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Zen Cart vs Magento Comparison

“What cart do you recommend?” is the number one query we get. An easy enough question, but the answer depends on your business and your requirements. To make your choice simpler, we’ve compared the features of our two most popular carts, Zen Cart and Magento, plus our in-house ReadyCart.

Read below for comparison or if you have have experience with either cart, leave a comment about the good and bad bits.

Magento Community Edition


Magento (community edition) is a free open source shopping cart started by Varien in 2007. Magento impresses with its extensive feature list. Most functions which need to be added on with other carts come as standard. It’s ideally suited for companies who need a professional online shop presence.

  • highly flexible coupon and pricing functions
  • comprehensive filter functionality (filter products by)
  • multi-store as standard
  • ability to create and edit orders in admin
  • large number of high quality modules via Magento Connect
  • no need to hack core code
  • impressive template system

Magento sometimes gets a bad press for being too complex and server resource-intensive. Both are fair comments, but should not put you off considering Magento. With the right developers on board and a high-end hosting environment, Magento can provide extensive functionality at open source level.

Zen Cart

Zen Cart

Zen Cart is an open source project started in 2003, based originally on osCommerce. Zen Cart impresses with its realiability, solid feature list and ease of use, making it ideal for shop owners who intend to handle development themselves.

  • highly reliable
  • includes all standard features to sell online
  • easy to understand templating and PHP structure
  • suitable for coders beginning with PHP
  • light footprint making it very accessible for shared hosting environments
  • friendly forum
  • active development team

That Zen Cart has been around since 2003 however shows in its PHP coding structure. However this downside is exactly what makes it accessible to beginners in PHP and makes it an ideal first cart for new coders.



ReadyCart is based on osCommerce and available under licence from TerraNetwork. It was developed in-house to address the needs of businesses for a reliable cart with commercial support. ReadyCart is now discontinued as we have decided to focus on Magento and Zen Cart development instead.

Why only these three carts?

We’re not attempting to compare all carts – that would simply be impractical. Other carts exist and have their own merits. For example there’s PrestaShop, developed in France and well worth a look. Or for a simpler shop, maybe WordPress with a plug-in would suit.

Cart Comparison tables


Both Magento and Zen Cart run on the LAMP environment (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP). Zen Cart is quick to install and is kind to shared hosting environments. Magento is more demanding and requires a high-end hosting enviroment. Zen Cart is usually quick to learn by simply “going in and playing around” whereas for Magento a guide or read on the wiki will help you to get your bearings.

  Magento Zen Cart ReadyCart
Requirements PHP5.2 MySQL4.1.20+, InnoDB, cURL PHP4.0+ MySQL4.1.14+ PHP4.0+ MySQL4.1.14+
Open Source? yes yes no
Unlimited products? yes yes yes
Fee? none none £295 +VAT
SSL support full SSL full or shared SSL full or shared SSL
Knowledge level for coding? advanced intermediate intermediate
Ease of use? intermediate easy easy

Site Management

Magento has multi-shop as standard, a feature very rarely seen with other carts and a comprehensive templating system. WYSIWYG editor is missing but easily added. Zen Cart is a reliable cart with all features necessary to sell online.

  Magento Zen Cart ReadyCart
Multi-store yes no no
Multi-Lingual yes yes add-on
Support for Multiple Currencies yes yes yes
Tax Rate support yes yes yes
iPhone optimised yes no no
Template system yes limited no
WYSIWYG? add-on yes yes
Page content management yes limited limited
Email template management yes no no
Administration Permission System Roles and Users yes add-on add-on
One-click installs of modules yes no no

Catalog Management

Magento impresses with the product filters whilst Zen Cart makes it easy for new shops to get started quickly.

  Magento Zen Cart ReadyCart
Batch Import and Export of catalog yes add-on add-on
Google Base Integration yes add-on add-on
Downloadable/Digital Products yes yes yes
Layered / Faceted Navigation for filtering of products yes limited no
Product comparisons yes no no
Product reviews yes yes yes

Product Management

Bundled products and stock control for attributes stand out with Magento. Zen Cart however has some good features if you want customers to call for price or only use it as brochure-type site.

  Magento Zen Cart ReadyCart
Multiple Images Per Product yes yes yes
Reports yes limited yes
Bundled products (show several products on one page) yes no no
Up-sells in Shopping Cart yes no no
Stock Control yes limited limited
Products can be marked as free or Call for Price add-on yes add-on
Min or max quantities and units add-on yes add-on

Marketing, Sales and SEO

Probably the most important section for online shops these days. Magento has created an comprehensive discount functionality making it very easy to run campaigns. Gift Certificates however are not included in Magento, but they are with Zen Cart.

  Magento Zen Cart ReadyCart
Google Site Map yes add-on add-on
URL Rewrites yes add-on add-on
Meta-information for products and categories yes yes automated
Discount Coupons yes limited limited
Catalog Promotional Pricing yes yes yes
Multi-tier pricing yes yes add-on
Customer groups each with its own pricing structure yes add-on add-on
Wishlist yes no no
Newsletter yes yes yes
Gift Certificates no yes yes


Getting the checkout right is crucial for sales conversions. Magento recognises this by offering one-page checkout and the ability to buy without having to open an account (guest checkout). It also comes with Google checkout and PayPal as standard. Zen Cart on the the other hand offers a solid standard checkout.

