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YETI coolers, with their shocking price tags, are the subject of a lot of conversation. The coolers range from several hundred to more than a thousand dollars. Their prices are much higher than the rest of their competitors. So it begs the question, why are YETI coolers so expensive?
YETI Coolers are expensive mainly because of their costly manufacturing process. The outside is made from rotomolded polyethylene, which creates a seamless, single-piece shell. It’s then filled with commercial-grade polyurethane insulation, to produce a tough, highly efficient, (and expensive) cooler.
Long ago were the days when we didn’t think twice about grabbing a lightweight styrofoam cooler at the gas station and filling it with ice– a total investment of a few bucks.
However YETI has a seriously devoted and loyal following among those who take their cooling seriously. These folks are more than willing to invest $300+ in a quality and long-lasting cooler.
Do you fall into this group? Let’s examine carefully to get past the hype and get down into the real information. We’ll explore:
- What is a YETI cooler and why would you use one?
- Why are YETI coolers so expensive?
- Are they worth the price?
- Should you consider the competition?
- Who should buy a YETI cooler?
Let’s explore how YETI was founded to give context to their current-day expense.
The YETI cooler was the brainchild of two Texan brothers– Roy and Ryan Seider. The Seider brothers were avid fishermen, hunters, and outdoorsmen. Like any serious outdoor enthusiasts, they required a lot of demands from their equipment.
The standard coolers on the market at the time just couldn’t stand up to the abuse of their outdoor adventures. Mass-market brands like Igloo and Coleman, that you can pick up at your local big box store, didn’t cut it.
The brothers found that handles and latches would often snap off, rendering the cooler useless. They wanted to use their ice chest as a platform to stand on while fishing, but the lid would cave in. And they wanted to keep their catches and kills really cold over long periods of time, but the cheap mass-market brands didn’t achieve that.
Tired of replacing coolers each season, the brothers happened upon a new style of cooler at an outdoor industry show. This rugged and durable cooler prompted them to team up with a manufacturing plant in the Philippines. Over time, they created an “indestructible” cooler that retained cold more efficiently than any other coolers on the market.
Named after the mythical creature, YETI launched its first cooler in 2006 and disrupted the outdoor industry. It offers a variety of outdoor gear now, that has been honed over years of firsthand experience. The company today is worth over $1.5 billion dollars and is a recognizable, and aspirational brand across the world.
Now that we’ve got a backdrop of the company and its design goals, let’s explore some reasons why the YETI cooler is so expensive.
Why Are YETI Coolers So Expensive?
YETI coolers are a premium product which have a lot of research, high-quality production, and support behind them. Let’s look into some specific reasons why the coolers are so expensive:
Expensive Manufacturing Process
YETI coolers are expensive because of their manufacturing process. They are created through a process called rotomolding, which creates a single, continuous piece of hollow plastic.
Using high temperature and low pressure, a solid, strong, durable polyethylene shell is created with biaxial rotomolding. (Kayaks are created using this same process.) Then inside the hollow walls that are two to three inches thick, commercial-grade polyurethane foam is injected.
The resulting structure is a light, durable, and strong cooler. Since the shell is continuous, common weak points like corners and edges are actually very strong.
Amazing Ice Retention
The rotomoulded shell and commercial quality insulation make YETI coolers amazing ice retainers. Coupled with the insulating walls, they have a firm seal of freezer quality around the entire lid to seal it off. This gasket minimizes air exchange, to keep the heat out and the cold in.
The result is 5+ days of ice retention, with some users reporting ice retention of 10 days. Mass market coolers can provide a day or two of ice retention at most. The coolers’ exceptional thermal insulation allows you to keep ice intact and prevent food spoilage for days. This can be incredibly useful while on an extended camping trip, while out in a very hot climate, or when storing game for several days.
Built to Last
YETI coolers are built to last and damage resistant, for a variety of reasons. Yeti fans refer to the coolers as “indestructible.”
YETI’s unique manufacturing technique produces strong coolers. They are extremely rigid and durable, and resistant to breaking, cracking, and shattering.
YETI coolers can survive slips, falls, being thrown off a cliff, high impacts, heavy loads, and being tossed out of a moving vehicle. They are fire-resistant as well. You can toss a YETI cooler into the back of a truck or onto a boat without worry.
You don’t have to be delicate with a YETI cooler because they are made for frequent use in tough conditions. Even a 500lb man is no match for a YETI.
The Tundra line of YETI coolers is official Bear-certified. Yes, really!
The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee has added YETI coolers to their list of Certified Bear-Resistant Products. Testing included a live bear test and very high standards.
This certification means that the YETI Tundra products can be used on public grounds where grizzly bears are free to roam wild.
It also means that if a bear finds your cooler, it will survive without having its contents spilled. (YETI sells bear-proof locks as well for additional safety.)
Here’s a video of a grizzly + YETI cooler.
YETI is so confident in the quality of their coolers, they come with a 5-year warranty. Unlike other companies who do not even offer a warranty on their products, or ask for you to pay for a warranty, YETI includes the warranty for free.
This does add a bit to the cost though, because warranties come with claims, shipping costs, costs of replacement coolers, staff to process the claims, etc. So you can understand why a higher price is necessary to offset the costs of offering such a great a warranty.
