Pleasure doesn't have to be pricey.
by Jessica Toscano March 11, 2022
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From pumps to vibrators to lubes, nothing is more appealing than the idea of getting yourself off with quality goods for cheap, because who wants to pay that much to play? But there’s more to shopping for the right sex toy than a colorful gizmo and a half-off sale. When making such an intimate purchase, you want to consider not only the type of gadget that’s most likely to get you off but whether it’s manufactured from body-safe materials and will last for more than a couple of pumps. Who wants to spend less money on a toy only to find out it’s a cheap knockoff that, ultimately, costs you more in toy replacements and doctor visits (because unsafe toys pose health risks).
Thankfully, there are myriad ways to tell if the toy of your dreams is legit and worth the price before you make the purchase, and we’ve got you covered.
How do I score a quality sex toy for cheap? When shopping for a quality sex toy, a few things first need to be taken into consideration.
1. Narrow your choices.
“When we talk about quality sex toys, [it] really depends entirely on how you define quality,” Natasha Marie, sexual wellness expert at MysteryVibe, a sexual technology company dedicated to creating the most advanced, smart adult novelty items, tells Intrigue. “More specifically, what functionality or functions you’re looking for in a sex toy.” Some sex toys are equipped with Bluetooth capability, various speeds, and customizable vibrations patterns, so you can expect the cost to be greater due to their inclusion of higher-end tech. By narrowing your search to a few select styles or functionalities, you’re better able to cater your expectations to your budget and compare prices across brands.
2. Search for body-safe materials.
Material is one of the biggest deciding factors in terms of quality, according to Marie, because it helps determine a toy’s safety. Some sex toys are made from porous materials like polyvinyl chloride (PVC), thermoplastic rubber (TPR), jelly rubber, and latex, which can degrade over time and harbor bacteria, leading to increased health risks, per a study by the Danish Ministry of the Environment. Those manufactured from jelly and PVC can be especially worrisome as many contain chemicals like phthalates, which have been linked to reproductive, neurological, and developmental disruptions. Since sex toys are classified as novelty items, with the exception of some medical and sexual dysfunction devices, most are excluded or exempt from federal regulation and approval, which means it’s up to you to make a smart purchase.
A toy marked “body-safe” is more likely to be manufactured from antimicrobial materials and less likely to contain potentially toxic substances, says Marie. But there is no guarantee since the term “body-safe” is also not federally regulated, and its definition could vary from company to company. To help ensure what you’re purchasing is, in fact, body-safe, she suggests seeking out non-porous materials like medical-grade silicone, stainless steel, and glass, which should be listed on a toy’s packaging or in the description of an online purchase. If its material isn’t disclosed, Marie recommends asking a sales clerk if you’re at a physical store or emailing a customer service representative if you’re shopping online. If they don’t know and refuse to find out or just flat out won’t tell you, consider that a red flag, she warns.
3. Beware third-party distributors.
When sex toys are purchased from certain third-party distributors, like Amazon or eBay, the authentication of brands and materials can get a little complicated because anyone can post on these sites and claim authenticity, says Marie. So, you could very well buy knock-offs made with PVC and other hazardous materials and not immediately know the difference. By purchasing directly from the manufacturer or certified distributor, you greatly minimize that risk.
If you do decide to snag a deal from a third party, there are a few ways you can tell if it’s legit. According to MADE SAFE®, 100% medical-grade silicone is always opaque and never transparent, doesn’t leave a residue when touched, and typically contains no odor. If your toy claims it’s body-safe, not made from another non-porous material, and exhibits these characteristics, it’s likely counterfeit.
