Cheap Knives Vs Expensive Knives: Is There a Difference?

Every prepper understands the intrinsic value of having a good knife at your side. As part of your EDC complement or a foundational component of a bug out bag or other survival kit, the knife is an elemental and crucial tool for all manner of chores and tasks.

We don’t want for choice when it comes to knives today, but there is such a gulf in price between the cheapest and the most expensive, it begs the question of whether or not it is worth it to invest in a high dollar knife and accordingly what the differences are between expensive knives and cheap knives.

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There are many differences in the materials, design and manufacturing of knives…

More expensive knives benefit from a significantly stronger steels used in the blades and frames, tougher, all weather scales or those made from exotic woods and other materials, and command a premium thanks to expert design and careful manufacturing processes.

Cheaper knives might be entirely adequate to any given task, and even represent an excellent value for the average prepper, but you generally get what you pay for.

Naturally, this does not cover all of the variables that one might consider when shopping for a knife, so we will do our best to explore all of them below.


Probably the single biggest influence and cost when it comes to mass produced, consumer grade knives is the materials used in its construction.

Particularly, the steel utilized in the blade itself, the frame if applicable in the case of a folding knife, and what material the handles are made from.

The amount of steels available on the market today is nothing short of bewildering, and though many of the steels that we would call cheap or entry level would be remarkable indeed to our ancestors, they nonetheless are a far cry from high-end, ultra performance steel formulations.

High-end steel means you might not have to choose any most salient attribute from the performance triad, and are capable of affording extraordinary durability, edge retention, corrosion resistance and sharpness, truly the best of both worlds.

Conversely, cheap steel might perform ably, or even well, in one or perhaps two categories and allow you to do so on a budget but they will never be possessed of excellent marks across the board, particularly in the case of durability.

The same rules apply to the materials utilized for the frame and other components of the knife, from the bolsters to the fasteners.

Handle material too factors heavily into the price equation. Simple plastic or rubber scales are highly inexpensive, but rarely worth writing home over in regards to aesthetics or performance, whereas composite materials like G10 or exotic hardwoods can afford excellent performance when it comes to grip, weather resistance and appearance.

Design Factors

The design of a knife is another price point marker, as simple knives that may be entirely serviceable and functional from point to pommel do nothing to push the envelope or fire the spirit but are equally simple to manufacture and quantity.

Highly advanced knives that benefit from intricate blade geometry, opening or locking mechanisms and other such considerations are precisely the opposite.

Then there is the actual designer of the knife, be it a person or a corporation. Highly regarded or so-called celebrity bladesmiths or designers might considerably crank up the cost of a knife either for their services or through thorough R&D. At any rate, this increased cost of design will be felt at the consumer level.

In some instances, classic knives that are timeless will usually command a premium among a manufacturer’s wares through sheer popularity, even though the actual design or construction is quaint or even archaic. Such market forces, while arbitrary, must always be considered.

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This $10 Walmart knife in sheath is up to most daily chores, but you’ll have to test its reliability by yourself.

Factory QA / QC

Factory quality assurance and quality control significantly influences the cost of a production knife, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

So much of the time, cheapskates and fans of cheap knives decry the premium that highly regarded brands command as being nothing more than a name or a status symbol.

This is invariably true, periodically, in every sector, but the old saying that you get what you pay for is broadly true when it comes to knives.

Part of this is:

  • how the manufacturer sources their materials,
  • what inspections and testing standards they put those materials through,
  • what percentage of components are made in house,
  • how they inspect or test components going into an assembled knife at every phase of production,
  • and how many knives that they test, and subsequently reject, before clearing them for sale on the open market.

Every, single step in that lengthy process of taking a knife from raw materials or loose components and then producing a finished knife that is headed for your pocket or your sheath costs money and accordingly raises the production cost and sticker price of a knife.

No one likes the idea of paying for quality assurance and quality control, but it is these components in the production process more than most that ensure any given knife is worth the investment.

Bespoke Knives Command Premiums

And lastly, there are knives made in the old ways, small batch or singly, one at a time but a single artisan bladesmith and perhaps one or two apprentices or assistants.

Among the very best of the craft, these knives are legitimate works of art and probably also have the performance to back up the good looks.

But considering that many of these bladesmiths craft knives and perform related services as a full-time profession, they are never going to be cheap.

For some users or collectors, purchasing a bespoke knife from a greatly admired maker is a bucket list item, one that may or may not be used.

Regardless, compared to a production version of the same knife or a comparable knife produced from mass market sale knives of this type can go for five, 10 or more times the cost of their mass-produced equivalents.

When you come across a knife that seems to command a premium of several hundred dollars over one that is apparently identical, this is probably why assuming it is not a mass produced commemorative edition or something similar.


Knives are the one tool that all preppers love and need, and though we are blessed with abundant choices these days the huge disparity in pricing can leave some scratching their heads.

Suffice it to say that there are many variables that make up the difference in price between cheap and expensive knives, not the least of which are materials, design factors, quality and intricacy of manufacturing and so forth.

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