Cheap vs Expensive Dumbbells: Is There REALLY a Difference?

Cheap vs Expensive Dumbbells Is There REALLY a Difference?

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If you’re considering adding dumbbells to your home or commercial gym, you might have experienced sticker shock when you realized how expensive they can be. You might then wonder if there’s a huge difference between cheap and expensive dumbbells and what you’ll be sacrificing if you go with a budget brand over a premium brand.

The main differences between cheap and expensive dumbbells are where they’re made and where the materials come from. Dumbbells made overseas are almost always cheaper than ones that are made in the US. Dumbbells made with materials sourced from other countries are also cheaper, even if they are manufactured on US soil.

Other factors including how the dumbbells are made, the quality of the materials used, and how accurate their listed weight is can also determine how expensive they’ll be.

In this article, I’ll discuss the reasons why dumbbells are so expensive and provide some examples of how much different types of dumbbells cost. I’ll also show you ways you can save money when buying dumbbells, discuss who should buy cheap and expensive dumbbells, and give my honest opinion on whether expensive dumbbells are worth it.

What Makes Dumbbells So Expensive? 10 Factors

What makes dumbbells so expensive 10 factors?

Ten factors that make dumbbells so expensive are:

  • Weight
  • Materials
  • Where they’re made
  • Supply and demand
  • Shipping costs
  • Seasonality
  • Brand name
  • Smart technology
  • Not a repeat purchase
  • Brands taking advantage of uninformed customers

1. Weight

The price of dumbbells goes up as the weight goes up because heavier dumbbells require more materials and labor to make.

As well, when you buy dumbbells, you usually don’t buy one — you have to buy two. This makes them more expensive since you’re essentially paying double the price.

2. Materials

Dumbbells can contain a variety of materials, including cast iron, rubber, neoprene, vinyl, chrome, and urethane.

Cast iron dumbbells are often the cheapest because no other materials are required and fewer manufacturing steps are needed to make them. Urethane dumbbells are the most expensive because urethane is a high-quality type of rubber that’s extremely durable and resistant to chips and cracking.

Regular rubber dumbbells typically fall somewhere in between, while chrome, neoprene, and vinyl dumbbells tend to be the most cost-effective options.

There are also adjustable dumbbells that can be made from any combination of steel, plastic, rubber, and nylon. They have more parts such as adjustable pins or dials that regular dumbbells don’t have.

The cost of each material that goes into making adjustable dumbbells varies, and having so many different parts requires longer manufacturing processes. But while this results in them having high upfront costs, they typically cost less in the long run because you get multiple weights with just a single pair of dumbbells.

Learn more about all of the different types of dumbbells available on the market.

3. Where They’re Made

dumbbells where they’re made

Dumbbells made in China or Southeast Asian countries will almost always be cheaper than dumbbells made in the US or Canada. There are a few different reasons for this:

  • Materials are cheaper, and some are made in China, so they don’t have to be imported.
  • Factory workers are paid lower wages.
  • Labor laws aren’t as strict, so people work longer hours, which means they can produce more products.
  • Many factories are located in coastal areas, which means there’s less of a distance the products have to travel before they can be shipped overseas.
  • There isn’t as much of an emphasis on quality assurance.

Current foreign affairs can also dictate the price of dumbbells, as political issues can affect things like tariffs and trade relations, which have an impact on the price of goods.

4. Supply and Demand

Supply and demand play a large role in the price of dumbbells. When there’s a huge demand for them, their prices will increase.

An example of this is how prices rose to close to $3 per pound during the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone wanted dumbbells so they could work out from home, and companies couldn’t keep up with the demand. As a result, prices increased.

As well, companies knew that people would pay higher prices just to get their hands on any pair of dumbbells, which gave them more flexibility to increase prices.

But when there isn’t a lot of demand for dumbbells, prices decrease as brands and manufacturers try to get rid of their excess supply.

5. Shipping Costs

When you buy dumbbells online, you have to pay for the price of shipping. Dumbbells are heavy objects that put a lot of wear and tear on delivery trucks and require more fuel to get to their final destination. Those factors contribute to a company’s shipping costs.

