Giving ‘Disposable Razor’ a New Meaning

Electric shavers have come down in price so much that it's cheaper to buy a new one than a replacement head for your old one.

A dozen or so years ago, I bought my current electric shaver, a Norelco 725RL. It’s lasted longer than my previous electrics because 1) it’s a plug-in model, rather than a rechargeable and 2) I don’t use it every day.

It’s still working fine but I haven’t replaced the blades and screen in probably seven years; the manufacturer recommends doing so annually. So, I went online to order new ones and they were around $37.  At that price—roughly half what I paid for the original razor way back when—I figured it was worth seeing what a new model shaver was going for. It turns out, the equivalent Phillips-Norelco model 6940, which appears to have some improvements over my old one, is $29.06–eight bucks cheaper than a replacement head.

So, apparently, they’ve figured out how to make a whole shaver for less than half what it used to cost yet, paradoxically, it’s more expensive to sell just the top part.

Naturally, I opted for a shiny new one.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Science & Technology
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. CSK says:

    There’s an Occam’s Razor joke in here somewhere, but I haven’t had enough coffee to formulate it.

  2. Bennett says:

    Sort of like how buying a new printer can be cheaper than buying an ink cartridge.

  3. john personna says:

    I use an Edwin Jagger chrome plated safety razor. It should last forever. I admit though that it takes more attention to detail than an electric or a 5-6 blade cartridge.

    I get a kick out of the tradition though.

  4. John says:

    It’s like buying a new battery for your drill….cheaper to buy a new drill AND you get TWO batteries.

  5. Argon says:

    As I recall, it was the price of the replacement heads that drove me away from Norelco.

    One can replace the batteries in a rechargeable shaver. I just installed the third set of NiMH batteries in my 11yo Braun. With the batteries and replacement heads I’ve paid almost 1.5x over the original price but it’s still been cheaper than any replacement. It’s kinda like keeping an old but reliable car running.

    In principle one could also replace the batteries in an ultrasonic toothbrush but they fused the case closed in mine and it’s damn hard to restore a watertight seal after cracking open the case.

  6. matt says:

    @john personna: Thanks for the helpful suggestion. I Intend to give the Edwin Jagger chrome plated safety razor a try in the future. Looks like I can get variety packs of razor blades to try out on amazon.

  7. DC Loser says:

    I don’t have a heavy beard, and have use the same Panasonic wet/dry foil razor for the last 12 years, still on the original blade. To replace the cutting block and foil will cost more than a new razor. I just hate to throw away a perfectly good razor, but it makes economic sense for me to do so. I’ll still buy another Panasonic. I have had bad experiences with Braun razors previous to the Panasonic.

  8. Herb says:

    yet, paradoxically, it’s more expensive to sell just the top part.

    The old “Give away the razor, sell the blades.”

  9. James Joyner says:

    @Herb: Oh, sure. Replacement cartridges for my Gillette Sensor are absurdly expensive. But they’re at least smart enough to price them cheaper than the cost of a new razor plus blade!

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    My solution to this paradox was to give up shaving. I wouldn’t call it a “good looking” beard, but after 6 days in ICU it didn’t look bad.

  11. Tyrell says:

    Electric scooters: batteries might last two years and cost about as much as a new scooter