First to Market
Just like the iPhone is THE smartphone, and no matter what phones Google, Samsung, or Microsoft create, they will never be as iconic or command as high a price as an iPhone.
There is a huge value in being first to market. They literally created the market for rotomolded coolers, whereas no such market existed before. When you think of rotomolded coolers, you think of YETI.
They were bold, they made a statement, and they made a great first impression. They are the standard against which all other rotomolded coolers are compared.
Since then, they’ve had years to establish their product and brand before any competitors came into the picture. Meaning that going forward, they are the premier rotomolded cooler brand.
When you buy a YETI, you’re not just buying a cooler. You’re buying the image, the experience, the legacy. You’re paying for more than just the parts and materials and labor. You’re buying the brand.
Similar to a luxury brand, people are willing to pay more for a product because of its perception, not necessarily because of its features and specs. This is evident in YETI’s advertising, which is aspirational.
Advertisements show the adventurous life you can have with YETI products. They bring up feelings of inspiration, fortitude, and bettering yourself. They make us feel courageous, rugged, resilient, and patriotic.
You don’t need to know the details about your cooler, because you’re buying a YETI. You know it’s going to be good quality. Just like The North Face, Canada Goose, Patagonia, Arc’teryx, and other high-status outdoor brands, YETI is a status symbol. It is synonymous with good quality. YETI charges more because they can.
As proof that they are a luxury brand, YETI hired Melisa Goldie, former Chief Marketing Officer of Calvin Klein.
They’re Not Trying to Compete On Price
With such a great brand value, YETI is selling coolers faster than they can make them. Why would they lower prices?
YETI never intended to compete with lower-cost cooler companies like Coleman or Igloo. They had no desire to be on shelves at Walmart or Costco. (In fact, there is a lawsuit by YETI alleging that Costco sold knockoff copies of its products.)
YETI prefers to control its distribution channels and sell at smaller, more local retailers. It also has strict control over the price. Because YETI sells the coolers to the retailers at a high price, retailers then need to sell it at a high price to make money. (This is also why Yeti coolers are almost never on sale!)
However, YETI is appealing to retailers because although margins are low, the stores can make more money selling a few YETI coolers compared to selling hundreds of the cheaper, mass market coolers.
Aside from the durability and ice retention features, YETI coolers are in general extremely high quality.
The coolers look cool and rugged. The colors are rich. The finishes are premium. The surface is smooth. They just exude quality. This is especially true when you put a YETI cooler side-by-side with other brands. The attention to detail and high quality is apparent. It is truly a superior product.
Are They Worth The Price?
It depends on who you are. YETIs have a lot of great features, but you might not need or use all of them. They are coolers designed for a particular purpose, with a particular group of users in mind. So it’s all up to your personal lifestyle, needs, and budget. Here are some tips:
In general, consider a YETI cooler if:
- You want your cooler to last a lifetime, and you’d rather spend a bit more now to have a long-lasting cooler years down the line. If you struggle with broken lids, handles that snap off, or need to replace your cooler often, it might be worth investing in a high-quality YETI.
- You need an extremely rugged and durable cooler. If your cooler undergoes a lot of abuse, like extreme temperatures, if you place a lot of weight on it, or it slides around in the back of your truck or trailer, consider a YETI.
- You suffer from leaking coolers that soak your truck, campsite, or camper.
- You go on multi-day camping, backpacking, rafting, fishing, or hunting trips. You don’t want to keep driving back to civilization to buy ice every day or so.
- You backpack and camp in remote areas, where there is no ice available. You need to keep your ice frozen for a week at a time.
- You spend time in extremely hot climates, and need a well-insulated cooler which is up to the job.
- You have a lot of stuff to keep cool, and you need spacious YETI sizes.
- You have a mobile food business, like a food truck, and need to keep food at a cold enough temperature for food safety.
- You travel long distances with food that you need to keep cold. For example, grilling, barbeque, and smoking competitions in which you travel great distances with your choice cuts of meat in the backseat.
- You spend time where there are grizzly bears. (The YETI Tundra is grizzly-proof, after all!)
And when do you probably not need a YETI cooler?
- You’re taking your kids to their baseball game, and want to bring along some popsicles for the team.
- You’re tailgating for a few hours and you’re bringing the brats and burgers.
- You’re heading to the lake for a night with your buds and some cold beer.
- You camp often, but never more than one or two nights.
If, after reading this guide, you’ve decided that you need the features of a YETI cooler but can’t get past the price, you can check out some of the competition.
Companies like Orca, OtterBox, Canyon, Pelican, and RTIC are great alternatives. They make rotomolded coolers that can keep ice frozen for several days at a time. You can find a cooler with comparable specs and features as a YETI, often several hundred dollars less.
Summary of Why Are YETI Coolers so Expensive
To summarize, here are the reasons why YETI coolers are so expensive:
- Expensive manufacturing process
- Highly durable
- Best-in-class ice retention
- 5-year warranty
- Attention to detail
- Great aspirational branding
- First to market
- Niche product
- Doesn’t try to compete on price
- Control over pricing and distribution
- Provide good profits for retailers
The choice is yours, so do your best to make an informed decision. Regardless which cooler you choose, and whether you look at price vs features, all I can say is that there’s nothing quite like a YETI!