Where you are located in relation to a company’s distribution center determines shipping costs as well. For a company with a distribution center in California, it will cost a lot more to ship dumbbells to New Jersey than it will to ship them to Oregon.

There’s also packaging to worry about. If dumbbells are haphazardly thrown into a box, there’s a good chance they’ll be damaged by the time they get to you. Manufacturers have to buy proper shipping materials to make sure the dumbbells remain intact during the shipping process, and the cost of those materials is covered with shipping fees.

Another thing to consider is how long it takes a company to ship its products from an overseas warehouse to a port in the US.

I mentioned earlier that many factories in Southeast Asian countries are located in coastal areas, so it doesn’t take long for them to arrive at a local shipping port. But they still have to travel a great distance to get into the US, and once they arrive in the US, they have to travel even further by truck or even plane to reach you.

6. Seasonality

It’s common to see prices of dumbbells fluctuate during certain times of the year. For example, on Black Friday or Cyber Monday and throughout the holiday season, many companies lower their dumbbell prices to encourage shoppers to buy them for holiday presents.

They’ll also run promotions during New Years or at the beginning of the summer because these are times when people decide they want to change their habits.

With all that said, however, dumbbell prices can also go up during these times of the year as demand increases.

7. Brand Name

Sometimes, when it comes down to it, you’re really just paying for a brand name when you purchase a pair of dumbbells.

Sure, some brands are known for using higher-quality materials that are sourced from the US or Canada and making their products on US soil. But if you’ve ever used two pairs of hex dumbbells, for example, from two different brands, you likely noticed that there aren’t really a lot of differences between them.

People tend to be loyal to brands that they trust or see athletes promoting on social media, though. Some brands that want to capitalize on their popularity will purposefully set their prices high because they know people will buy from them regardless.

8. Smart Technology

Dumbbells that can be paired to your cell phone and synced with mobile apps to automatically count your reps and/or sets are becoming more common, but they are pricey due to the smart technology they contain.

They require more parts (for example, computer chips and/or rechargeable batteries) and testing to ensure the dumbbells will work as advertised.

9. Not a Repeat Purchase

For the most part, dumbbells are a one-time purchase. You may buy more pairs as you get stronger or expand your gym space, but you’re not going to buy them every single week like you would buy groceries or other necessities.

And because fitness equipment companies are less likely to see frequent repeated purchases from the same customers, they have to set their prices accordingly so they can turn a profit.

10. Brands Taking Advantage of Uninformed Customers

This is unfortunate but true — some brands set high prices on dumbbells simply because they hope that people will buy them without doing any research or price comparisons.

This is why it pays to shop around before you settle on a pair of dumbbells.

4 Differences Between Cheap vs Expensive Dumbbells

4 differences between cheap vs expensive dumbbells

The main differences between cheap vs expensive dumbbells are:

  • How they’re made
  • Where they’re made
  • Where the materials come from
  • Accuracy of weight

1. How They’re Made

Cheaper dumbbells may simply be glued together while more expensive dumbbells are welded or bolted together. Because welding and bolting require a lot more labor and machinery, dumbbells that are made that way will cost more.

Similarly, dumbbells that are made solely out of cast iron really only require someone to pour molten iron into a mold and wait for it to set. The process is a bit more straightforward than building dumbbells made from multiple different materials, so manufacturing and labor aren’t as costly.

2. Where They’re Made

I touched on this earlier, but another major differentiating factor between cheap and expensive dumbbells is where they’re made. It pays more for brands to hire workers and operate factories and warehouses in the US, so dumbbells that are made domestically will be much more expensive than those made overseas.

3. Where the Materials Come From

Where the materials come from also differentiates cheap vs expensive dumbbells. They may be manufactured in the US, but if the materials used to make them are sourced from overseas, that can help keep costs down.

However, this also means that the dumbbells may wear down faster if the materials aren’t as high-quality as those you’d find in the US.

4. Accuracy of Weight

It’s not uncommon for cheaper dumbbells to be off in weight by a pound or more, which is often a result of poor quality control from brands that are just trying to churn out a high number of products as quickly as possible.

While it may not be a huge deal if you’re aware of it and understand that you’ll have to track the weight you lift accordingly, it can be disconcerting as a consumer to not get what you thought you were paying for.

