Magento and Zen Cart Ecommerce – A Comparison


“What shopping cart do you recommend?” is the top inquiry we get. An easy adequate question, but the answer relies on your business and your demands. To make your selection easier, we have actually compared the features of our 2 most popular carts, Zen Cart and Magento.


Magento is a complimentary open source shopping cart started by Varien in 2007. Magento impresses with its substantial function list. Many functions which have to be added with other carts come as standard. It’s ideally suited for companies who require a professional online store presence.


  1. Highly flexible discount coupon and pricing functions
  2. Thorough filter performance (filter products by).
  3. Multi-store as standard.
  4. Capability to produce and modify orders in admin.
  5. Multitude of high quality modules through Magento Connect.
  6. No need to hack core code.
  7. Excellent design template system.


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



Zen Cart is an open source project started in 2003, based initially on osCommerce. Zen Cart impresses with its reliability, strong function list and ease of use, making it ideal for shop owners who mean to deal with development themselves.


  1. Extremely trustworthy.
  2. Includes all basic features to sell online.
  3. Easy to understand templating and PHP structure.
  4. Ideal for coders starting with PHP.
  5. Light footprint making it really available for shared hosting environments.
  6. Friendly forum.
  7. Active development team.


That Zen Cart has actually been around because 2003 however shows in its PHP coding structure. However this downside is precisely what makes it easily accessible to novices in PHP and makes it an ideal very first cart for brand-new coders.



Both Magento and Zen Cart operate on the LIGHT environment (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP). Zen Cart is quick to set up and is kind to shared hosting environments. Magento is more demanding and needs a high-end hosting environment. Zen Cart is normally fast to find out by simply “going in and playing around” whereas for Magento a guide or read on the wiki will help you to obtain your bearings.


Magento Zen-Cart
Requirements PHP5.2 MySQL4.1.20+, InnoDB, cURL PHP4.0+ MySQL4.1.14+
Open Source? Yes Yes
Unlimited products? Yes Yes
Fee? None None
SSL support full SSL full or shared SSL
Knowledge level for coding? advanced intermediate
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
Multi-store Yes No
Multi-Lingual Yes Yes
Support for Multiple Currencies Yes Yes
Tax Rate support Yes Yes
iPhone optimised Yes No
Template system Yes Limited
WYSIWYG? Page content management Yes Limited
Email template management Yes No
Administration Permission System Roles and Users Yes Add-on
One-click installs of modules Yes No
Magento impresses with the product filters whilst Zen Cart makes it easy for new shops to get started quickly.
Magento Zen-Cart
Batch Import and Export of catalog Yes Add-on
Google Base Integration Yes Add-on
Layered / Faceted Navigation for filtering of products Yes Limited
Product comparisons Yes No
Product reviews Yes Yes
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
Multiple Images Per Product Yes Yes
Reports Yes Limited
Bundled products (show several products on one page) Yes No
Up-sells in Shopping Cart Yes No
Stock Control Yes Limited
Products can be marked as free or Call for Price Add-on Yes
Min or max quantities and units Add-on Yes
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
Google Site Map Yes Add-on
URL Rewrites Yes Add-on
Meta-information for products and categories Yes Yes
Discount Coupons Yes Yes
Catalog Promotional Pricing Yes Yes
Multi-tier pricing Yes Yes
Customer groups each with its own pricing structure Yes Add-on
Wishlist Yes No
Newsletter Yes Yes
Gift Certificates No 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
Delivery / Billling address Yes Yes
One-Page Checkout Yes Add-on
Checkout without account/Guest Checkout Yes Add-on
Shipping to multiple addresses in one order Yes No
Integrated with Google Checkout (Level 2) Yes Add-on
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
Manage orders from admin Yes Yes
create, edit orders from admin panel. Yes Add-on
Create one or multiple invoices, shipments and credit memos per order to allow for split fulfillment Yes No
Order statuses Preset only Yes



Post a comment