Steel vs. Plastic Carts

Row of orange shopping carts

Maintaining an appropriate stock of quality shopping carts is essential for any grocery or retail store. These mobile vessels allow your shoppers to carry several items along their journey, leading to bigger purchases and satisfied customers. That said, all carts are not created equal. Shopping carts come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors — moreover, carts can be constructed with different materials. The majority of carts are composed either of plastic or steel (or some combination of the two). While both cart types are viable for most stores, each type comes with its unique pros and cons. When seeking the best shopping carts for your business, it’s important to take these different traits into account so you can provide your customers with the best possible experience.

Let’s pick apart the many reasons to choose either steel or plastic carts so you can make an informed decision for your store.

Why Select Steel Carts for Your Store?

We’ll begin by outlining the benefits of selecting steel carts over their plastic counterparts.

Often Less Expensive Up Front

Plastic is so abundant in our society that we assume it’s always the cheaper material when compared to alternatives. But while cheap plastic certainly exists, not all plastic is cheap. Manufacturing durable, customized plastic for quality shopping carts is a relatively rigorous process, which translates to a higher upfront cost. The process for manufacturing steel wire carts is also involved, but typically to a lesser degree. As such, steel wire carts tend to cost a bit less than plastic carts of the same shape and size. If you’re looking to save some money in the short-term, then steel carts might be more practical than plastic.

Easy to Repair

No matter how well you care for your carts, they’re going to take on some damage over time. Fortunately, steel carts are relatively easy to fix up when compared to plastic carts. The wire frame of a steel cart may rust, get bent, break off, etc., but this material can often be mended via welding. And if a specific part gets damaged or broken, steel cart components are usually easy to replace. Plastic carts, on the other hand, are not so easily repaired — when repairs are possible, they’re usually expensive, and it’s often more feasible to replace the entire cart in such a situation.

Lighter than Plastic

Believe it or not, steel carts also tend to weigh less than plastic carts of similar size and shape. On the lighter end of the spectrum, plastic carts tend to weigh in at around 9 lbs — wire carts can undercut this by about 1.5 lbs (weighing 7.5 lbs). Of course, the exact weight of a given cart (steel or plastic) depends on the manufacturer. Plus, such a minor difference in weight might not seem all that significant. That said, providing your customers with lighter carts will improve their overall experience and allow them to make larger purchases (a cart that’s two pounds lighter opens the way for purchases that are two pounds heavier on average).

Why Some Prefer Plastic Shopping Carts

Before you jump on the steel cart bandwagon, it’s worth hearing out the perks of plastic shopping carts as well.

More Customizable

As we’ve discussed in previous posts, your carts are more than just convenient vessels for your customers — they’re also useful branding tools. Stamping your logo on your carts and/or painting them a specific color can go a long way toward cementing your brand identity and keeping it fresh in your shoppers’ minds. While both wire and plastic carts can be customized in these ways, plastic carts offer a wider variety of options in this regard. If you’re rebranding or simply looking for ways to reinforce your brand, purchasing custom plastic carts is a solid move.

Not as Loud as Wire Carts

Most of us are familiar with the grating sound of metal shopping carts as they roll over bumpy tiles and echo in breezeways. You might be surprised at how offensive these sounds can be to some of your customers, souring their mood before they even reach the main entrance. While there’s no way to totally eliminate cart-related noise, plastic carts come with the inherent benefit of decreasing the volume considerably. Plastic carts naturally dampen sound waves whereas steel carts often amplify them. As such, plastic carts may be preferable if you’re looking to lower the noise in your store.

Highly Durable

If you’re looking for a heavy duty shopping cart, both steel and plastic options can serve you well, as long as you’re purchasing these vessels from a reliable manufacturer that uses quality materials. All else being equal, though, plastic carts take the crown in the durability department. When built from sturdy recycled materials, the frames of plastic carts are thicker than those of steel wire carts. So, an impact that might bend or break a metal cart might simply scratch and bounce off a reinforced plastic cart. On top of that, steel and other metal materials are susceptible to rust, especially when left outside to deal with moisture and open air. While plastic will also wear down over time, it takes longer for this to occur. Wire carts may be easier to repair, but plastic carts are more difficult to damage in the first place.

Steel vs. Plastic Carts: Which One Wins?

In a vacuum, the scales don’t tip too far either way in the battle between steel and plastic cart options. The better option ultimately depends on your business’ and store’s specific needs. If customization, durability, and noise are major concerns, consider plastic carts; if you’re more concerned with cost, repairability, and mobility, you might steer towards steel instead. At Good L Corp., we manufacture both types of carts to the highest quality (as well as baskets). We can help you make the best choice for your business.

Good L Corporation delivers innovative shopping cart and basket solutions for retailers on a global scale. Good L Corp can configure the right carryall strategy to boost your retail business from a fleet of new custom carts to launch your store opening to replacement baskets that supplement your existing shop supply. Let’s get started! Contact us today for a no-pressure sales quote.

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