If you’re used to the typical disposable or cartridge razors that most men learn to shave on these days, you might have balked the first time you saw the cost of a safety razor. But are they really that expensive?
A quality safety razor can be found for just $20-40 and it will last for years to come if cared for properly. Even a more expensive safety razor is unlikely to be as costly as other options. The handle is a one-time cost and even higher-end replacement razor blades are not comparable to the cost of disposable razors or replacement cartridges.
Read on to see how safety razors do not have to be expensive at all.
Are safety razors really more expensive?
When shopping for safety razors the price range can be astounding and the volume of selection is intimidating.
Safety razor handles can be found for less than $10 or well over $300. Some manufacturers even make luxury handles that fit popular cartridge blades. Luxury handles sometimes feature inlays of wood or precious metals.
Along with safety razors, King C. Gillette pioneered the Razor-Razor Blade Sales Model which is still used today by several companies. The model begins with an item (a razor handle for instance) being sold at a loss or for cost while disposable replacement parts are expensive. This is designed to produce reliable income by locking consumers into an investment.
The biggest problem with Gillette’s sales model is competition. The very first safety razor by Gillette largely remained unchanged until the patent expired and competitors emerged to challenge Gillette’s profit margins. The competition sparked some innovation but most tweaks were more or less to gain the attention of consumers since nearly all blades had a universal fit and manufacturers had to distinguish themselves from rivals. Gold plating, precious metals, wooden inlays were all used to attract “executive” buyers; those who wanted their things a bit nicer than the everyday man.
Sometimes safety razor manufacturers will use various metals such as steel, aircraft aluminum, titanium, or a combination of alloys. These metals along with manufacturing and engineering and marketing can result in increased prices.
The popular television show “How It’s Made” presented the construction of Merkur Butterfly Razors. You can see some of the milling, metals, and engineering that go into the assembly of a safety razor. This should begin to demonstrate why some razor handles may be a bit more expensive than cartridge shavers.
Does a safety razor save money?
If safety razors are really mostly an upfront cost, how much can you really save ditching the disposable?
After the initial investment in a handle, safety razors become very cost-effective. Safety razor blades range from $0.10-$0.25 when purchased in bulk. The safety razor handle will not need to be replaced involuntarily unless it is damaged or lost.
Anyone who has recently purchased a pack of replacement cartridges has noticed that it is often cheaper to purchase a new handle with bonus cartridges than it is to purchase cartridges alone. Safety razors are the opposite.
If you were to shave 3 days per week with a $.10 razor blade and you replaced the blade after each shave that would be $.30 per week or $15.60/year. Compare that yearly cost to one 4-pack of cartridge razor replacements and you will see the immediate savings.
How much should you pay for a safety razor?
Expensive does not necessarily mean high quality. Cheap does not necessarily mean poor quality.
Most safety razors considered to be quality items will be found within the $20-$40 range with a few exceptions to be made above and below.
With the advent of luxury razors, including any number of bells and whistles, Razor Acquisition Disorder began to appear. Razor Acquisition Disorder (R.A.D.) is a very real phenomenon among shaving enthusiasts but will not likely be a formal diagnosis from any doctor. R.A.D. is the urge to acquire razors whether by brand or a gallery of styles. At its very core R.A.D. is a pseudonym for collecting.
There is a real temptation to upgrade or simply to own something a bit fancy. Some antique models may cost a bit more and likely still function well. The key here is to consider need versus want. The need tends to be much more cost-effective than wanting more shiny things. Search out a safety razor that you enjoy using over one you enjoy having.
The best budget safety razors
There is an almost infinite selection of safety razors on the market and that doesn’t even begin to include vintage shavers that are still available.
Purchase a safety razor based on your budget and your personal preference. It is your face, after all, and your jaw will not care if the razor was expensive or not. The goal is to find a razor that can last a lifetime without having to pay for it throughout that lifetime. Keep in mind that you may eventually decide to upgrade or venture into different styles.
We chose from the most popular safety razor styles such as open/closed combs, butterfly, and 3-piece. We also stuck with Double-edged (DE) razors exclusively but single-edge razors are still quality options for anyone.
The criteria for our recommendations are:
- Metal – There are several options available that are made with plastic or wood. Plastics can degrade over time or crack under stress. Some inferior wood can also split if the razor is dropped or not properly maintained. Solid metal alloys tend to stand the test of time.
- Aggressiveness – Razor aggressiveness is how closely and efficiently a blade can shave. The more aggressive razors can result in incidental nicks while milder razors may not provide a shave that most faces would find satisfactory The majority of safety razors available are medium aggressive as these are agreeable to most faces.
- Cost/Value – As stated earlier razors can be found from around $10 to well over $300. We chose razors up to $25 as some consumers might find the initial investment of higher amounts to be a deterrent especially if they have no experience with safety razors. We also chose razors that would provide a couple of years minimum worth of shaving thus maximizing the value.
Note that these are simply recommendations and other styles may be found more attractive or affordable. Some may feature entire wet shaving kits, carrying cases, or varying handle lengths. Take your time, browse, and consult with shaving forums to help determine the right shaver for you.
Lord Premium Safety Razor Model LP1822L aka L6
The Lord Premium Safety Razor is a basic 3-piece safety razor.
This is the perfect introductory razor for beginners and a reasonable travel option.
It’s made from a chromed zinc alloy, which resists rust and makes the razor quite a bit lighter than others (.11 lbs), and can be found for less than $10.
VIKINGS BLADE The Chieftain Double Edge Safety Razor
This Vikings Blade Razor is what is known as a butterfly safety razor. A knob in the handle opens the razor cap allowing a double-edge razor to be placed inside or to be ejected with minimal handling of the blade. The Chieftain is also reasonably hefty (.31 lbs) which helps improve shaving efficiency according to most.
West Coast Shaving Midnight Collection Double Edge Safety Razor 175B
While the other recommendations have been closed-comb, we felt that this open-comb West Coast Shaving razor was worthy of mention. An open-comb razor allows for more blade exposure and contact with the skin resulting in a close shave. This is often the preferred choice for men with thicker beard growth. The grooves in the cap funnel hair directly into the blade. This style of shaving is considered a bit more advanced but it is a popular choice.
How to find cheaper used and vintage safety razors
Vintage safety razors are easy to find with a bit of searching though they may not always be the cheapest options. Many models are still prized by collectors.
Vintage razors are available online through retailers and can commonly be found at antique stores and even garage/estate sales. If a vintage razor is found online take care to ensure the razor functions properly and is not damaged. Thorough sanitation and restoration are advised.
Browse the shelves of antique malls and thrift stores and it’s not uncommon to find a collection of razors. I like this method because you are often allowed to handle the razor to get an idea of heft as well as inspect it for rust or damage.
Blade forums such as Badger and Blade may have buy/sell/trade threads that are worth browsing. In many cases, this can be cheaper than eBay or other online retailers, plus it’s a great opportunity to discuss razors with guys that are passionate about their shavers. Caution should be used when purchasing from eBay and similar resale sites as there may be issues the seller neglects to mention.
Those most razors handles are designed to resist rust corrosion is still possible. Be cautious of excessive grime and be diligent in cleaning a used razor handle thoroughly. A photo tutorial for newbies on Badger and Blade is available here.