As you browse store’s new selections of winter apparel, you might feel overwhelmed by the heavy price tags and wide variety of options. It’s always tough to find an affordable but high-quality coat, especially when you’re shopping during the fall and winter months.

Stores jack up their prices as cold weather rolls in, and unfortunately for you, that makes purchasing a heavy jacket or coat an expensive experience. Plus, there are thousands of different coats on the rack right now, and deciding which one is the best fit for your needs (and budget) isn’t easy.

The question is, how much do you really need to cash out for your perfect winter coat? Well, the answer depends on several factors:

Are You Looking to Buy Something That Will Last?

Some people prefer to spend as little as $20 on a coat and just replace their outwear every year. This allows you to try new styles frequently and stay up to date with current fashion trends. Others like to invest in something a little bit more expensive that will stay in good shape for several years. Both options have their benefits, but purchasing a long-lasting coat will definitely save you money in the long-run, even if you have to bite a pricey bullet at first.

Additionally, you’ll need to assess what kind of wear-and-tear your new winter coat will face. Depending on where you live, you may experience temperatures from 60 degrees Fahrenheit to below freezing. Different levels of snow, wind, and ice will affect how long your coat can hold up and influence how much you need to spend on your product.

If you live in a place like Texas, buying a lower quality jacket or coat at a cheap price might be fine since you’ll deal with very little intense cold weather. On the other hand, if you live in the Northern states, you’ll probably need something that can endure more, which means you’ll need a bigger budget.

What Kind of Protection Do You Need?

If you know your coat will be put to the test by the weather, you’ll need to figure out what elements of protection are the most important to you. For example, does it rain a lot where you live? Then you’ll need a waterproof coat, not just a water-resistant one. Yes–there’s a difference.

Waterproof coats tend to cost quite a bit more, but any outdoors expert will tell you that brands who claim to carry “water-resistant” or “water-repelling” products tend to end up pretty wet if you end up in a downpour. There’s nothing worse than being cold and soaked during the winter, so spending the extra money on a coat that will really protect you is worth it. Be prepared: a truly waterproof coat usually doesn’t ring up for less than $100 or so.

Similarly, different temperatures require different levels of heat protection. If you go to stores that specialize in ski and snow gear, the coats will often indicate what level of cold they can insult you from. Shopping in a department or non-specialty store will make it a little more difficult to tell what level of protection a coat has, but there are a few aspects you can examine to figure it out, including the type of insulation and the thickness of the material.

If you’re looking at a down coat, it will probably do well in a dry cold climate, but it might not be great if you’re somewhere that gets damp in the winter. Synthetic insulated coats tend to feel heavier and are a little cheaper, and they’re better at enduring cold and wet weather. Both types will keep you fairly warm, so just make sure that your purchase has some kind of proper insulation, not just a warm appearance.

Are You Shopping for a Fashionable Look or a Practical One?

If you’ll mostly just wear your jacket to and from work with formal outfits, then you might not need to purchase something bulky and heavily insulated. There are plenty of coats out there that will match any and every outfit you have, and there’s nothing wrong with choosing a coat that is more stylish than practical.

However, if you’re someone who spends a lot of time outdoors during the winter or who gets cold very easily, you’ll want to pay more attention to the durability of your coat than the fashionability of it. Cute buttons or a nicely-cut waist won’t matter when you’re stuck trudging through a snowstorm or standing outside in negative degree weather.

Both stylish and practical coats can be expensive, but it’ll help narrow down your hunt if you have a better idea of what kind of coat suits your needs. To give you a ballpark price to start with, fashion coats from big designers can range anywhere from $50 to $300 or more. Coats from speciality outdoor stores tend to run from about $100 to $400 and up, depending on the level of protection you’re searching for.

Do You Care If Your Coat Is From a Large Chain or a Small Retailer?

Buying from a big name brand is almost always more expensive than shopping with a lesser known store. Still, there are pros and cons to both buying experiences.

When you head to a well-known and respected retailer like The North Face or REI, you’ll know you’re purchasing a reliable product that specializes in warmth, but you’ll also pay a heavy price for that reassurance and stand-out logo. By shopping from a smaller retail store, you can sometimes find hidden gems that are much less expensive but equally as warm.

How to Decide

When it comes to buying a winter coat, you want to consider a lot of things before making your purchase. If you want to splurge on an expensive coat–make sure it’s going to last you a long time, and be sure it can handle the type of environment you live in.

After all, you don’t want to spend a ton of money on a coat only for it not to keep your warm and dry. Use your best judgement, if you spend your money wisely–your new coat will likely last you for years to come.

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