You Need Help: Getting The Best Bang For Your Buck With Affordable Sex Toys

I’m a broke-ass college student looking to explore the magical world of sex toys, but 1. I’m not putting anything made of a shady material in my body, and 2. I want to explore everything all the time forever. This gets expensive really fast, as I’m sure you know. I was just wondering if you knew of any good sources to buy used sex toys from. I know that’s kind of weird but I buy used everything else and as long as it can be boiled I think that I would be okay with using a used sex toy. Any suggestions?

Dear reader, I want to make sure I answer all the parts of your question. One part basically boils down to, “is it okay to buy used sex toys?” Another part is, “if so, where?” The last part is, of course, about exploring sex toys on a budget. And there are PLENTY of (new) toys that are great on a budget.


The Risk Factors Of Buying A Used Toy

In theory, any toy made out of medical grade silicone is fine because it can be boiled and, therefore, sterilized. But there’s no reputable toy company that we know of doing “refurbs” on a large internet scale right now — and some websites (of questionable repute) refer to this practice as being illegal in the some states. So if you were to purchase a used toy, you’d probably have to take a shadier outlet — something along the lines of eBay (though its policy prohibits used toys) or Craigslist. I am all for believing people are basically good, but that is a ton of trust to place in a stranger.

First off, definitely don’t purchase anything that you can’t totally sterilize — vibrators can’t be boiled because of their innards, so I don’t recommend them. And there are some toys that are made of body safe materials, but are porous and not possible to sterilize (the Mr. Bendy, made of elastomer, is a good example). Leather is near impossible to get 100% clean, so leather harnesses or floggers aren’t a good idea. Even some of the materials that seem like the should be okay — like metal or glass — can be damaged with small cracks or scratches (and you can’t boil some of them, either). If someone’s used silicone lube on a silicone toy, that toy can be pretty damaged as well — not to mention all the other ways you can damage a perfectly good silicone toy.

Part of the risk with used sex toys is the same as with anything else second-hand: someone could have misused, abused, damaged or broken it before (accidentally, or without even realizing it) and could be trying to sell it as if that did not happen.

What’s not the same is that when you damage any sex toy, it becomes infinitely more difficult to sterilize and may become unsafe. Damaged silicone becomes porous, which is exactly what you’re trying to avoid (porous materials can’t be sterilized!). And that means it becomes far more dangerous for you, especially if you’re planning on using it without a condom. Very small invisible cracks and scratches in metal or glass make the toy no longer body safe — as in, they can tear you up or, in the case of glass, oh sweet lesbian Jesus, they can break while you are using them. With glass toys, some companies recommend you stop using them if you drop them, even if everything seems to be fine, just in case. This is probably why I cannot find one reputable place that sells used sex toys (commenters, feel free to prove me wrong).

For me, the risk factors outweigh the savings and all I’d be thinking about the entire time would be, “did I check that toy well enough? Did I boil it long enough? Should I have done a test to make sure the toy is really silicone? WHAT IF THIS GLASS IS CRACKED AND I DON’T KNOW UNTIL IT’S TOO LATE?!” For me, the savings wouldn’t be worth it.


 

When It’s Cool To Reuse

If you’re slinging your best friend $60 for a silicone dildo that they’re not using anymore, cool beans. You know and trust your friend, you know that your friend has all the same knowledge you have with regards to what a damaged sex toy looks like (are there little cracks or holes in it? Are there pits in the surface?) and what they could have done to make the toy less safe (use silicone lube on a silicone toy or drop a glass dildo on a hard surface, for example).

If you’re planning on using a condom with the toy every time, it’s no more dangerous than having a protected encounter with someone whose history you don’t know. And if you think about it, you don’t really know what your current girlfriend’s ex did with the toy you now use either. If you think about it that way, many people are using used sex toys. Different people have different opinions when it comes to even using sex toys from relationship to relationship or partner to partner. It’s cool to reuse when:

  • It’s a medical-grade silicone toy.
  • It’s been boiled or otherwise sterilized.
  • If it isn’t medical-grade silicone or sterilized, you’ve got a condom on it.
  • It’s not damaged.

