cartridge razor heads

Today’s question is about finding the best cartridge razor out there, both for best shave and best value…

Which Cartridge Razor Gives the Best Shave at the Best Value?

Hi Levi.

You seem to know razors and shaving cream. I don’t want a DE razor. So, out of all the cartridge razors you may have tried, in your opinion, which one gives you the best shave? And the most bang for your buck?

Cartridge Carl

Hi Carl,

This is an excellent question! As you know, I’m a big fan of my DE safety razor, but when it comes to shaving my legs, I still prefer the quickness and ease of use I get with a modern cartridge razor.

The cartridge razor market really bothers me though. The things are ridiculously expensive! It’s not so much the total price as it is the price in respect to a plain DE razor blade. Or the price of the refills in respect to the price of the handle you buy once. Or the retail price of the cartridges in respect to the pennies it costs to manufacture them!

I’m sure you’ve felt the sting in your wallet, too, since you asked about getting the most bang for your buck.

What makes a good cartridge razor?

Overall, you’re looking for a safe and effective shaving experience. You want a cartridge razor that provides a close shave without causing razor burn or other skin irritation. (If you’re saving money but gaining ingrown hairs, I don’t consider that a good value.)

The big question on everyone’s minds is… How many blades?

It’s a given that any cartridge is going to have multiple blades. I don’t think you’ll find any single blade razors these days, outside of straight razors. Even disposable razors seem to have two blades.

So you’re most likely looking at three blades, four blades, five blades – sometimes six or more blades!

But it’s not worth arguing about. There’s no particular blade count that is proven better than the others for all situations. So I prefer to look at the other razor features.

First, the handle – it should be comfortable and easy to hold. Many cartridge razors utilize an ergonomic handle shape with a soft rubber coating to provide a good grip even when wet.

Second, the way the cartridge attaches to the handle. It’s important that this joint allows the cartridge head to pivot and flex, so that it can adjust to your facial contours while shaving. (Especially important if you have sensitive skin!)

Third, I’ll look at extra additions like a lubricating strip or precision trimmer blade on the back. I’m not particular about these but I will look to see if they’re present.

Finally, the availability of replacement blades is important.

So, what is the best cartridge razor out there?

That’s a tough question to answer.

For one thing, it’s going to be a matter of personal preference. What works for me might not work well for you.

Furthermore, there are so many freaking razors to choose from!

Here’s a list of the more popular ones I remember:

  • Gillette Trac II
  • Gillette Sensor Excel
  • Gillette Mach3
  • Gillette Mach3 Turbo
  • Gillette Fusion
  • Gillette Fusion ProGlide
  • Schick Xtreme 3
  • Schick Quattro
  • Schick Hydro3
  • Schick Hydro5

That’s only based on Gillette and Schick. I didn’t bother including the Gillette Venus lineup (which would make the list twice as long) or any of the “Power” versions. Nor did I include lesser-known brands such as Personna, Harry’s, Dorco, or Wilkinson Sword (which is actually the same as Schick).

Before I make a recommendation, I’ll share my shaving story.

gillette mach3 ad

I believe the year was 1998 when I first started shaving. The same year that the Gillette Mach3 was introduced.

At that age, I was a sucker for a good advertising campaign, so you can bet I saved up my lawn mowing money and bought myself a Gillette Mach3.

Wanting to explore my options, I also bought a Schick Xtreme 3. I got a Schick Quattro, too, as soon as it was released. Since Gillette had me in the “more is better” mindset, Schick made an easy sale!

I bought into the hype of the Gillette Fusion series too, but once I realized how much the replacement cartridges cost, I stopped to think, “am I really getting my money’s worth?”

That’s when I started growing a beard!

I also went back to the Gillette Mach3 Turbo as my primary razor, partly because of the price, but also because I got just as good a shave with it as with the Fusion. And less irritation!

Let me reiterate that point – I get a better shave with 3 blades than I do with 5!

I do like that edge trimmer on the back of the Fusion cartridge, but I went years without having that luxury, so I’m pretty sure I can survive without it!

More recently, I’ve been alternating between bearded and clean shaven, and testing out different razors. The vast selection of styles and brands, plus the number of accessories, verges on mind-blowing!

Did you know razors existed before the Mach3?

Obviously they did. But after Gillette got me started on the Mach3, I assumed even their own previous products were inferior… and that was a poor assumption.

There’s the Gillette Trac II for instance. This two-blade razor debuted way back in 1971, and despite Gillette having moved on, there are still companies out there making cartridges for it! (Check out the Personna Twin II Plus.)

