What's The Difference Between A Cheap Vibrator And An Expensive One?

Are all those pricey sex toys worth the money? Here's what experts have to say.
Sex educators explain what you should look for when trying to find the best vibrator for your budget.
Arne Trautmann / EyeEm via Getty Images
Sex educators explain what you should look for when trying to find the best vibrator for your budget.

The sex toy business has been booming in recent years. And one toy, in particular, continues to generate a whole lot of buzz: the vibrator.

A vibrator can cost you as little as $10 to upwards of $300, with many falling in the $50 to $125 range.

With so many vibrators on the market at varying price points, you may have wondered what the differences between them really are. And are the pricier ones worth your money? Below, sex experts break it down for us.

The Material

First, it’s important to note that the sex toy industry and the materials used to make these products are largely unregulated. The Food and Drug Administration only regulates genital devices used for therapeutic medical purposes. The Consumer Product Safety Commission oversees the sale of sex toys, but because they’re labeled for novelty use, testing is not required.

“This means that a lot of sex toy companies continue to use toxic materials such as phthalates — plasticizers that create a softer rubber jelly feel,” sex educator Amy Baldwin, co-owner of the online boutique Pure Pleasure, told HuffPost. “These toys cost very little for the companies to manufacture, and therefore are quite affordable for the consumer.”

Experts have raised safety concerns about phthalates, as they have been linked to reproductive health issues in animals.

Additionally, cheaper materials — like jelly, rubber, PVC, TPE and TPR — are porous, which means they’re harder to clean, can harbor bacteria and mold, and break down over time.

“The genitals are mucous membranes that absorb just about anything and everything that is put in and on them” Baldwin said, noting that using a sex toy made from these materials may cause irritation, rashes and other issues.

“It might be a better return on your investment if you buy higher-quality toys that last longer.”

- Nazanin Moali, Los Angeles sex therapist and host of the "Sexology" podcast

Instead, you want to look for toys made of body-friendly, nonporous materials such as medical-grade silicone. Other good options include high-quality metals like stainless steel and hard ABS plastic, the latter of which is a good option for the more budget-conscious consumer.

You can also try doing a sniff test. Body-safe sex toys should also be odorless, Baldwin said.

“If the product has a scent that may smell like plastic or even floral, that scent is likely built into the toy and will never go away no matter how many times you wash it,” she said.

The Motor

More expensive vibrators tend to have stronger or more sophisticated internal motors.

“This might mean that certain functions like thrusting or circling will be more powerful,” said sex and pleasure educator Luna Matatas. “Wand-style vibrators are known for their powerful rumbling vibrations, but some cheaper versions don’t have powerful enough motors to deliver the deep sensations.”

Toys with higher-quality motors tend to be quieter, too, “which is great if you need to minimize the buzzing noises,” Matatas added.

According to Lisa Finn, sex educator and brand manager at Babeland, paying more for a good motor is “worth the investment if you’re planning on keeping this at your bedside for a while.”

Battery-Operated vs. Rechargeable

Generally, inexpensive vibrators are battery-operated, while pricier ones use a USB charging system or wireless charging, said sex therapist Nazanin Moali, host of the “Sexology” podcast.

“Batteries aren’t bad,” said Matatas. “But can be an annoyance if they die in the middle of your masturbation session.”

For that reason, rechargeable toys can be more convenient — plus, you won’t have to keep buying batteries.

The Warranty

More expensive vibrators tend to have warranties that last at least a year — if not longer — while less expensive toys may not have one at all.

“Higher price tag might mean a more comprehensive or longer warranty,” Matatas said. “Some sex toys come with a one-year warranty, but many high-end sex toy companies have two-year, 10-year and even lifetime warranties.”

That means that if the toy is defective or breaks down, the company or shop will send you a replacement, which could be more cost-effective for you in the long run.

“It might be a better return on your investment if you buy higher-quality toys that last longer,” Moali said.

The mere fact that a toy comes with a warranty generally speaks to the product’s quality, said Finn, who uses she and they pronouns. It means the company is confident in the product — and they’re willing to back it up.

“Most reputable sex shops don’t accept returns — for hopefully obvious reasons — but will honor exchange policies for toys with a warranty should something be wrong with the toy or if it breaks under the manufacturing warranty coverage,” they said. “Also, as someone who works in one of said shops: Register your toys and keep your receipts!”

The Features

More expensive vibrators may also come with additional features and settings or provide different sensations.

“Dual-action sex toys, like rabbit-style vibrators, are more expensive because they have multiple vibrating and moving parts,” Matatas said. “Unique sensations like thrusting, rotation or tapping can cost more to manufacture — especially if the materials are higher quality inside and out.”

Pricier options may also include more advanced technology, like remote-control vibrators that allow you (or a partner) to adjust the settings remotely via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or an app, instead of on the vibrator itself.

Here's what to consider when trying to figure out how much to spend on a new vibrator.
Piotr Powietrzynski via Getty Images
Here's what to consider when trying to figure out how much to spend on a new vibrator.

Here’s how to determine if an expensive toy is worth the money.

In addition to the factors above, take into account how you intend to use the vibrator. Is this something you might only play around with for a short time? Or do you plan to make it part of your regular sexual repertoire?

“The more you plan on using the toy, the more it makes sense to invest in it,” Moali said.

If you’re still figuring out what you like in the vibrator department, then it might make sense to hold off on buying anything too pricey for now.

“You can explore new features at a lower price tag and then upgrade if you’re invested in the sensation,” Matatas said.

Also consider whether you’re someone who orgasms easily or not.

“More expensive vibrators have a more precise design and higher power, increasing your odds for achieving climaxing,” Moali said.

And don’t be afraid to ask around for recommendations. Talk to your friends about what toys they like, if you feel comfortable doing so. Or send an email or DM to a trusted sex expert you follow on social media.

“These individuals get samples of dozens of vibrators and will be able to give you a better recommendation on what might be a good fit for you,” Moali said.

Another tip? Shop at a sex-positive adult store, whether in person or online. Their employees are generally well-trained, knowledgeable and truthful about the products they sell, Baldwin said.

“If you are visiting the store in person, they will usually have the toy on display for you to touch and feel so you know what you are going home with,” she said. “If you are buying a toy from an online store, some sex-positive stores will respond to your email inquiries to help you find the right toy regarding everything from shape, size, function, quality, desired power and noise levels, and so on.”

If you plan to use the vibrator for years to come or are looking to add something a little different to your collection, it may be worthwhile to spring for a more expensive product.

“Some toys in the higher-end price category are incomparable — they are worth the cash,” Matatas said.

Sex Ed for Grown-Ups is a series tackling everything you didn’t learn about sex in school — beyond the birds and the bees. Keep checking back for more expert-based articles and personal stories.

Before You Go

Tango by We-Vibe

The Best Sex Toys For Beginners, According To Experts

Popular in the Community


HuffPost Shopping’s Best Finds