You want to incorporate more weight training into your workout routine, but keep asking yourself, "why are weight plates so expensive?" The price of weight plates is largely determined by the type (bumper vs. metal) and size (standard vs Olympic). If you’re unsure about which option to choose and why - this guide will tell you everything you need to know!
Table of Contents
- Why Do Weight Plates Cost So Much? (Common Reasons Explained)
- Cost Of Iron Weight Plates
- Cost Of Bumper Plates
- Expensive Vs Cheap Weight Plates: What's The Difference?
- Frequently Asked Weight Plate Cost Questions
Why Do Weight Plates Cost So Much? (Common Reasons Explained)
Manufacturing Process & Materials
A lot goes into making a weight plate, and both bumper plates and iron plates require a large amount of raw material when manufacturing each weight plate. While iron plates are cheaper than bumper plates, the iron still has to be mined and manufactured.
For bumper plates, the rubber used to make them is predominantly produced in Southeast Asia. This means that the rubber must be transported across the globe before being manufactured into bumper plates, which adds to the cost. Additionally, bumper plates also have a metal insert (which is usually made of high-grade steel) which increases the price too.
Bumper plates and cast iron plates each involve a very different manufacturing process. When making a cast iron plate, the molten iron is poured into molds and cooled. From there, it’s either painted or covered with a protective coating (which costs more).
Bumper plates, on the other hand, are more complicated to make. The natural rubber must first be refined, dyed, and then molded. Then, the steel insert and collar must be added. These additional steps required add to the cost of manufacturing, which is why bumper plates typically cost more than iron plates do.
Shipping, Handling, & Storage
Transportation and warehousing costs are usually affected by the weight of an item. Since weight plates are heavy, they attract higher shipping, handling, and storage charges compared with other (lighter) items of the same size.
These costs originate from the transportation of raw materials. Since rubber is produced outside of the USA, this means bumper plates acquire additional costs for shipping the raw material to the country where it will be manufactured.
Online stores will often also add a “heavy-item” surcharge to their delivery fee. This is because these items require a different delivery vehicle, which means they also cost more in gas.
Finally, weight plates aren't something you buy as often as, say, a loaf of bread. This means that they don't sell as fast and require storage while waiting to be sold. Storage fees add to the price of an item and are also usually determined by the size and/or weight of the product.
Supply & Demand
During the pandemic, lockdowns meant that gyms closed, and many people began to train at home. This saw a massive upsurge in the demand for weight plates compared with before.
Not only did this increase in demand diminish the supply, but the lockdown also meant that imports and production numbers reduced drastically. This supply-chain imbalance caused the prices to sky-rocket.
Since then, prices have largely stabilized and returned to normal. However, supply and demand will always affect the price of a product, and if it's not the pandemic, it could be a ship blocking the Suez Canal or something else.
As with any product, the brand name will affect the price. This is because these brands spend a lot on advertising, which means they need to recoup those costs (by increasing the price of their product). Another reason branded products cost more is that they often make use of higher-grade materials when manufacturing.
While a brand might get some notoriety from its marketing campaigns, its overall quality is what ultimately separates a “top brand” from the rest.
Types Of Plates (Build Quality Matters!)
As mentioned above, bumper plates are usually more expensive than iron plates because they cost more to manufacture. However, bumper plates are available in different types (virgin rubber, recycled rubber, or urethane), which changes the pricing accordingly.
Competition bumper plates will cost more because they are calibrated and are usually made with higher-grade materials. Conversely, crumb bumper plates are made with recycled rubber and are generally cheaper.
Iron weight plates, on the other hand, might be cheaper than bumper plates but are also available in different types that affect their pricing. Cast iron plates with a rubber or urethane coating will cost more than plain cast iron plates will.
Related Article - Bumper Weight Plates Vs Iron
Amount Of Plates Required In Your Home Gym
When purchasing your first weight set, you won’t just be buying 2 weight plates but rather a variety of plates in varying weight amounts. Ideally, you should have a wide selection of different weights (including 2.5lb, 5lb, 10lb, 25lb, and 45lb plates), and you'll need at least 2 or 4 of each for balance on your barbell.
Additionally, you may have noticed that lighter-weight plates cost less per plate compared to heavier plates. However, if you compare them on a per pound basis, you'll realize that lighter-weight plates usually cost more per pound.
This is because a production line needs to be created for each particular weight size and lighter weight plates still have the same fixed costs of production as heavier plates have.
Learn More - How Many Weight Plates Do I Need For Home?
A bumper plate with IWF certification is similar to a restaurant having Michelin stars. The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) has a specific standard each weight plate needs to meet for it to obtain IWF certification. This includes things like plate width, diameter, weight, tolerance, and marking.
Many brands market their weight plates as competition plates, which requires them to meet these standards. The IWF requires that a high-grade, dense rubber must be used and that the bumper plates must be color-coded by weight as well.
