When Cheaper Is More Expensive

Depending on the item, paying more for a product can be a good thing.

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Last fall, Jenny Hall bought her dream car: a new Mercedes sedan. While the London, Ontario-based real estate agent is at a stage in her life where she can afford a pricey vehicle, she didn’t just buy it because it was a Mercedes. She purchased it because it received the highest ratings for quality and longevity. “I didn’t just rush out and buy it,” she says.

While Hall could have bought a less expensive car, she had no qualms about spending the money. Why? Because she knows she’ll have it for far longer than she would a cheaper ride. “I intend to keep mine for a lot of years so even though I had to pay extra up front, I’ll be shelling out less over time for maintenance, repairs and the other costs of ownership,” she says.

Many cost-conscious shoppers tend to gravitate toward the cheapest items, but less expensive is not always better.

Many cost-conscious shoppers tend to gravitate toward the cheapest items, but less expensive is not always better. As Hall found out, there are times where it can make sense to pay a higher price.

When spending more can make sense

Kerry Taylor, a consumer finance blogger, author and speaker, often highlights ways people can save money, but even she admits that spending more can make sense. For instance, she tends to buy her daughter more expensive shoes, even though she goes through footwear quickly. “I prefer to buy her more expensive shoes because they are of better quality and are healthier for her growing feet,” she says.

Other items are worth paying more for too, like luggage – “it gets beaten up at airports so quality construction is important,” she says – or even food. Taylor often buys higher quality foods that, she says, are healthier for my family.

When it comes down to it, time often equals money, so if a more expensive item is indeed higher quality and can last longer, then that’s a good reason to pay more for it.

“Cheap people see cost as the bottom line while frugal people see value,” says Taylor. “When longevity means more, spend more. But long life isn’t always the frugal choice, either.”

Longer life can be worth the cost

Paying less often means you’ll end up with a product of lesser quality, and quality often dictates lifespan, according to research by Consumer Reports. Take a new mattress: A $1,200 one could potentially last for 20 years or more, while you’ll likely need to replace a $200 mattress in four or five years, says the product rating and reviews publication.

Pricier refrigerators may also last longer. According to Consumer Reports, the average life expectancy of a fridge is 13 years, but higher models tend to be more reliable and offer energy efficiencies that can save you money in the long run.

Of course, you shouldn’t just always go for the most expensive product. Do your research before you buy. It’s not about spending money, but about spending money wisely.

As for Hall, she’s thrilled with her purchase, even though she had to pay up for it. “I’m so happy I finally got a Mercedes,” she says. “It’s my forever car and I’m going to love it for a lot of years.”

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