If you’ve ever wondered whether or not a $20 vibrator could be just as good (if not better) than a $200+ vibrator, you’re not alone—we’ve all questioned if splurging on the chicer, more expensive toy would really be worth it in the long run. Does price matter for sex toys?
To help answer this question, we reached out to a few of our favorite sexual health and wellness experts. Read on to see what they had to say.
Cheap vs. affordable vs. expensive
Before we get into the thick of it, let’s clarify a few things first. The term “expensive” is subjective. What’s expensive for one person may not be for another. The affordability of an item depends entirely on your income and your threshold for spending money. It all comes down to what you value most and how much you’re willing to pay.
So, if you’ve ever thought, “Woah, that’s a lot to spend on a solo sesh,” then that toy was probably too “expensive” for your liking. Does that make sense?
To put things into perspective, let’s bring some data into the equation. According to a 2020 survey conducted by Adam & Eve, 50% of respondents said that their sex toys cost them $20 or less, whereas 34% of respondents said they spent between $20 and $50. Only 13% of respondents admitted to spending $50–$100 and a whopping 3% said they spent $100 or more.
Are budget-friendly sex toys safe to use?
Budget-friendly sex toys (toys with a price tag ranging from $15–$50) aren’t the enemy, but there are things you should watch out for when shopping for cheap toys online. Here are a few examples.
Counterfeit sex toys
Getting a discount on anything nowadays is like getting a surprise gift in the mail. But when it comes to sex toys, the discount may not be worth it.
“Can an inexpensive toy make you come? For sure, if it’s one whose features you like,” says Carol Queen, Ph.D., staff sexologist at Good Vibrations. “If you have a limited budget, just shop around for the things that might feel good to you, but beware of off-brand or aggregator sites that might (maybe without even knowing it) be selling knockoffs.”
In 2014, Amazon got heat for selling counterfeit cosmetics. After the news of this faux fiasco hit mainstream media, big-box companies (Nike and Birkenstock, just to name a few) withdrew their products from the site. The issue grew into such a problem that Amazon enlisted a Counterfeit Crimes Unit to help suss out the fake and put the counterfeiters where they belong: jail. Even so, Amazon is still littered with knockoff toys that look like the real thing.
So, what’s the big deal? Well, for starters, many of the knockoffs claim to be made of body-safe silicone, hundreds are not. Here’s how we know: According to Dainis Graveris, a certified sex educator and relationship expert at SexualAlpha, plain, liquid silicone costs $4.50 to $6.50 per pound; TPE is around $1.60 per pound. After you factor in molding, production, and distribution, there’s no way (realistically) any vibrating “silicone” butt plug could actually be silicone.
“Cheap sex toys are often made of rubber, which isn’t safe for the body,” says Carmel Jones, sex expert and founder of The Big Fling, a sex-positive blog dedicated to fighting toxic masculinity. “When buying a sex toy, you want to make sure it’s not made of a porous material that has an increased risk of bacterial growth. Silicone and glass are known to be the safest non-porous materials.”
Low prices are tempting, but sometimes those unbelievably low-priced toys come with defects. In fact, some Amazon reviewers noted that their toy didn’t work at all and when they reached out for a refund, it was nothing but crickets.
“For the right price, you can get a hypoallergenic material like silicone, which is not only hygienic but also durable and easy to clean,” Rachel Sommer, Ph.D., clinical sexologist, and co-founder of My Sex Toy Guide. “Unlike a cheap option that might be made from porous materials, you get
to enjoy longevity, safety, convenience for the right price,” Sommer adds. “So, yeah. Price does matter. A small price difference can mean getting a non-porous model instead of a porous toy or a vibrating model over a non-vibrating one.”
What makes expensive sex toys worth the price?
We’re not saying that an affordable toy can’t give you a pleasurable experience, because there are hundreds of inexpensive toys that can! What we are saying, however, is that buying cheaper toys online is a gamble. Not only could you be putting your health at risk, but there’s a chance the toy may not last or work at all.
“Just like the sex toy material, size, shape, and features, your sex toy’s price is an important factor to consider when buying one,” Sommer continues. “Even more importantly, the price usually determines the materials used, size, and extra bells and whistles that will enhance your
self-pleasuring experience. Of course, the most expensive toy doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best, but the price certainly matters when it comes to sex toys.”
Still need convincing? Here are three reasons why you should consider investing in a high-end sex toy:
1. Good vibrations: Top-notch sex toys are typically more powerful than their cheaper counterparts. “If you have the ability to spend a little more, you should,” says Jones. “It’s about prioritizing your pleasure and here’s why: More expensive sex toys tend to have more powerful motors which mean faster vibrations.”
2. Bells and whistles: Inexpensive toys may lack the techy features you’re looking for. “If you want fancy functions (Bluetooth connectivity, a variety of vibration patterns, built-in robotics), the price will reflect that,” says Queen.
3. Satisfaction guaranteed: High-end toys usually come with a warranty. LELO, for example, offers its customers a one-year warranty and a 10-year quality guarantee on the majority of its pleasure products. (Some exclusions apply, but can you get a better deal than that?)