Over the years, I’m finding it harder and harder to justify the purchase of expensive knives besides those that really stand out from the crowd – knives like the Benchmade Osborne and the Spyderco Paramilitary 2. The explanation for why comes down to the fact that it’s gotten absurdly easy to find knives with excellent cutting ability for under $30.
Excellent budget knives have been coming out left right and center from nearly every knife manufacturer in the game, and while, as I’ve said, I’ll make exceptions and buy expensive knives on occasion when I think they’re truly exceptional, for the most part, I’ve been buffing up my collection with the under $30 crowd.
Chances are if you’ve into knives at all, you’ll have at least a few on this list already and maybe also have been eyeing a few others. Though I own the majority of the knives on this list, I don’t own all of them. The ones I do own are phenomenal bang-for-buck, and the ones I don’t I fully intend on getting my hands on for the most part. Let me know your opinions and experience with them down in the comments below.
By the way, if you’re looking for overall bang-for-buck, but do have some extra to spend above $30 to spare, check out this article for my suggestions at other price ranges. Oh and, if you’re into American knives only, don’t worry, we know they deserved their own list. You can skip this article completely if you want and check out what, in my opinion, are the best American knives on the market right here.
Now that that’s said and done, let’s get into this!
Best Budget Pocket Knives: Top 10 30 Under $30
This might surprise some of you, but in hindsight it’s a pretty obvious choice. Whilst it’s not the sexiest knife around, bang for buck the Vantage Select Large is pretty incredible. USA-made with a great utilitarian blade (with shockingly good grinds) and one of the best pocket clips on any knife. It’s a clear winner with all things considered.
Read our review of the Buck Vantage Pro
I resisted this knife for many years, but after a while, all of you guys telling me to pick one up wore me down. I cracked, and you know what? You were right, I was wrong. This is a fantastic beastly folder/folding boat anchor that is well made with above average ergonomics (and weight) with a build quality that is remarkable for its price point.
Read our review of the Schrade SCH304
By far my favourite SAK. Elise is not a fan of them, but I feel I *had* to include one in this top list. If you like small, utilitarian folders without any of the modern features like locks or one-hand opening, then this is a solid option. Some of you just outright dislike them, and that’s fine too. Very divisive, but never forgotten.
4. CRKT Drifter
I have raved about this knife for a while. Unbelievably under-appreciated. The quality is class leading and, in my mind, this is a poor man’s Klotzi – at least in terms of in hand feel.
Read our review of the CRKT Drifter
A poor man’s Spyderco Delica, and you know how much I love the Delica. Super comfortable ergonomics with a FFG blade that cuts and cuts. If you can, get the FRN version over the more expensive G-10 as it’s superior in my opinion.
Super discreet flipper. Not the most efficient blade (not much belly), but it’s perfectly viable for 99% of EDC tasks and whilst, yes, the handles are on the anemic side, I think its pocketability is a feature in itself.
Read our review of the Kershaw Chill
I love the fact you can pick up a legit Emerson designed knife for under $100. Such a cool blade with fantastic styling and great fit and finish.
Read our review of the Kershaw Emerson CQC-6K
This is a knife that looks as cheap as it is, but don’t let the ugly handles or lack of aesthetic flourishes put you off – it’s the only knife I own that competes with the Opinel as far as cutting performance.
Read our review of the Svord Peasant
2$ over budget, but it’s such a fantastic knife that I am happy to bend the rules a smidgen. One of the few “bushcraft” biased folders on the market, and its performance matches the hype.
Read our review of the Cold Steel Finn Wolf
Chad Los Banos is a fantastic designer who has set the Boker brand apart (in a good way). This is probably my favourite design of his along with the new lil’ neck knife Boker released.
Other Excellent EDC Folders Under $30
11. CRKT Batum
To be reviewed. Very solid knife with a blade that is all business. Basically a pocket tank.
12. Kershaw Cinder
I own 3 of these and still no review posted. I know, guys, I know, but please read my review process article before passing judgement! ;) In any case – this is the best key chain knife I have ever owned. The only down side is the steel used for the blade (a smidgen on the soft side), but nonetheless, the Cinder is still incredible value.
13. Case Sodbuster
Naturally, get it in yellow. Fantastic American-made slippie. Not as sexy as my Seahorse Whittler, but very utilitarian in design and function. One of the few sub-$30 knives I think one could consider almost heirloom in nature. It’s not that it’s an especially amazing folder, but like a lot of Case knives it feels historic in nature. Sorta like the Buck 110.
14. Ontario RAT 1
This is another knife that I bought because it was requested so much. Something about the lines just rub me the wrong way and even though I still don’t like the way it looks, I EDC-ed this on a weekly basis for 2 years. Something very pleasant about having a tool you can trust that doesn’t break the bank if you happen to lose/damage it.
