7 reasons why is LEGO® so expensive, plus cheaper alternatives

LEGO Star Wars minifiguras

LEGO® is expensive. It’s a common complaint from fans and parents alike. But have you ever really wondered: Why are LEGO® sets so expensive? In this article we are going to look at some key points to understand a little more what’s behind these high prices.

Before we get started, it's important to point out that a good part of the blame for the perception of LEGO® being expensive is the establishment of new LEGO® alternative brands. In recent years alt brick brands have offered attractive designs at more reasonable/affordable prices, without the drop in quality.

With that out of the way, here are 7 reasons why LEGO® is so expensive.

AFOLs

Although the price of LEGO® bricks has remained around 10 cts a piece for decades, LEGO® has been agressively expanding its catalog for AFOLs (adult fans of LEGO®), and therefore many of its sets have become larger and more expensive. Some of them, such as the Millennium Falcon, featuring more than 7 thousand pieces, can cost around €850, or the TItanic, with 9090 pieces, €690.

Premium brand

LEGO logo

LEGO® is the the undisputed king of construction toys, and there is a huge premium placed on the brand name itself. Whoever gives a LEGO® set as a present knows that it will not disappoint: LEGO® is synonymous with quality.

In fact, most people refer to the tiny bricks by the brand name LEGO®, rather than more generic terms like building or construction blocks.

In other words, LEGO® can get away with charging more because it has a premium brand perception among buyers. APPLE, NIKE, or HONDA are other examples of premium brands.

Manufacturing process and R&D

LEGO's engineering standards are very high. The material used is an ultra-strong and durable thermoplastic, and the colors do not fade over time (theoretically).

The company uses a package of software to maintain the sizes of the bricks within a tolerance of 0.0005 inches. This precision translates into a perfect fit every time, with no visible separation between the bricks. This attention to detail and quality control is the reason why bricks from 60 years ago continue to fit perfectly with those of today.

In addition, the company invests strongly in R&D. Lately, LEGO® has been directing its efforts into achieving a more ecological alternative to ABS plastic by 2030.

Design process 

LEGO Succulents manual logo

LEGO® has a team of designers who must follow the strict requirements established by the company for the sets to be considered for mass production. Here are a few examples:

  • Clean concept: The set is not related to violence, drugs, or nudity, and there are no logos of other brands. For example, you will not find sets of tanks or war planes, which are popular from other brands such as Cobi.
  • Play value: LEGO® gives a lot of importance to this point, after all they sell toys. The set has to be attractive and fun to build, with clear instructions, and interactive elements for playability.
  • Construction stability: Even if the construction is fantastic and meets all of the above requirements, if it doesn't hold together tightly it won't make the cut.
  • Piece selection: LEGO® does not consider sets that require making many new pieces specific to the set.

LEGO Ideas is the brand's program for MOCers from all over the world to send their design proposals. Many of the new features in the LEGO® catalog come from this program, although they are all thoroughly vetted and adjusted by LEGO® designers first.

Licences

LEGO Star Wars and Architecture boxes closeup

Some of LEGO®'s most popular products come from famous IP such as Harry Potter, Fortnite, Star Wars, Disney, Indiana Jones, or Super Mario, and all of these require an expensive licencing fee. Even LEGO® Architecture sets must pay a license fee.

This fee is then included in the price of the set, which leads to LEGO® being more expensive than alternative brands.

Aftermarket support

LEGO® has a request service for broken or lost pieces so buyers do not have to buy the set again or find parts second-hand, and they can simply replace the parts they need.

The company also supports a robust LEGO® Insiders program, with rewards for frequent shoppers and freebies to keep people excited about the brand.

Durability, collectors, and resale value

LEGO Star Wars minifigs logo

The durability of LEGO® sets is another reason why LEGO® is so expensive. LEGO® pieces are often passed from generation to generation, which isn't the case for most mass-market toys today. For better or worse, LEGO® is aware that its plastic is “too” durable and does not degrade, so they are looking for more environmentally friendly materials.

The fact that LEGO® pieces last so long also makes them an attractive collector's item. Most LEGO® sets are on the market for about two years. Afterwards, some can be found on the second-hand market for 50-75% of their original value, but others can only be found for exorbitant prices, especially in unopened boxes.

Minifigures are also sought after by collectors and increase the value of the sets. In fact, minifigures are often the most valuable part of a set, with the most expensive minifigs costing hundreds or even thousands of Euros.

What about cheaper LEGO® alternatives?

With this article we do not intend to change the perception that LEGO® is expensive, we simply wanted to analyze why LEGO® is so expensive. We hope it’s been helpful!

The good news for anyone on a budget is that nowadays there are many alternative brands to LEGO®. At Latericius, we are dedicated to spreading the word that many alternatives to LEGO® can compete not only in price, but also by offering sets and themes different from those of the Danish brand.

Nearly all of these are also LEGO® compatible, meaning you can expand your collection for less!

Take a look at the top LEGO® alternative brands here:

Alt brick brand Piece quality Price Themes Minifigures
CaDA Excellent Affordable Vehicles, RC, some decor and buildings No
Pantasy Excellent Affordable Licensed pop culture sets Yes
Cobi Excellent Affordable Historical collections of European cars and war vehicles Yes
Mork Very good Cheap Buildings No
Sluban Very good Cheap Vehicles, kids, military Yes
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