You can set up a functional, well-designed online store without paying a monthly subscription fee. Free e-commerce website builders can help you create a website, list your products, take payments and manage shipments. The best options offer unlimited product listings and don’t cap your revenue.
But there’s a catch: While these e-commerce website builders don’t charge monthly fees, you’ll still have to pay a small cut from each sale to cover payment processing. And you may be locked into your provider’s payments system, which means you can’t shop around for lower transaction fees.
Here are our picks for the best free options.
Best free e-commerce website builders at a glance
E-commerce website builder
Brick-and-mortar businesses moving online.
Unlimited products, in-store pickup, gift cards and the ability to add particular paid features without upgrading to a fully paid plan.
Business-to-business, or B2B, sellers.
Customer portals, wholesale and custom pricing, and the ability to accept a variety of payment methods beyond credit and debit cards.
Very small businesses that want to list five or fewer products.
Automated sales tax, discount codes and shipment tracking.
Businesses that want to add an online store to an existing website.
HTML and plug-ins that you can add to your website to set up a store.
Apps and extensions that support a variety of features, although some come with fees.
Businesses that want lots of features but don’t generate that much revenue from their online stores.
Abandoned cart emails, sales on online marketplaces and customer reviews.
Square Online: Best free e-commerce website builder
Square Online is free to businesses that use a Square point-of-sale system in a brick-and-mortar location or take online payments through Square. Its simplicity and ease of use make it a good choice for businesses that want to get online fast. And you can sell an unlimited number of products without upgrading to a paid plan.
Note that all users have to pay Square’s payment processing fee of 2.9% plus 30 cents per online transaction.
Square Online’s key features include:
Unlimited products: Lots of free e-commerce website builders allow you to list only a few items before you have to upgrade. That’s not the case with Square, which has no cap on how many products you can sell on any of its plans.
Individual features on a subscription basis: You can pay a monthly fee to add particular functions like email or text marketing or a loyalty program without upgrading your Square subscription altogether —so you don’t have to pay for features you don’t plan to use.
Gift cards: Square facilitates digital gift cards for free. Physical gift cards start at 81 cents per card.
In-store pickup and local delivery: Once a customer buys a product, you can use a third-party delivery service or your own staff members to get it to their doorstep —although these services charge small fees of $1.50 and 50 cents, respectively. You can also hold the product in store until the next time the customer stops by.
Who should use Square Online: Brick-and-mortar businesses looking to set up an online store quickly and easily. Read NerdWallet’s review of Square Online.
Shift4Shop: Best for B2B sellers
Shift4Shop is one of few free e-commerce website builders that offer business-to-business features and is one of our picks for the best B2B e-commerce platforms. But it may also be a good choice for larger consumer-facing e-commerce businesses because it’s packed with features: You can customize your checkout experience, monitor order status and send updates to your customers, create out-of-stock alerts and much more.
Shift4Shop is free to users who process at least $500 per month in sales using Shift4, the payment processing company that owns Shift4Shop — formerly known as 3dcart. Shift4 charges transaction fees, but they can vary with each customer’s contract.
Shift4Shop’s key B2B features include:
Customer portals: Your customers can set up accounts on your website and see their previous orders, place reorders, save items and even import stock-keeping units, or SKUs, to find the specific products they’re looking for.
Acceptance of multiple forms of payment: In addition to credit and debit card payments using Shift4, you can use Shift4Shop to accept checks, money orders, purchase orders, corporate accounts and more. If customers want to finance large purchases, they can open a line of credit with Apruve.
Preorders: Taking preorders can help you order or manufacture the right amount of inventory —especially if customers make partial payments upfront. Shift4Shop says you can take preorders on event tickets, too.
Who should use Shift4Shop: Businesses that sell physical products, especially to other businesses. Read NerdWallet’s review of Shift4Shop.
Big Cartel: Best for small businesses with limited inventory
Big Cartel is a bare-bones online store builder, but if you’re a very small business or one that sells only a few different products at a time, it might offer all you need. You can list five items in your store, which will have a custom domain. Each item can include multiple colors and sizes but just one product image. For $9.99 per month, you can upgrade to a store that includes 50 product listings.
You can accept payments on Big Cartel using Stripe or PayPal. Both of those payment processors will charge a fee on each transaction —starting at 2.9% plus 30 cents or 3.49% plus 49 cents, respectively.