Don’t have a Trac II handle? Grab a Bump Fighter handle – it fits the Trac II blades!

There’s also the Gillette Sensor Excel, released in 1993 (still a few years before I was paying attention to razors). That razor is over 20 years old now. However, it is still very popular today!

I believe it is the most recent cartridge which does not feature the “paintbrush style” pivoting head that’s all the rage these days. This style gives you have more control of the blade, so it falls somewhere in between a DE safety razor and a more modern cartridge.

How is that still popular?!

With the paintbrush cartridges, you have to apply a fair amount of pressure to get the proper blade angle against your skin. And that pressure is generally what causes irritation for me. Since I typically do a second pass, I’d rather not use so much pressure the second time around, but I have to.

A lot of people consider the Sensor Excel to be the best cartridge Gillette ever made, and I can see why. Once you get used to the idea of not having that pivoting head safety net, you can get used to better shaves! Unfortunately, it’s just lost in the shuffle for anyone who began shaving in 1998 or later, when the marketing machine really kicked up for the Mach3.

Open your mind to brands other than Gillette.

Gillette doesn’t want you to realize this, but there are other cartridge razors out there. Quite a few choices, actually.

I mentioned that I get a better shave with the 3-blade systems than with the 5-blade systems, but the Mach3 isn’t the only 3-blade razor out there.

I have been experimenting with the Schick Hydro 3, and it might be the better option. The Hydro series came out in 2010, so it’s a new, high-tech razor, with a reasonable number of blades.

Opinions seem to be split evenly between the two, so if you find that 3-blade systems work for you, test both head-to-head. (I like the blades on the Hydro, but I’m not a fan of the sticky, messy lubricating gel reservoir.)

For an even cheaper option, consider the Wilkinson Sword Tech 3. It’s essentially a Schick Extreme 3, and you’ll find it on the shelves of Wal-Mart. It’s $5 for the handle and two cartridges, then $5 for a 4-pack of refills – nearly 50% less than a Mach3 refill!

There’s also the Matrix 3 Titanium and M5 Magnum from Personna. I’ve never used these, but they’re out there.

Another razor that hasn’t reached mainstream popularity, but gets some great reviews, is the MicroTouch Tough Blade 3-blade razor. For less than $10, you can get a handle plus six cartridges. (Check price on Amazon.)

What about the Dollar Shave Club?

This place has been around for years now. Surely you’ve seen the video.

Basically, you sign-up at, and they send you a pack of razors each month.

You have three different options for the razor you want. The $1 option (which is actually $3 with shipping and handling) is a twin blade, the $6 option is a 4-blade, and the $9 option is actually a 6-blade cartridge! And yes, it’s six blades on the front. There’s a seventh blade on the back for edge trimming.

Is the Dollar Shave Club the cheapest?

If you’re used to shelling out $16 each month for your Gillette Fusion ProGlide Power refills, you may think so.

If you do the math, and estimate prices based on brands other than Gillette and Schick, you don’t really save money. It’s more about the convenience factor of not having to go out and buy razor blades.

If you don’t mind shopping around and buying in bulk, you can save money in the long run…

Let me introduce you to Dorco.

dorco sxa5000 razor

With some careful research on one of my favorite finance websites, I found the supplier for Dollar Shave Club. It’s a South Korean company named Dorco, and you can buy direct from them on!

(They used to sell direct from, which had amazing prices, coupon codes, and free shipping on orders over $25, but they ceased operations from that site August 31, 2019. Now they sell exclusively on Amazon.)

You can buy a Dorco Pace razor and a year’s worth of cartridges from them for a fraction of what you’d end up paying for a year of Dollar Shave Club deliveries!

If you fancy that 6-blade razor, you can find it as the Dorco Pace 6 Pro (check price on Amazon). Expect to pay about 60% less than you would for the Gillette Fusion ProGlide and 20% less than you would for the exact same razor in Dollar Shave Club!

If you prefer the 3-blade or 4-blade system, as I do, you’ll really save some money. The Dorco Pace 4 Pro cartridges are just over $1 each, the cheapest I’ve seen a 4-blade cartridge. (Check current price on Amazon.)

A year supply of handles and blades should be about $30. That’s hard to beat!

What’s the best value cartridge then?

Finding the best value is important. If “the best” choice is $4.00 per cartridge, and the second best – yet still perfectly acceptable – choice is $1.00 per cartridge, well, I’m pretty sure I know my choice.

The Fusion ProGlide cartridges are just under $4 each. Mach3 and Hydro 3 cartridges, just over $2 each.