  Magento Zen Cart ReadyCart
Delivery / Billling address yes yes yes
One-Page Checkout yes add-on add-on
Checkout without account/Guest Checkout yes add-on add-on
Shipping to multiple addresses in one order yes no no
Integrated with Google Checkout (Level 2) yes add-on add-on

Order Management

Creating orders in admin is often required e.g. for orders taken by phone and Magento offers this as standard. Zen Cart does make order management simpler though by allowing you to create your own order statuses.

  Magento Zen Cart ReadyCart
Manage orders from admin yes yes yes
create, edit orders from admin panel. yes add-on add-on
Create one or multiple invoices, shipments and credit memos per order to allow for split fulfillment yes no no
Order statuses preset only yes yes

Comments welcome!

Have you used Magento or ZenCart? If yes, what are your experiences? Let us know by sending a comment below!

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52 Responses to Zen Cart vs Magento Comparison

  1. That Software Guy January 9, 2010 at 9:15 pm #

    Interesting summary. A couple of corrections about Zen Cart:
    – the system has not been table based since the release of 1.3, which was in mid 2007.
    – Zen Cart does not require PHP 5 yet; the next release will, but all releases up to 1.3.8a will run on PHP4.

  2. Edith January 12, 2010 at 6:34 pm #

    Hi Software Guy – Thank you for taking the time to read / reply! Yes, your 2 points are spot-on and I’ve revised the post accordingly.

  3. Steven March 8, 2010 at 1:05 am #

    I have used both systems and I have the following comments. Magento has more features than Zen Cart and it looks a great deal better too. However, as mentioned above, it’s hard to customise with its extensive use of XML and OOP and also it isn’t as robust as Zen Cart. A common complaint about Magento is its slowness. While it’s true that Magento is more resourceful than other carts, it can actually perform very adequately when given a carefully configured environment. Case in point, it performs more than fine on TerraNetwork’s shared servers. For the most part, Zen Cart performs quickly on any server. Which cart would I choose? Neither at the moment. Zen Cart desperately needs a new version while Magento simply needs more time to mature (documentation as well as code). In the meantime, PrestaShop and OpenCart appear to be good alternatives.

  4. Marcus Richards June 12, 2010 at 3:28 pm #

    **WARNING** Security issues with Zen Cart (check the forums)
    I have been using Zen Cart for the last 5 years. It works well, gets great google rank and things were going great.
    However for the last year we have been awaiting Zen Cart 2 and they seem to have abandoned Zen Cart 1. Zen cart 2 is showing no signs of release and they have released very few updates.
    As a result hackers have got into our database and caused massive disruption. Since December Zen Cart have release security patches then in the last month have released another 2 to address this problem but to no avail.
    We started from scratch changed every last password, the admin folder etc and installed all the new patches. The day we went live again they got straight back in and the site was switched off at the server. We have now been contacted by the bank to say customers card details have been compromised and there is a substantial fine heading our way.
    We have installed all patches, we use good quality hosting and all our anti virus/firewalls etc are up to date. There is a flaw in Zen Cart

    Unless Zen Cart release version 2.0 stay clear. I am personally looking at Magento and cannot find many bad information on it anywhere. I am also considering the Professional version at 2k p/year as this problem has already cost me considerably more in lost sales and it is worth the extra as insurance against these issues.
    Good luck with your new platform whatever you choose.

    As a further recommendation check the validity of your PCI compliance. You may think you are safe but it doesnt stop the fine winging its way to you.

  5. Rhea June 12, 2010 at 4:20 pm #

    Whilst approving your comments for publication I do so only because of all of the factual inaccuracies in your comments – which need to be answered.

    The only way in which hackers could have gleened card details from a hack of your website is if you were using the Credit Card module which collects and stores card data in the database, allowing store owners to then use the details to complete card transactions taken online through an EPOS terminal in an offline bricks-n-mortar shop. There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of warnings about this practice being in violation of site owner agreements with card companies. Site owners ignore the warnings because it’s cheaper – they don’t want the cost of an EPOS machine plus pay the percentage charge levied by 3rd party payment processors.

    It is just possible that the hackers got in and enabled the Credit Card module without your knowledge, but there has also been plenty of advice about completely removing the module files, so that it can’t be enabled. So overall I’m not surprised that a large fine is heading your way.

    In the 1.3.9 versions of Zen Cart this module has been removed, for obvious security reasons.

    Every cart has securty issues if the clients don’t keep the software up to date, don’t follow security recommendations, or just use hosting which is not secure of itself.

    As for the Professional version of Magento costing around 2k, it does in fact start at around $10,000 to $12,000 per year.


  6. Steven June 15, 2010 at 10:54 pm #

    Hi Rhea,

    There are now 3 versions of Magento: Community, Professional and Enterprise.

    The Professional Edition starts at $2,995 while the Enterprise Edition starts at $12,990.