Examples of Dumbbell Costs

Cheap Dumbbell Examples

CAP Barbell Cast Iron Dumbbells

I mentioned earlier that cast iron dumbbells are the most cost-effective solution. The CAP Barbell cast iron dumbbells are an excellent option that cost roughly $1.5 – $1.7 per pound as of the time of this writing.

These dumbbells have steel handles so they’re not made solely from cast iron, but the steel used is one of the most widely available types of steel (1018 cold-rolled solid steel). This helps keep the cost of these dumbbells low.

Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbells

The Yes4All Adjustable dumbbells are like mini barbells with mini plates. They feature a chrome dumbbell handle that you can slide plates onto and secure with a star-lock collar. The lower weights (up to about 100lbs) cost just $1.2 per pound, though the prices can change.

Adjustable dumbbells like these are cheaper than dumbbells like PowerBlock dumbbells (which use a pin mechanism to adjust the weight) or Bowflex dumbbells (which use a dial to adjust the weight). This is because there are fewer materials needed to make them, and they don’t have as many small parts like other types of adjustable dumbbells.

Expensive Dumbbell Examples

Rogue Fitness Urethane Dumbbells

rogue urethane dumbbells

Rogue has a large, loyal following and is known for its commitment to making some of the best quality equipment you can find. Nearly all of its items are made in the US with materials sourced in the US or Canada. As such, its prices are often higher than a lot of other brands.

Urethane dumbbells from Rogue can cost as much as $4.5 per pound, but they get more cost-effective the heavier they are. As of the time of this writing, a pair of 10lb dumbbells costs around $4 per pound while a pair of 50lb dumbbells costs around $3.6 per pound.

Fringe Sport Rubber Hex Dumbbells

Fringe Sport rubber hex dumbbells

The Fringe Sport rubber hex dumbbells are some of the most expensive I’ve seen, ranging anywhere from $5.31 to $7 per pound.

This is a bit surprising because the dumbbells are not made in the US. However, Fringe Sport claims that its dumbbells are the most durable ones on the market, being able to absorb a ton of impact and stay intact when dropped due to a unique pin mechanism that prevents the heads from falling off.

Wondering what the difference is between round and hex dumbbells? Check out my article Hex Dumbbells vs Round Dumbbells: Which Are Better?

Are More Expensive Dumbbells Worth It?

When it comes to any kind of gym equipment, I stand by the fact that you get what you pay for. In my opinion, expensive dumbbells are worth it because they’re made from higher quality materials and tend to have a longer shelf life. They can handle more abuse and likely won’t have to be replaced.

In the case of brands like Rogue whose dumbbells are more expensive because they’re made in the US, it’s also nice to know that your money supports domestic workers and contributes to the US economy rather than going overseas.

That said, certain types of dumbbells aren’t all that much different from each other. For example, a pair of rubber hex dumbbells will generally be made from similar materials regardless of which brand you buy them from. It’s not always worth it to pay a premium price for dumbbells that are nearly identical to their cheaper counterparts.

Cheap dumbbells may have a tendency to fall apart quicker than more expensive dumbbells, but they can also last a surprisingly long amount of time if you take care of them. This means not dropping them on hard surfaces like concrete, storing them properly, and not letting chalk or moisture build up on the handles.

Key Takeaway: More expensive dumbbells are worth it, especially if you’re the type of person who puts your dumbbells through a lot of abuse. But if you buy cheaper dumbbells, you can make them last longer by making sure not to drop them, wiping them down when you’re done using them, and storing them properly.

Check out four of my favorite ways to store dumbbells.

6 Tips for Saving Money on Dumbbells

6 tips for saving money on dumbbells

My top tips for saving money when buying dumbbells are:

  • Buy them used
  • Buy them in sets
  • Be aware of free shipping
  • Consider adjustable dumbbells
  • Check thrift stores or discount stores
  • Look for dumbbells with minor flaws

1. Buy Them Used

Look around on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace for people in your area who are selling used dumbbells. Unless someone is trying to intentionally price gouge you, you can find used dumbbells for much cheaper than buying them new.

You may also be able to score some dumbbells at a discount if a gym near you is closing and auctioning off its equipment.

