Last Updated on April 9, 2021.
Ukuleles can cost anywhere starting from $25 all the way up to $2000. The manufacturing process and materials used can cause a huge variation in price. You cannot expect a cheap or a toy ukulele to be used professionally and to last you a while. A plastic ukulele can only take so much before it breaks down, either you’ll wear it out, or weather will weaken and destroy it.
Each material and each production technique results in a different ukulele, which will result in different sounds. So, what exactly affects ukuleles’ prices?
The Two Factors Affecting The Cost of Ukuleles
1. The Material of The Body
A ukelele made of plastic will not perform the same as one made of wood. Moreover, different kinds of woods lead to different sounds and, of course, different cost ranges.
Plastic ukuleles tend to be cheaper than wooden ones, that is because plastic is generally not an expensive material. Besides, plastic ukuleles are not as widely used as wooden ones.
One of the most common woods used in manufacturing ukuleles is mahogany. Mahogany wood is softer than other woods, and that results in a warmer sound. On the other hand, Spruce wood, for example, gives a more vibrant sound.
Among other types of woods used are koa, cedar, maple, and rosewood.
2. The Strings
Different body materials lead to different sounds, so what about strings? Strings are a crucial part of the ukulele, as you can imagine. Having weak strings will hold you back from seeing the ukulele’s full potential.
The most popular string material is nylon, as you probably guessed. Nylon is cheap to manufacture and produces a warm sound that is still clear. Also, nylon is not affected by humidity. However, nylon has its disadvantages as well. Nylon is affected by temperature changes and may cause it to stretch or shrink. That means that you’ll have to retune your ukulele every weather change.
A material that can withstand temperature changes and produce a similar sound to nylon is the fluorocarbon. However, that added advantage comes with a price, literally. Fluorocarbon strings tend to be more expensive than nylon ones.
Other types of materials used for ukulele strings are titanium, steel, and gut.
Which Price Range Should You Go for?
That depends on how much you are willing to spend and how serious you are about ukuleles. If you just want a toy ukulele for the kids, or you want to test out ukuleles before committing to one, you can easily find a good one below $50. However, that is not recommended if you are planning to play the ukulele regularly, as you would need to upgrade sooner than you expect.
Going a little higher in price, if you’re planning to play the ukulele regularly and you’re taking it seriously, a price range of $50 to $150 will do the trick. Remember that you’re getting what you’re paying for, the more serious you are about ukuleles, the more you should invest in getting a good one that can last you a while.
Here’s a cool thing: electric ukuleles. Here’s a less cool thing: $150 to $500. That price range doesn’t only include electric ukuleles. That range generally is for more fancy ukuleles. Keep in mind that fancy doesn’t mean better. Paying for a higher-quality wood doesn’t mean that it is the ultimate ukulele material that everyone wants. It depends on the kind of sound you are looking for, and paying a higher price doesn’t guarantee that.
Now the extremely high range: $500 and up. That range is for ukulele players who do it professionally, or for custom-made ukuleles. This is not an average price to spend on ukuleles; however, that price range exists.
Ukuleles have a vast range of prices. You can find a ukulele for $50, and you can find one for $1000.
The materials used are the main factor affecting the price. Plastic is cheap, and so are plastic ukuleles. However, cheap doesn’t always mean bad.
Each material used results in a different sound. There’s no right or wrong sound; it depends on personal preference. If you prefer the warmer tones, Mahogany ukuleles with Nylon strings will do you just fine, and you can find that at a reasonable price. On the other hand, if you prefer brighter and more vibrant sounds, consider getting a spruce ukulele with titanium strings.