  7. Laura James September 24, 2010 at 12:10 pm #

    Thanks for this really useful post.
    I’m a ZenCart developer but am being goaded to start Magento development.
    However the two drawbacks I can see to developing in Magento is
    a) it hasn’t been around long enough to have built up a good community of developers/posts in forums about how to tackle problems, or even get started. I know that if I need to know how to do something in Zencart, I can just Google it and someone somewhere has posted about it. Can’t say the same for Magento
    b) Magento is *so* slow!! For a site with only about 100 products clients don’t want to have to purchase more expensive hosting to run Magento and customers certainly wont wait for a slow site…

    At the moment I don’t feel there are enough pro’s to Magento to warrant spending the time on the learning curve to get to grips with Magento, although I’m not at all keen on ZenCart’s admin back end and the security problems it have faced in the past.
    I have found Prestashop to be a good Zen Cart alternative – although again its lacking in documentation

    Thanks again for the well researched post

  8. Rhea September 24, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    Hi Laura. If this had been a year ago I would have agreed with you about the slowness of Magento and how resource intensive it was. However the Magento Team obviously knew they had a problem and recent versions have been much faster than the earlier versions (up to twice as fast) and less resource intensive on servers.

    It doesn’t alter the fact that Magento is not for “do it all yourself” site owners with only a tiny amount of knowledge of how to run a website. Keeping a Magento site running, adding modules and updating is a job for a developer. But that’s where you come in – right?

    If someone wants to run Magento because of its Multi-Store capability then they do need to be aware that they will need at the least a VPS system or full Dedicated server – because they will need root server access for some things.

    Zen Cart, like Magento and Prestashop, is in active development and does appeal to the small business start-up and will continue to do so.

  9. Martin McShane October 10, 2010 at 4:07 pm #


    I used to be an avid fan of zen cart, as im sure some of you might remember Shane78 was banned for my argumentative rants at DrByte. Which admittedly was over the top, but purposely so, for private reasons.

    Anyway, while I still think Zen Cart is a great system and the community is by far the best!. I personally feel that Zen Cart has been left behind by other alternatives.

    For me, Prestashop is the cart of choice for small to medium business and beginners.

    Dont get me wrong, I still have a soft spot for Zen Cart, it WAS defiantly the cart for beginners, but in my rant on the ZC forum comparing Presta and ZC I pointed out over 20 features of prestashop that were built into the core code that required an add-on for Zen Cart.

    As a new comer, touching the code is pretty much eliminated. Of course there are aspects of Zen Cart that Presta lacks, but I could only find 3 things, one of which was available as an add-on for Presta.

    I still have two Zen cart shops, they run fine as an online business and I have been applying the latest 139 patches etc. But doing so is a chore, where as the updates I apply for presta take minutes, as I have not had to change the core code. I will be looking to replace these with presta or magento in the next 2 years or so.

    I would dearly love to see a Zen Cart 2.0 and see the future of ZC strengthen, but I just cannot see it taking place. Even if it does happen, other carts not have more features built-in to the core and require less hacking for Zen Cart to be able to catch up. As well as being more up-to-date.

    I’d say Zen cart has about 2/3 years of life left, soley down to a great community! I would dearly love to be wrong. There are just better systems out there now.

  10. Blammo November 19, 2010 at 5:37 pm #

    This comment, just saved me a ton of potential headache (and $$$):

    If someone wants to run Magento because of its Multi-Store capability then they do need to be aware that they will need at the least a VPS system or full Dedicated server – because they will need root server access for some things.

    Thanks for that… since it’s the difference between $10/month and $100/month… good to know BEFORE you jump in!

    Especially considering the multi-store aspect would likely be one of the LAST things you address in a new Magento setup… putting you in a tough position to back away from… rock and a hard place.

    Nothing like a $1200/year surprise expense!

  11. Simply December 8, 2010 at 9:18 pm #

    @Rhea – You commented “The only way in which hackers could have gleened card details from a hack of your website is if you were using the Credit Card module which collects and stores card data in the database, allowing store owners to then use the details to complete card transactions taken online through an EPOS terminal in an offline bricks-n-mortar shop.”

    This is simply not true. I have seen several instances where hackers have modified ZenCart code to collect and send themselves credit card details with many different gateways and payment methods enabled, not just the Credit Card module. It simply has to do with ZenCart’s insecure and poorly written code base which allows any moderately skilled hacker access to the file system.

    The only server requirements for running Magento are
    Server – hosting – setup:
    * Ability to run scheduled jobs (crontab) with PHP 5
    * Ability to override options in .htaccess files

    Root access to the server is not required to run multi-site. However, running Magento on a dedicated server is highly recommended and having root access is extremely useful for so many more reasons that multi-site.

    Any good web host should be able to provide any configuration assistance for a Magento setup. The users should have the knowledge to know what they need done and why though. In my experience, this is the critical failure point of most ZenCart users – ignorance.

    You are comparing software meant for a medium to large sized business that is of an enterprise class with a small business, mom & pop software solution.

    “Magento sometimes gets a bad press for being too complex and server resource-intensive. Both are fair comments, but should not put you off considering Magento. With the right developers on board and a high-end hosting environment, Magento can provide extensive functionality at open source level.”

