Are Banjos Expensive?

by Barry Hunn

Many new people wanting to play banjo often ask the question, "Are banjos expensive?" We break this down to prove how this assessment is so wrong.

I am using our Sierra model for my example. I am comparing the Sierra to a television, a computer and a car. I created a “user’s time frame” based on a person who starts buying these items starting around age 30 and lives to at least 80 years old.

In 50 years owning various TVs and purchasing some kind of cable or dish service will cost you about $44,000. (NOT including a DVD player, DVDs, and based on an average life of 6-8 years at about $700 each TV and about $60 per month for cable or dish etc.)

50 years owning various computers with a monthly internet service fee will cost about $28,063 (NOT including downloads, programs or games added. This is just to buy the machines with a $30 a month internet fee. Based on an average life of 3-5 years per computer at about $850 each).

50 years owning various cars will cost $132,500 (NOT including maintenance and assuming you run each car to about 200,000 miles each and based on an average cost of $26,500 per car and based on the cars not increasing in purchase price over the next 50 years…I think we are all very familiar with what it costs to maintain a car!)

The TV, the computer and the car at the end of their useful life must be “disposed of”. So, after using and replacing these items for 50 years, and about $250,000 of your money gone, you will have to pay someone again to get rid of what’s left of them.

In 50 years the $2999 Sierra will likely have a MINIMUM used value of about $6,000. (NOT including new strings every few months and a new head every few years and if you play A LOT, possibly a re-fret or two.) Or, you might bequeath it to your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren or great, great grandchildren.

So, how is it that our banjos are “expensive” when they offer:

  • The eternal joy of music. Every person I know enjoys music.
  • Ever increasing value. Deering banjos double in value about every 16 years. Making music never needs equipment upgrades, just more practice making music, which is essentially free. The more you play it, the better it sounds! Deering banjos age just like fine violins.
  • Improved Health.  Making music has been proven to have mental health benefits as well as good therapy for arthritic hands.


Kristin Scott Benson chooses the Deering Golden Series banjos
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