If you’re excited about getting a powerful blender, but the price is out of your range, there are some other options that I’ll go over today.
Before I get into it, I want to point out that if you use one of these machines regularly and think about its long lifetime, the cost is less daunting. For example, if you get a new Vitamix 5200 for $449, and use it 5 times per week for the 7 year warranty, that’s 25 cents per use. Add to that the machine will probably last 15 years, and you may use it more than 5 times per week, and the cost per use goes way lower. If you get one, and find that you hardly ever use it, it’s easy to recoup your cash. If it’s within 30 days you can get all your money back from Vitamix, and they even pay for return shipping. After that period you’ll have to resell it yourself, but the machines are so highly regarded that they maintain good resell value (for example, I just looked on eBay at completed listings of used 5200′s and it looks like the average is about $350!–more on this later). Another way of looking at the value is if you currently buy smoothies or blended coffee drinks, and switch to making them yourself, the blender will quickly pay for itself.
But lets say $450 is just out of your price range. Here are some cheaper options, in order of decreasing cost.
December 2013 update: Blendtec is further discounting reconditioned units this holiday season. While supplies last, the Reconditioned Blendtec Total Blender is $279.95.
This is the first place to look for the best price for Vitamix and Blendtec machines. $329 gets you a factory-reconditioned Vitamix 5200 with a solid 5-year warranty, and
$384.95 $279.95 gets you a factory-reconditioned Blendtec Total Blender with a solid 7-year warranty. (These machines come with brand-new, unused, containers.) Note that this price for the Vitamix is less than a lot of the used ones that sold on eBay that I mentioned earlier!
Unless you get considerably lucky, I don’t think used is the way to go. As I just showed, you can get a factory reconditioned unit for about the same price as used machines usually go for on eBay or Craigslist. The exception is that there are always stories of finding a machine at a yard sale for $5-$20, sold by someone who did not know what it was, so it’s possible to get lucky, but don’t count on it. Alternatively, you might consider an older model such as the 4000 or 3600, which are from the 1970s and 80s and can be had for under $200. They have stainless steel pitchers, which has a certain appeal, but it makes it harder to see what’s going on inside the pitcher. They’re also not as powerful as the newer models (the 4000 is 7 amps, compared to 11.5 amps for current Vitamixes). Another caveat is they have a spigot at the bottom that can be a pain to keep clean (it was bad enough that you could actually request a plug from Vitamix to stop it up; I’m not sure if you can still get one from Vitamix.) I’ve also heard that the seals and blades are more likely to wear out than on current models, and finding replacements these days may be a pain.
3rd Party Refurbished Blendtec
This deal is interesting, though it’s not for everyone. If you want the most power for the least amount of money this is the way to go.
For $204* you can get a commercial Blendtec machine that was used commercially and then refurbished by a 3rd party (use coupon code NEWCUSTOMER for $5 off). These machines come with a 1-year warranty. They also come with a sound enclosure to muffle the sound. Very important to note though is that they have been used heavily, and both the sound enclosure and the pitcher will likely show heavy signs of wear (i.e. scratches, and even cracks in the sound enclosure). Make sure you check the reviews there and on Amazon to see what you might be in for. The thing that jumped out at me is that most of the negative reviews are from people who were expecting a like-new product, which this is not. Also note that VMInnovations has updated their return policy on these since some of the reviews; they will cover return shipping on functionally defective items. Some people end up buying the $99 Wildside container to go with it, which works slightly better than the classic Blendtec container, and then you don’t have to use the old beat up container. Also, its 6 buttons can be reprogrammed to give you more control over blending.
*Update: VMInnovations increased the price; check link for latest pricing.
The other main brands to look into are Ninja and Breville, for the $100-$200 range. I don’t know much about them, but their performance will likely be a bit lower than Vitamix or Blendtec, and their warranties are considerably shorter (2 years for Ninja, 1 year for Breville). Another one to consider is the Oster Versa, which looks like a decent contender.
I recommend the
$329 $299 factory-reconditioned Vitamix as the best budget option. With that machine you really aren’t making any compromises, and you’re covered by a strong warranty/customer service. For a bit more money the newly available $439 refurbished Vitamix 7500 is also a solid deal. If you’re curious about the differences between the different Vitamix models, check out my Vitamix roundup.
Or if you prefer to have preset modes and a push-button interface, go for the Reconditioned Blendtec at $279.95 while supplies last. (Free shipping is applied if you click any of these links.)