    What bad press? Angry bloggers who don’t have an understanding of programming or foundation in systems development? Or users who want all the features the need to run their store for free with no operating costs?

    Too complex? Well, business and e-commerce are complex. The Zend Framework is complex. Object Oriented PHP (or OO in any language) is complex.

    What exactly is an “open source level” by the way?

  12. Edith @ TerraNetwork December 8, 2010 at 9:25 pm #

    Hi Simply – about Magento multi-store – you need the ability to modify httpd.conf if you wish to use full SSL with different domains which is the most common set-up. This access is normally not provided on shared hosting, hence the need for a dedicated server. Please also see:

    And we appreciate that Magento & Zen Cart are 2 very different carts – but we are often asked “Which cart should I install” and as both are free, site owners often view them as comparable solutions. We’ve also seen a significant number of customers switching from one to the other (Zen Cart to Magento for better functionality, and then sometimes Magento to Zen Cart for easier maintenance). Hence why put together this brief overview.

  13. Bill January 12, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    Thanks for an interesting article. I stumbled across a Magento powered store earlier this evening and was marveling at just how slick it looks compared to our own Zen Cart store which I must confess we spent significant time modifying so it didn’t look like your average (rather ugly) Zen Cart template.

    We initially opted for Zen Cart a couple of years ago because it’s free and easy to customise and has a great community forum but in my opinion it’s very dated both in appearance and code (although I say this having never used other shopping cart systems). Out of the box Zen Cart really isn’t kitted out for efficiently managing daily order quantities in the 100s either.

    The online side of our company has grown to the point where we need to make the decision to either spend £10,000 GBP ($15,000 USD) on development work to integrate our instore and phone order systems with our Zen Cart database OR find a shopping cart system that can handle instore, phone and internet orders out of the box.

    I think we’ll probably stick with Zen Cart, but only because have demonstrated on just how large a scale a Zen Cart powered store can be successfully managed.

    If we were starting from scratch again I’d definitely be prepared to pay a significant amount of money for a well developed, well supported commercial e-commerce package.

  14. Dinar January 13, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    And of course, Zen Cart is requiring cURL.
    It also checks it when installing.

  15. Rich February 13, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

    I’d like to thank everyone for what seems to be objective comments and of course the author for the article. I am finding selecting an appropriate shopping cart to be surprisingly complex.

    I purchased Miva 18 years ago and am now at version 5.5, partially because it was one of the few out then, and have always felt it was one of the most unintuitive pieces of software ever written. Perhaps effective, but certainly maddening for those that aren’t administrators. I am finally getting around to looking for another cart. As a very small business my needs are simple. Again, thanks.

  16. crusader March 2, 2011 at 10:45 pm #

    I’ve been an owner of Zen Cart based shop for a couple of years. I have no knowledge of PHP or Linux and have been on limited budget when setting up a shop. Here is some comments from my perspective.

    My feeling in general is that Zen Cart is a reasonable offering for an owner who is never willing to have more than 300 different items in the storeand not more that 10-20 sales a day. If you get into something like 3000 items it is very hardly manageable and updating of store with so many items is a horrible pain and time consuming.

    It is vary unlikely that you will be able to setup your shop with the basics included in standard ZC package. Unless you want unprofessional look and agree to hours of manual labor when using the shop on daily basis.

    If you want professional look and want your shop to display what you want and how you want, you either need professional coder or you need to learn PHP/Apache/Linux very fast yourself. In practice it means that most likely you will have to rely on PHP programmers. I have to warn you that dealing with programmers of any kind isn’t easy.

    You also have to know that customizations done by professional coder fulfilling your needs are very unlikely to be done according to some reasonable standard as there is no such standard in ZC. ZC doesn’t have any codified plug in/add on system. In practice it means that customizations will be hardcoded (some basic system files will be edited and new PHP code will be added to them) which means that you will not be able to upgrade to newer version every time it appears in an easy way. You will need a coder to do an upgrade for you again so customizations done to you shop will not be lost after an upgrade. Over the long run coders will cost you quite a lot of money and huge headaches.

    ZC also doesn’t have any basic e-mail communication with the customer built in. You will have to rely on your e-mail client if you want to communicate with customer or send e-mail attachment. It isn’t possible to do it from within ZC at least not an easy way. In standard package you can send text information to your customer but if he replies it will not be visible in ZC though some modifications allow it. If any party needs to send an attachment you need to rely on you e-mail client. All in all it means that it will be very difficult to keep correspondence with customer regarding his order in one place preferably ZC.

    If you have many products and need to rotate them in your shop it will take you ages. You have to wait for webpage to refresh every time you add something and every product you add needs description done in HTML or using WISYWIG Editor. You will need an add-on to easily upload images as standard package doesn’t allow it in an easy way. Alternative way of adding/updating store is to use an add-on where you prepare everything in a huge Excel file and then import it to your shop. This is far from what I consider professional way. For me it should be a desktop application where you visually fill up all the details and once you have all the products ready, you synchronize it with the online store.

    There are dozens of other disadvantages, it could be a very long list.