If it’s damaged, don’t use it at all.

Always keep in mind that, like any other thing we do in life, sex with toys includes risk. And the risk factors are probably why no reputable sex toy shop that I know of sells used sex toys, or will take them as a return.


The Best Budget Sex Toys

Just because there isn’t a good reputable source for used sex toys doesn’t mean you don’t have budget-friendly options for walking on the wild side. Here are, in my opinion, the best toys on a budget. If you purchased every single one of these, you will still spend less than I spent on my first strap-on situation (ah, things I wish I knew back in the day).

smoothie-vibratorBest Budget Vibrator: Jimmyjane Iconic Smoothie ($20)

Jimmyjane is a kickass company with great (and pretty!) products. When you’re looking for cost effective, keep in mind that you’re also looking for versatile. And the Iconic Smoothie has many strengths (turn the dial, the vibration gets stronger) and can be used for vaginal or clitoral vibration. Multi-function is the way to go when you’re on a budget.

woody-silicone-dill

Best Budget Strap-On Dildo: Woody ($64)

When you’re shopping for a versatile dildo, average size is key, as is a neutral color. The Woody is right down the middle on everything, and is sleek and black. This one is silicone, so you can sterilize it by boiling.

octopussy-dildo

Best Budget Conversation Piece Dildo: Octopussy ($50)

Everyone needs a budget conversation piece — plus it’s heavy and made of glass, and offers g-spot action. It’s also got all those awesome ridges! That means you’ll have a completely different texture than the silicone toy. (Read Autostraddle’s review.)

bootie-anal-plug

Best Budget Anal Toy: Bootie ($34)

Made by Fun Factory, this butt plug is versatile because, again, it’s right down the middle in terms of size. It’s made of silicone, so cleaning it is easy. And it’s such a darn great value because not only is it cost effective by itself, it also comes in a bundle (plug and lube for $40) — another thing to watch for when you’re deal hunting. Many toy shops offer discounted items when you buy two or more items bundled together.

babelube_2

Best Budget Lube: Babelube ($0.50 to $22)

Lube is one of those places where you definitely don’t want to sink to the KY level — you definitely want something glycerin free and free of any other irritants your hoo-ha doesn’t like (we’ve got a good guide for that here). In my opinion, the best bang for your buck lube is the standard Babeland brand because it’s — well — inexpensive without being cheap and it’s made by a company that truly cares about your health and happiness.

And always remember: rope is a very versatile thing. Talk about bang for your buck!


Other Money-Saving Toy Tips

Shop The Sales

Watch the big sites like Gilt (which had a fairly recent deal involving Babeland) and Living Social. Seek out the “Groupon of Sex Toys” site Dildo of the Day (which, at the time I’m writing this, is offering a butt plug at $54 off the regular price but obviously doesn’t have the crazy amazing sex educators that Babeland does, so ya know). You can also sign up for the newsletters at shops like Babeland, Good Vibrations and Smitten Kitten to learn about flash sales, coupons and discounted products. I coupon at no other times in my life, but dang do I coupon my sex toys.

Be A Sex Blogger

Before I worked for Autostraddle, I wanted to create a space where I could talk about queer sex on the internet. So I did. And with that came the opportunity to get free sex toys and, in turn, write about them. Now reader, I don’t recommend this on the reg — writing is hard. But if you are a writer and if that idea appeals to you, it’s a fun time. And you can also feel good that you’re spreading the word on body-positive and sex-educating establishments like Good Vibrations and Babeland.

Go Grocery Shopping

If you’re hard up on cash and want something of a different size than what you currently own, head to the grocery store. Feel up the produce. Purchase that produce and stick a condom on it. Blammo. DIY dildo now, salad later. Please remember not to put anything in your butt that doesn’t have a three inch base on it. You don’t want the hospital visit where you explain the carrot in your anus, you just don’t. Produce is generally for vaginas.


Where Not To Save Money

Because sometimes you get what you pay for.

