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Weighing Quality and Cost

Posted by: Adam Serio on December 9, 2022
You have likely heard the saying, "you get what you pay for," but have you ever wondered whether that's true? It is an age-old dilemma, but it feels very relevant every day you go to the store and compare prices, features, and brands.

When looking at higher-priced products made by well-known brands, you are likely to assume it is made with better materials, ingredients, or processes, making their performance or durability superior to others. Do you really get what you pay for – or is quality sometimes independent of cost?

There is no single answer to this question, unfortunately. While going for the more expensive and presumably higher-quality item makes sense sometimes, it can also make sense to purchase a lower-priced product at other times. Here are some tips for deciding which way to go when weighing quality versus cost.

Read reviews and throw your assumptions out the window.

At many product review sites for consumers, you can find product reviews for almost anything with a little online browsing. Reading these firsthand experiences with a product you’re considering buying can help you decide whether a higher or even a lower price point is worth paying for the product. With the help of the best product review sites in 2022, you can also find video reviews to see how a product works, which can be especially helpful.

Prioritize the features you need.

Whether shopping for a lightbulb or a new refrigerator, what do you need it to do? Does that lightbulb truly need to have smart or dimming capabilities? Do you need a refrigerator with a video screen built in? Think about your daily life and what product features you are most likely to use and narrow your search to products with just those features. Often, the extra features that send prices higher are nonessential and can even subject you to higher repair and maintenance costs.

Do the math and read labels.

It’s easy to see product labels touting “extra strength” or “concentrated” and believe that what you are getting for the price is essentially more results. This isn’t always the case. For example, read the labels on laundry detergent and medications to see how many uses or doses each truly provides. You may find that the concentrated versions pretending to save you money can cost more in the long run.

Think about product support.

With some products, the risk of failure is very low, making it unlikely that you’ll require any warranty or customer support. However, this assurance is much more critical with more complex items like electronics or appliances. In this case, a product’s warranty coverage and product support team options have real value and shine a light on the importance of product support services and technical support services. However, remember that many products, such as those purchased at grocery stores, are eligible for a return, thanks to the store’s policies. This ability to return products to the store if unsatisfied allows you to try less-expensive items with less risk.

Factor in maintenance costs.

For products with moving parts or requiring routine upkeep, splurging a little on a higher-quality item can save you on repairs and maintenance costs, but do your research first. In many cases, replacement parts and items needed for maintenance on higher-priced items are also themselves higher priced.

Put safety first.

You cannot put a price tag on safety, so for those products that require care with use, such as baby toys, heavy or sharp objects, items with moving parts, lawn equipment, and vehicles, be sure to research safety records, reliability records and recalls on the products. Consumer Reports and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety are just two examples of great resources for this kind of information.

As you can see, sometimes you do get what you pay for, but oftentimes choosing the lower-priced product can help you save money without compromise. These guidelines can help you select the right option, no matter what you buy.