Scan it: Walgreens vs. Duane Reade

TrojanscropBy now you’ve heard that Illinois-based Walgreens is buying out local rival Duane Reade. Maybe you’re shedding a tear at the news, but before you go out and buy tissues, which store is likely to have a better price on them?

Good news, New Yorkers: Walgreens prices beat Duane Reade (slightly) in our check of 15 essential (and some not-so-essential) items, and the overall price for our trip to Walgreens was about $30 cheaper. The companies said Duane Reade’s 257 stores will keep operating under their name after the buyout, but consolidation is inevitable.

Our undercover price scoping took us behind the automatic doors at the Williamsburg Duane Reade on North 5th and the Walgreens on Union Ave. While the price differences were often minor, Walgreens offers a wider variety of generic products, a noisier store, and a security-protected deodorant case to ward off obsessive-compulsive (and sweaty) kleptomaniacs. And while Duane Reade is unarguably the more aesthetically appealing of the two stores, it fails to have such necessities as the Inspire Waterproof Rubber Sheet Protector and the famed “As Seen on TV” and celebrity perfume aisles (Walgreens graces its floors with FOUR different varieties of Celine Dion fragrances). Check out the results of the study after the jump, with each round’s winner in blue.


(Cavity Protection 8.2 oz tube)
Duane Reade: $2.99

Walgreens: $3.99

Walgreens: Anticavity/Antigingivitis Whitening Fluoride Toothpaste 6 oz – $2.49

Duane Reade: None

Crest vs. Colgate is like the battle of Coke vs. Pepsi, but after a quick once-over in the toothpaste aisle, it’s clear that Colgate’s dental repertoire is easier on the wallet. Duane Reade provides brand-name cavity protection for a reasonable $2.99, but they don’t offer a generic. Non-label snobs can head to Walgreens and save $0.50 or 1/4 of a PBR.

(liquid gels 40 count)
Duane Reade: $7.89
Walgreens: $7.49

Generic Ibuprofen
Duane Reade: $6.49
Walgreens: $5.99

It’s totally understandable to want the Gucci of toothpastes, since keeping your grill fresh can help you avoid prison time (thanks, Lil Wayne). However, we see nothing sexy about brand-name painkillers, and Walgreens will cure your toothache/hangover/last night’s heel trauma on the cheap.

Preparation H
(2 oz.)
Duane Reade: $14.69
Walgreens: $13.49

Generic (2 oz.)
Duane Reade: $10.99
Walgreens: $10.99

Let it be noted that Walgreens’s generic variety is a hot item, as the shelf was empty by the time we arrived.

4. WELLBUTRIN (XL 150mg 30 pills)
Duane Reade: $212.69
Walgreens: $194.99

5. VIAGRA (50mg 6 pills)
Duane Reade: $119.49
Walgreens: $110.99

Recession got you down? It will get you even further down if you buy your uninsured Wellbutrin or Viagra at Duane Reade. Our advice: Stick to recreational drugs.

(Tough Strips 20 count)
Duane Reade: $4.79
Walgreens: $4.49

Duane Reade: $3.79

Walgreens:  $3.99

If you can stand to part with colorful Elmo-themed bandages to cheer you up post-paper cut, you can save some dough. Both stores offer generic bandages for less.

Bausch and Lomb Renu
Duane Reade: $9.49

Walgreens: $9.99

Duane Reade: $6.99
Walgreens: $6.99

This is one item that offers pretty significant savings if you opt for generic. Sorry, Bausch and Lomb, $3 is a falafel at the Bedford L, or a nice pair or scissors for the recession ritual of credit-card cutting.

8. GUM
Orbitz spearmint
Duane Reade: $1.49
Walgreens: $1.29

Gum has evolved far beyond the nondescript Trident “Original” flavor, but we decided to remain fairly conservative and go for a nice, minty Orbitz. Your breath might not be fresher from making a trip to Walgreens, but you will be $0.20 richer.

Duane Reade: Dove Original Clean Scent – $3.69; Old Spice Original – $3.39

Walgreens: Dove Original Clean Scent – $3.99; Old Spice Original – $3.59

We have yet to see generic deodorant, and there’s a reason for that; you don’t mess with B.O. Don’t get sucked into Old Spice’s marketing, which makes you drop at least an extra $2 for its “Swagger” variety (a.k.a. “The Official Scent of Confidence”). Duane Reade is clearly the place to smell best for less.

The Walgreens bargain bin.