Materials

Most inexpensive toys are made of shady materials. Steer clear of anything containing pthlalates — and check out this list of materials and how to use and clean them and a lovely buying guide from Smitten Kitten’s Coalition Against Toxic Toys. Remember that objects that are clearly designed to be put in you aren’t regulated and companies don’t have to care that their materials might cause itching or burning, so purchase from reputable companies and conduct a smell test. If it smells like a shower curtain or at all like chemicals, stick a condom on it. Or don’t give whatever company company made the toxic toy your business like at all since they clearly don’t give a crap about your well-being. Toys that are made with harmful materials are often cheaper, so be aware while you’re shopping the inexpensive toys.

 The Harness

Ah, the harness. I tried to pick a budget harness and I couldn’t. Because I have been on the unfortunate end of breaking a harness in the middle of what would have otherwise been a fun time. Those metal ring-stud-things popped out of the back of it and gauged giant scratches down my lower back. Even less severe than that, if you pick a cheap harness it’s most likely made out of a weird material that’ll chafe; you may have to stop in the middle of sex. And, less severe but just as frustrating, picking a cheap harness means you’re not going to have the control you’d like while you’re fucking. Believe me. You want that control. Partners usually appreciate things being put in their preferred holes, whichever holes those may be. Aim is key. And aim is easier when your harness isn’t stretching to far or weirdly uncomfortable or fit poorly or scratching.


Sex toys can be very expensive, but they certainly don’t have to break the bank and we don’t all have to have the gold vibrator in our toy box (true story, I know someone who won one of those). Don’t compromise safety for your budget and be aware of the risks if you use some pre-owned fun time objects.

Commenters, what are your best budget toys? What are your favorite budget-saving toy tips? I know y’all have them.


Have a question about sex? Email me at ali [at] autostraddle.com, PM me on Autostraddle or for a completely anonymous experience you can ask me a question right here.

Please keep your questions to around, at most, 100 words. Due to the high volume of questions and feelings, not every question or feeling will be answered or published on Autostraddle. We hope you know that we love you regardless.

Autostraddle writer Dani R. Da Silva contributed to the research and production of this post, because they are fabulous.

Avatar of Ali

Freelance writer and fiction author, Geekery Editor for Autostraddle.com and Fiction Editor for qu.ee/r Magazine. Keep up with her at her website.

Ali has written 261 articles for us.

18 Comments

  1. Thumb up 10

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    Man, what I would have given to have a list like this when I was in college. I went to college in Minneapolis and learned the basic do’s and dont’s about body safe sex toys from Smitten Kitten. But nothing about how to protect your body safely AND on budget. And nothing explained as clearly as you just did.

    Ali, you are a marvel. I so enjoy all of your frank, honest, but also a bit caring and humous sex advice. Always informative and a good time! You have a skill for never making someone feel silly or embarrassed to ask a question.

    • Thumb up 6

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      Okay. Let’s add to this list.

      First off: Where to get your toys. Amazon is the answer to a shocking number of things and cheap (but not used) sex toys is one of them. (Quick tip: Sex toys will not display in general amazon search results. Make sure you search in the “personal health and wellness” category to get any results for your searches. So many people assume Amazon doesn’t sell sex toys. Amazon sells a *ton* of sex toys.) Amazon is my go to place for expensive toys that would normally be hard to find and way expensive anywhere else. (Anything VixSkin for instance… I can get my favorite VixSkin toy for like $60 on Amazon. Can’t find it for even close to that price anywhere else) They have a ton of little obscure vendors selling on there who I don’t really want to know much about or find their websites. The other place that is a decent place for cheap toys is Eden’s Fantasys, which in addition to being a totally funny way to spell that and awkwardly reminds me of a girl I crushed on and totally isn’t my favorite store… has discounts everytime you look at them sideways and are generally a reasonable choice for the “I want a store that sells everything that there is to sell in sex toy land and does it for a low price because I can’t really afford to support the other stores that I’d love to and I don’t mind fucking around with coupon codes because money is hard.” But the percentage of stuff that they sell that’s really bad is like in the high 90s—or higher. So—careful out there.

