When it comes to building a home gym, there is arguably one essential item that most people will need… weights!
This can be in the form of a barbell and weight plates or a set of dumbbells. Dumbbells come in many shapes, sizes, and materials but one thing holds true (no matter which dumbbell you are looking to purchase) and that is a 20lb dumbbell will always weigh 20lbs.
When looking into a set of dumbbells though, you might find they do not come on the cheap side, so, why are dumbbells so expensive?
Dumbbells on average will cost between $1.50 – $3 per pound. The main reason why dumbbells are expensive is because of the material used to manufacture them. To make something weigh more you need more raw materials which increase the cost. Dumbbells are also expensive to ship and store.
Trying to find a cheap set of dumbbells is almost an impossible task. Due to the boom and popularity in home/garage gyms, everyone is looking to have a set and with increased demand, comes increased supply which comes with an increased cost.
In this article, we’ll cover exactly why dumbbells are so expensive and if there are any cheaper alternatives.
Why Are Dumbbells So Expensive
On average, one dumbbell costs about $1.67 per pound. So, for an entire set of dumbbells weighing between 5 to 50 pounds, you’re looking at a cost of somewhere around $950. It’s also worth pointing out that the average cost can also vary between $1.50 – $3 per pound.
But there are many factors that go into the total price which is why there is such a variance. In general, though, lighter dumbbells cost less than heavier ones, and the heavier the weight you require, the more total cost you’ll need to pay.
There are 5 key reasons why dumbbells cost so much which include:
- Number of dumbbells and total weight
- Cost of raw materials and manufacturing quality
- Expensive shipping, handling & transportation
- Retailer storage is an added cost
- Economies of scale
Below we’ll cover these factors in more detail.
- Number of Dumbbells and Total Weight
A normal (or average) set of dumbbells can weigh around 600 pounds. So, the most obvious reason why dumbbells are expensive is because of the number of dumbbells within a set and the weight of each one. Adjustable dumbbells This also means that if you need even more weight, you should expect to pay a pretty penny.
- Cost of Raw Materials and Manufacturing Quality
The materials used to produce dumbbells are the largest factor in price. Many dumbbells comprise a steel handle and cast iron heads. These castings have to be strong which means manufacturing must meet rigid standards.
The castings also undergo several processes and intricate engineering to ensure safety, durability, and effectiveness. Coatings of rubber or polyurethane on iron or steel will increase the price as well. But, lower-quality ones often have rubber or polyurethane coating.
Mounting the cast iron heads onto the handle takes labor and hardware, both of which cost considerable money. Higher quality ones pay close attention to this detail more than lower quality ones. While traditional construction is neither the cheapest nor the most expensive, there are newer models that comprise rubber or polyurethane.
- Expensive Shipping, Handling & Transportation Costs
Another thing that contributes to the total price of dumbbells is the shipping costs. Because they are so heavy and often made in distant countries, like China, these charges add up quickly. This includes the cost of fuel, wear-and-tear of the transport vessel, and additional labor costs.
Even if the dumbbells were from a local manufacturer, they’d still be expensive because steel production is mostly overseas. That means the materials will come from somewhere else that won’t be cost-efficient. What’s more, there are delivery limits on weight. So, most sets will come in multiple shipments rather than one. This also increases the price.
- Retailer Storage
Then there’s the issue of storage. For stores and suppliers to keep a variety of different types, the inventory of dumbbells will take up quite a bit of space. This is because of how big and bulky they can be along with the varying weights of each.
For a complete set, there are 15 different weights. The variety displayed at a retailer means they will have around 45 different pairs or more. Plus, it’s not like potato chips, the stock isn’t going to move fast where supplies will require frequent replenishing.
- Basic Economics
Due to the fact that there isn’t a huge turnaround with the sale of dumbbells when manufacturers produce them, they don’t make them in huge batches. These smaller production projects equate to higher costs.
This is especially true for those with a weight over 60 pounds. This compounds the issue further because even fewer people require such heft than ones who would buy a normal set. So, manufacturers make these in even fewer batches. And these tend to have exorbitant prices, which further prevents people from making a purchase.