    I’m not up to date with other shop offerings but if I would have to choose again I would either spend money on a customized shop build by some reputable coders company exactly to my needs (this would probably cost 5-10 thousand dollars for a very reasonable basic shop, about the same what I spent on ZC coders) or look for some shop of a commercial open source type if there are any. Then if you need support you know where to go and if it is open source you may do something yourself if necessary.

  17. Rhea March 2, 2011 at 11:25 pm #

    Crusader – with regard to the negatives you feel Zen Cart has I’d like to offer some comments:

    1. You say that a Zen Cart shop with thousands of products is hard to manage and very time consuming – but the same thing would apply to any eCommerce website with that number of products (no matter which eCommerce programme you choose).

    2. You refer to the need to add more features, as the basic features of Zen Cart would not suffice. There is, in my experience, only one other cart which matches and/or exceeds the large number of features which come as standard with Zen Cart – and that’s Magento. Prestashop is a good eCommerce programme but doesn’t yet have the list of features that either Zen Cart or Magento has.

    3. You refer to deficiencies in built-in email facilities, but even with Magento you’d need to integrate it with a provider such as Mail Chimp or Campaign Monitor to get the sort of facilities that eCommerce site owners want and need these days.

    4. You refer to the unprofessional look of an “out of the box” Zen Cart install, and on this I agree with you. I would also point out that Magento’s default look is also nothing to rave about. Any site owner should expect to either search for good free templates to modify the look of their site, or else be prepared to buy in a commercial template. For anyone who wants a unique look for their site then they’d need to have a custom design created and have that look converted into a set of template files – but all of this would apply to modifying the look of any eCommerce site.

  18. crusader March 3, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

    Dear Rhea,

    I don’t feel very negative about Zen Cart. It is not a bad shop and I stick to it for some years for one reason. The reason is excellent Google ranking. Whatever the product my shop constantly gets top 10 or top 20 rank in Google.

    I’ve been involved in some other open source projects like Postnuke and I feel that Zen Cart is going similar way which isn’t a good direction. From my experience if product doesn’t mature enough to became commercial open source it is mainly for hobbyist. If you are serious about your business and want it to grow you need proper tools and some investment to be done. You need scalable products. Online shop is a investment for many years. It isn’t easy and cheap to move it to another platform so you have to choose it wisely. In my opinion Zen Cart is not a good investment.

    I can compare it to our helpdesk platform which is Kayako. This is really excellent investment. For less than 1000 USD you get excellent product, very customizable with good support costing you very cheap. It is so good that we don’t need MS Exchange server anymore for mail management. Kayako is able to do it better. You get upgrades that you can easily do it yourself or buy upgrade subscription for around 50 USD for 6 months so developers support staff will do it for you.

    There is not such level of support and upgrade path in ZC.

    As for your comments.

    Ad 1. Of course updating thousands of products is time consuming i every system. But it is so much faster when you have desktop application especially some inventory management system.

    I have such a system based on MS SQL and it is many times faster and easier that doing it ina web browser. Unfortunately there is no integration between it and ZC. That’s why we will probably either move to OSC, Prestashop or Magento as our system is able to integrate with them.

    At some point in the past we had online laptops shop written quickly for our needs. This thing was ultra fast and had very simple and effective interface. Every part of the laptop like CPU, RAM or HDD had different cell in the table so we dind’t have to use any visual or HTML tools. Just plain text and css would display as a nicely formatted table. ZC should have “product type” editor allowing to do is. This would speed everything up. For some unknown reason this is not part of most important tasks to be done. Same with “short descriptions”. It should be core module. I had to hire coder to do it for me across all modules on my site. I cannot imagine a website where you list dozens of similar products with price and image only. The way it is done in standard ZC is useless.

    As for 2,3,4. I don’t know Magento or Prestashop but what is most important is not nice images and animated graphics in the shop. Most important is content. It has to be very friendly both for customer and admins. It should give you opportunity to tailor it to your needs with a help of professionals.

    Most of the online shops I come across are useless. It takes hours to compare different products, categories are badly done, there is not enough information or too many information. Many of them are OSC or ZC shops.

    I just feel that to make a good online shop you need to get people with different area of expertise. Project manager responsible for everything, graphic designer responsible for the looks, usability designer responsible for the way everything should be displayed, coders responsible for clean code and support stuff to help customers set it up. There is no such team in ZC, coders only. And that is a problem. I don’t know what other offerings are but it would be good to compare them if possible.

  19. Jai March 11, 2011 at 10:10 am #

    Single Page Checkout is not possible in ZenCart.

  20. Kyle March 17, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    Magento claims to have the ability to have gift certificates, which the author said was not available in the main article.

    Thanks for the great article!

  21. Edith @ TerraNetwork March 17, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    Hi Kyle – we reviewed the free CE (community edition) which does not have Gift Certificates. Only “professional” and “enterprise” do: do but they come with a price tag.

  22. Robin Lee April 23, 2011 at 9:19 am #

    Hey guys, I am grateful for the very constructive discussion going on here.

    Do you know if there are any other carts that offer the bundle/kitting function as seen in ?