This adds to the manufacturing process, which in turn adds to the final cost. Additionally, the process of obtaining IWF certification also adds to the end cost of the product.
Also Check Out - Best Budget Olympic Weight Sets
Cost Of Iron Weight Plates
Iron weight plates are made using cast iron and are primarily used for powerlifting. These are your “old-school” looking weight plates that provide that metal-clang sound when lifting. Iron weight plates, as mentioned above, are created by pouring molten iron into a mold and then cooled.
While cheaper than bumper plates, iron plates still involve a lengthy process to be manufactured into a weight plate from raw iron. Unlike bumper plates, iron plates are available in two different center hole size options: standard and Olympic.
This means that the center hole size differs (1-inch vs 2-inch) to fit either a standard or Olympic barbell. Additionally, each weight plate is a different size, depending on its weight. Lighter weights are smaller in diameter than heavier weight plates are.
You’ll often see iron plates in commercial gyms or college gyms. These plates usually feature a rubber or urethane coating to improve their longevity and prevent rusting. Coated iron plates typically cost more than traditional cast iron plates since there’s an extra step involved in manufacturing.
Read Also - Olympic Vs Standard Barbell
Cost Of Bumper Plates
A bumper plate is usually made of high-density rubber or urethane. They are popular for workouts like CrossFit or Olympic lifts, where you will be dropping the bar from a height.
This type of weight plate is only made to fit Olympic barbells, which means they have a center hole size of 2-inches and are only available in 'Olympic size.' Unlike iron plates, bumper plates are all the same size, regardless of the weight. Lighter weights are the same diameter as heavier plates are.
The process of manufacturing a bumper plate, from acquiring the rubber in Southeast Asia to producing a finished product, is not a simple one. Bumper plates made of urethane are the cheapest, with crumb bumpers being next in line. This is because crumb bumpers are made using recycled pieces of rubber.
A standard bumper plate is usually made using virgin rubber, making it more expensive than crumb or urethane-made bumpers are. A competition bumper plate needs to be made according to a particular specification and quality, which makes it the most expensive bumper plate option.
Expensive Vs Cheap Weight Plates: What's The Difference?
While you might be tempted to opt for the cheapest weight plate available, it might end up costing you more in the long run. This is because cheap materials usually mean the product will wear faster and is more likely to break easier.
When looking at what makes an expensive weight plate, there are several factors to consider. Some brands opt for a high-grade steel collar, which means it can hold up longer against repeated drops.
Similarly, bumper plates made using 100% virgin rubber will cost more than recycled rubber plates, since the virgin rubber needs to be produced abroad.
Similarly, cheap iron plates are not made the same as expensive plates. When looking at an Olympic-size 45-pound plate, they should be around 450 millimeters (about 17.7 inches) in diameter.
Cheap plates might not adhere to this and may have a smaller diameter. You’re going to notice this when doing lifts like a deadlift, when the barbell is lower than what you’d expect, making it harder to lift.
Another feature of a cheap iron plate includes variances in the center hole size. If some plates sit snugly onto the barbell and others are very loose, you’ll not only experience a lot of clanging of weight plates, but they will also wobble and tilt when lifting.
If you're not using barbell collars, you risk having the plates fall off the barbell when the balance is thrown off by the plates shifting.
Finally, cheap weight plates are often inaccurate in their actual weight. Even though a 45-pound weight plate is supposed to weigh 45 pounds, a cheap plate could be off by 5-pounds either way. If every weight plate is under or over by 5-pounds, the total weight you think you’re lifting would be way off.
Frequently Asked Weight Plate Cost Questions
What are the most expensive weight plates?
Eleiko produces some of the world's most expensive and sought-after bumper plates and barbells. They have been around for many years and are a well-known brand with a good reputation. The reasons for their premium price include being made to meet IWF standards, as well as being produced in Sweden and then exported to the United States. Eleiko has a clearance section on their website, but you'll still find that these plates are more expensive than other brands.
What is the best material for weight plates?
This depends on what type of weight lifting you want to do. For CrossFit and Olympic lifts, bumper plates (made of rubber or urethane) are best. For powerlifting, cast iron weight plates are better suited. Iron weights are also available with a rubber or urethane coating. This helps protect the iron plates and prevent rusting. Urethane is usually hardier and lasts longer than rubber.
Where can you buy cheap weight plates?
If you’re happy purchasing second-hand weights, keep an eye out for great prices on platforms like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, OfferUp, and LetGo. For new weight plates, look out for Black Friday deals and other sales at physical stores like DICKS Sporting Goods, Home Depot, and even Walmart. If you want them delivered, an online store (like Amazon) is a great option.
That wraps up our comprehensive guide to why weight plates are so expensive. We hope that all of your questions and concerns were addressed. Now that you know what factors contribute to the price of weight plates, what the differences between them are, how they compare, and which one to choose - you’ll be able to achieve your weightlifting goals in no time!
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Last Updated on June 12, 2022