What is the difference between a cheap pickleball paddle and one that costs over $100?

Ask a bunch of pickleball players how much money a good paddle costs and watch the chaos unfold. Everyone has a different opinion. The only thing that unites pickleball players is that their measurement of a good paddle is based heavily on their own experiences. Take, for example, this post I found while scrolling through the pickleball forum.  

 

“I see so many players using those inexpensive Amazon paddles and playing well with them. Makes me question why spend three or four times what those paddles cost to play. Is it really worth the expense?”

 

She’s got a good point. Even if we remove player talent from the equation, not many people know what makes a good pickleball paddle. Much less, why it’s worth investing in one. The question of how much to spend takes us down a whole different rabbit hole, but I think it’s fair to ask about the differences between cheap and premium paddles. Customers should be informed!!! 


Over the past five years, I’ve become something of a paddle expert. My team and I made over 100 pickleball paddle prototypes, studied the construction of every paddle we could get our hands on, and tested the durability of more than 40 pickleball paddles. It’s been QUITE eye-opening. So let’s break it down. 



What is the difference between a cheap pickleball paddle and one that costs over $100? 

 

What makes a better paddle? Materials, for one thing, plus quality construction and innovation. Not all pickleball paddles are created equal.  When you buy a pricer paddle, you’re getting significantly better quality, durability, and innovation - like going from a handsaw to a powertool. 



#1 Raw Materials


If you look on Amazon right now you’ll find plenty of carbon fiber, honeycomb core paddles for sale under $50. You can also find a paddle with the same basic material combination selling for over $150. What gives? The quality of materials has a direct impact on price, durability and feel. Cheap, low-grade materials are weaker, more brittle, and much more likely to break down upon consistent impact than high-grade materials. They also require more resin, which leads to heavier paddles. Over time, cheap materials can lose their shapes when facing consistent or repetitive stress, like hitting a pickleball. Not great if you’re looking for a long term investment, but also not the worst contributor to the quality difference. 




#2 Quality of Manufacturing, guaranteed 


Expensive paddles are the result of an investment in higher quality manufacturing processes. Companies that produce more expensive paddles not only work with better materials off the get go, they make better paddles. 


Most companies that sell cheap paddles exclusively through Amazon don’t specialize in high-performance sporting equipment. Their goal is to make lots of paddles quickly and cheaply. This means implementing automated processes (yes, we’re talking about robots), and making big batches with low-quality control. When paddle construction is automated, there’s little room for troubleshooting or making improvements on the fly. A robot won't notice that an edgeguard isn’t fully adhered, it will just move on to the next paddle in the line. Another big issue is dead spots. Have you ever had the ball die on a specific area of your paddle that’s supposed to be in the sweet spot? That’s a dead spot. These happen when the skin delaminates - or separates  - from the core. Again, chalk this up to sloppy manufacturing. 


On the other hand, when you charge a premium, companies can prioritize quality control.  Premium paddle manufacturers take pride in the quality of their products. They make and check paddles by hand, finding and solving issues quickly so that they’re only selling the best paddles. One of the key customer benefits here is a warranty. If something happens to go wrong with your paddle, you can count on them making it right. 



#3 Innovation 


Pickleball paddle technologies and standards are introduced at an overwhelming pace. Some players get a new paddle every few months just to have the latest equipment. That isn't practical or necessary for most people, but there’s something to be said about technological innovation. Cheap paddles bought online aren’t driving or even implementing any of the latest technology. And yes, it matters.  


Pickleball should be fun, effortless, and easy to play. Modern pickleball technology has made it so that you can worry less about your gear and focus more on the next point. In the past three years, paddles have become way more durable, more forgiving, and quieter. Some paddle manufacturers (like us) have even found ways to reduce vibrations, helping players with tennis elbow. If you’re incredibly talented or just playing for fun - a cheap paddle will work just fine. But if you’re like most of us, you’ll enjoy the game more with a higher-quality paddle designed to meet your needs as a player.  


More expensive paddles are made from better raw materials, with higher quality processes, and using the latest technology. 



If you need help finding that perfect paddle, feel free to reach out! We’re here to help.

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