If you’ve ever shopped for a set of dumbbells you’ve probably been surprised at how expensive they can be? Why do they cost so much? Here are the top reasons.
The biggest reasons why dumbbells are expensive;
- DB’s require a lot of steel.
- The weight makes shipping and handling costly
- The size and amount of different DB’s means high storage costs
- Production quality has to be high to be able to handle drops and impacts.
- Small production runs mean higher costs.
For a more in-depth explanation on those points and some tips to save money, keep reading.
5 Reasons why dumbbells cost so much
Let’s take a look at why dumbbells cost what they do. Here are the four most important reasons.
What can you expect to pay for a set of dumbbells? Well that depends on how many and how heavy the dumbbells you get are of course. It’s easier to express it in an average price per lbs. I’ve written a whole post about the average prices of dumbbells you can find here (click). Here’s the gist of that post;
You can expect to pay an average $1.67 per pound for dumbbells which means about $950 for a full set from 5 to 50 lbs. Cast iron dumbbells without any coating are the cheapest (+-$1.20/lbs.) which means about $680 for a full set. Heavier dumbbells are cheaper per pound than light ones.https://homegymresource.com/how-much-do-dumbbells-cost-list-of-examples-for-home-gyms/
As you can see, per pound it might not be too expensive. However, you need quite a few pounds. A full set of dumbbells from 5 to 50 lbs. weighs close to 600 lbs. which adds up quickly. If you need dumbbells heavier than 50 lbs. it gets more expensive quickly.
But why is that?
Dumbbells are often made from cast iron heads and a steel handle. While those aren’t the most expensive materials in the world, they aren’t the cheapest either. And for a full set, you need quite a lot of it. While a single pound isn’t expensive, well under a dollar per pound, if you’ve got a full set of dumbbells that’s still a significant amount.
Besides the steel parts, some dumbbells have a rubber or PU coating.
2. Shipping and handling costs
Dumbbells are heavy and that’s a good thing if you want to use them for exercise. However, it does mean that shipping and handling is a bit of a PITA. Heavy packages cost more to ship.
And since many dumbbells are made abroad, the shipping costs start adding up. Abroad often means China, which means they probably have to be shipped halfway across the world before they end up in your basement.
Compared to a box of feathers you have;
- Extra fuel costs
- Extra vehicle wear and tear
- More labor costs
That starts adding up when you ship it over 1000’s of miles. Producing locally is difficult in many places since not only the dumbbell factories have gone abroad, with them, the steel production has as well. That means you have to ship raw iron from further away which isn’t very efficient either.
Locally made dumbbells will have higher costs for raw materials and labor which offsets the lower shipping costs. On the plus side, locally made dumbbells are generally higher quality. Also, many people are willing to pay a premium for locally made products.
For delivery to your house there are often rules for how heavy packages can be. That means a full set can’t be delivered in a single package. Splitting this up into many packages obviously adds to the cost as well.
Dumbbells are not only heavy but also pretty big and bulky. Besides that, you have many different weights of dumbbells. That means keeping an inventory of dumbbells takes up a lot of space. Especially if you want to offer a few different types.
If a retailer (even online) wants to keep 3 different types (E.g. Cast iron, rubberized, Urethane) of dumbbells in stock. For a full set you want at least about 15 different weights and probably more. That means at least 45 different pairs of dumbbells.
For the more popular types of dumbbell, a seller wants to keep more than one pair in stock. So dumbbells are big and there are lots of different inventory items to keep track of.
And in normal times when the world isn’t locked inside, dumbbells don’t move that quickly. That means that those sets of dumbbells keep storage space in the warehouse occupied for a while. That means a retailer needs to pay for rent and maintenance for longer while not selling a produce.
So combine all those things and you can understand that storage of dumbbells can be a bit more expensive than other items.
4. Build quality
Of course there are other production costs besides the raw materials. The heads of the barbells have to be cast. The raw material and the process has to be up to a standard that creates a strong dumbbell. Dumbbells often get dropped on the floor and the wrong iron or process is used, they can break quickly.
The castings have to be reasonably well finished so there are no sharp edges you can hurt yourself on. Lower quality castings can actually be covered up with rubber or PU although that doesn’t mean those are cheaper since that process costs money as well.
The handles are an especially expensive part to get right. There is less material in them but require more processing to make them nice to hold and last long. Handles often have some type of coating for corrosion protection as well.
