There are many good free carts available. Of course, the biggest advantage, especially to a new website owner is the “freeness”. Many web hosts offer a free cart with web hosting. Many e-commerce providers offer a free shopping cart. Some of these carts are very good and not especially hard to learn. Others can be “open source” carts with a very high learning curve and little or no help support. In either event, rest assured, your host will NOT offer any tech support for the shopping cart….ever. Their techs are trained on their server and hosting, not shopping carts. So it pays to investigate the cart thoroughly before asking to have it set up.
The disadvantages that exist to “free carting” can be as varied as the carts themselves. But, the main disadvantage that they all have in common is that you don’t own them.
If you are using a web host-offered cart and want to change web hosts, you have a problem. What do you do about the cart? It is part of the reason they offer them. To keep you there. Moving to a new host can be difficult enough without also adding the shopping cart dilemma to the mix.
Beyond the above mentioned, the other disadvantages generally with free carts are in flexibility. There may be some things such as shipping or taxes that you just “must” have that they are not flexible enough to accommodate. Often it is difficult to tell whether you will have the flexibility you need until you start to set it up.
A big disadvantage to free carts is that many of them send your information to a “shared secure server”. Shared secure servers have a tendency to slow down the load time of your cart pages, therefore increasing the opportunity for abandoned carts. If you experience skipped “order numbers” you will know some customers are leaving because of load time.
The main disadvantage to the shared secure server is that you cannot guarantee to your customers that no one has access to their credit card information. You do not have control over that, unless you buy a cart with an online order management system so that you, and only you, receive that information.
In many cases, depending on what free cart you use, you will also be sharing a SSL certificate which does not inspire trust and confidence in your customers. If you are on a shared secure server, you are sharing a certificate.