Why Are Dumbbells So Expensive? [+Alternatives]

Dumbbells are common fixtures in any fitness center or gym, coming in many sizes and materials.

These pieces of equipment aid in a multitude of workouts and are used by beginners and professionals alike.

With the onset of COVID-19 gyms and fitness centers closed, leaving a lot of previous patrons lacking the utilities needed for their workout routine.

People flocked to the internet, building their home gyms piece by piece.

This heightened demand resulted in a flux in dumbbell pricing, with full sets topping well over $1000.

A full range of weights will start at 5 pounds and include multiple intervals up to 50 pounds. Such a high cost wasn’t always the case, however.

Dumbbells have become expensive because of a heightened demand and rising costs of materials and shipping. Due to a sparse market, resellers have started to push prices higher, capitalizing on the shortage.

Let’s take a deeper look at the end-to-end process of a dumbbell being manufactured and sold, and illuminate why they are sold at a premium.

The Cost of Dumbbells

A single dumbbell will be an average cost of $2.50 to $4.00 per pound. In comparison, before the pandemic, the average cost for dumbbells was between $1.50 and $3.00 per pound. 

Of course, there will be variations in pricing depending on the materials and function.

For example, most people recommend urethane coated dumbbells over rubber or cast iron due to its durability. 

The source of the weight itself will also affect price, and depend on the price of the raw mineral at the time of procurement and production.

Why Weights Are Getting Expensive

Prices of weights are influenced by the market around them which includes transportation, manufacturing, and second-hand resales.

Costs for materials, labor, and shipping are all highly variable and depend on external factors such as demand and scarcity.

On one hand, in the primary market, prices will be influenced by the aforementioned list.

However, in the secondary market, prices will be determined by whatever people are willing to pay.

Are Dumbells Overpriced Right Now? 

Dumbbells are overpriced right now, both in the retail and reseller markets.

There is short supply to begin with, so prices go up in stores as a way to maintain stock (basically by pricing out those that can’t afford them.) 

However, when career resellers step in, they can artificially regulate the prices we see online.

It’s very similar to a concert selling out, and then tickets being resold at double or triple their original price.

Why Are Heavier Dumbbells So Expensive?

Truthfully, shortage or not, heavier dumbbells have always been more expensive due to the demand. Simply, the heavier a dumbbell or weight is, the less people can lift it

Heavy Dumbbells

There are some exceptions to this and some brands make heavier weights cheaper, possibly as an incentive for more people to buy and work with them.

When looking at a full range of weights, if you were to individually price them out based on the total cost, the 40 pound to 50 pound range is actually cheaper.

So, say a small set of inexpensive weights with a range of 5, 15, 30, 40, and 50 pound weights costs $600. That is about $2.14 per pound, when weights cost an average $2.50 per pound. 

Cheaper prices for heavier weights could be found in purchasing a set.  

8 Reasons Why Dumbbells Are Expensive

As mentioned, weights are currently $2.50 to $4.00 per pound and used to be between $1.50 and $3.00 per pound.

You are probably asking “why has the price basically doubled?”

Raw Materials

Dumbbells are made from a variety of materials including plastic, cast iron, stainless steel, concrete, urethane, rubber, or neoprene.

Synthetic materials tend to be cheaper, but as an example iron ore is currently around $0.04 per pound and steel is $0.40 per pound.

These are highly sought after materials and the price is volatile.

These materials then also need to be processed and molded into their shape, so there will be a labor cost involved.

Shipping

After the dumbbell is molded and ready to be sold, it has to be shipped. Shipping costs are currently high, especially across international borders.

There will be associated taxes and tariffs, especially if coming from China.

Even if a dumbbell was manufactured domestically, shipping would still be expensive, and even more so for heavier weights that take up more room.

Shipping costs for packages are determined by dimension, and denote how much room is taken on a plane, truck, or container.

Storage

The cost of storage for dumbbells both has to do with the previously mentioned dimensional cost for shipping, and also when it gets to one’s home.

Dumbbells will need some sort of storage, especially if there is more than one pair.

A rack or stand would need to be purchased in addition to keep them organized, or else dumbbells would just create a heavy, cluttered pile. 

Durability

Dumbbells are built to be durable to withstand falls and drops, especially the heavier ones.

Because of their built in durability, multiple sets of the same weight will hardly ever need to be re-purchased.

Woman with Dumbbell

It is possible someone could purchase more than one if there are preferences, such as grip materials, or possibly the weight increment.

Scarcity

When the world shut down for COVID-19, the manufactures and gyms did as well. People rushed to curate their home gym to stay fit during lock down.

As the world opens back up, many manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the demand created by the gap in operations.

Stocks of weights depleted in brick-and-mortar stores and were being hounded in online markets.

With little avenues to replenish stock, the stores that still had dumbbells stashed away raised prices to keep them available – but only to those who could afford it.