      So while the trickiest part about buying cheap toys is most of them suck. The good news is that a lot of time, they’re cheap, so if you’re disappointed with something, it’s not as huge a deal as when a toy doesn’t live up to your expectations and you had to cut into your food budget for it. Then, every once in awhile you find a few things that become favorites and you wonder why no one else knows about it and the entire world just seems like your oyster.

      Here’s a few of the ones that I’ve either found through luck or stumbled upon good reviews around:
      * Okay, so like, I’ll go there if Ali won’t. Let’s talk cheap harnesses. This isn’t an amazing harness. It just isn’t. But if you want something basic, you’re never going to find anything else that costs under $15, will show up to your house in two days with Prime and is better reviewed: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001BMDQSO/
      * If you want to step up a bit, RodeoH’s harnesses are great and are totally obtainable for like $45 online. They’re also kind of cute and who doesn’t want to see a girl in fully loaded black and red briefs?
      * Speaking of the RodeoH, if you want to explore the world of a double sided toys to pair it, I’ve got a recommendation for you. While you’ve got a bunch to chose from, all the well known ones are expensive. And with a double ended dildo, silicon is vital or go home, because really this thing has *two* ends. So life is tough, and if it wasn’t for this one fantastic toy under $40, it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. You don’t have to get it in pink, but I personally think pink dildos are great: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008I3BQ0E/ It’s also, in my opinion, for me and my body, better than all the expensive and more well known ones. I own some of those too and I’ve tried a few more I didn’t own. I barely use them.
      * $7 or less rolls of bondage tape. It’s exactly what every girl needs. Get a roll in any color you want around your body, or around someone else’s. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008060OT8/
      * This isn’t the cheapest ballgag you can get, but most of the really cheap ones taste just awful. And it turns out taste is pretty important in a ballgag. As I’ve mentioned, I like pink and a lot of queers really don’t prefer that for themselves, but this is the one I can vouch for: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0063IGN0Y/ (My old one was a red one I really liked the look of in my mouth, but it tasted terrible. So I can’t recommend it.)
      * Almost all of LELO’s products are expensive. For a bunch of reasons, I’ve managed to try a few of them. The only one that’s even vaguely affordable are these kegal beads: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0029ZALB2/ They’re great. You might be tempted to buy cheaper kegal beads, because you can totally find cheaper kegal beads. But my experience so far has been the cheaper kegal beads were all a huge disappointment. This is one area I’d say go a bit more expensive. And $31 for some seriously quality toys isn’t bad.

      I’m probably forgetting a bunch, but these are the few that I could remember off the top of my head without actually looking through my collection. If anyone’s still reading this, I can probably come up with some more.

  2. Thumb up 3

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    Blammo. DIY dildo now, salad later. Please remember not to put anything in your butt that doesn’t have a three inch base on it. You don’t want the hospital visit where you explain the carrot in your anus, you just don’t.

    -WHEEZING LAUGHTER- im going to die goodbyE

    DILDO SALAD
    CARROT BUTT
    I,=M SO MATUREE
    and coughing a lot but oih god

    As an attempt to contribute to Actual Conversation, i will say using sales on sites– or actual places, i’m sure they have them– is always awesome. Especially when you can wrangle something like a 2-for-1 deal & end up paying for the cheaper item & getting the more expensive one free.

    ….and then i dropped one of them. Glass dildo, dropped in the ceramic tub. I thought something would have broken, but it hasn’t yet but now i’m worried :x Are there any signs, like internal fractures, to try & look for?
    (Also had that paralyzing moment of fear that one of the parentals would come to the door & ask “ARE YOU ALRIGHT” but thankfully that didn’t happen, either.)

  3. Thumb up 2

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    I’ve gotten some good deals on Tantus toys from their sale page and also from Amazon. Is buying sex toys new from Amazon shady? I hope not, because I have always saved about $20-30 that way, plus gotten free shipping.

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