Buy Cheap or Buy Quality?

by Scott Sery on October 8, 2012

There has long been a debate about whether a person should buy cheap or buy quality.  Those who adhere to a particular camp are very adamant that they have the right idea.  But is there really a method that should be held to over another?  Ultimately it boils down to what the item is, and how much use it will be getting.

Obviously the biggest advantage to buying cheaper items is that they cost less than their higher quality counter parts.  A cheaper item will help to get you by for a little while, but ultimately they will not last as long.

While it is tempting to go cheap on your purchases, everyone wants to save money after all, it may be better to spend a little bit more and purchase a quality item.  They will almost always last longer, and often if they do indeed break, they have a warranty that will replace them.

So it is not that difficult to show that buying a quality item will cost more, but last longer.  Where the difficulty comes up is whether or not you should put out the money to buy a quality item.  For those small jobs, where you will only need it a few times, or for a limited time, it might be better to get the cheap item.  When you need it longer, or will be using it often throughout the years, it will be in your best interest to put forth the extra money and get something that will last.

Several years ago I needed a new cordless drill.  I looked around, and since I did not have a lot of extra money at the time, I decided to spend $20 on a cheap 18 volt cordless from a discount hardware store.  It worked for what I needed it, but the first thing I noticed is that it didn’t even have as much power as the 12 volt drill it was replacing.  I used the drill regularly for about a year until the battery simply would not hold a charge any longer.  By this point I had decided that I would be using a cordless drill often, so I invested in a much better quality tool.  I did my research and the replacement cost $175.  I have been using that drill for over 5 years without any problems.  Not only is it still running as though it were new, it is a much higher functioning piece of equipment than its cheaper counterpart.

There are two ways of approaching purchases.  Many times we try to go the cheap route in order to save money.  However, in the long run, this route often ends up costing much more than it saves.  Before making purchases take some time to figure out how much you will be using the item over the next few years.  If you only need it once, consider renting it.  If you will need it occasionally, a cheap item may suit your needs.  If it will be used regularly for years to come, invest in a quality product that will work when you need it to work.

Are you a buy cheap or buy quality type of person?

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Scott Sery

Scott Sery is a native to Billings, Montana. Within an hour in nearly any direction he can be found fishing, hunting, backpacking, caving, and rock or ice climbing. With an extensive knowledge of the finance and insurance world, Scott loves to write personal finance articles. When not talking money, he enjoys passing on his knowledge of the back country, or how to live sustainably. You can learn more about Scott on his website Sery Content Development
  • John S @ Frugal Rules

    Great post. I tend to fall on the buy quality side. That said, it completely depends on the product. If I am already going to be spending a good bit on, then I go for quality. I’d rather spend a little more to get a better quality item that will last significantly longer.

  • It depends on what I need the item for but it sounds like a follow the same train of thought you generally do. Just make sure that you don’t fall into the trap of just because it is more expensive it doesn’t mean it is higher quality. Some brand names fetch premiums that are not quality based.

    • Scott Sery

      You’re absolutely right. I should have mentioned that before spending the money to buy a quality item, make sure to read the reports (I am a huge fan of consumer reports). When making any purchase over about $100 I make sure to read as many reviews as I can so I know that I’m getting the best brand for the money.

  • I like to buy as much quality as I can afford. Usually I research prices, and have an idea about the cheapest, mid-range and dearest item. Then I try to get the upper mid-range second hand for the cheapest’s price. In case of a drill, I would try to borrow first, then look for second hand, or even rent, because I don’t need it daily. But for a car or clothing I would be prepared to spend the extra buck for my purchase to last longer.

  • This question lead me to start my blog in the first place! For me, it all depends on what the item. I’ve been burnt many times just going on price alone only to have to buy another item a few weeks/months later. In the end, I spent more than I would have had I just bought a better quality product. With that said, there are some things that you can get away with by purchasing a cheaper version.

  • We go cheap if we know we only need for a few uses and it’s something we can’t rent. Otherwise, we try and buy the best value that we can. Mr. PoP’s favorite products are things that he calls “heirloom quality”. He likes knowing that the tools he buys will still be working in 50 years to hand down to his hypothetical grandchildren. =)

  • maria@moneyprinciple

    I work based on the saying ‘ I am not so wealthy as to buy cheap stuff’. And my xperience matches yours: paying more pays off.

  • Depends on what it is. If it’s something I’m going to use a ton I will be more likely to go with quality. If it’s something I just need once or that I will only use every once in a while, I will go with the cheaper option.

  • Jason @ WorkSaveLive

    It would depend but for the most part I’m a buy quality person. I’ve been burnt on a number of occasions opting for the cheap route and it has NEVER worked. The old adage is generally true: you get what you pay for.

  • I do both. It really depends on what the item is. If it is something I am only going to use for a short time then I usually buy cheap. However if it is something that I plan on getting lots of use out of, then I buy quality. Lance makes a good point too. Price doesn’t dictate quality.

  • I’m all about the Quality for the most part but there are things I could give a toss about like dishes, glasses, utensils, or food that might be no-name like ketchup. I do like to buy quality materials for the home, my truck, clothes, towels etc. In general I hate to spend money twice on something when I know if I spend 20 bucks more it will last me a couple extra years. We go to the dollar store to buy cheap crap that would cost us a few bucks more at say, Home Depot for the same crap… for example mini paint rollers… $5.99 versus $1.00.. for the same ones.. Great post mate. Mr.CBB

  • Kim

    I buy cheap clothes because I don’t need expensive ones where we live. I don’t buy cheap shoes or coats or sports equipment. If you buy quality on those, they last a long time. Another thing I would never buy cheap is vacuum cleaners. They break within months. We bought a decent one and it still works like new after five years of heavy use.

  • For me, it depends. I like to buy quality if it is something I know I will use a lot. A good example of this is my Mountain Hardware jacket. It was definitely more expensive than many other options, but I wear it non-stop throughout the winter and it still looks like new. Then there are other things I go cheap on. (Shampoo, Razors, etc). For me, it depends on the expected life of the item…

  • It depends on what it is, but with tools I normally go with the higher quality more expensive ones as long as I know I will use it. Power tools I normally go with mid-range stuff as they can last just as long as the more expensive ones if you take care of them.

  • Quality all the way – but that doesn’t mean that I do go after getting the best price possible!

  • Tim J. Richmond

    Lots of great comments! I think in the end most people have got it right: It’s about what fits your situation.

    For example, I like where you specified that you didn’t have a lot of money at the time you bought the $20 version. Not only did the drill fit what you needed it for, the price fit your situation.

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