10 Things That Cost More for Women (or Men)


View as:

Consumers might pay different prices depending where and when they buy, their memberships, and a host of other factors. But what about their gender? For some goods and services, there are differences in the prices men and women pay -- maybe only a few dollars or percentage points here and there, but they can add up over time. It's most often women paying more, which could be seen as doubly unfair, given the oft-cited statistic that women working full-time make only about 78 cents for every dollar men take home. But in some cases it's men who pay a premium.

This is sort of expected, because most women have more hair than most men. But costs are higher even when a woman gets the same haircut as a man, according to research in the peer-reviewed Journal of Consumer Policy in 2000. Hairstylists in Denmark were outraged when that country's Gender Equality Board ruled in 2013 that men and women had to be charged the same, and style professionals defended the price difference by saying they spent more time on women.

While dry-cleaning for pants and suits costs roughly the same, women's shirts cost more than men's. Sure, they may be made of delicate fabric or have embellishments, but even those that are identical to men's except for the label cost more to get laundered. The culprit in some cases is industrial pressing machines that are sized for men's shirts, an economist told The New York Times, although that doesn't explain why small men aren't charged for hand-pressing.

Here's a gap that's shrinking, according to a recent study analyzing the new car market. Car dealers make almost $250 more than their lowest price when selling to older women. Young women, though, do at least as well as men in their demographic in price negotiations. The researchers posit that greater educational opportunities, earning power, and work experience give women in younger generations an advantage.

Even if men and women pay the same for a car, keeping it running may still cost a woman more. In a 2012 study crafted by researchers at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, women calling to replace a specific car part were charged an average 6 percent more than men if they admitted having no idea what the part should cost (but if they asked for a discount later, they were a little more likely to get one than a man was). The researchers found that when a caller provides their own price estimate, "all gender differences disappear."

One prime example is jeans, especially now that "boyfriend jeans" are in style. Prices for Levi's 501 CT jeans vary by style, but similar washes cost $68 for men and $128 for women. Similar shirts, too, cost more for women than men, and it starts from infancy. A report by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs called "From Cradle to Cane: The Cost of Being a Female Consumer" says clothing for girls costs about 4 percent more.

Women between the ages of 19 and 44 spend much more on healthcare than men. Granted, these are the childbearing years, but later in life the gap persists. Healthcare spending for women 65 and older is about 25 percent higher than for men in the same age bracket, according to 2010 data from the Centers for Medicare Medicaid Services.

This might be most disconcerting of all for women, accounting for many thousands of dollars over a lifetime: A 2011 study found women saddled with higher-interest mortgages. Although the study's authors theorized that women were less likely than men to search for the lowest rate, a follow-up in 2015 showed even worse outcomes for black women. And researchers from the Woodstock Institute found that female applicants in Chicago were less likely to get a home loan at all.

This is especially true for men under the age of 25. According to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety data going back to 1975, men tend to drive more miles, be riskier and more aggressive drivers, and get into worse accidents. (That being said, the Consumer Federation of America finds that some major car insurers hike women's rates by an average of 20 percent when their husbands die.)

Ladies' night at a bar or nightclub usually translates to free entry and drink specials for women. Although this practice caters to straight men by enticing women into bars, some men see it as discriminatory that they're stuck paying cover and full prices -- and have taken businesses to court (with mixed success).

Cheapism.com participates in affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product through a link on our site. This helps support our work and does not influence editorial content.