2. Buy Them In Sets

If you’re buying multiple pairs of dumbbells for a commercial gym or a large home gym, you may be better off buying them in sets rather than buying each pair individually. Most of the well-known fitness brands such as Rogue, Rep Fitness, and Titan Fitness sell dumbbells in sets of 5-50lbs and then 55-100lbs.

You can save at least a couple of hundred dollars buying them that way.

3. Be Aware of Free Shipping

Watch out for companies that offer free shipping on dumbbells. They try to lure you in and make you think that you’re saving money by not having to pay for shipping.

But a lot of times, the shipping costs are factored into the price of the dumbbells. Dumbbells from a company that offers free shipping may actually end up costing more than dumbbells from a brand that doesn’t even after you factor in shipping costs.

4. Consider Adjustable Dumbbells

Even though adjustable dumbbells have high upfront costs, they’re usually more cost-effective in the long run.

For example, a pair of PowerBlock dumbbells that can be adjusted to 20 different weights costs a few hundred dollars. But if you were to buy 20 pairs of cast iron or hex dumbbells, you could end up paying thousands of dollars.

5. Check Thrift Stores or Discount Stores

You’d be amazed at what you can find at a local Goodwill or thrift store. Some people want to get rid of their gym equipment because they’re downsizing or simply decide they don’t need it anymore. Instead of risking their safety and going through the hassle of selling it online, they donate it instead.

Discount stores like Marshall’s and TJ Maxx often have dumbbells for sale as well, though they usually only carry lightweight dumbbells made out of vinyl or neoprene.

6. Look for “Dumbbells With Minor Flaws

Every once in a while, brands will come across dumbbells that have minor blemishes or didn’t meet quality control standards for whatever reason.

It could be that the knurling isn’t as aggressive as the brand would like it to be, or the dumbbells arrived from the factory to the distribution center with small chips in the rubber.

Regardless of what the issue is, brands will sell these dumbbells for cheaper than the standard price rather than throwing them away. Titan Fitness, for example, sells “blemished” dumbbells for 5-10% cheaper than the regular price. 

Who Should Get Cheap Dumbbells?

Who should get cheap dumbbells?

You should get cheap dumbbells if you:

  • Don’t have a large budget. Buying dumbbells shouldn’t put you into debt. You can find dumbbells that fit a wide range of budgets, so shop around and look for dumbbells that meet the quality standards you’re looking for without costing an arm and a leg. You can always replace them if needed when you have more funds available.
  • Only use your home gym occasionally. If you have a gym membership and have a basic home gym setup that you only use on occasion, you don’t necessarily need expensive dumbbells. A cheaper pair of dumbbells should be sufficient when you’re only using them a couple of times per month.
  • Only use lightweight dumbbells. If you only use light weight (for example, during circuit training workouts), you can get away with using an inexpensive pair of dumbbells made out of vinyl or neoprene. You won’t necessarily need premium iron or urethane dumbbells if you’re not going to be lifting super heavy weight.

Who Should Get Expensive Dumbbells?

Who should get expensive dumbbells?

You should get expensive dumbbells if you:

  • Own a personal training studio or commercial gym. Spending extra money on dumbbells that are made from higher-quality materials and built with durability in mind is necessary if they will get a lot of heavy use. It’s less likely that they’ll fall apart after a short period of time due to multiple people using them several times per day.
  • Want to drop your dumbbells. This could be CrossFitters, bodybuilders, powerlifters, or anyone who pushes themselves to failure and may have to drop dumbbells at the end of a heavy set. More expensive dumbbells tend to be more durable and better able to withstand being dropped repeatedly. I provide a list of dumbbells that you can drop without damaging them in 7 Best Dumbbells That You Can Drop Without Damaging Them.
  • Have the means to pay for them. If you can afford expensive dumbbells, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get them. Paying more can give you greater peace of mind that the dumbbells won’t fall apart or have to be replaced after only a few months of use.

About The Author

Amanda Dvorak

Amanda Dvorak is a freelance writer and powerlifting enthusiast. Amanda played softball for 12 years and discovered her passion for fitness when she was in college. It wasn’t until she started CrossFit in 2015 that she became interested in powerlifting and realized how much she loves lifting heavy weights. In addition to powerlifting, Amanda also enjoys running and cycling.