Finally the mounting of the head on the handle takes time and some mounting hardware. To ensure a good fit between the head and handle the production tolerances have to be within pretty tight limits. This is where most dumbbells fail so higher quality dumbbells will need more attention to this part which adds cost.
There are relatively cheap dumbbells out there that are made from rubber coated concrete and tubular steel handles. Yes, this is cheaper and will to the job for a while. Concrete doesn’t like being dropped however. Over time these dumbbells will deteriorate much quicker than cast iron ones.
5. Supply and demand
Most people buy a simple set of adjustable dumbbells which then starts collecting dust after a while. Even though a lot of people work out, there aren’t actually that many sets sold every day. Between all the different brands and producers that means small production runs. Small production runs means higher costs.
Especially higher weight dumbbells (over +- 60lbs.) have small production numbers. Most people will never use dumbbells that heavy so the number of users is very limited. The price of heavy dumbbells prevents many people from buying them in the first place.
With those heavy dumbbells the attention to quality is even more important since they’ll have to absorb more energy when dropped. Higher quality + less demand = high price.
How to save money on dumbbells
Now we understand why they cost what they do. That doesn’t make dumbbells any cheaper though. What are some things you can do to save some money when buying dumbbells?
The best way to save money on buying dumbbells is to buy second hand ones. There are plenty of people who buy dumbbells but stop using them after a while for whatever reason.
Maybe they stopped lifting or maybe they upgraded to something better. Whatever the reason is, they will cost less than buying new. Things like this are often in the way and people want to get rid of it so they can free up some space. This means you can often get good deals on used dumbbells or any workout equipment.
Taking a look at Facebook marketplace, Craigslist or your local alternative can really save you a lot of money over buying new.
Only buy weights you need
A full set of dumbbells is going to cost a considerable amount of money, no matter what you do. But maybe it’s not necessary to buy a full set.
People that have been working out for a while will know which weights they often use. If there are any weights you never use, don’t get them. If you don’t know, maybe go to a local gym a couple of times and take note of which weights you use.
If you’ve never worked out before, it’s difficult to know which weights you’ll use. In that case, a cheap pair of adjustable dumbbells can really help you out. For $120 you can buy a set that goes up to 50 lbs. per side.
Beginners will gain strength quickly so you’ll keep buying dumbbells otherwise. After a while of using adjustable DB’s, your strength gains will taper off and you can buy pairs of fixed DB’s of weights you often use.
Adjustable dumbbells are a great way to save money and space at the same time. Adjustable dumbbells are a single pair of handles you can attach different weights to, effectively creating many different pairs of dumbbells.
Because you’re re-using the same weights there is less material cost. And they’re just a lot smaller than a full set of dumbbells which saves money on shipping, handling and storage.
Simple adjustable dumbbells with screw collars are quite cheap. If you want a pair that’s adjustable with a dial or knob it’s more expensive (still cheaper than a set of fixed DB’s) because those are more difficult to produce.
Check out PlateMate
PlateMate is a company that makes magnetic weights you can stick onto weight plates or dumbbells. They’re easy to stick on and take off and come in different weights. This means it’s possible to extend the usability of your dumbbells just by adding these weights.
While they’re not super cheap, it’s a lot cheaper than buying another pair of DB’s.
For dumbbells they are available in a set of 1.25 lbs. and 2.5 lbs. That means you can add 2.5 lbs., 5 lbs. or even 7.5 lbs. to a pair of dumbbells. This allows you to have fewer pairs of dumbbells while still being able to increase the weight in small increments. That means you can buy dumbbells in 10 lbs. intervals instead of 2.5 lbs. intervals.
So even though the PlateMate weights aren’t very cheap, you can save a lot of money this way.
They are magnetic so obviously only work on iron or steel dumbbells. Rubber or PU coated dumbbells will not work.
PlateMate 1.25 lbs. Magnetic Weight Set
A set of two magnetic weights. 1.25 lbs. each for a total of 2.5 lbs.
Easy to stick onto your metal DB’s so you don’t have to buy a whole new pair.
PlateMate 2.5 lbs. Magnetic Weight Set
A set of two magnetic weights 2.5 lbs. each for a total of 5 lbs.
You can also use them in combination with the 1.25 lbs. set for a total of 7.5 lbs.
Are dumbbells essential in a home gym? No, most people can build a great body with just a barbell and weight plates. Dumbbells are a great addition to a home gym if you’ve got the space and money though. Dumbbells give you more exercise options and are better for isolation exercises. Dumbbells can also prevent or help correct muscle imbalances since your arms are moving separate weights.