cost-effective, cost-efficient, value-for-money


Senior Member
France, French
Hi forum!

I seem not to be the only one to have difficulties with efficient and effective. :)
But my question here is more specifically about the term that best conveys the idea that you get a highly satisfying service and at a fair price.
  • Do you see a difference between cost-effective and cost-efficient? Is one stronger that the other? Is one more common than the other?
  • Can value-for-money be used as an adjective? Is it appropriate in a formal text (a commercial brochure for instance)? I have the impression that it's less assertive than the first two, ie. simply saying that you get what you paid for. Is this right?
I read the first posts in the efficient/effective thread and replaced "cost-efficient" by "cost-effective" in my text. Then I read the next posts and crossed out "cost-effective" to write "cost-efficient" again. Now my paper looks like a mess and I still have no clue. :D Any insight will be appreciated!
  • winklepicker

    Senior Member
    English (UK)
    For whatever help it is, I would never use cost-efficient. I would assume it to be a technical phrase (accounting? - other foreros will know!).

    You can use value-for-money as an adjective. ONWASH is a great value-for-money solution to all your cleaning problems. But as my example shows it's advertising-speak, useful in some contexts, but cheesy in others. In a commercial brochure it would work well, assuming the tone of that brochure is informal and chatty.


    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    As you may have noticed in the earlier thread, I hid behind another's definitions. I recommend that approach if at all possible. In contexts where I have to use any of these terms there is usually a particular definition to follow.

    The current term in procurement circles is "best value". That is intended to shift the emphasis away from "the cheapest solution that seems to work" to allow for quality of service and enhanced services to be taking into account along with overall cost of ownership. If you are feeling really dedicated you could search for
    "best value" procurement XXXX
    where XXXX is the service or commodity you are interested in.

    Best value has the advantage of being an adjective already :D


    Senior Member
    France, French
    Sorry, I haven't been able to get back to this thread earlier. Thank you for your answers. :)
    This is very interesting: before I had to give it some serious thought I would have said that cost-efficient was the most common term. Good thing I asked!
    It seems to me that "best value" is slightly different, in that it compares more obviously the product to its competitors...
    I think I'll stick to "cost-effective", since the tone is rather serious, not chatty.

    (By the way - I do realise that cost-effectiveness is a hackneyed idea in commercial communications. But since everyone says it, you look suspicious if you don't. :rolleyes: )


    New Member
    North American English
    I know this is a very old thread and the OP has probably gotten what they needed, but this topic is a daily soapbax with me ;)

    The terms cost-effective and cost-efficient are not interchangeable although advertising execs have muddied the water beyond redemption.

    These were and still are economics/business terms that represent a truly important concept.

    I very often tell my partner that a cheap elephant is still an elephant. It's my down home way of saying that something may be cost-effective but not be cost-effecient.

    Cost-effective is basically "economical" -- can you get more money back than you paid for it.

    Cost-effecient is basically "productivity" --- did you waste resources relative to "cost"

    Both of these factors have to be weighed in business to determine sound strategies.

    We own a small shop so even if we could quadruple our money on the elephant, elephants not being a high demand item here -- the space it would take up while it waits to get sold could be used for faster turning merchandise. So we would be losing money on the "cheap elephant". It would be a terrible investment for us and a poor use of resources.

    Plainly put -- I may choose to buy merchandise with less mark up potential if I can turn 20 of them a day over merchandise with huge markup potential that I can only sell 20 of them in a year.

    This is what seperates my shop from a storage unit or museum.

    Thanks for listening.
    < Previous | Next >