4. Research the company.
Before you purchase from the first site that appears in search results or the first brand that catches your eye in a shop, do your research. It’s important to treat shopping for sex toys like you would shopping for other products, says Marie. Look up ratings, read reviews, and compare prices across platforms to ensure that your brand of interest meets expectations. Some things to consider are what customers say about the reality of the products versus their descriptions (Did the product look the same as its picture? Did it come equipped with all the functionalities described?), the company’s customer service performance (Were unsatisfied customers immediately assisted, or did they have to wait a substantial period of time? Was the service helpful?), and how likely the customers are to recommend that specific product or brand (Are there a lot of low-star ratings? What are the reasons?). Your answers can help determine the quality of the company before you spend time and money on a disappointing purchase.
You also might consider reading the company’s about page to discover its mission and ethics and whether you share the same views on topics like civic engagement and sustainability. A company might have boasting reviews, but if eco-friendly and cruelty-free buys are non-negotiables and the company sells leather goods, you might want to reconsider.
5. Purchase from a reputable brand.
When quality is a priority, a brand’s reputation is important. Reputable brands are reputable for a reason, says Marie, typically because they have a track record of making products that don’t get people sick. But also, credible companies tend to adopt values that ensure their products are high-quality and high-performance.
One immediate way to know if a company is of higher quality is if it lists sex toy materials on its packaging and website, says Marie. (Remember, an absence of ingredients is a red flag.) Another sure way to help identify a trustworthy brand is whether they offer product warranties. “[Quality] companies will have warranties because they stand behind the ethicacy of their product,” says Marie, who explains that one- and two-year product guarantees are typical. If the distributor is certified, that’s always a good place to start, she says.
How do I know if I snagged a good deal?
Ultimately, you’ll know if it’s a good deal if you paid within your budget and the toy meets your expectations. That said, you get what you pay for, says Marie. Although that’s not to say that cheaper sex toys can’t be good. “But if it’s cheaper, that often means that it was cheaper to manufacture, which means it will be made of cheaper quality and materials, which means the shelf life isn’t going to be long,” she says. So, if you’re planning a purchase you want to get rough with, this calls for more of a splurge.
“The last thing anyone wants is to be in the middle of something [when] a sex toy breaks,” she says. And remember, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Invest in one of these quality toys for under $100:
1. Unbound Babes Gem, $35
A series of symbols — from “Body Safe” to “Quiet” — makes learning about each vibe from Unbound Babes a breeze. You’ll know exactly what to expect from your purchase before you shell out, including all the ways in which it can be used and cleaned. This *best-seller* anal glass dildo is ideal for temperature play by submerging it in a bowl of warm or ice water for a few minutes before use. Once playtime is over, simply boil it in a pot or throw it into the dishwater for an easy clean. Best part? All purchases include a one-year warranty (in case accidentally shattering it crossed your mind).
2. MysteryVibe Tomo, $98.95
If you’re looking to make the most of your money, MysteryVibe offers several award-winning pieces that meet the gold standard for sex toys. They’re all manufactured with body-safe silicone, perfect for water play, equipped with various functionalities, and packaged with an authentic manufacturer’s warranty. This bb in particular has dual motors and heads, so your p-spot is stimulated from the inside and outside for a hands-free orgasm. Plus, free shipping when you spend $60 or more (which, hello!).
3. FemmeFunn Ultra Bullet, $69.99
Body-safe silicone and a one-year warranty are the bare minimum with this delightfully unique bullet vibe. Quiet, discreet, powerful, and compact, FemmeFunn’s ultra bullet is the perfect travel companion. Its memory function means never forgetting which of its 20 vibration modes last left you with an “O.”
4. Cute Little Fuckers Princette, $69
Award-winning for oh so many reasons. Between its playful, gender-free design that offers internal and external stimulation and its five speeds and vibration modes, this 100% silicone “Princess Puppypus” is one of the most creative sex toys on the market. And you never have to explain what it is should anyone accidentally find them (yes, this octopus identifies as them, what have you?).
5. LELO SONA, $63.20
A single piece of premium silicone keeps this clitoral massager watertight, so you can enjoy its sonic wave and pulse technology underwater when you’re not relishing in its eight-intensity settings on land. In addition to a one-year product warranty, LELO reinforces its premium stature with its 10-year quality guarantee.