(2 bars Dove White/Men’s Extra Fresh)
Duane Reade: $3.79

Walgreens: $4.29

So fresh and so clean clean for $0.40 less at Duane Reade. However, when it comes to selection, Walgreens sells generic versions of Dial, Irish Spring, and Lever 2000 for about $2 per three-pack.

Trojan Lubricated Ultra Ribbed 3-pack

Duane Reade: $5.99

Walgreens: $6.79

If you don’t trust those plentiful free NYC condoms, do yourself a favor and go for the ultra-ribbed at Duane Reade. We guarantee you’ll both be lying down by the fire listening to Michael McDonald in no time.

Duane Reade: Coors Light Six Pack – $6.99; Blue Moon Six Pack – $10.49; Heineken Six Pack – $9.99

Walgreens: No beer. #fail

Duane Reade doesn’t have the Champagne of Beers, but it does carry Blue Moon. That’s a win by forfeit. Now if they only sold oranges.

Duane Reade: $2.19 or special 2/$4

Walgreens: $2.19

You get your wings for less at Duane Reade when you purchase two cans or more.

Neutrogena Acne Wash
Duane Reade: $7.49
Walgreens: $7.49

Generic face wash
Duane Reade: $6.49
Walgreens: $5.29

Dirty faces are no good for job interviews. To keep your best asset sparkling on the cheap, Walgreens’s knock-off Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash is your friend.

body wash

(Dove Deep Moisture Body Wash)
Duane Reade: $10.99
Walgreens: $9.79

Generic body wash
Duane Reade: $6.99
Walgreens: $5.99 or 2/$10

We know you’re buying body wash: Recently the scales have tipped, and body wash outsold bar soap for the first time.

Name-brand products
Duane Reade: $410.86
Walgreens: $384.85

Generic products
Duane Reade: $41.74
Walgreens: $37.05


DUANE READE BONUS: Drink your sorrows away while you stock up on next year’s valentines. Duane Reade scores brownie points for carrying booze, disposable underwear (left), and Jonas Brothers Valentines for 50% off. But no Snuggies for sale, DR? We all know that a drugstore is only as good as its hands-free, fleece, wearable blanket selection.

WALGREENS BONUS: Get your high-fructose corn syrup fix! There’s an item-of-the-month bin that lets you pick any two deliciously processed treats for $3: Oreos, Ritz Crackers, Act II Popcorn, Lorna Doones. Snuggies are $14.99, which you may need to keep your warm as you wait in a line of three people that takes four hours to move.

Which one do you think is better, Walgreens or Duane Reade? Or maybe CVS or Rite Aid? Tell us in the comments!


  1. Tim Donnelly

    I for one am flummoxed by the insufferable nature of the Walgreens line system. You would think it wouldn’t take 30 minutes to ring up two customers who have three rolls of tp each. You would be wrong my friend.

  2. For the cheapest health and beauty aids, I go to the Bed Bath and Beyond on 18th st and 6th Ave in Manhattan. A friend of mine declared that is it ‘officially cheaper than Wal-Mart in Virginia’ Its the best!

  3. dannyb

    I frequently shop at the Walgreens reviewed in this column, the one on Union and Montrose. How could you have left out the $1 bottles of White Rain body wash and shampoos?

  4. jamieT

    Bed Bath & Beyond on 6th is THE BEST. After spending 2 days going to Duane Reade & Target in Brooklyn, and coming up empty handed because items were either overpriced (DR) or not there (Targay i’m lookin at you), I decided to make my way to the city on the wknd to get my Heath + Beauty Aid fix. Shavers, toothbrushes, face cream, Airborne– all were super super CHEAP! And i had a coupon! (BB&B takes their coupons they send out in the mail, even if they’re expired. The coupons I had on me were from 2008 and 2009). I spent about $70 stocking up on items, and would’ve bought more but it would’ve been to heavy to carry home. (they do deliver, but i can’t remember the policy right now)

    Regarding your comparison btwn DR & Walgreens, I’m very surprised at the results. I always thought Walgreens was cheaper. I also thought Walgreens was more aesthetically pleasing. Guess it depends on the location? But I do agree on the quality/variety of Walgreens generic items, as well as the random “As Seen on TV” type items you can find there.

  5. I always get my contact lens solution at Target – WAY cheaper than Walgreens, DR, CVS and Rite Aid. A two-pack of generic multipurpose solution is about $6 if I remember correctly. I might have to try Bed Bath and Beyond next!

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