  23. Rhea April 26, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    Hi Robin, There are modules to allow the bundling of products for Zen Cart, but to my knowledge none of them are free add-ons available for download from the Zen Cart website. They all appear to be commercial modules for which a fee is payable. If you search for “Zen Cart Product Bundles” you’ll find suitable hits.

  24. Joel May 26, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

    My biggest gripes with Magento are the lack of developer documentation and the steep learning curve for the store administrator (The end user who will be managing the store). My actual biggest complaint is that, at least on a Windows installation, the file permissions are set incorrectly for many of the files. It was a minor nightmare having to keep calling the client’s provider to change permissions. Admittedly, with a larger, standardized hosting provider (ie one running a Unix platform that also provides administrator access) I would not have had this problem.

    Another drawback to Magento is that the extensive use of the Zen PHP framework has a steep learning curve. This is not Magento’s fault, really, but it is their fault that the developer documentation (particularly the class diagram chart) for their product is 3 years old (and two versions behind where the product actually is). The existing documentation gives no insight in resolving basic issues such as what the possible causes of seeing Access Denied in the Configuration tab are. This is a fairly common (according to the forum posts) and major (since the administrator then cannot access the page at all) error. Which brings me to my next major complaint about Magento. The community boards are not very active at all. Other communities have daily usage of their wikis and discussion forums with experienced hands giving insight on the issues others might possess – IBM, for instance, has an active developer community with each area having its own forum (DB2, Domino, J2EE, etc) and extensive postings in each board. Ditto for MS developer forums. Or even open source Linux forums, and getting to carts, Pinnacle has an excellent forum for its shopping cart. It seems as if the Magento forum is comprised of a lot of people asking questions that should have been answered in the (lousy/non-existent) documentation and then begging for help since no one seems interested in answering.

    My real complaint about this isn’t that the Magento Community isn’t interested in helping one another. It seems that it is simply much more difficult to provide useful answers to common questions in Magento because of the complexity and lousy documentation.. in other words, the answer is all too often “I don’t know why it’s doing that.. just keep trying.. there are no details available to help me help you.”

    My apologies for turning this into a rant about Magento. Short version, if you can afford to pay for something else, don’t use Magento. The Prof. and Ent. editions may be less buggy than the free one, but I doubt it. If you can afford to pay for them, then you can afford to pay for Pinnacle or some other, better designed, product. Also, don’t use Magento unless you can afford a dedicated server that is fairly robust and is specifically tuned for Magento’s requirements. It is a bit slow otherwise.

  25. jonatech August 2, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    I’ve been researching shopping carts for some time and now have a client that doesn’t necessarily want to sell products online but able to display, group, and manage them. The feel would be more like an informational site but I think using a shopping cart back end to manage would be the best approach than to customize a database and PHP, etc….

    Any suggestions? Is a shopping cart the best way to go?

  26. Edith August 2, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    Some shopping carts have “catalogue” mode where products are shown but can’t be bought. Zen Cart has this feature, PrestaShop added it recently, as for Magento I’m not sure. Using a cart with catalogue mode should save development cost/time and is well worth looking into.

  27. Sonia August 6, 2011 at 10:57 am #

    Hi, Edith & friends

    Some of you are saying that Zencart doesn’t have some features that it has, through free add-ons, for example: wishlist, product comparison, multi-site, single page checkout…

    I’m no expert, but I’ve tried Zencart, Magento, Prestashop, Tomatocart…

    From my point of view, Zencart is, by far, the best of them all, in configurability, easiness of use, number of features, fast page loading and fast store populating (of course, with free add-ons like Easy Populate and Image Handler).

    I only see one big competitor to Zencart, but not very focused in e-commerce (so, lacking some features), yet. I believe it may be a question of time… Its powerful modularity saves us so much time… – have you already guessed?

    Yep, it’s WordPress. “It’s not just for blogging anymore”.

    So, I’m very satisfied with this formula: Zencart plus WordPress.

  28. Thomas August 7, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    @ Sonia.

    I agree that WordPress is very modular. And you’re right…maybe its just a matter of time before one will be able to use their WordPress install as a full-blown shopping cart. At the same time, you may as well obtain an actual shopping cart suite if you’re going to convert your WordPress blog into a “full blown” one…as I can imagine the API would get a complete makeover anyway. At its current state, WordPress simply isn’t built for hardcore, ecommerce endeavors. Lastly, I do not think it will ever be able to compete with the likes of ZenCart and Magento, which are purposely built for ecommerce. Unless, of course, WordPress were to develop their very own shopping cart suite, aside from the community of plugins they have.

    But your post raises a VERY good point that will possibly help others who are viewing this page. If your ecommerce needs are very small, WordPress does offer some plugins like Cart66 and Tribulant that are quite robust…giving you ecommerce capabilities with extensive shipping options. But when you start getting into hundreds and thousands of products for sale, you will need a more powerful solution. Cart66 does not convert your blog into a shopping cart, but rather allows you to place “add to cart” features anywhere on your site. Again…this is good for small endeavors, but can turn into a migraine when managing thousands of products.

    Great point, Sonia!!!

