Bottled Water vs Filtered Water: Which is Better?

Your choice of drinking water is a big deal. We’ve all heard of the potential dangers of drinking plain tap water, so we don’t blame you if you’re seeking alternatives.

If you don’t want to drink the water as it comes out of your faucets, you have two other options: to filter your tap water or to drink bottled water. But which is best?

In this article, we explore bottled water vs filtered water, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each choice, and ultimately determine which one is better for you.

πŸ“Œ Key Takeaways:

  • Bottled water is water that is produced by independent manufacturers and packaged in bottles.
  • Filtered tap water is water from your faucets that has been filtered to remove specific contaminants.
  • Bottled water is sometimes purer and healthier than filtered water, but it depends on the type of bottled water product and how the tap water is filtered.

πŸ†š Bottled Vs Filtered Water: Quick Comparison

Just looking to quickly learn the key differences between bottled water and filtered water? Keep reading.

  • Source – Bottled water has numerous sources, including lakes, streams, glaciers, wells, and springs. Filtered drinking water comes from just one source (usually surface water from a municipal water supply).
  • Packaging – Bottled water is packaged, while filtered drinking water comes from your faucet.
  • Price – Drinking bottled water every day is expensive. Filtered water from a tap is “free” after the initial purchase of the filtration system – you just pay your water bill and the water filter maintenance costs.
  • Choice – You get plenty of choice with bottled water, including spring water, glacier water, mineral water, and reverse osmosis water. Filtering your water will give you the same taste and water quality every time.

Main Benefit of Bottled Water Vs Filtered Water

The main benefit of bottled water compared to filtered water is that bottled water offers more variety and convenience. You can head straight to your local supermarket and choose between a range of bottled water types.

Whether you fancy mineral water or you enjoy the taste of water from natural springs, you can buy a bottled water product that suits your tastes. You can find bottled water from almost any source, whereas filtered water from a tap usually comes from a single surface water source.

Filtered water vs bottled water

Main Benefit of Filtered Water Vs Bottled Water

The main benefit of filtered water compared to bottled water is that when you filter your water, you can mold the end product to suit your tastes and needs.

You can choose a water filtration system that treats your drinking water to your personal standards, and you have full control over what you remove – and even add to – your water. Plus, you can do it all from the comfort of your own home.

🍢 What Is Bottled Water?

Bottled water is a type of packaged water product that’s widely available in supermarkets and stores around the world.

There are various types of bottled water, from a variety of sources, including:

  • Natural spring water
  • Glacier water
  • Bottled mineral water
  • Infused or flavored bottled water
  • Bottled well water
  • Sparkling water
  • Filtered bottled water
  • Distilled or purified bottled water
  • Bottled tap water

Some bottled water products are healthier, cleaner, and safer than others. For instance, filtered bottled water should contain fewer of the impurities commonly found in tap water.

Most grocery stores sell a variety of bottled water products. The price of bottled water depends on the brand, the method of water sourcing and treatment, and the quality of the water.

In the U.S. alone the bottled drinking water industry is worth up to $16 billion

Inspection of bottled water processing plant

🚰 What Is Filtered Water?

Filtered water is tap water that has been filtered and is safe to drink.

There are numerous popular water filtering methods that are used to improve tap water quality, including:

  • Reverse osmosis
  • Activated carbon filters
  • Ion exchange filters
  • Water distillers
  • UV purifiers

You can find these water filters in several different filtration systems, including water distillers, faucet filters, under-sink filters, countertop systems, and whole-home filtration systems.

Learn more: How do water filters work? The complete guide

The exact quality of filtered drinking water, including the contaminants it contains and how it tastes, looks, and smells, depends on the method of filtration and the initial quality of the tap water.

Essentially, filtered water is the same as filtered bottled water products, without the price, chemicals, and environmental impact. 

multi-stage whole house RO water filtration system

πŸ† Bottled Vs Filtered Water: Which Is Best?

To decide whether bottled water or filtered water is best, we need to compare both water types across a number of categories.

Price Wars

2017 data shows that tap water costs $0.0034/gallon on average. If we assume an annual price increase of 4%, let’s say that tap water now costs $0.0040/gallon.

We’ve worked out an annual cost of tap water for a family of 4 by multiplying 2 (the number of gallons that 4 people roughly drink per day) by 365 (days of the year), which equals 730 gallons.

So, using this data, the average family of 4 spends about $2.92 on tap water (for drinking purposes alone) in a year.

Filtered tap water is slightly costlier – but you have control over how much you pay to filter your water per year. If you want to keep costs low, choose a water filter pitcher.

Let’s use our favorite pitcher, the Clearly Filtered Pitcher, as an example. This pitcher costs about $220 with three filters included (on the expensive side for a pitcher). The filters need changing every 4 months, so that brings up your total annual cost to $222.92.

Now let’s compare this to the cost of bottled water.

Of course, this cost fluctuates based on factors including the water source, brands, and treatments used.

According to the Beverage Marketing Corporation, wholesale bottled water in 2020 cost $1.17 per gallon. With an assumed 100% markup, the cost per gallon this year is about $2.34.

Using the same sum as above, the total cost for a family of 4 to drink bottled water per year is $1,708. That’s more than 7x the annual cost of drinking filtered water. Remember that we’re talking about wholesale prices here too, and individual bottles are likely even more expensive.

βš–οΈ Verdict: It’s much cheaper to drink filtered water than bottled water.

Health Comparison

Tap water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which produces Drinking Water Standards that municipal water facilities must adhere to.

However, most tap water supplies still contain trace amounts of contaminants – many of which are removed using a water filtration system.

The health properties and quality of filtered water depend on the filtration method used. Some filters remove more contaminants than others – therefore improving water quality and taste, and making it safer and healthier to drink.

