Why Are Graphing Calculators So Expensive? (11 Reasons Why)

Photo of author
Oberon Copeland

Oberon Copeland is a graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, with a degree in economics and HR.

A graphing calculator is one of the most traditional and essential tools used in schools and educational institutions today. Chances are, you have used one extensively yourself.

If so, you may be familiar with the hefty price tags that came with graphing calculators and wondered why graphing calculators are so expensive? Here is what I found!

Why Are Graphing Calculators So Expensive?

Graphing calculators are expensive because Texas Instruments, the manufacturer of TI-84, has a monopoly on the graphing calculator industry. Graphing calculators are embedded in the American educational system and are the preferred calculator for taking standardized tests. Graphing calculators are also one-time investments for most people that can last for months or years.

If you are interested in learning more about the demand for graphing calculators in American schools and how that makes graphing calculators expensive, keep on reading!

1. Graphing Calculators Are Always In High Demand

Almost every student in America purchases graphing calculators. Likewise, educational institutions outside of America also use graphing calculators.

So, considering the number of students and teaching staff worldwide who are required to use graphing calculators, it is easy to see why they are in high demand.

Therefore, when a product like a graphing calculator is in high demand, manufacturers like Texas Institute and Casio can command higher prices.

2. Schools Only Allow Students To Use Graphing Calculators

Calculators with varying functions are available in most smartphones, computers, and tablets. However, only scientific or graphing calculators are permitted in schools.

Generally, this is because graphing calculators cannot be programmed, which reduces the chances of students cheating. Additionally, graphing calculators do not offer distractions.

With most students barred from using free online alternatives and forced to stick to graphing calculators, the manufacturers can sell them at a higher price.

Read More:  Why Is High School So Hard? (11 Reasons Why)

3. Texas Instruments Has No Major Competition

Graphing calculators have been in the market since 1985 through major companies Casio and Sharp.

However, when Texas Instruments launched the TI-81 in 1990, graphing calculators became widely used in schools and other educational institutions.

Even to this day, Texas Instruments holds the monopoly on graphing calculators in America, therefore allowing Texas Instruments to sell its products expensively.

Additionally, brands like Casio and Sharp are favored alternatives that sell their graphing calculators at a lower—but still hefty—price.

4. Graphing Calculators Are Incredibly Reliable

Graphing calculators are the preferred calculators in American classrooms and beyond because graphing calculators are distraction-free and multi-functional.

For example, apart from the basic functions of a regular calculator, graphing calculators can display plotted graphs and perform complex calculations.

Additionally, teachers attest to the usefulness and reliability of graphing calculators. As such, graphing calculators are expensive.

5. American Schools Value Graphing Calculators

Even with technological advancements, American schools refuse to move on from graphing calculators.

Mainly, this is because graphing calculators have slowly but surely embedded themselves in the American educational system.

In fact, textbooks detail the use of graphing calculators, and one or two classes are dedicated to teaching students how to solve math problems with graphing calculators.

Since graphing calculators are considered a traditional aspect of American schooling, graphing calculators are deemed valuable and expensive.

6. Standardized Testing Promotes Graphing Calculators

6. Standardized Testing Promote Graphing Calculators

It is not only in classrooms that graphing calculators are in wide use. Standardized tests in America like the ACT, SAT, AP, PERT, and PSAT promote the use of graphing calculators.

That said, this preference came to be because graphing calculators discouraged cheating and offered no distractions to other testers.

Read More:  Why Do Teachers Get Paid So Little? (11 Reasons Why)

With standardized testing being a crucial element in American education, graphing calculators became even more popular and essential.

As such, companies like Texas Instruments, Casio, and Sharp can charge more for their graphing calculators.

7. Graphing Calculators Parts Are Often Built In-House

Manufacturers like to produce parts in-house for many reasons. Apart from affordability, it gives them more liberty in calibrating the final specs of their graphing calculators.

However, making parts in-house does not make the total production cost cheap, as doing so involves plenty of experts, workers, and machinery to mass produce graphing calculators.

Therefore, manufacturers must demand a higher fee for each unit to cover the overhead and operations cost of graphing calculators.

8. TI, Casio, & Sharp Graphing Calculators Are Exported To Other Countries

Texas Instruments, Casio, Sharp, and other companies that produce graphing calculators have to ship their products to other countries where demands are raised.

Shipping graphing calculators is expensive because they are considered fragile items. Additionally, tariffs can inflate the cost of graphing calculators.

Regardless of the import fees applicable to your country, these taxes and other dues can increase the cost of graphing calculators.

9. TI, Casio & Sharp Are Well-Known Brands

Texas Instruments is the leading brand in the graphing calculator market, with years of positive reviews and consistent output.

For most people, TI is synonymous with graphing calculators.

That said, Casio and Sharp may be lagging behind TI, but they are familiar brand names to anyone who uses calculators or various gadgets for school and work.

All three brands are well-established and popular. Naturally, their brand equity enables them to sell their graphing calculators at a higher price.

Read More:  Why Do We Have To Pay For College? (11 Reasons Why)

10. Graphing Calculators Are Often One-Time Investments

Graphing calculators are sturdy electronics that can last for years with proper care. Often, replacing the batteries is the only additional cost you will incur with graphing calculators.

Moreover, students can use graphing calculators from middle school to college. Also, some people even pass down their graphing calculators to younger siblings.

Unless the graphing calculator gets broken or stolen, it is unlikely that you will buy a new one soon or at all.

Consequently, manufacturers have to secure enough profit from each unit to continue producing graphing calculators, and this can make graphing calculators expensive.

11. Resellers Place A Huge Markup

Graphing calculators are sold in almost all bookstores and school supplies stores in America. To profit, resellers have to mark up the graphing calculators they sell.

That said, markups can be large or minimal, depending on the store. However, sine graphing calculators already have a high suggested retail price.

As such, any markup only makes graphing calculators more expensive.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on why Grammarly is so expensive, why Course Hero is so expensive, and why books are so expensive.


Graphing calculators are essential in the American education system, particularly when taking standardized tests.

However, the high demand for graphing calculators is met by only a few brands, with Texas Instruments having an undisputed monopoly in the market for years.

Alongside reseller markups, shipping, and import fees, these factors make graphing calculators expensive.


Leave a Comment