Extension cord ripoff?
April 25, 2006 8:21 AM   Subscribe

Why are three prong extension cords so much more expensive than two prong?

Three prong extension cords (grounded) tend to run several times the cost of two prong cords. They don't use that much more material, yet the jump is insane. At any given local store, you can pick up a 6ft 2 prong cord for $1.50, whereas a 6ft grounded cord starts at $6.99 and up. This has always bugged me - is there a good reason for it I'm not thinking of?
posted by [insert clever name here] to Grab Bag (7 answers total)
is there a good reason for it I'm not thinking of?

The simplest reason that manufacturers and retail stores charge so much more for it is: because they can. Think of a standard two-prong as the equivalent of the 486SX or any other chip that was intentionally disabled in some manner. That way they can sell the three-prong to people concerned with safety despite the cost and the two-prong to people who would look at the price of the three-prong and say "I'm not spending seven bucks on that!"
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:32 AM on April 25, 2006

Well, there's half again as many conductors, but more to the point, a three prong extension cord is typically intended for heavier duty use, meaning it has a thicker (lower gague) wire and higher electrical capacity, as well as thicker insulation. I'm sure they also charge more markup for heavy-dutyness too.
posted by aubilenon at 8:34 AM on April 25, 2006

Somebody has figured out that if you charge five times the price and discourage three-quarters of the customers, you still make money.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:38 AM on April 25, 2006

Also consider that many of the three-prongers are getting sold for commercial applications, where the price is expense reported away or passed on to others, buried deep within a parts/materials cost bill.
posted by ChasFile at 8:56 AM on April 25, 2006

Copper. Three conductor extensions have more copper, copper isn't cheap (and is getting more expensive by the day.)

Also, make sure you are comparing apples to apples. -- a 18ga 2 conductor is going to be cheaper than a 14ga 3 conductor simply because the current handling is much less, never mind the extra conductor.

Outdoor grade cables cost more because of the extra insulation required. Most two conductor extension use simple (read, cracks easy, catches fire if you aren't careful) zip cord, while most three conductors have either two individually insualted conductors and a bare conductor in a sheath, or all three are insulated, then sheathed together. This costs more, but makes for a better cord.
posted by eriko at 9:00 AM on April 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

supply and demand. It's not that 3 prong are more expensive, it's that 2 prong are cheaper.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:59 AM on April 25, 2006

It's a combination of materials cost and economy of scale.

If a two prong cord costs $1.50, a 3 prong cord can cost no less than $2.25, based on straight scaling. And the cost is not going to scale straight. The wire is thicker, the insulation between the wires is thicker, the outer casing of the cord is thicker (and usually of an outdoor grade plastic, while indoor 2 wire cords can use cheaper plastic), there's more metal in the socket and in the plug end. There's three wires instead of two. There's insulation on all of those wires. And they make thousands more of the 2 prong cords than they do of the 3prong cords.
posted by jlkr at 12:54 PM on April 25, 2006

« Older Problems with bittorrent files on OS X...   |   Who's your daddy? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.