X-Cart is a licensed, open-source eCommerce platform that presents itself as the ideal solution for any online store looking for full control over its software and the ability to support vast numbers of products. Its higher-tier editions also include functionality for building a multivendor website that supports multiple sellers in a marketplace format. Even with no need for multivendor capabilities, many online businesses are drawn to X-Cart for its features, open-source model, and the lack of monthly fees.
Of course, a smart entrepreneur makes sure to evaluate numerous options first to ensure they choose the right eCommerce platform to grow their business. X-Cart seems tempting because it has no monthly fees and an apparently vast list of features, but there's more to it than meets the eye. A closer look will bring to light tons of extra fees and other hidden costs, plus missing or restricted features in the most unexpected places.
Before you decide to use X-Cart, you need to be aware of all these details, so let's thoroughly go over the pricing.
If you're unfamiliar with the concept of licensed software, it refers to software that you can purchase with a one-time payment for business use. X-Cart is licensed, but is also open source, which can be a little confusing if you're only aware of free open-source software. In X-Cart's case, purchasing a license also gives you access to the source code to allow for custom development (which requires PHP/MySQL expertise). There is a free edition of X-Cart as well that functions identically to the usual free open-source model.
Different editions of X-Cart offer different numbers of features and are intended for businesses of varying sizes and goals. Each edition has its own license cost. We'll cover the available X-Cart licenses shortly, but first, we'll go over the other expenses your business will have regardless of which license you purchase.
By purchasing a software license, you are technically buying permission to use the purchased edition of the software in a business environment. You'll still need to handle the other aspects on your own, which include web hosting and security. X-Cart bills itself as PCI compliant, but you'll still need to purchase an SSL certificate to encrypt your site. SSLs have varying costs depending on the provider you use, and can run anywhere from $5/month to $999/year.
As for hosting, you'll need a server that meets X-Cart's system requirements and can handle the traffic you seek to draw to your online store. Some web hosts also make SSL available for an extra fee or as part of more advanced hosting packages.
X-Cart itself offers a selection of managed hosting packages as well. Higher-tier hosting packages utilize more powerful server hardware and come with a few other features.
Server hardware is one of the biggest concerns for anyone using a licensed or open-source eCommerce platform, as your online store's performance depends strongly on the capabilities of the server that houses your website. If you decide to use X-Cart, it's strongly recommended to choose a hosting package along with it simply to reduce the technical workload you'd otherwise be taking on. As your business grows, however, you'll need to upgrade your hosting to keep up the demands of a website with more products and more traffic.
Remember, this is just the hosting: to use X-Cart, you still need to purchase a license for the software, which we discuss next.
These are the specific licenses you can purchase for X-Cart, each of which provides a different range of features and services.
X-Cart doesn't provide free technical support to its users, so you'll have to turn to the community for solutions unless you want to opt for one of X-Cart's support plans. Monthly plans are available as well as a couple of "pay as you go" options.
There's no denying that on first glance, the above feature lists appear impressive, but there are a few things that fall apart under closer scrutiny. Numerous features are so vaguely described that it becomes impossible to know what the feature really is, like "Customer Satisfaction" under the Ultimate Special Edition. Other features are written in an obfuscating manner, such as including both "CSV import/export" and "Excel import/export." Excel is commonly used to format CSV files, so most users may not understand the difference. The overall impression is that X-Cart is trying to pad its apparent feature count.
This makes it difficult to accurately evaluate the features present in each license tier. Compare this to Shift4Shop, in which every included feature is listed comprehensively on the eCommerce plans page, complete with mouseover tooltip information and links to entire pages with more details when necessary. Starting an online business is challenging enough without needless guesswork about which features you'll get for your money.
There are certain eCommerce features every business is going to need right away. These include a system for handling customer returns, the ability for customers to post reviews, a method for recovering abandoned carts, and more. Of course you can still run a business without these systems in place, but it will be a lot harder and you'll lose out on sales.
If you're attracted to X-Cart for its Free version, be aware that crucial features require an upgrade to the Business edition at the very least. The Free edition doesn't include product review functionality, so you'll need to purchase a license for the Business edition to access all the benefits product reviews will bring to your store — many customers won't risk a purchase at all if reviews are absent, and the inability to leave one will tell them you're not interested in their feedback.
Even worse, functionality for order returns and abandoned cart recovery are both absent from all licenses except the Ultimate Special Edition, leaving you lost whenever a customer wants to return an order and causing you to miss out on every abandoned cart — unless you pay $5,995 for the license. You do have the option to pay for third-party plugins to add some features individually, but this is yet another expense that could be avoided simply by choosing a more comprehensive platform.
Compared to Shift4Shop, X-Cart is unbelievably restrictive. Even Shift4Shop's free plan includes these features plus hosting and 24/7/365 support. X-Cart would rather charge you for hosting and support, making you pay for something that you can get for free elsewhere.
Online businesses rely on their eCommerce software in order to function. When your platform is slow, glitchy, or has other problems, it diverts time and resources from the rest of your business and can hurt your sales. X-Cart has a history of problems, including issues like uploaded images simply disappearing. Considering you have to pay for support, too, these are problems most businesses just can't afford. Even hiring an in-house developer may not be the best solution because it simply isn't possible for many budgets.
In both the short and long term, it makes much more sense to go with an eCommerce platform that works well from the outset and includes free support — whether to help with an unexpected bug, or simply to guide you through using the software.
All software is going to need to be updated, especially something as complex as an eCommerce platform. Since customer information is constantly being exchanged through the software, it becomes even more crucial to perform updates that prevent security holes from being discovered and exploited, especially with an open-source platform for which anyone can gain complete access to the code. Additionally, software updates often provide new features that help an online store stay on top of trends and customer demands.
Signing up for an X-Cart license entitles you to free software updates for one year, but after that, you'll need to renew your upgrade access annually. The pricing depends on your license, with the lower price applying if you purchase the upgrade access within a month of your existing access expiring:
Once you see the annual upgrade costs, it quickly becomes clear that a "one-time payment" for reliable eCommerce software is just a fantasy. You'll be stuck paying this every year unless you want to skip the software updates and miss out on any new features that may be released. With Shift4Shop, however, you'll automatically get every software update as long as you maintain an account, so your online store will always be on the cutting edge with no extra charge.
We've gone over a lot of numbers, and that can be a lot to take in. Let's sum it up now with a quick analysis of the pricing a business may face when using X-Cart. This includes the software license, web hosting and security, support, and updates.
When put into perspective, X-Cart's complex, high pricing quickly shows that trying to avoid monthly fees by purchasing licensed software will cost your business much more overall. As a SaaS eCommerce platform, Shift4Shop gives you much more value by including hosting, security, software, and 24/7/365 support in it's free plan. Compared to even X-Cart's most expensive option, Shift4Shop provides you with so much more for so much less.
Don't fall for the licensed, open-source hype: you can still use free eCommerce software without the trouble and extra cost of self-hosting or software installation. The best way to run an online business is to use powerful, scalable, feature-rich SaaS eCommerce software like Shift4Shop, which combines everything you need into a package that's more reliable, easier to use, affordable, and overall a better option than X-Cart.