Bottled water is considered a food product in the United States. Therefore, bottled water is subject to regulations by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

Some bottled water products are filtered, so these specific products are likely just as healthy as – or even healthier than – filtered tap water. For instance, bottled water treated with a purification process like reverse osmosis (which results in virtually contaminant-free drinking water) will likely be safer and healthier to drink than water filtered in a simple carbon filter.

Some types of bottled water, like water from natural springs or mineral water, often taste and smell better than filtered water, too.

However, not all bottled water products are filtered, and some studies have highlighted concerns over certain contaminants in bottled water, like microplastics, radiological elements, PFAS compounds, and heavy metals – all of which are harmful to health.

βš–οΈ Verdict: Filtered water is consistently healthy and safe to drink (as long as you change the filters on time) while the health properties of bottled water depend on the water source and the treatment and storage method.

Pouring filtered water in a glass

Environmental Impact

Filtered water is better for the environment than bottled water.

Water filters usually have a plastic outer shell, so filtered water does still produce plastic waste. However, it’s possible to recycle most water filters, and filters are designed to be used much longer than single-use bottled water (at least 2 months vs just 1 use).

Bottled water is bad for the environment. An estimated 86 percent of single-use plastic bottles become litter or trash. However, many major bottled water brands are working to implement eco-friendly practices, and the International Bottled Water Association released a study showing that plastic bottles have the lowest environmental impact compared to all other types of drink packaging.

βš–οΈ Verdict: Neither bottled water nor filtered water is 100% environmentally friendly, but because water filters last longer and many manufacturers have recycling programs, filtered water is best.

Advantages of Bottled Water

While bottled water is often the same thing as local filtered tap water, there are some reasons why people choose to exclusively be bottled water drinkers.

These include: 

  • Convenience – Bottled drinking water is portable. You can bring it wherever you go and if you forgot to bring a bottle with you, you can always purchase bottled water from your local store.
  • Safer than tap water –Filtered or purified bottled water is safer than plain tap water.
  • Tastes better than tap water – Some people believe that bottled water tastes/smells better than tap water, especially if the water is naturally high in minerals. Bottled water has to be dechlorinated and free from other chemicals, improving its smell and taste. 

Disadvantages of Bottled Water

Now let’s look at the setbacks of bottled water. These include:

  • Price – When you look at the price breakdown, bottled water costs A LOT. Single-use water bottles can be thousands of times more expensive than tap water. The price of bottled water can quickly add up.
  • Chemicals – While the FDA regulates the water within the bottles, it doesn’t regulate the plastic bottles themselves. Studies have shown that some bottles can leach harmful chemicals into the water. 
  • Environmental Impact – It can take approximately 1000 years for a water bottle to decompose. Plus, burning plastic bottles produces toxic fumes to be released into the environment. About 2 million tons of plastic water bottles are currently in US landfills.
bottled water waste

Advantages of Filtered Water

There are many reasons that filtered tap water is a good choice.

These include:

  • Tastes/smells the same as bottled water – Filtered water tastes and smells the same as, maybe even better than (depending on the product), bottled water. That’s because water filtration systems remove contaminants that contribute to poor taste, like chlorine.
  • Price – Drinking bottled water is expensive, but, filtered tap water is much more cost-effective.
  • Convenience – Filtered water is convenient. You don’t have to keep stocked up on water bottles because you have clean, tasty water available whenever you want. You can take reusable bottles filled with filtered drinking water on the go.

Disadvantages of Filtered Water

Here are some of the disadvantages of filtered water:

  • Investment Cost – The initial up-front cost of a filtration system may deter some folks. However, there are options for small budgets, and even after taking into account the initial investment, the annual cost of a filtration system is much less than bottled water. 
  • Maintenance – Water filters need to be replaced regularly. How often you have to change the filter depends on how much water you drink and the type of filtration system you have.
Water filter cartridge

πŸ“‘ Bottled Water vs Filtered Water – Our Top Pick

The only disadvantage of filtered water is the initial investment, but in the long term, filtering your water is much cheaper than loading up on bottled water.Β 

Filtered water is clean, safe, cost-effective, convenient, and environmentally friendly. Even if you have to occasionally get a bottle of water when you forget your reusable one, you’ll be doing yourself, and the earth, a favor by investing in a drinking water filtering system.

❔ FAQ

Is refrigerator filtered water better than bottled water?

Refrigerator filtered water might be better than bottled water – but this isn’t guaranteed. If the bottled water in question has been thoroughly filtered or purified, it’ll probably be cleaner and safer than water that has been filtered through a simple refrigerator carbon filter. Plus, some bottled water products contain minerals and other healthy ingredients that you won’t find in filtered water from your fridge.

Is filtered tap water safer than bottled water?

Filtered water can be safer than bottled water – it just depends on what the filter removes from your tap water, and what type of bottled water you’re comparing it to. For instance, some bottled water products are purified with reverse osmosis or distillation, which means the water may actually be safer than water filtered in a simple carbon filtration system.

Is filtered water the same as bottle water?

No, filtered water isn’t the same as bottled water. The quality of filtered water, including how it tastes and smells, and the contaminants it contains, is determined by the type of filtration method used. The quality of bottled water is determined by the water source and if (and how) the water is treated. It’s common for filtered water and bottled water to differ in taste, appearance, smell, and quality.

Is bottled water filtered?

The FDA (which regulates bottled water) is responsible for ensuring that bottled water is truthfully labeled. However, many popular bottled water brands such as Aquafina, Dasani, and Nestle Pure Life, are just filtered tap water. These misleading marketing tactics have come under fire recently and some large bottle water retailers, such as Aquafina, have been forced to re-label their bottles to state, β€œpublic water source.” So, let’s discuss the advantages and disadvantages of bottled water. 

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