Resellers

Not only are stores making it hard to purchase dumbbells, those who have lucrative reselling businesses were able to scoop up stock at inflated prices, then resell them online for an even bigger price tag.

Those who believe they have no other option will buy these resold dumbbells, which puts more money in the pockets of resellers who can go back to buy more inflated workout equipment. In short – it’s a vicious cycle.

Buying Double

Dumbbells, when not sold in a full set, are sold in singles. There are few instances where someone would only need one dumbbell but alas.

Any price for a dumbbell should be mentally doubled unless stated otherwise.

If picking up from a physical store, it’s worth calling and clarifying if it’s one or two dumbbells. 

Adjustable Dumbbells

Adjustable dumbbells are a technology that allows for one set of dumbbells to equal on average 8 to 10 different weights.

These luxury items will run anywhere from $200 to $500 per unit. This may seem high, especially considering you would likely need two, but they are a space saver. 

How to Save Money on Dumbbells

There are some alternatives to consider when wanting to save money on dumbbells. These include DIY projects, being patient, and waiting for major holiday sales.

DIY Projects

Some people have posted  guides online on how to create your own dumbbells from items found at home improvement stores.

Some solutions include placing concrete or sand, in some sort of container that is pre-measured to hold a certain weight.

The downside to this solution is not everyone has access to the space needed to wait for some materials to cure or simply aren’t that hands on.

Patience

Not everyone who puts their weights up online is trying to nickel and dime you. People will put lightly used gym equipment up on online marketplaces like Craigslist or Facebook.

If an actual set of weights is what you want, it’s worth setting email alerts to be notified when someone posts so that you can message them before someone else.

Holiday Sales 

If time isn’t a concern, waiting for a major commercial holiday like Memorial Day or Black Friday to roll around can get you a good deal.

Department stores analyze market trends and try to keep a healthy stock of high demand items for these sales.

Opting for picking up in store versus trying to order online will ensure that a website doesn’t oversell. 

When Will Weighs Be Cheap Again?

Unfortunately, weights do not look like they will be back to pre-pandemic prices any time soon.

Raw materials cost is still fluctuating, shipping is still at a peak, and inflation has a hold on American wallets.

Inflation will continue to price out people who can not afford weights, so options will be limited to luck and alternatives.

Are Dumbbells Worth Buying?

Dumbbells are only worth buying if it is not a major financial impact.

They are a versatile piece of equipment, but can be easily swapped out for other routines or even other pieces of equipment.

They are useful and if stored right do not take up a lot of room.

They can be viewed as a long term investment for your health if you know your routine is reliant on dumbbells.

If treated right, dumbbells can be resold if you feel like you need an upgrade. 

Cheaper Dumbbell Alternatives

Luckily, if you are in the boat of not being able to acquire weights from a store or a reseller, there are plenty of alternatives that fit different lifestyles.

Dumbbells$2.50 to $4.00 per pound
Alternative Equipment$6 – $30 per set
Canned Food$1 per can / $15 per bulk
One Gallon Jugs$1 – $9 per gallon
Hardcover Books$25.99 – $27.99 per book
Body WeightFree

Alternative Equipment

Alternative work out equipment would be something like resistance band or ankle and wrist weights.

A quality workout can be achieved even without a dumbbell, especially if one feels like some form of equipment must be involved.

Ankle and wrist weights can come in a variety of intervals, and resistance bands also have a range.

These are more uncommon, especially in professional settings (like gyms), so their price remains accessible for the public.

Canned Food

Canned food is a good alternative if looking for lighter weight exercises and are more focused on form before moving on to a heavier weight.

Canned food can be found at dollar stores in different sizes. Bulk options also exist if looking for more lifting potential.

One Gallon Jugs

A gallon jug can be filled with anything on hand to create weight. Common materials are water or sand.

Leaving milk or juice in the jug can create a nasty spill if accidentally dropped. The nice thing about gallon jugs is they have a handle so there is a place for grip.

Heavy Books

Hardcover books and heavy volumes like phone books are good for lifting and form work. It’s possible to find heavy and discarded tomes at thrift stores and used book shops. 

The price listed in the chart above is for a brand new, expensive hardcover, but that is definitely a higher end.

The only way it would get more expensive is if the book is an old college textbook.

Body Weight

There are many workouts that can be done with nothing but the weight of your own body. Think of planks, sit ups, and push ups. 

While some of these can be difficult for someone just looking to get into health and fitness, variations exist for most to properly train up muscles to be able to move on to the real thing. 

Final Considerations

While dumbbells aren’t necessary to a fulfilling or successful workout, they are a versatile piece of equipment that is highly sought after. 

Prices are influenced by the national economy, international trade, and a predatory second-hand market. These can be avoided with a little patience or looking to alternatives.

Overall, dumbbells can be found with luck and it’s possible to integrate alternatives into a work out while waiting for availability or an appropriate price point. 

Leave a Comment