Compare osCommerce vs ZenCart; Which eCommerce platform is the One for you

osCommerce vs ZenCart comparison
Posted on 16.1.2018
Written by Eva Ciga


Every successful online business contracts the services of the best in class e-commerce software. The application enables businesses to scale greater heights and wade through some of the most common challenges. However, getting a reliable platform is a test of your shopping skills and a move dreaded by many beginners.  

The plethora of e-commerce software options coupled with the lack of reliable shopping guides makes it pretty hard for both end users and businesses. Areto Systems has noted this with a lot of concern and part of our remedy is the comparison between osCommerce and Zen Cart. If you cannot pick a solution between the two, its time you trashed the confusion.  

These are well-established e-commerce shopping cart platforms that offer reliable solutions for free. Our unbiased and pertinent comparison will reveal the key similarities and differences exhibited by these applications.  


OsCommerce is a pioneer PHP/MySQL open source shopping cart established in 2000. Since its inception, this software has been used to form the spine of thousands of online stores. On the other hand, Zen Cart separated from osCommerce in 2003 and is built from the bones of its predecessor. For this reason, both e-commerce platforms share a handful of similarities which includes; 

  • Open source nature 

Both osCommerce and Zen Cart are open source shopping cart software that takes care of the front and back end of your business. You can modify (develop additional features and add to the coding) the platforms freely without the burden of violating some of the license agreement.  

  • Pricing: 

OsCommerce and Zen Cart are open source platforms which mean they are free to download and use to design an online store. However, the biggest concern with these platforms is the ongoing costs. Although they are “free” you will stumble upon some additional costs which including;  

  1. Hiring a PHP developer which is critical 
  1. Hosting services which usually cost approximately $5 per month but can be expensive if they are of the highest caliber.  
  1. Purchasing a good theme/design template for your online store  
  1. Other vital features required to round out your store include; additional security, and a reliable merchant account for credit card processing.  

However, Zen cart provides more free tools than osCommerce that help you to reduce the cost of setting up a fully functional online store. Zen Cart platform comes ready to use but gives users the freedom to purchase specific add-ons or templates.  


  • Payment processing: 

In terms of the payment processing, Zen cart provides default payments gateways which include; FirstData, PayPal, and In addition, the platform provides limitless options which can be accessed via the correct plugins, one of which is payment gateway plugin offered by Areto Systems for the processing of card payments. To see a complete list of payment gateway plugins available, visit here. OsCommerce also provides default payment processing methods which include PayPal and Besides, it supports ample gateway options via plugin and extensions.  

  • Ease of use: 

When it comes to saving resources (time and money), the ease of use for any platform is a critical consideration especially if you have little knowledge of coding. However, an easy to use website can mean limited features and capabilities for your online store. For this reason, the ease of use should be examined relative to your business needs and expertise.  

Neither osCommerce nor Zen Cart is a cloud-based solution. This means you will have to spend a considerable amount of time to design the store, integrate shippers, add payment processors, and products, categories, etc. 

Zen cart is a clear winner here since it’s very easy to create your online store even without any programming knowledge. It’s pretty easy and user-friendly for beginners to set up without numerous feature bloat. Its template system is incredible allowing the user to set up the themes intuitively. Also, its categories and products are easy to input and maintain.  

On the other hand, osCommerce is not straightforward to set up. This platform provides an unwelcoming blend of clunky and complex installation steps which can be daunting for users. However, once you overcome the installation hurdle, it becomes easy to load add-ons, add extra features, and make updates.  

  • Product features 

The most critical factor when selecting an e-commerce platform is its functionality. It’s an important piece and the biggest deciding factor in the decision you make. You need to ensure that your e-commerce platform will support scalability with added features.  

Zen Cart has the edge over osCommerce in terms of the features. It comes out of the box with important basic features which include; adding products and categories, currency, defining shippers, multiple languages, coupons, newsletters, product showcase, product review, and payment processors. You do not have to install extensions or plugins to get the basic features.  

However, osCommerce provides the most basic features, but most of the store features are obtained via add-ons. It doesn’t come with features like social tools, multicurrency support, address book, etc. For this reason, osCommerce has a complicated inventory management backend. Moreover, because of the multitude of plugins, its SEO can sometimes be messy.  

  • Web design and customization 

Zen Cart comes ready to use a customizable default template. Practically, you will not want to utilize the default design to get started. Instead, you will start by modifying the template with the available free features and templates. Making the basic adjustment is easy since the website provides over 200 free customization options. It provides button & graphics and template alterations plugins which make it easy to spruce up your store. However, the platform doesn’t provide built-in reporting tools or a live editor and can be overwhelming to newbies. In addition, Zen Cart’s frontend theme is pretty rigid and doesn’t allow you too much customization. 

On the other hand, osCommerce provides a narrow array of templates which make it pretty hard to change columns and fonts. Its underwhelming options can be a complete headache especially if you are not well versed in coding. Moreover, updating your theme on osCommerce is a multi-step process that is time-consuming.  

  • Integration and plugins 

A good shopping cart platform should maintain an app store with additional functionality besides what it provides out of the box. OsCommerce is the undisputed winner here. The platform provides over 7,000 plugins and integrations trouncing Zen cart by a wide margin. What’s more; the software provides almost every plugin and extension any user can imagine.  

Zen Cart has not racked up a wide array of plugins and integrations. With just over 1500 plugins this platform is completely outshone by osCommerce.  

However, caution must be observed when utilizing the plugins from both platforms. Most of these platforms are designed by the platforms’ community, and their quality and ease of installation can vary widely. But with a well-versed developer, the integration hiccups will be easily overcome.  

  • Customer support 

Customer support is important and can mean the success or failure of your software. Imagine downloading a free software and don’t know how to install or use it? Is help available in case a challenge arises? How fast can you get the remedy to your problems?  

Zen Cart doesn’t avail technical support staff at the fingertips. However, the software is backed by an impressive blend of helpful resources which include; 

  1. Community forums: the platform has an active community of users that provides informative and helpful answers to questions. The community is one of the best and most helpful you will ever find.  
  1. Paid support: Zen Cart also allows users to pay experienced developers in case the other support systems fail.  
  1. Wiki page: the Zen Cart wiki page is a helpful resource that provides step by step guides to all the processes involved in running your store. 
  1. YouTube: if you are a visual learner, you will find plenty of helpful video resources posted on YouTube.  

Oscommerce provides customers support via a number of options. Users can troubleshoot the problems via documentation and forums. Besides, the annual ($65) provides a community sponsorship plan where users can submit tickets to get access to the live chat. The live chat support is an incredibly helpful standout.  

  • Security  

Security is a key feature for any successful online business. A platform that provides rigid security features can win the confidence of your potential customers easily. It can be the reason for your increased sales and overall business growth.  

Zen cart provides more security feature than its competitor. These features include; data encryption, daily data backup, database caching, dedicated SSL, and more. Also, the platform is PCI compliant which is fantastic. OsCommerce, also offer robust security and provide shared SSL certificate. However, the platform is not PCI compliant.  


Based on our analysis we found that both osCommerce and Zen cart are fit for your online store. Both platforms provide all the key basic features but also exhibit conspicuous differences. OsCommerce is easier to install and is a reliable option for newbies with little knowledge about e-commerce. On the other hand, Zen cart has more features, and product options is an incredible solution for well-versed users. Both platforms will give you the ability to fully customize your store and easily manage hosting.They also give you the freedom to engage an active community of developers who will help you to improve your shopping cart.  



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