Big Cartel’s key features include:
Discount codes: Big Cartel users can create custom discount codes that reduce prices by a certain percentage or dollar amount or give customers free shipping. You can limit use of discount codes, too, to certain items or minimum spend amounts.
Automated sales tax: Big Cartel uses TaxJar, a third-party app, to calculate sales tax based on the locations of you and your customers. You can classify products by tax category because some goods are subject to different tax rates than others. TaxJar then pays the state or local government the taxes owed on your behalf.
Shipment tracking: You can set up automatic emails to your customers when their orders ship. When you enter a customer's tracking number into Big Cartel, the platform can detect which carrier you’re using and share an order tracking number with your customer.
Who should use Big Cartel: Businesses that need to list only a handful of products at a time, especially small artists and solopreneurs who often rotate merchandise in and out. Read NerdWallet's review of Big Cartel.
Ecwid: Best free way to add e-commerce to existing websites
Ecwid is a plug-in that can help you add e-commerce functionality to your existing business website. If you know some of the web programming language known asHTML, you can add individual store elements, like product search or a shopping bag, to your website. Or you can set up a separate Ecwid website and tie it into your existing website with a link.
Ecwid’s free plan allows five product listings, and you can view, manage and fulfill orders from a combined dashboard. However, you can’t sell digital goods with Ecwid’s free plan. Free stores also can’t directly connect to social media accounts or online marketplaces.
Ecwid’s key features include:
Plug-ins for existing websites: You can add Ecwid to websites built with WordPress, Wix, Drupal and Weebly using plug-ins, which usually don’t require coding. You can also add Ecwid manually to websites built on Squarespace, Blogger and many more.
Easy website builder: You can use Ecwid to build a stand-alone website with simple product listings and checkout functionality.
Choice of payment processor: Ecwid is owned by Lightspeed, a payment processor, but there’s no financial benefit to using Lightspeed over Stripe, Square, PayPal or any of the other payment methods Ecwid supports. You’ll have to pay your payment processor’s fees, but Ecwid doesn’t charge fees on top of that.
Who should use Ecwid: Businesses that already have a website and want to sell just a handful of products. Read NerdWallet’s review of Ecwid.
WooCommerce: Best e-commerce plug-in for WordPress users
WooCommerce is a plug-in that lets you add an online shopping cart to a WordPress website. It’s feature-rich and highly customizable: You can choose a theme, make edits to shopping cart and checkout pages, send customers coupons and rewards, and use extensions to add tons of additional functionality.
Though WooCommerce is open source and free, you’ll need WordPress’ Business or Commerce plan to run plug-ins. Those plans cost $25 or $45 per month, respectively. The Commerce plan comes with WooCommerce pre-installed.
WooCommerce’s key features include:
Variety of payment options: You can customize your shopping cart so that it accepts payment from credit and debit cards as well as cash on delivery, bank transfers and checks.
Social media and online marketplace sales: WooCommerce can facilitate advertising on Facebook and Google and help you list products on Pinterest, Amazon, eBay and other platforms.
Shipping support: You can print U.S. Postal Service and DHL shipping labels from your WooCommerce dashboard, which is built into the backend of your WordPress website. Some customers may qualify for discounted shipping rates.
Who should use WooCommerce: Businesses that already run on WordPress and have a web developer on staff. Here’s how WooCommerce stacks up against Shopify, a leading e-commerce platform.
Freewebstore: Most customizable e-commerce website for the price
Freewebstore is an online store builder that offers lots of features and themes. It may be a good fit for businesses that want an e-commerce website but don’t expect online revenue to exceed $30,000 annually; after that, you’ll have to upgrade to a paid plan.
Freewebstore comes with other limitations — for instance, no additional accounts for your staff and Freewebstore ads on your website. But it offers an opportunity to experiment with many features and get comfortable online before you decide whether you really want to invest in it.
Freewebstore’s key features include:
Abandoned cart emails: You can automatically generate emails to customers who navigate away from your website with items still in their cart. However, if the customer comes back and completes their purchase, Freewebstore will take 5% of it.
Requests for customer reviews: Ten times per month, you can generate emails to customers asking them to review your products. Positive online reviews may help future customers decide to make purchases.
