Temu vs. Amazon: Which shopping site is best for your buying needs?

Jada Jones/ZDNET

If you’re even a casual online-shopping fan, chances are you’ve placed plenty of orders on Amazon. If you’re downright obsessive about online shopping, you’re likely familiar with Temu, a digital marketplace for low-priced goods.

Also: Is Temu legit? What to know before you place an order

If you’ve paid close attention, you’ve noticed that some products on Amazon are also on Temu. And if you’re a savvy shopper preparing to order holiday gifts, you may be wondering: which online marketplace is the best?

Here are some guidelines to consider when deciding whether to buy something from Amazon or Temu.

You should buy from Temu if… 

Screenshot by Jada Jones/ZDNET1. You’re looking for tech accessories

Many people have smartphones, headphones, laptops, and smartwatches in their daily use rotation. And many people like to personalize those products with cases, stickers, and other accessories.

Also: 5 tech gadgets I never leave home without

If you like changing up your phone case or smartwatch band frequently, buying multiple Otterbox phone cases or Apple-branded Apple Watch bands can be a pricey luxury. Although you should invest in at least one sturdy case or accessory, experimenting with colorful accessories can be a fun way to express yourself through your devices.

Most people go to Amazon to find a wider assortment of accessories than they’d find in the tech department of big box stores, such as Walmart, Target, or Best Buy. But Temu has an even wider assortment of tech accessories than Amazon.

Also: The best USB-C cables for the iPhone 15: What the experts recommend

You can find all kinds of tech accessories on Temu, and sometimes you’ll see the same accessories advertised on Amazon. However, on Temu, you’ll find them for much cheaper. You must purchase at least $10 worth of items (that’s about four iPhone cases, based on Temu pricing), and then you’re guaranteed free shipping.

I bought cases for my iPhone 14, MacBook Air, and AirPods Pro on Temu and have only been unhappy with two of the nine iPhone cases I purchased. Temu has more cases that protect the bezels around the iPhone camera, an area that tends to go unprotected in most Amazon iPhone cases.

My favorite iPhone 14 and AirPods Pro (2nd gen) cases I bought from Temu.

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Jada Jones/ZDNET

There are thousands of AirPods Pro cases to choose from on Temu, ranging from clear cases and cases with cute characters on them, to cases that look like miniature Vaseline containers.

My colleague, David Gewirtz, bought a few non-tech products from Temu and was pleasantly surprised with what he received. David offers some buying tips as well, so be sure to check out his article.

2. You can wait a few weeks for your items

Many of the items on Temu come from China, meaning that US shoppers will have to wait about 10 days from purchase to receive their Temu packages.

Sometimes, the items will come sooner; other times, they will appear on your doorstep at the last minute. So, if you’re pinched for time, I wouldn’t recommend buying from Temu. 

Also: How to make money by sharing your favorite Amazon products online 

I’ll give you a scenario: a few months ago, someone stole my iPhone 11. Unsurprisingly, I went to the Apple store to buy a replacement. I was desperate for a case on my new phone, but I couldn’t wait 10 days for the phone cases I bought from Temu later that day.

So, I rush-shipped a case from Amazon to have some protection on my phone until my cases from Temu came in. I got my Otterbox from Amazon in two days, but I don’t plan on buying any more cases from anywhere other than Temu.

3. You want to experiment with “dupes”

Temu has many lookalike products, or “dupes”, on its platform. However, if you see people online reviewing “AirPods Max from Temu”, they may look like AirPods Max, but the seller cannot advertise them as real AirPods Max. 

Most of the products you see on Temu that resemble authentic, name-brand tech products are not legitimate. When I reviewed some HP and Lenovo products from Temu in June, an HP representative told me the company could not verify whether the HP products on Temu were “from an authorized reseller or are authentic HP devices.”

Also: I bought 4 brand-name tech gadgets on Temu for work. Here’s how it went

Since that time, all the devices Temu advertised as HP products are no longer available on the site.

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That said, some tech products on Temu will work with your devices. The “AirPods Max” you see on Temu may connect to your devices and sound decent, but you’ll miss out on many of the features real ones deliver, and they may not offer you much longevity.

So, if you’re OK with trying your luck on Temu dupes and want a pair of “AirPods Max” for only $11, Temu is your place.

ZDNET RECOMMENDS

Temu

Temu is an online megastore offering items from car accessories to small kitchen appliances and everything in between.

You should buy from Amazon if…

Screenshot by Jada Jones/ZDNET1. You’re a last-minute gift-giver

If you have an Amazon Prime account (these days, who doesn’t?), your items are eligible for same-day, one-day, and two-day shipping. If you’re buying a last-minute gift for a friend’s birthday or anniversary, your best bet — aside from visiting a physical store — is ordering from Amazon with Prime shipping.

Also: These look like ordinary backpacks, but the tech inside will blow you away

Still, even without a Prime membership, Amazon boasts faster shipping times. All Amazon customers can expect most items to arrive in four to five business days. So, even if you’re a week away from giving your gift, you’ll get it faster from Amazon than from Temu.

However, if you’re not a Prime member, you’ll have to purchase at least $35 worth of products to quality for Amazon’s free shipping. 

2. You’re looking for reliable tech

If you want to buy a reputable piece of tech, choose Amazon. Amazon is a reliable seller whether you’re buying refurbished or brand-new tech.

Amazon has a comprehensive open-box policy, and Amazon Renewed products are tested, inspected, and given a rating and price based on their condition. For example, a brand-new 13-inch MacBook Air with M2 chip and 8GB of RAM costs $1,089 on Amazon.

Also: Amazon is turning Alexa into a hands-free ChatGPT

The same laptop from Amazon Renewed is $919 in excellent condition, meaning the screen has no scratches, and the body has no signs of significant cosmetic damage. The refurbished MacBook Air also comes with the same accessories as a brand-new MacBook Air. 

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Brand-new tech often goes on sale at Amazon, and refurbished tech can be returned and refunded within 90 days of purchase. 

3. You want easier returns

Most items on Amazon can be returned within 30 days of receipt. Although Temu has a 90-day return policy, it’s much more convenient to return items to Amazon.

You can return items purchased from Amazon at an Amazon Hub locker in your area, or you can drop your returned items off at your nearest UPS Store, Kohl’s, Whole Foods, Staples, or Amazon Store. You don’t have to worry about printing labels or shipping boxes, as Amazon will provide you with a QR code to present to the attendant at the return location. 

After you scan the QR code, you give your items to the attendant, and you should receive a refund soon after.

ZDNET RECOMMENDS

Amazon

Amazon is an online marketplace that offers fast shipping and low prices to subscribers.

ZDNET’s Buying Advice

The bottom line: if you’re looking for legitimate, name-brand products, consult Amazon. But in the tech accessories department, Temu holds the crown.

Recently, people took to TikTok to accuse Temu of stealing their payment information after finding their bank accounts drained of funds. Amazon, meanwhile, has had its fair share of payment scams. I’ve never encountered these issues, probably because I’ve never supplied any online retailer with my debit card information.

Also: How to use Apple Pay in stores and online

I recommend never using your debit card when completing transactions online. Instead, you can buy a Visa or Amazon gift card, load money on to it, and use that. Or, you can use Apple Pay or PayPal on Temu, which are less likely to be hacked. I recommend using Apple Pay or PayPal on any online store you buy from if the gift card method isn’t viable.

Apple Pay doesn’t store your card information on Apple’s servers, and PayPal offers $0 liability for items charged to your bank account that you didn’t purchase. It’s complicated for bad actors to hack a gift card, and should they succeed, they can’t access the funds in your bank accounts.

Happy shopping!

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