The Cheapest Roofing Material vs. Premium Options (Pros and Cons)

Everyone needing a roof replacement is confronted with a dilemma: Use discount roofing materials or go with premium products. The challenge is whether it is worth spending more upfront for something that likely will last longer, or going on the cheap to save money now, even though the products might not last as long.

Ideally, you want to use quality but cost-effective roofing material to ensure you get the best quality roofing materials at the lowest price possible. Sometimes, that ideal is impossible, so the choice becomes inexpensive and poorer quality or higher quality but more expensive roofing material.

Here are some pros and cons to consider as you decide how you want to go.

Roofing Materials

There is a distinct and noticeable difference with some roofing materials. You can tell when someone uses cheap wood shingles, clay tiles, concrete tiles, or slate shingles. Each looks, feels, and wears much differently than more expensive, quality alternatives.

Those differences are not so obvious with other materials, including asphalt shingles, metal roofing, or all of the components that make up the underlayment. Roofing contractors, at least, can tell the difference between luxury shingles and bargain rate shingles, but the layperson usually cannot without guidance.

The Pros for Using Cheaper Products

cheapest roofing material good v bad

It is hard to tell whether an asphalt roof is made of cheaper materials versus the same made of higher quality shingles. It is also difficult to tell a cheap metal roof from an expensive one outside of super premium metal roofing products like a standing seam roof.

You Will Not Be Around

That is not as morbid as it sounds. The average length of ownership in a home is 16 years, while over 40% of homeowners have resided in their homes for under ten years.

Cheaper roofing products still have to meet certain quality standards. That usually means they will last about as long as the low end of the lifespan of higher quality products. So if a higher quality roofing material is warranted to last 20 to 50 years, a cheaper alternative will last about 20.

Do you envision living in your current house for 20 or more years? If not, spending less on a roofing product might make sense, even if you trade off on longevity.

It Is Cheaper Upfront

You might have to pay for using cheaper products at some point. Unless what you are buying is paper-thin and flimsy, chances are it will last you for several years. Even cheap asphalt shingles will last you multiple years and hold up under severe weather for a while.

Long-term, those asphalt shingles might come apart or start degrading quicker. Short-term, though, the average cost of the cheapest roofing material saves money. If your roof is large enough, that can mean saving hundreds of dollars off the estimated job price.


The worldwide pandemic brought supply chain issues to the forefront. Those issues have persisted, and that means some types of roofing materials are not always readily available.

While there is no guarantee, because fewer higher-end products are produced and sold, most shortages tend to hit there first before working down to cheaper alternatives.

Product scarcity also drives prices up. That can make cheaper products seem expensive, and higher quality products fall out of range for most consumers. Suddenly, a lower-quality roofing product that will only last the minimum of a higher-end product but saves you money is not so striking a tradeoff.

The Cons of Using Cheaper Products

cheapest roofing material worn out roof

There are tradeoffs to using products that fall at the lower end of the quality scale.


Cheaper products tend not to last as long as higher-end materials. Even with proper maintenance, for instance, cheap clay tiles or corrugated metal roofing will not last as long as higher quality components. If you plan on being in your home for decades, you might want to consider using higher-end products.


The same principle applies to the durability of a product. A high-quality slate roof will last longer than a lower-quality asphalt shingle roof. Durable roofing materials tend to be more expensive and better made. They can withstand the elements better and are more energy efficient.

Working With Cheap Can Be Difficult

Just about every roofing company has its preferred products. The reason for this is threefold:

  • Price
  • Lifespan
  • How easy it is to work with

Lower-end products tend to be more difficult to work with. That is not universal, but it does apply to just about every roof material on the market. Cheap roof replacement materials, for example, might be stiffer than higher quality products or more difficult to cut and fit.

The harder a product is to work with, the more likely a mistake will be made on installation. If the mistake is big enough, it could cost the homeowner time and money.

You Get What You Pay for

In most cases, you do, however, get exactly what you pay for in terms of the cheapest roofing material. In almost every case, cheaper materials are made with inferior ingredients and manufactured “on the cheap.”

Cutting corners in manufacturing can affect the quality of the final roof and the time it takes to get it installed.

The other issue associated with getting what you paid for is that cheaper products generally will fail sooner and easier. That can cost you in two ways: Replacing the failed product and any damage caused by that failure. If a shingle fails and a leak develops, the damage of the leak can be more extensive than the replacement of the shingle.

Final Thoughts

The per square foot costs of cheaper materials saves you money over premium products, at least at first. Over time, though, commercial and residential roofs made of cheap roofing materials tend to degrade quicker, requiring replacement or repair more often.

For most consumers, the most cost-effective approach is to get the highest quality product at the most reasonable price, even if the product will not last as long as super-premium products.

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