Free Shopping Carts

Will a free shopping cart offer you everything you need for your eCommerce web site? This article describes what shopping cart software is, what free shopping cart sofware is, and the pros and cons of free shopping cart software.
Related article: Best Shopping Carts

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If you are setting up an eCommerce site, the choice of a shopping cart is an important element. What functionality should you look for? How do you get a free shopping cart? What should you consider when making a choice? This article explores important points about free shopping carts.

What Is Shopping Cart Software?

Shopping cart software is an important part of an ecommerce site. It provides the functionality that makes it possible for your customer to select products, review his or her choices and make any revisions, and make a credit card purchase. But it requires other features - a compatible operating system, SSL certificates, a merchant account, a payment gateway, etc. - in order to function.

Shopping cart software can be found in two basic configurations:

  • by itself as a stand-alone, often from a software developer
  • integrated into an eCommerce package offered by a webhost

So, What's Free Shopping Cart Software?

There are two ways to look at this:

  • stand-alone shopping cart software that is downloadable at no charge
  • shopping cart software that is integrated into an eCommerce package without a specific charge attached to it

Which of these is potentially of interest to you will depend on the current state of your website:

  • If your website was already built and functional before you decided to become an etailer, and all you need to add is a shopping cart, you'll likely want to consider the stand-alone product that you can integrate into your existing site, rather than starting from scratch.
  • If you are creating a new website with eCommerce functionality all at once, you might prefer to consider a an integrated solution, such as the eCommerce packages offered by web hosts.

Other Pros and Cons

Other pros and cons of free shopping cart software are revealed when you start looking for specific offers.

  • Everything you need? AgoraCart OSS Project offers an open source free shopping cart, but there is certain functionality that is reserved for members who pay a subscription fee.
  • Support? Zen Cart™, another open source shopping cart software claims that even commercial apps have trouble competing with its features, options, and support. But the support is through a support forum, which may not be satisfactory if there's a problem and your business relies on a quick solution.
  • Manual? Again at Zen Cart™, the "only comprehensive owner's manual" isn't free: it's $47.91 at Lulu Marketplace.
  • Advertising? With CubeCart, you can use a shopping cart for free, but
  1. You have to pay if you want their copyright removed from every page.
  2. You have to pay if you want them to install it for you.
  3. You have to pay if you want upgrades.

Therefore, though the software license is free, but it may not be free for you to use the software.

  • With Open Source, No Warranty Since you can change the software at will, there's unlikely to be any guarantee of functionality. This may not be a situation where you want to assume that risk.
  • Modify to Suit Yourself On the other hand, a range of open source software for shopping carts (AgoraCart, Zen Cart™, OS Commerce,  means that if you have programming capabilities, you can change it to do whatever you want to do with no legal issues. This means that you can use the code you download as a jumping off point and customize it as much as you want.

Be Careful

Some companies are deceptive, so you need to be careful. If you search on "free shopping cart," you may turn up EasyStoreCreator, which says "free shopping cart webhosting, free store builder software, free shopping cart creation templates, free email and phone support." But if you look further in the site, it turns out that there's a monthly price of $67 or yearly of $603 and that the shopping cart is not a separate item that you can use by itself. That's not free.

Related article: Best Shopping Carts