Vacation responder: Taking some time off? You can put your Freewebstore shop in “vacation mode,” which sends customers a message letting them know you’ll be offline for a while.
Who should use Freewebstore: Small businesses that want to set up an e-commerce website with lots of features but don’t expect to exceed $30,000 in annual revenue.
Shopify Starter: Best low-cost e-commerce platform
Shopify Starter isn’t free: It costs $5 per month. But Shopify is a market leader in e-commerce, and its Starter plan offers a chance for e-commerce businesses with a social media following to get off the ground before building out a full online store.
In addition to the monthly fee, Shopify Payments takes a transaction fee of 5% on each sale.
Shopify Starter’s key features include:
Unlimited products: Your store can include as many items as you want.
No website — just a “link in bio” page: You won’t get your own website with Shopify Starter. Instead, you can share links to individual products directly on social media or through messaging apps. You can also create a page displaying your top products, which comes with a custom URL that you can add to social media bios.
Shopify’s order dashboard: On the backend, Shopify Starter users have access to an analytics dashboard, which displays information like which social channels are driving traffic to the store and how much revenue the average order generates.
Who should use Shopify Starter: E-commerce businesses that want to launch social media and online marketplace sales and eventually develop their own website. Read NerdWallet’s review of Shopify.
How to choose a free e-commerce website builder
Ask yourself the following questions while weighing your options.
How many products do you want to list at once?
From Big Cartel’s five-product limit to Square Online’s lack of a limit, there’s a wide range of options. If you’re a microbusiness that lists only a few products at a time, think about whether you anticipate even moderate growth. If so, consider starting on a platform without a product limit.
Do you want to choose your own payment processor?
Some free e-commerce website builders require you to use a proprietary payment processor. Others offer only one or two payment processor options.
On one hand, that’s one less decision for you to make —and if you generate a relatively small amount of revenue, it might not make that big of a difference to your bottom line. But on the other hand, that means you can’t save money by choosing a processor with lower fees.
If choosing your own payment processor matters, make sure to choose a website builder like WooCommerce or Ecwid that supports a variety of them.
How 'free' is it, really?
None of the free options on this list charge a monthly subscription fee, but you’ll have to pay for them in other ways:
Losing a cut of your revenue to payment processing fees.
Keeping your revenue below a certain cap.
Paying for a related service, like WordPress or a website that can run Ecwid’s plug-in.
You may also have to upgrade for certain features. Ecwid free users can’t sell digital goods, for instance, and Big Cartel free users get only one photo per product.
Decide which features matter most to your business, and look for the online store builder that offers that functionality for free. You may have to pay for additional features or upgrade to a subscription service as your business grows, though.
Do you expect to need more features?
Some of these platforms, like Shift4Shop, WooCommerce and Shopify, can support your business scaling many times over. But others are much more limited. If you outgrow your e-commerce platform, moving all your listings to a new one can be a lot of work; plus, you risk losing months or years of order history and data.
If significant growth is on the horizon, consider committing to a more feature-rich e-commerce website now. Shopify, Squarespace and Wix all offer multiple pricing tiers so you don’t have to pay for too many features that you don’t plan to use. These all charge subscription fees, but you can sign up for free trials to compare these paid website builders to your free options.
Would an online marketplace be a better choice than a website?
Instead of building a website, lots of small businesses create a profile on an online marketplace, like Etsy or eBay. In general, these platforms charge higher fees than the website builders listed above —Etsy charges 20 cents to list each item, then takes 6.5% of each sale, for example — but they can also be easier to use.
Using a marketplace instead of building a website may be a good choice if:
You don’t feel that comfortable online. You don’t need to know how to code to use Square Online, Big Cartel, Shift4Shop or Shopify Starter. But it can still seem daunting to build a website from scratch. Marketplaces offer far fewer customization options, which means the learning curve can be less steep.
Your business revenue is relatively low. The more you sell, the bigger the difference will be between the transaction fees charged by payment processors —usually around 3% per transaction — and the higher fees charged by online marketplaces. But if your business is small or seasonal, that may make less of a difference.
Your business fits in the right niche. Shoppers generally go to Etsy for handmade goods, eBay for collectibles and Poshmark for fashion. If your business fits neatly into one of those categories — or there’s another platform that serves your community —your customer base is probably already there, too.