Ah, it's that time of the month again with the never ending monthly RA shipping complaint thread.
RA has saved me a boatload of money over the years. Plan for future maintenance ahead of time, and do your best to combine shipping-- it takes some work, but the shipping can be cost effective if the items are in the right warehouse, or you're careful about picking brands that come from the same place.
You should realize that Rockauto doesn't own the inventory in most cases-- they drop ship from warehouses / other companies where the items are located. It's absolutely not an Amazon, O'Reilly, Autozone, etc. But the prices tend to be much cheaper (not always, but I find 80%+ of the time, especially on more expensive brands and OEM parts) but you have to put in the work. Some don't mind, some do. Sounds like you're one of the latter, and if so, shop on Amazon or other retailers.
For me personally, I get the most bang for the buck on closeout parts which tend to be plentiful for older vehicles, and all the closeout parts typically ship from the same place. I've refreshed entire suspensions (control arms/balljoints, tie rod ends, sway bar end links, struts & mounts, the whole nine years for less than $200 shipped, with mid-grade or better brands using their closeout deals. The fact that they sat on a shelf for a decade or whatever, doesn't bother me.
They also have some hidden gems, like brake fluid, anti-freeze, tools, bulk hose, etc. I've purchased and had shipped with other parts that became less expensive (and much better quality brand) than my local parts store when I was able to get the shipping just right. For me, it's absolutely worth the effort. The parts stores around here typically carry cheap Chinese stuff (with their own house brand label slapped on), and stuff of reasonable quality is prohibitively expensive. Amazon has some great deals (sometimes surpassing RA's) which makes sense for me if I'm only ordering a single part or two.
The only thing I dislike about RA is their return process-- few times came out in my favor (they let me keep the part and refunded my money when a mistake was made), but often you have to go through an elaborate questionnaire, and the result depends on the answers you chose-- I've figured out how to answer the questions just right to get the desired result in most cases, but sometimes it's nearly impossible to get them to pay for return shipping. There's no phone number to call or real tech support either.