  29. Willows Consulting September 8, 2011 at 8:06 am #

    Our experience with the opensource version of Magento is, it looks pretty on the front and backend from a UI point of view. Extending Magento is a complex task. The fact that Magento is slow in moderate hosting environments is down to a flawed database structure and setup. Moving Magento from one hosting to another is also a complex task. if you won magento you will end off moving to bigger hosting becuase the database will simly get too big over the course of a year with light traffic.

    All systems have their downsides, what all systems should learn from magento is : the UI is king even if the database structure and setup is flawed. Once the client likes the UI they are won over. It is only us engineers who are interested in the underlying structure. But its the underlying structure that is flawed that makes it run slow.

  30. Stephany September 13, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

    I own an online store, well… still in process since march 2011 due the bad decision the first programmer I hired made selecting zencart. As an online shopaholic, I knew the features I wanted see on my site and the guy says everything is possible… after a while, he couldn’t figure out the codes to make changes that add consistency to the site. I mean once he made changes to one page, always there was another page that was a mess. I hired a second developer, same story. I will sell apparel and need to track the inventory per attribute (color, sizes), this is a free add-on. A 3rd developer installed it, now I can determine the quantities in stock per attribute when creating the product but the site allows me to buy more than what I have available per attribute, actually it allows me to buy the total amount of items I have without considering the attributes, it’s a mess!! Also if you go to the new arrivals page it has a different layout display than when you navigate through the categories, they couldn’t figure out how to make all the pages with product listing look exactly the same. To create a product instead of doing it in one page you have to add the item, then go and assign the attributes and finally select the stock by attribute to fix the amounts, then the additional pictures, to many steps for someone that needs to enter many products quicklyI have wasted money and time It’s very hard to find people that REALLY knows how to deal with zencart. I started getting quotes to start over again using a different shopping cart. I called companies this time, not freelancers anymore and all of them use Magento. The freelancers prefer to go with wordpress, joomla, zencart…

  31. Edith September 13, 2011 at 8:44 pm #

    @Stephany – tracking stock per attribute is possible in principle for Zen Cart, there is an add-on for osCom (on which Zen Cart is based). It’s not pretty code, but it does work, I used to install it myself in my old freelance days for shops selling apparel.
    As for the time it takes to set up attributes – feedback I had on Magento from shop owners was that they found it complicated and lengthy. So for entering data, I don’t think you’ll win either way; but as Magento is built on the assumption that the attribute is the product (attribute = SKU) it will work much better for clothing.

  32. Josh November 8, 2011 at 7:34 am #

    There are significant flaws with zen cart and magento. We opted to migrate from zen cart to magento enterprise cart due to the following reasons:
    -customers were mixing sessions almost every week, we could not stop the problem due to the nature of php handling. Read the forums, there is no true answer once your store is large enough. At 70k unique visitors per day, zen cart is TAPPED.
    – product attributes were randomly being dropped from the site. We felt our database was entirel insecure after this started to happen. Also not zen cart is not very robust in keeping track of hut inventory. Our biggest daily chore was cleaning up out of stock issues because zen cart would randomly drop or oversell products
    -zen cart was not designed to grow beyond a single dedicated server, and even then, it’s damn hard to get t to work on a quad process Octo core server. We were unsuccessful at attempting this feat.

    Mind you, if you have that much traffic, it’s time to move on to bigger and better things, such as magento. The problems with magento that we are facing are
    -it’s damn hard to get working
    -it’s even harder to find people who can work on it
    -caching is a must, but is very difficult to understand and causes a ton of problems
    -magento is not flexible, server intensive, and requires a ton of php programmers to upkeep.
    – overall magento is more for larger sites, we loved zen cart for it’s simplicity, but loathed it for it’s lack of robustness. Magento has been by far superior in robustness, and is very, very, very scalable, but sucks up a lot of $$$$.
    Good luck out there.

  33. HaIzI72G3T December 9, 2011 at 3:45 am #

    iv tryed magneto zen cart and presta . to be honest zen cart was the easiest for me to start with.. and am not new into php coding but magneto was just too complicated for me and presta had lack of support on forums.

  34. Matt May 22, 2012 at 4:01 am #

    I run 5 zen-cart sites and have finally decided to give another a cart a go. That will be the Magento, and if that fails to impress I shall try another.

    Although my zen-cart sites all look great the biggest issue I have is the inflexibility of the core developers with regards to 3rd party add-ons.

    The biggest issue for a 3rd party developer is that they’re prevented from promoting their products on the zen forums, nor is any forum support or discussion of their products tolerated. What this does is force 3rd party developers to rely on word-of-mouth or a google search to promote their products. This mentality affects store owners who have to instead rely on the free add-ons which are more than often buggy or out of date or just unavailable.

    At least one very talented developer I know has dropped any further zen development due in part to this ridiculous situation.

    It is for this reason alone that I feel that zen-cart will never get beyond its mom and pop reputation. Pity.

  35. Les June 19, 2012 at 10:32 am #

    I agree with Matt regarding problems for developers promoting ‘commercial’ addins for Zen Cart.

