Whenever you are considering buying a toy building block, you will be surprised at the price difference between LEGO and other similar brands. I had the same reaction so I went online to find a good answer to the question. Since I didn’t find any article answering it in enough detail, I decided to write it myself.
Why is LEGO so expensive? The higher price tag of LEGO comes from a higher quality product. Not only is the material used better, but also the precision of the blocks is higher. This means that LEGO sets will last longer and that the different pieces will fit together better, even from different sets from different decades.
But, even though LEGO might seem expensive when looking at the price alone, it actually gives a much better value per money than its competitors. In order to understand that, we need to get a bit more into the detail of why the upfront cost of LEGO is higher.
What drives the price of LEGO up compared to other brands?
As I have just mentioned, the main reason why LEGO is more expensive than other brands is that the product is better. These are the different aspects of LEGO that drive the costs up.
LEGO uses a higher-quality material
The plastic used for LEGO is of higher quality than that of its competitors. This obviously means that the price that LEGO pays for that material is higher. This obviously reflects on the final price.
However, there is an upside to this. Because the material is of higher quality, the toys last longer than those of the competitors. LEGO sets get passed down from parents to kids and they look as good as new.
LEGO makes their toys as safe as possible
One of the main points of focus that LEGO has is safety. Since their toys are mostly used by children, it is paramount to them that they are as safe as possible.
This means more testing during design to ensure that products are safe to use. This also means more checks during manufacturing to make sure that the products are being produced as they should. And it also means a higher focus on the quality of the material (but we already mentioned this one).
All this focus has an impact on the price because of higher production costs. But then you are sure that your children are playing with a safe toy.
LEGO uses expensive molds to ensure that the bricks are as precise as possible
LEGO puts great care in making sure all their pieces fit perfectly. If you were to try to join a brick from the 70s with a brick that you recently bought, they will fit in without a problem. This in itself is an extraordinary feat. But it is even more impressive when you compare it with their competitors. In this case, sometimes even pieces of the same set do not fit properly.
But it is not only a matter of a good fit between sets and different years. It is also about the type of fit. The pieces are designed to be the exact fit that LEGO thinks is best. The pieces need to be strong enough when joined together that the structure will not crumble at the minimum touch, but at the same time, they need to be loose enough that you can actually take them out if you want to.
All this comes, obviously, at a cost. Apart from the quality control and the testing that comes in making sure that these things actually happen when producing the pieces, you need molds that can actually be that precise. These are extremely expensive to produce and maintain. As a result, also the precision of the bricks drives the costs (and as a result, the price) up.
LEGO focuses on modular designs
One of the most interesting things about LEGO and what makes it such a cool toy is that it focuses on a modular design. What does that mean? It means that they use similar pieces to build completely different structures.
This adds complexity to the process of designing and building the structure, but the upside is that you can reuse the pieces from specific sets to build new things.
Why does this make the product more expensive? Shouldn’t it be cheaper if they use the same pieces? No. Using the same pieces means that, usually, they need to use more pieces to build the same structure. This lowers the efficiency of the material for that specific structure, which increases the cost.
Also, because there are more pieces, the instructions are more complex, which requires more time (and therefore more money) to make them work for the specific age that the product is targetting.
LEGO undertakes a lot of research to make sure that children interact properly with the toys
When it comes to toy construction bricks, it is not only a matter of quality and precision. You also need to make sure that the process of building the toys is as clear as possible. This is important mostly in the predefined sets and not really so much for the more general bricks that LEGO also sells.
But as far as specific sets are concerned, and also because of the focus on a modular design, children can end up with a set with hundreds or thousands of pieces. LEGO does extensive testing to make sure that the instructions are clear enough. It also tests the number of pieces and the complexity of the assembly, to make sure that it is in line with the recommended age for that product.
Part of the beauty and enjoyment that children take from building LEGO sets is that they are just hard enough for it to be challenging and interesting, but not too hard so that they become discouraged and lose interest. This balance is difficult to achieve and requires a lot of research time. This, obviously, reflects on the price.
LEGO has an outstanding customer service
The last point that has an impact on pricing is customer service. LEGO focuses on keeping its customers happy and goes to great lengths to do so. A broken or missing piece? No worries, we will email it to you!
The service is incredible compared to other companies offering similar products. This does, however, mean more people on the payroll to keep answering queries, which does, in the end, influence the cost of the product.
Is LEGO actually expensive?
With all the reasons explained above, I can honestly say that I don’t think LEGO is expensive. True, the initial investment is high, but because of the excellent quality, they will last really long. So, if instead of looking at the initial price we calculate it in terms of price/year or price/hour of play, LEGO is actually cheaper than its competitors.
In addition to that, because of the quality of the product, there is a huge market for second-hand LEGO sets and bricks where you can sell it for a very big part of the initial investment. So, if for whatever reason you do not want to own the LEGO products that you have, you can resell them for a very high price and can get back a big part of your initial payment. You can find a bit more about this in our post “A Guide To Making Money Selling Used Legos”.
Alternatives to consider
If the initial investment is too high and you are set into looking for alternatives, I have collected below the ones you can consider.
Second-hand sets or pieces
As I have just mentioned, the second-hand market for LEGO is huge. So, if you cannot pay the full price that comes from buying new LEGO sets, you can look only and buy some second-hand ones.
If you would like to learn a bit more about this, you will love our article “A Treasure Hunters Guide To Finding The Best Old Lego Sets”. In it, we explain the best places where you can buy old LEGO sets.
More generic sets
Since LEGO started their sets based on specific movies or games, some of the reusability has been lost. But LEGO still has more generic sets where the sky is the limit. With these types of sets, your children will be able to play again and again with the same set, but every time it will feel like a new adventure because they can build something new.
This will also save you money upfront because more generic sets are cheaper, but it will also save you money down the line because your children will use the same set time and again.
If you are set into looking for alternatives outside of LEGO but with a similar intent, Mega Bloks is probably the next option I would look into. I have done a thorough comparison between the two in the article titled “Is LEGO better than Mega Bloks?”. Mega Bloks sells cheaper toys and is a good option for toddlers. However, you will be getting a less durable and flexible toy in exchange.
Playmobil can be a great alternative to consider, but only if you are looking for a slightly different toy type. Playmobil is better suited for imaginative play, whereas LEGO is better suited for builders.
So, if you want your children to develop more language, memory, social awareness, and storytelling, Playmobil is the way to go.
LEGO, on the other hand, will help with teamwork, communication, problem-solving, and creativity, to name but a few. If you want to read a full comparison between the two, be sure to check our article “Is LEGO better than Playmobil?”, where we discuss the topic at length.
And with this, we have arrived at the end of this article. During this article, I have explained the reasons why LEGO is more expensive than its competitors. Moreover, I have demonstrated why, even though the initial price is higher, it is a better investment than the other brands. Last, but not least, I have provided you with alternatives to new sets just in case the initial price is too high for you.
If you are interested, here is a link to the entire Lego section found on Amazon.