If you don’t mind going with Dorco blades instead, you’ll pay about half what you do for the top name brands.

While the Dorco blades aren’t quite as sleek and sophisticated, they work!

I’d say the best value cartridge is the Dorco Pace 4 Pro.

They’re right around that $1/cartridge price point, which is hard (impossible?) to beat. Plus you get the convenience of ordering online at, with free Prime shipping.

If you’d rather buy in person at Wal-Mart, an honorable mention is the Wilkinson Sword Tech 3 or Xtreme 3. (You can buy these online too, but the price is higher.)

Finally, I’ll give you one last tip that will give you a better shave, no matter which cheap cartridge you choose…

Don’t forget the shaving cream!

I believe a good shave follows the 80/20 principle. 80% of the shave comes from the lather, while only 20% is attributed to the blade.

With a good lather, you don’t need any of those “microfins” or “lubricating strips” or whatever crap they put on the cartridges.

How do you get a good lather? You’ll need some more shaving tools and a little bit of finesse.

Get some proper shave cream or soap (I generally avoid shaving gel), a shave brush, and a bowl. Pre-shave oil isn’t a bad idea, either. Spend the money on this stuff, and you’ll spend less on cartridges!

Once you dial in your shaving process, you’ll get a close, smooth shave, at an affordable price.

If anyone has a better suggestion, or a strong opinion on which is the best cartridge razor, please chime in in the comments below!

This article was originally published on February 5, 2014. It was updated and republished on August 6, 2018.

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  1. Dorco is also on Amazon for a pretty good price…

  2. @Bryant

    I did notice that! Very convenient if you’re already ordering from Amazon.

    If you’re just stocking up on razors, you end up getting a better deal direct with Dorco. Slightly cheaper razors, an extra 15% off, and free shipping at $25 (whereas Amazon had to go and raise the minimum to $35!)

  3. Hey Coach Levi, do you remember in that movie Predator that one of the commandos in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s platoon was always shaving his face using just his sweat and a disposable razor?

    As a “disturbingly hairy” male, I decided that that is the only way to respectably shave a beard.

    Man, that movie was awesome.

    Also, did you know that Jean-Claude Van Damme was originally cast as the Predator?

  4. @DaQuan Hanks

    Stay tuned for my article about how to shave your legs in the jungle. Coming November 2014, timed alongside the La Ruta de Los Conquistadores bike race.



  6. @Luke

    Maybe they’re trying to push everyone to the Tech4 blades?

    I wouldn’t worry too much about the handle, though. You can get handles for almost nothing.

  7. Too many razor bumps and ingrown hairs. I use electric razors instead.

  8. I have a schick hydro 3 razor.
    Do hydro 5 cartridges fit on the hydro 3.
    The shop and a reviewer on the website said

    “Interestingly there are two versions of the Hydro. A 3 blade and a 5 blade (handily either cartridge will work on either handle)”

    I believed this but I can’t put a 5 cartridge on the 3 razor.

    Is it me or the advertising ???!!!

    • @Kevin

      One possibility is that when the Hydro 5 came out, they also updated the Hydro 3 handle and blades to be compatible with the new style. If you have a Hydro 3 handle from years ago, maybe it’s not compatible. Where as if you buy a new Hydro 3 handle and a new Hydro 5 cartridge, maybe they fit together?

      I’m just guessing about this, but I’ve seen this sort of thing before when it comes to reverse compatibility.

  9. DorcoUSA isn’t working. What happened?

    • @Frank

      Unfortunately, Dorco decided to shut down the website, and they ceased operations on August 31, 2019. (I’m not sure exactly why, but I suspect it has something to do with numerous lawsuits against them from Gillette.)

      You can still buy Dorco blades on Amazon, and the prices are great, but you can’t replicate the amazing deals you used to be able to get thanks to the DorcoUSA promo codes.

  10. Levi what shaving products do you recommend? For shave soap bowl and brush?

    • @Ryan

      Right now I think my favorite shaving cream is Cremo original. Your skin and facial hair may disagree, but it’s a pretty popular product.

      When it comes to bowls and brushes and stands, pick whichever ones you think look the best. (Nothing’s perfect so at least make sure it’s something you like to look at!)

  11. have you tried the supply razor they are advertising on insta?

    • @Alex

      Great question! So the Supply razor is a safety razor with replaceable blades, but it has the shape and appearance of a cartridge razor. I have not tried it yet but I would like to.

      It’s pricey, so you have to look at the cost savings over the span of years for it to make sense, if you’re focused on price. But if you look at it from the environmental aspect – reduced waste compared to cartridges – it’s very appealing.

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