    We developed a payment module (PaymentSense) and have integrated a mailing list manager, autoresponder and affiliate program with zen cart, each available under license, and are unable to discuss/promote/support these via the Zen forums.

    The integration of the mailing list manager and autoresponder with Zen Cart address and resolve the issues surrounding e-marketing borne from the lack of such integration out the box. With these integrations customer’s details are automatically added to email marketing lists and/or autoresponders and the affiliate program offers full control over which products are in the program, affiliates and commissions.

    This provides solutions in some key areas and turns Zen Cart from a very capable store into a more fully featured ecommerce solution.

    We also offer a hosted solution including the above where we have made further integrations enabling the store owner to manage all aspects of their store including signup page customisation, date & weight format change and file uploads right from the admin side without any need for FTP software or knowledge.

    It’s a pity it is a struggle to bring such developments to the awareness of Zen Cart users and we too are aware of a very talented developer who is giving up development for Zen Cart. This is a real pity as their modules are excellent.

  36. Najeeb August 31, 2012 at 4:51 am #

    Hey, thanks for this. Just what I needed to reach a decision: a grid with feature comparison.

  37. Michelle November 1, 2012 at 9:05 pm #

    Magento now is a PAID service.

  38. Edith November 1, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

    Hi Michelle – the Magento Community Edition (CE) is a free open source software. Varien, the company that created Magento, also provides paid services but the basic CE edition is open source and this is the edition reviewed in this article.

  39. Chloe Foster February 15, 2013 at 11:50 am #

    Both are free and open source software but Zen Cart is suitable for people who are newer to PHP, while Magento requires a bit more technical knowledge.
    Even Zen Cart has an active development team, but Magento’s development cap

  40. Octavius Hayden February 26, 2013 at 6:53 am #

    There are wide variety of eCommerce platforms currently available in business field but I’d say choose Zen Cart if you need more lightweight store. It is suitable for people who are newer to PHP, while Magento requires a bit more technical knowledge.

  41. Monty March 11, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    Magento ecommerce solution has become the most demanding open source platform of today’s online retail store businesses since it provides a tremendous advantage. With Magento Ecommerce Platform, online store owners are being given the capability of handling multiple stores and facilitate a more systematized browsing of items for sale. Improved management of customer’s orders and having more developed promotional or advertising tools also comes possible with Magento Ecommerce.



  42. Raphael Hickman March 18, 2013 at 6:08 am #

    I always prefer to Magento because It is a very good plateform to improve online business procedures and personalized Magento cart add-on alternatives will make sure that each and every personalized need of a customer about the cart is provided and effective solution.

  43. Holly June 5, 2013 at 8:42 am #

    Thanks for the great comparison!!!
    Magento is a giant creature. It has a lot of different features to make your store powerful and profitable. I use this platform for years and have to say that there are no competitors for it. Magento allows you to handle as big store as you need and customization tools are unlimited.
    You may also check this article about pros and cons of Magento and Zen Cart I found it useful.

    Good luck!

  44. Saul June 15, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

    I use magento on my store, and one thing that is an issue is that the performance is kinda slow.

    Also, to get a good magento store I’d say you’d have to be a developer or have a friend who is a developer with some time to help you out.

    There is a lot to learn with magento, but overall I think it’s the best shopping cart on the market.

  45. Magento Out of Stock Message June 23, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

    Excellent comparison between Zen Cart vs Magento. I would prefer to choose Magento as it has lot of extension available than Zencart.

    This would make me to create much user friendly Magento Based website using modules.

  46. Magento Out of Stock Notification June 24, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    I would appreciate if you could add some more data in the comparison, like SEO options, mode rewrite option, and Third Party website Support (Product comparison website like Google Base, Amazon Products etc)

    However this is good enough to start with.

  47. nomansalehzada July 14, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

    Hi Magento is really good software but you need to add it with your website properly, i had some serious problems when i added Magento to my website, but my all problems were solved by the experts, there services in this regard are awesome, i recommend them for you as well.

  48. Rayon August 20, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    Awesome comparison, this stats itself speak about the greatness of Magento. We can enjoy all the features with Magento whereas Zen cart do not support.
    I am the owner of ecommerce shop built in Zencart, i was facing major issues with my website and then I was suggested to migrate with Magento and then i contacted one developer who was working with some company “Sigma Infooslutions”, who helped me in migrating my website and sooner my sales was double.

  49. KerryMorvel September 13, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    Many thanks for the review. It’s great.
    My opinion – Magento is perfect for e-commerce. Of course, if you have enough programming skill and would be able to handle the store.
    Magento includes all the things to make the online store popular and profitable.
    Here is another good review about Zen Cart and Magento

  50. Lisa-Marie March 2, 2014 at 12:56 am #

    Thanks for the review. I currently have a Zencart store that needs a major overhaul, and looking for info. My business has both a bricks and mortor store and we retail and hire items. Have loads of problems with stock control between the retail and online system. This is the main reason I am looking now at Magento, as I am told I can use Reakon and do a data dump every night.

    The hire/booking module is tricky too, need to be able to book items out for a future date and not double book, and then be able to return it back into the system quickly and efficiently and return peoples security bonds. (Costume and party store)

    Any suggestions?


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