Cheap vs. Expensive Knives – Does It Matter?

I have a question for you, dear readers, does it matter what you spend on a knife? Do you prefer cheap ones or expensive ones? I’m sure we’ve all been there; you see knife that you like but the price point makes your poor wallet cry.

Likewise, we’ve all seen cheap knives that look like they’ll fall apart quickly last for years on end. Ultimately, I suppose the answer will vary for everyone according to personal preferences, financial situation and so on but let’s take a look and see if we can answer this question, shall we?

Higonokami Browning and Mastiff knives
From left to right: Higonokami, Browning, and Mastiff knives

Does it matter if your knife is cheap or expensive? Yes and no, expensive knives are typically made of high-quality materials meant to take a beating. If you need something that will go through hell and high water (like a survival knife), then you want the best quality available which may cost more than a few gold pieces. However, if all you need is a serviceable blade that can get the job done and is easy to maintain, a cheaper knife will do fine.

Cheap Knives

Browning and Mastiff knives
Caption: Browning was $9.00, and the Mastiff was $12.00

Cheap knives are found at every flea market, Chinese shopping center, and, in some cases, every butcher. What are the pros and cons of a cheap knife?

Pros:

  • ✅ It’s cheap, obviously. A low price point makes cheaper knives easier to purchase.
  • ✅ If it breaks, you can replace it without giving your wallet a heart attack.
  • ✅ Blades are often of serviceable steels – not some super steel that never dies – but something usable and easy to sharpen.
  • ✅ Aesthetics. This is subjective, I know, but it seems to me that a lot of the cheaper knives put a lot of work into their appearance.

Cons:

  • ❌ Sometimes built with lower quality materials and lower quality blades.
  • ❌ Blades can be damaged more easily on cheaper knives.
  • ❌ Construction is usually durable but there’s never a guarantee that the knife won’t come apart on you.
  • ❌ Some of them can be awkward and unwieldy to carry.
  • ❌ Little, if any brand recognition (in some cases).

Expensive Knives

Higonokami knife
Caption: My Higonokami knife. Prices on these start at $47.00.

When it comes to higher-priced knives, you can get them pretty much anywhere. Appearance-wise, they come in a range from Plain Jane just get the job done to Fancy Fred off to an office party.

Pros:

  • ✅ Aesthetically pleasing conversation-starters.
  • ✅ Built with premium materials for durability and edge retention.
  • ✅ Not usually easily broken/damaged.
  • ✅ Brand recognition.

Cons:

  • ❌ Less easily purchased due to the higher price point.
  • ❌ Less easily replaced if lost/stolen/broken.

Brand Name vs. No Name Knives: Use vs. Abuse

Most, if not all my knives are ‘no name’ knives – meaning they’re branded but the brand is difficult or impossible to find outside of certain shopping centers.

They don’t have the kind of recognition that Gerber, Cold Steel, or CRKT enjoy and don’t really have warranties on them – if they break, I have to buy new knives. With that said, I don’t really go for brands; I go for what I like.

Brand names like Gerber and Cold Steel have good reputations and their knives are generally well-made – they also have warranties on their knives. They are also expensive here in SA which is why I typically trawl flea markets for knives and see if I can find a recognizable brand.

I’m also not torturing my knives, they do only what they are built for and when they’re not in use they’re either in my knife box or, if I’m carrying them, in my pocket.

I’m not snapping blades left and right trying to pry open a jar of mayonnaise (seriously, who does that?) or trying to chop through a railroad log (looking at you Jay Nielson).

With that in mind, I don’t necessarily need a fancy, expensive knife with titanium and Damascus steel with a myriad of colors on the handle and clip.

The Final Answer is…

So, the final answer is yes, but it’s also no… sheesh, I sound like Mel Brooks, don’t I? It depends, expensive knives are typically made of high-quality materials meant to take a beating.

If you need something that will go through hell and high water and keep coming back for more (like a survival knife) then you want the best quality available which may cost more than a few gold pieces.

On the other hand, if all you need is a serviceable blade that can get the job done and is easy to maintain, a cheap knife will do fine.

In Closing

This is one of those topics: “Is X better than Y?” that I love to look at because the varied number of responses allows for some great talking points. Obviously, my own experience with knives and knife has somewhat shaped my response but I’m curious about your preferences.

Do you prefer cheaper knives or pricier ones? Are you a ‘right knife for the job’ person who isn’t really bothered about the price? Let me know all that good stuff; I look forward to reading those responses.

8 thoughts on “Cheap vs. Expensive Knives – Does It Matter?”

  1. My family has learned that when it matters, buying something a little more expensive that doesn’t have to be replaced annually is actually cheaper than buying the cheapest thing you can find. Also, if you’re prone to losing things, you might be surprised at how well you will keep up with the more expensive knife. The DH used to lose pocket knives all the time. Now that he has a nice one, he has yet to lose it. It may have fallen out of his pocket a couple of times, but he has always found it quickly.

    I currently carry two knives on me (when I have pockets), one in my purse and one on my key chain. Each is a tool and has a specific purposes. I didn’t have a knife until a few years ago, but I really like having them with me and wouldn’t leave the house without at least one or two now.

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  2. My answer; it usually comes down to how much I’m going to use it and how likely it is to be lost or stolen. Pay for function; not form. I spend my money on the knives I use most. I do, however, have “burner knives” I keep in the tackle boxes and gloveboxes of the vehicles. They get only occasional use but still manage to disappear! I usually pick these up at yard sales. Heck; I still have a couple of Camillus electrician’s knives that I was given when I was in the military, and that was almost twenty years back! If you find these at yard sales, they’re usually sold for pennies. They hold an edge really well, and were made by Americans!

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  3. I only buy quality knives. Cold steel, K-bar, Essee etc. for beaters I like the folding razor knives with replaceable blades. I don’t like buying junk when it’s something I may well be depending on.

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  4. Don’t buy foreign-made knives. Avoid them at all cost, even Moras. They might be a good knife but American-made knives are available and the quality is the same or better. Whenever anyone talks about their “great knife” I always find out where it was made. If it wasn’t “Made In USA” that tells me a lot about that person.

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  5. I go cheap with knives. Unless it’s a custom job, the steel all comes from China, and that’s true for a lot of the knife bodies as well. Clasp knives cost me $.25-.50 each when getting an auction TSA lot, as for sheath knives, Mora does as well or better than the Gerber I had.

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  6. We don’t all have only one screw driver. Why would anyone have just one knife. My EDC is a folding K-Bar and I have back-ups My Heavy Utility knife, I made. Like Mr. MacGyver, I too have many knives placed everywhere (I am a confessed Knife and Flashlight junkie) I have both cheap and not cheap. My bug-out bag has only well made knives (and everything else) because if I need my BOB, my life will depend on it. This said, I don’t believe the $150+ knives are worth the money over other very well made blades unless they are custom made for you. I am also a Knife maker and my knives take a much time to make and just to recoup my labor, I have to charge over $300, but I fit the antler handle to my customers hand and make what they want (exactly) China won’t do this for you.

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  7. I have a Kershaw model 1970 speedsafe. It was about 20 bucks. I love the knife (thick blade, fast opening, good grip, legal length for concealment). But it doesn’t hold an edge worth a damm. I wish I could get the same knife with a good blade, I would pay 100 for it.

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