With so many PHP shopping cart products available for download, choosing one that best fits your ecommerce project is not easy. In this review, I offer my impressions of the 10 popular free PHP shopping carts to help you decide which one to use.
PHP Shopping Cart #1: Virtuemart
One of the most popular free shopping carts available, Virtuemart, is a Joomla component. The community is large and you can find help on many forums. The user's manual is included in the installation package. Many shipping and payment modules are already installed; you just need to enable the ones you need. Tax rates by country, combined with currency and language settings, can help you adapt your store to the local market. This shopping cart also supports reports by date and by individual product, but it doesn't have the option to create low stock reports.
Also, you could make use of third-party Virtuemart modules, as well as Joomla modules. However, this can create problems when bugs and compatibility issues arise.
My overall impression is that except minor potential issues, this is a really great cart that can help you run your ecommerce site.
PHP Shopping Cart #2: PrestaShop
PrestaShop is a great choice for a quick ecommerce set up. Installation takes only two minutes, and after an install you can watch helpful video tutorials or download the free user's guide. The admin layout is good, and the overall look-and-feel, which features a nice sales-of-the-week graph, is even better.
While sometimes buggy, PrestaShop is feature-rich -- until it comes to shipping. Although FedEx and UPS are supported, you don't have the option to calculate standard shipping based on weight.
Module cost is another disadvantage of this cart, because a great number of its modules are not free.
PHP Shopping Cart #3: TomatoCart
The developers of TomatoCart have done a great job making the cart very easy to install and use. The installation takes no more than two minutes, and the admin tool is very easy to use, especially for Windows users as it has the same look and feel. It also offers many useful options such as gift certificate and coupon creation and integrated payment options, such as Paypal, Moneybookers and the Authorize.net gateway.
The default template has a modern design, and the visual user experience features a carousel slideshow for products.
There are a few shipping options, but TomatoCart doesn't support automatic UPS or FedEx shipping cost calculation. Furthermore, it doesn't have a system for installing custom modules, which makes the modifications more difficult.
PHP Shopping Cart #4: Magento
Magento is not easy to install, as it requires a PHP extension that is not installed on all servers by default. But once installed, it becomes obvious why it is so popular.
It supports a "shop by category" option, which is similar to eBay, and offers most shipping and payment options. One of its exceptional features is the ability to run multiple shops from one backend.
Magento is highly customizable but not user friendly. Installation requires server knowledge, and the backend can be confusing at times. Also, it occasionally runs very slowly, so buying a powerful server is a must.
Overall, I found this shopping cart best suited for people who want to run a serious ecommerce business and can afford the required server and Web development resources.
PHP Shopping Cart #5: OsCommerce
The osCommerce shopping cart's greatest strength is security. The admin login is blocked after three unsuccessful attempts, and you can also change the path to the admin folder or set the minimum and maximum order field values.
The user features are good as well. You can easily offer discounts to your users, and improve their satisfaction by allowing them to write a review. Also, they can share a product on Facebook or Twitter.
OsCommerce also supports different product versions, which is great for selling software or products that are sold in many colors. There are many integrated payment options to choose from (Paypal, Moneybookers, Authorize.net, 2Checkout, etc.). It also enables you to customize your store according to market by adding currencies and languages. Though custom modules can be installed, you need some PHP knowledge to make them work correctly.