Cheap Ecommerce Shopping Carts

I’ve tried and used tons of different Ecommerce shopping carts over the years, and some online shopping carts can be very expensive. Nowadays, open source shopping carts have sprung up all over the place that offer novice web users the chance to open an Ecommerce store…..FREE.

For a recent partnership business I’m helping start, I did a review of several open source shopping carts which allow you to start a fully functioning Ecommerce store with little know-how and little money:

This is the big daddy of open source shopping carts. It has an enormous amount of users who regularly contribute to their support groups and add on modules.


  • FREE
  • Easy to install
  • Huge support section and forum.
  • Add on modules created by the community for free
  • Great selection of out-of-the-box OScommerce templates available (for money) at
  • When you purchase a template, the entire shopping cart is already included for free.
  • Can have a store up, running and accepting orders within minutes.
  • Simple checkout screens.


  • Templates are extremely hard to manipulate, will most likely need to buy a professionally made template or have someone help.
  • A little “Bulky” on the backend.
  • Will take a little getting used to the backend: adding products, adding options. Not as intuitive as some of the for-pay shopping carts.

OScommerce Frontend

OScommerce Backend


Zen Cart

This is basically an easier to use offspring of OScommerce. From my experience, it is almost identical in every aspect to OScommerce, just a cleaned up interface. The only major difference I saw was the ability to easily upload multiple templates, something OScommerce is pretty fussy about. Zen Cart is also slightly easier to use in the backend, but once again, is almost identical to OScommerce.

Zen Cart templates are not hard to find (for pay), but OScommerce has more templates, more add-on modules and a larger community of users.

ZenCart Frontend

ZenCart Backend


This is a for-pay shopping cart that allows a full, turnkey solution to Ecommerce:


  • Easy to install
  • All add on modules and templates usually cost money, but are professionally done.
  • Easier to use than OScommerce and ZenCart.
  • Has easier add-on features and a clean interface
  • Easier to get professional help than the open source carts.
  • Has very nice upselling features and makes it easy to upload multiple images for a product.


  • Not open source. If you have complicated modifications to make (which most people don’t), this shopping cart will be much harder to manipulate than OScommerce/ZenCart.
  • Costs at least $200 for the software, plus extra money for templates and add on modules. Probably not the choice for an uber-cheap startup.

Xcart Frontend

Xcart Backend

All of the above shopping carts allow for easy merchant account integration and are a complete out-of-the-box solution for starting an Ecommerce store. I’d suggest first downloading OScommerce and trying it out. Add a few products, add some categories, place a few orders yourself and get used to the feel of it. The only requirement is a web hosting plan that allows you to create databases.


OScommerce: Use if a free solution is needed. Best option when looking for free upgrade modules. Best options when looking for great looking templates.

ZenCart: Use if a free solution is needed. Works slightly simpler than OScommerce.

X-Cart: If you’ve got a few hundred dollars to spend and want a nice looking store with upsell features and easy multiple image uploads, I’d recommend Xcart. They have a free demo also.

If familiarized with these sorts of shopping carts, you can have a brilliant idea for an Ecommerce store and actually exectute the idea while you’re still motivated about it rather than first having to learn about ecommerce!

Blog posted on: March 1, 2006

20 comments on “Cheap Ecommerce Shopping Carts

  1. Eric

    Excellent review Neville. I was cruising the shopping carts offered on the web and this helps a lot.

    Hope to see more reviews at some point!

  2. Pradeep Aggarwal

    Nice blog with good information on articles.

    Thank you for providing relevant information. I’ll keep visiting it for updated information.

    Keep it up

  3. Anonymous

    An even easier version is using Yahoo Stores, but they charge you quite a bit for using their merchant accoutn service.

  4. aria

    I’ve used OScommerce in the past, and it’s probably not the best option for someone with ZERO computer skills. I’d recommend Yahoo Stores or similar in that case. However, OScommerce is still relatively easy, so someone with basic computer nerdiness can easily figure it out.

  5. Dave

    I agree with using yahoo stores for the beginner, it’s a great way to start but you will probably outgrow it if you run it well. Oscommerce can handle most things and has loads of great input from a large community. I use oscommerce and it was a bit of a bitch to customise but once sorted is great.

  6. Metis Online

    I tried to get OS Commerce running. On one server it was a very easy and quick install, but I couldn’t get it installed and running on another one.

    I turned to Zen Cart and that one was a nice, quick and easy install.

    Even adjusting the template wasn’t to hard to do so I’m very pleased with this solution!

  7. Peter Grant

    This review was really heplful.

    Are there any that allow the hosting of multiple stores on a single server?

    Does osCommerce do this? And how practical is it (in terms of set up and resource usage on machine)?


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  9. Terinea

    I use Joomla content management system with Virtue Mart component for the ecommerce solutions see talking tills and clutch and clasp site. Links on our web site.

  10. Lesya

    Certaily none of the shopping carts is perfect – all of them have some drawbacks. Someone is perfectly fine with oscommerce, others are in search of better solution and are ready to pay for it.

    Anyway, problem of shopping moving from shopping cart to shopping cart. To make it easier there's web service cart2cart – it automates data migration. (

  11. Brent

    hey Nev, thanks for this review of eCommerce tools
    one thing i would like to know pertaining to eCommerce is How do you handle fraud. to me that is one of my main concerns.
    btw great blog i have been following you for years i just happen to come across this post searching for cheap eCommerce shopping carts

    1. Neville

      I answer that (and a bunch of other things) in this course:

      I go into detail about fraud in there, how I spot it.

      ….but the short answer is:
      Don’t worry about it too much till it arises. When you see an order with a different shipping/billing that looks suspicious, ALWAYS call first.

      If it’s a U.S. adress, but going to Vietnam (or some other country associated with lots of fraud), DON’T SEND IT! You have very little recourse at that point.

      However for the most part it isn’t a business-killing problem rather than a nuisance.


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