In other words, the higher the quality, the less demand there is and this results in a higher price.
Cost-Effective Dumbbell Alternatives
For those wanting real-deal gym equipment but don’t want to fork over almost $1,000 to do so, there are a few less expensive options you can look into. For instance, you could hunt around online for people selling their used ones. This means you could get a good, solid set at a fraction of the price.
You might come across some sets that are rusted (these are the best finds) and as a result, they are selling for much lower prices with some sets going for as low as $1 per pound! You do need to be quick to find these bargains though.
Another good approach is to directly message commercial gyms or auction lots to see if any commercial equipment is available to buy (often at a very competitive rate). Gyms are always upgrading equipment, or closing down permanently, so there is usually an opportunity to find some discount dumbbells if you look hard enough.
For some cost-effective dumbbell alternatives, an adjustable dumbbell set like Bowflex for example offers a cost-effective option for an adjustable set that’s 5 – 52.5lbs and comes in at ⅓ the price of a full dumbbell set with the same weight.
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You could also look into kettlebells as a great alternative but while these are more “functional” pieces of equipment, they are far less versatile so there is a trade-off.
A final option could be the DIY approach and to either get some welded steel plates or create your own dumbbells from concrete. There are a few Youtube videos that walk you through the process but the end result will never be as good as a high-quality manufactured set.
There are also fixed and adjustable rubber dumbbells that do tend to be less expensive than traditional, high-quality steel and iron. Some are rubber all the way through and others are partly-rubber with steel handles. These can run anywhere from $60 to $115 per dumbbell.
100% iron dumbbells are less expensive than steel or rubber ones. Although just as durable, the price drop isn’t significant, running in cost from $55 to $100 per dumbbell.
Studio-sized dumbbells are lighter and more compact, but they’re best for cardio and strengthening. Depending on the quality, they run in the same price ranges as rubber or iron. This is also true for pure urethane dumbbells.
Ankle Weights; Resistance Bands
If any of these are still outside of your spending budget, there are ankle weights and resistance bands. These cost far less than dumbbells and are often readily available. Some are adjustable so you can increase the weight as you acquire tolerance and endurance.
Resistance bands are also very cheap and they come in varying strengths that are comparable to dumbbell weights. You can travel with them because of how convenient and compact they are.
For those on a super-tight budget, there are some resourceful things you can use. You probably already have these at home and they deliver the same results as actual dumbbells. All it takes is a little innovative creativity.
- Filled Water Bottles: Use unopened or refill with sand or water for building up arm muscles.
- Canned Goods: Anything like beets, peas, beans, or soup will suffice as a dumbbell.
- Text Books: If using two, ensure they are equal in weight.
- Laundry Detergent: Any extra-large bottle will do and are excellent for overhead presses, single-leg deadlifts, and lateral raises.
- Produce Bags: Oranges, potatoes, apples or onions make for a great dumbbell.
- Bags of Substrate: Sand, soil, gravel, or mulch offers various options for lifting weights.
- Paint Cans: Ensure they’re closed and not dripping paint.
- Buckets: Filling buckets with water or sand provides a heavier effect.
- Packed Suitcases: This option is great when you’re on the road and can’t bring your dumbbells or able to go to the gym.
- Cinder Blocks: Always a perfect alternative to dumbbells, any cement block will work as a sufficient weight.
The above is not for the hardcore lifter but just ideas for those looking for a simple home workout. If you take training seriously and are looking to build muscle then the above are less likely to be of any benefit even at a low (or zero) cost.
In our opinion, dumbbells are basically essential for any home gym, regardless of what your fitness goals are. The only issue is that dumbbells are expensive!
At a cost of $1.50 – $3 per pound, you’ll find that the stronger you are the more you’ll need to pay. This is because of the amount of raw material that goes into creating heavier dumbbells alongside shipping and storage costs meaning dumbbells, in general, are not a cheap purchase.
When it comes to value though, there are a few pieces of equipment that can offer better value than a good set of dumbbells. It’s beneficial to look into used dumbbells which – after some restoration – can offer great value alongside adjustable dumbbell sets or even a DIY set.