. To give you an idea – a couple of weeks ago they had all South of France soaps as a weekend deal for just $0.99 (reg. iHerb price $3.99, retail $5.99)!
- Vitacost – their deals section is somewhat confusing. When you hover over the “Deals” tag in the menu, it gives you a bunch of options, and you have to choose “Super Sale” to see the deals of the week. Then there are the animated banners on the home page that also offer deals. But in my opinion the easiest way to check for sales is by signing up for their newsletter – that way you won’t miss out on any specials, including 24 hour 15% off everything deals.
Winner: tie – iHerb gets brownie points for an easy to access Deals section, as well as fun daily deals, however Vitacost makes it super easy for you to keep up with the deals right from your own inbox.
Extras with order:
As do a lot of online retailers, both companies offer free samples in the hope that you will like the product so much that next time you’ll come back to place an order.
lets you choose one free sample per order, and there is a LOT to choose from!They also included an extra sample+brochure and a branded travel toothbrush
- Vitacost gives you two free samples per order, but at the time that I placed mine, the selection was really small. There were about 5 options, 4 of which were those “muscle building” powders and pills. They didn’t include anything extra, but did throw in a catalog that had a 10% discount code printed on the back
Winner: iHerb – my total order on iHerb was less, and yet I got more with them. Even if it’s not something I need, freebies are fun and thoughtful! Plus, their sample selection is immense – lots and lots to choose from.
ETA 10/31/2014: iHerb no longer offers free samples, but charges a nominal fee for what used to be free of charge.
You’ve probably noticed that up till now iHerb has had somewhat of a lead. Well, here is where Vitacost takes over. First of all, Vitacost offers 4% cash back through ebates (not a member? get a $10 gift card when you sign up). Secondly, they email you discounts on a regular basis, plus with your order you get a 10% off code that is valid for a couple of months. So when you add those numbers, with Vitacost you can save at least 16-21% off of their already super low prices, while iHerb doesn’t offer anything comparable and is overall more expensive than Vitacost.
Winner: Vitacost hands down – iHerb just doesn’t offer any regular discounts or cash back while having higher prices. They do have a VIP program where you can earn a constant discount of 5-14%, but in order to be eligible you have to have spent upwards of $2000
Vitacost. In all honesty I really enjoy the daily deals that iHerb has to offer, as well as their wonderful fast shipping, but as a price-conscious shopper I end up placing most of my orders through Vitacost. Their customer service has always been top notch (when I had an issue with one of my orders, they replied to my email within a matter of hours), and they do a great job with their weekly promotions.
All in all it’s great to have both services available. The fact that there’s competition always ends up being a good thing for the consumer, and hopefully one day iHerb will start offering more discount/cash back options.
And one more thing: for international customers iHerb offers much less expensive shipping to many more countries than Vitacost. Until that changes, Vitacost will continue to be primarily US oriented, while iHerb is doing a huge amount of international business.
Just a small reminder – you can follow this Vitacost link to get $10 off of your first order of $30, and you can follow this link or use code VMC661 for $5-10 off of your first iHerb order of $25+. Enjoy!!!
Have you ever bought from either company? Do you have a preference? Let me know in the comments!