Read our review of the Ontario RAT-1
15. Opinel No. 8
No surprise to anyone this is on the list. Extreme cutting ability with neutral ergonomics. If you haven’t used an Opinel before, you should.
Read our review of the Opinel No. 8
I remember these being significantly more expensive. At $13 – they’re a steal. I reckon they are getting discontinued as I have seen them pop up all over the place at steep discounts, so if you can get one of ’em for this cheap – do so.
Very robust, lightweight knife with the best lock in the industry (in my opinion). Similar to the Finn Wolf listed above, but with a more “general” blade shape.
18. Ka-Bar Dozier
Bought it many years ago, still not reviewed – as its popularity has always been very limited. Great “normal” everyday carry knife. No real downsides and no real upsides either. This isn’t a negative as sometimes all you want is a simple, working tool.
The best thing that happened to the production knife world was letting designers go all out and create their own models. Mikkel is a madman and I applaud Lanksy for looking at his designs and thinking, “Sure, why not.”
20. Kershaw Barge
I was hyped about this knife when it was announced and one of you mentioned how viable it is in all EDC roles despite its unique pry bar thingie on the butt. Can’t wait to review it.
21. Kershaw Grinder
Reverse tantos for some inexplicable reason never seem to have much of a following. Very strange to me as I find them to be second only to Wharncliffs for straight up utility.
22. ESEE Zancudo
Baby Ontario RAT-1. Always loved Randall/ESEE for sticking to their guns with FFG blades as I find the performance to be superior. It’s rare in the budget market due to increased manufacturing costs compared to hollow grinds.
I know it’s a slip joint, but honestly, it’s an amazing knife in its own right. Check out my review of the UKPK to read my take on it, as this is basically the UKPK but cheaper.
24. Kershaw Shuffle
When those were first annouced I wasn’t so keen on the styling, but in-hand, the ergonomics make sense and for an inexpensive everyday carry that is 100% nonthreatening, it’s a great choice.
Read our review of the Kershaw Shuffle
I haven’t always been nice to SOG. Their marketing and branding is often quite a bit “out there,” but I gotta respect that they stick to their guns and do what they know best. A SOG will always look like a SOG and I like that. If you like the Vulcan but can’t justify the cost, I think this is the next best thing.
Cold Steel’s take on the little big knife phenomenon. I love that they fitted the TRI-AD lock on that little tyke, as well as using a Wharncliffe blade. Tiny, but a crazy amount of utility.
Full disclosure, after I carried it and featured it in a few knife drops, I never used it again. It’s to this day somewhere in my closet back in Canada, but with that said, my issue with it is as a daily EDC driver. The lock disengagement system just doesn’t work for me in terms of speed. Nonetheless, it’s unbelievably tough and the blade is textbook functional. Great value for a rough use knife.
Surprisingly versatile. When I bought it I expected to hate it, but honestly, spear points are not as “single purpose” as I thought. It’s a solid EDC that disappears in your pocket. Be advised that even though the M16 is pretty small, it still looks very aggressive and is thus not the best for politically correct environments.
Read our review of the CRKT M16
If you have to have serrations (for whatever reason), go with either Veff serrations (which aren’t available on many knives) or the Spyderedge. I still don’t like the damn things, but even I must admit that they work very well.
30. Kershaw Reverb
Just a straight up beautiful, modern design from Kershaw. I spent a good while trying to figure out who designed it because it’s so freaking stylish and unique that I was shocked when I uncovered it was an in-house design. Way to go, Kershaw!
Pocket Knives Nearly Under $30 Worth Mentioning
Yes, its $40. But honestly – it’s a great knife and if it was $30 it would top the list. Even at $40, I think it’s great value. It may not be crazy looking or have the best steel, but for a tool that will perform exceptionally well for years and years, I think it’s hard to beat.
Read our review of the Spyderco Tenacious
I know it’s $5 more, but it’s a crazy folder from noted designer Brian Tighe. Very unique, and to me looks like a knife that should be sold for $100+, not $35. Unbelievable.
3. CRKT Outrage
In my opinion, probably one of the sexiest knife designs from recent years. Ken Onion knows his business and that blade is 10 kinds of cool. Couple that with no plastic or other aesthetic cost cutting measures – it’s a real winner. Once again, CRKT is on point with pricing
More Knife Recommendations
In case you’re in the market for browsing through more knife recommendation posts like this, check out some of these articles:
- A Massive List of the Best EDC Knives on the Market
- Maximizing Bang for Buck: Best Folding Knives by Price Point
- Top American Knives: Best Folders & Fixed Blades Made in the USA
- Let’s Talk Kershaw: Top EDCs, Flippers, & Fixed Blades Made by Kershaw Knives
Your Favourite Budget Knives?
What are your favourite budget knives? Did I miss any knives that really should’ve made it to this list? What do you think should be the #1 knife?
Anything on the list pique your fancy? Already have some of these in your collection? What do you think of them?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section down below!