Wondering how much it costs to sustain a bottled water habit in the US, or keen to work out how much you’ve been spending on bottled water over the years?
In this guide, I’ve discussed the average cost of bottled water, including how bottled water cost compares to the cost of normal tap water, and the factors that affect the cost of bottled water. I’ve also discussed the average cost of several of the most popular bottled water products sold today.
📌 Key Takeaways:
- The average price per gallon of bottled water in the US is around $1.37.
- Single-serve bottled water is up to 2000 times more expensive than drinking water from your tap.
- Factors that affect bottled water cost include where the water is sourced, how it’s treated, how the water is marketed, and more.
Table of Contents
📊 How Much Does Bottled Water Cost On Average?
In 2021, the average wholesale price per gallon of bottled water was $1.23. Considering that the annual rate of inflation is currently between 4 and 8%, this figure is probably around $1.37 by 2023 (the time of writing this article).
The cost of bottled water depends on a few factors, including the water source, the bottle size, how the water is treated (if at all), and more. I’ve discussed these factors in more detail later on.
📈 How Much More Expensive is Bottled Water Than Tap Water?
On average, according to Healthline, bottled water is around 2,000 times more expensive than normal drinking water from your tap.
They worked this out by comparing the average cost of 1 gallon of tap water in the US – around $0.005 – with the average cost of 1 gallon of bottled water from single-serve water bottles – around $9.47.
Of course, there are ways to enjoy bottled water at a lower expense, such as by bulk-buying your water or buying it in larger bottles, but the reality is that bottled water is still significantly costlier than normal tap water.
📝 What Factors Affect The Cost Of Bottled Water?
There are a few factors that affect the cost of bottled water, including:
- Where the water comes from – The water source is a big influencing factor when it comes to bottled water cost. The more unique and attractive the water source, the costlier the bottled water.
- How it’s treated – Water products that have been treated at bottled water plants with superior filtration methods, like reverse osmosis, as well as enhanced water products (like flavored water or mineral water) generally cost more than basic filtered water products or bottled plain tap water.
- The bottle size – The bigger the bottle, the more it costs. You pay per gallon of water, and while larger bottles are generally cheaper by the gallon, they’re still costlier overall.
- The quantity of bottles purchased – The total cost of bulk-buying bottled water tends to be cheaper than buying single bottles because manufacturers decrease the cost per gallon of water to better appeal to consumers. With that said, the cost of a multipack of plastic bottles is still obviously more expensive than a single bottle.
- The brand reputation – Some brands are known as luxury bottled water brands and can price higher for this reason, while others are known as everyday affordable water brands.
- The bottle shape, branding, and material – The fancier and more unique a brand makes their bottle design, the higher the manufacturing cost, and the higher the cost of the bottled water.
- Where you’re buying it from – You’ll generally find bottled water at a lower cost at your local supermarket or online compared to tourist spots, restaurants, and exclusive venues.
- Environmental factors – I’ve noticed that bottled water brands with a real eco-friendly focus tend to offer more expensive products, likely because of the extra cost of following these eco initiatives.
💸 Cost Of Popular Bottled Water Brands
I browsed grocery store websites and online marketplaces to find out how much some of the most popular bottled water brands cost at the moment. Here’s what I found.
Note: I’ve shared the average prices for brands below based on my research at the time of writing this article. Pricing may have changed since this article was published.
|Average Cost (for a single 500ml bottle)
|Core Hydration Perfect pH
|Dasani Purified Water
|Evian Natural Spring Bottled Water
|Smartwater Sparkling Purified Water + Electrolytes
|ZenWTR® Vapor Distilled Alkaline Bottled Water
🤔 Why is Bottled Water So Expensive? 5 Most Likely Reasons
Here are some of the reasons why bottled water is generally so expensive:
It Comes From Unique Sources
Many bottled water products come from unique sources, like far-away volcanic springs, aquifers, and even icebergs.
The uniqueness of these locations enables manufacturers to price their products higher, knowing that for many consumers, the only alternative is to drink locally sourced bottled water from less exciting locations, like streams and reservoirs.
Many bottled water sources have the advantage of producing naturally purified drinking water. Some bottled waters have been filtered naturally for decades, and the exclusivity of these waters also increases their upfront cost.
It Undergoes More Processing Than Tap Water
While some bottled water products are naturally filtered, some are sourced from municipal water supplies. Usually, these waters are treated with more thorough processes than our drinking tap water, such as reverse osmosis, to purify the water and remove the trace contaminants that are commonly found in municipal water.
These additional processing stages are managed by the bottled water manufacturer. They cost money to run, and this is another reason why bottled water is pretty expensive.
Some manufacturers provide additional treatment processes, including carbonation, mineralization, and flavor enhancements, making their products more unique from tap water and justifying their higher cost.
There Are Material Costs to Consider
Bottled water is sold in plastic water bottles, and the cost of sourcing and processing these materials contributes to the upfront cost of bottled water.
I’ve read that over 90% of the average bottled water cost is actually just the cost of production, marketing, shipping, and so on, for the bottle itself, and that the cost of the water is just a small fraction of the overall price. While I’m not sure this applies to all bottled water products out there, it really puts things into perspective.
Material costs are even higher for brands that have swapped plastic bottles for aluminum cans or glass bottles, so expect to pay more if you want to avoid the environmental costs of plastic waste.
It’s Often Shipped Globally
Another cost factor for bottled water is the cost of shipping.
Let’s compare bottled water to your own tap water. Municipal water supplies are sourced from the nearest convenient location, usually within, or just outside, the local area. On the other end, some bottled water products are sourced from remote parts of the world. They’re then shipped to consumers globally, and these shipping costs are factored into the price that consumers pay.
You Pay For The Convenience
If you’ve ever bought bottled water at the airport, at a concert venue, or in a tourist hotspot, you’ll have noticed that the price of the water is significantly higher than what it is at your local grocery store.
This is typically because you’re paying for the convenience of being able to access water in these locations – especially since bottled water is usually your only option. You can’t easily nip home to fill your reusable water bottle with tap water, and sometimes your own water isn’t allowed in certain venues. The locations that sell extortionately priced bottled waters are aware of this. While it’s annoying having to spend up to $5 on a single bottle, you often don’t have any other choice.
📝 Final Word
I wrote this guide because I wanted to provide a clear reference guide on just how much money bottled water costs, and how this compares to the cost of tap water. I hope you’ve learned everything you wanted to know about the price of bottled water, including why it’s so expensive, the factors that affect the cost, and how your favorite brands of bottled water compare price-wise.
Remember, bottled water isn’t the only solution if you don’t want to drink your normal tap water. You can easily eliminate bottled water and save money by installing your own water filter pitcher or RO system. That way, you can enjoy the convenience of filtering your drinking water supply at home, and you avoid the expense – including the environmental costs – of bottled water consumption.