McDonald's Vs. Burger King: Which Is Cheaper?

From Coca Cola and Pepsi to Starbucks and Dunkin', famous brands that sell similar products are often pitted against each other by consumers, most of whom have a strong preference for one over the other. This same fan battle rings true for two of the oldest and most popular hamburger chains: McDonald's and Burger King.

Introduced to the public only four months apart in 1954 and 1955, respectively, Burger King and McDonald's have been contenders in the fight for best fast-food restaurant long before the market expanded to include Wendy's, Five Guys, etc. Though Burger King and McDonald's have comparable menu items, such as fries, chicken nuggets, signature burgers, and fun toys with kids' meals (check out these Happy Meal toys that are worth a ton of money today), the taste is certainly different, making it understandable when customers gravitate toward one chain over the other.

Since taste preference varies from person to person, there will never be a true victor based on this data. However, it is possible to determine the superior restaurant in regard to cost. Is it cheaper to eat at Burger King or McDonald's? Read on to find out.

What are the prices of popular menu items?

The cost of a meal at an American fast-food joint can vary greatly from location to location, with a restaurant in a high-traffic spot likely to charge more for the same items than one in a rural town. For example, a rest stop in Connecticut was called out in summer 2023 for charging customers $18 for a Big Mac combo meal. Prices also tend to be higher on delivery apps like DoorDash and Grubhub (speaking of, how much should you tip your food delivery person?).

On average, signature sandwiches like Burger King's Whopper and McDonald's Big Mac cost ~$7 and ~$6, respectively. The Whopper comes with one beef patty, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup, and sliced onion, all tucked between a sesame-seed bun (cheese, bacon, and other toppings can be added for an additional fee). As for the Big Mac, this burger comprises two beef patties, Big Mac sauce, pickles, shredded lettuce, chopped onion, and cheese on a sesame-seed bun, while an extra bottom-bun half is stacked in the middle.

Other menu items also slightly vary in price, with Burger King's chicken sandwich costing $4.79 compared to McDonald's $4.29, and a large portion of fries costing $2.99 at BK compared to Mickey D's $3.99. As a whole, it appears as though McDonald's is the cheaper option. However, it's not necessarily the most cost-effective.

The size and quality varies

Burger King might be a little pricier than its McDonald's competition, but its sandwiches are also noticeably larger. While the Big Mac weighs 7.1 ounces and measures 3.5 inches in diameter, the Whopper, at 11.5 ounces, weighs 38% more, and is 1 inch greater across. Therefore, though Burger King's prices are a bit higher than McDonald's, customers are getting more bang for their buck.

Yet at the same time, the costlier Whopper might be more detrimental to a consumer's health. Per a 2019 Chain Reaction V report, which graded fast-food chains on their efforts to minimize antibiotics in beef products, McDonald's was given a "C" grade while Burger King received an "F." The Public Interest Research Group report found that when livestock is given an excessive amount of antibiotics to treat a sickness, future consumers have a higher risk of infection caused by antibiotic resistance.

Ultimately, the determination of which burger chain is cheaper varies greatly on what people are looking to get out of their fast-food experience. If size-to-cost ratio matters, then Burger King wins the battle. However, if someone is looking to spend the least amount of money, and be somewhat health-conscious in the process, they may want to pay Ronald McDonald a visit.