If you're in a rush, we've decided to include our top pick right here along with a short summary. Our favorite cheap cologne was the Cerruti 1881 Eau de Toilette by Nino Cerruti. It has a spicy herb top note, backed up by an excellent sandalwood and wood musk. It's balanced very well for a budget fragrance and is available at an amazing price.
Most men either wear cologne every single day or they will at least wear it when they go out in the evening. For the past few centuries, cologne has been used by men to make themselves smell better and more importantly, to make themselves smell good to the woman or man that they are trying to attract!
Cologne was used extensively in the Golden Age of Pirates to mask the disgusting stench that a group of men on a ship have. This was adopted by the general population, who at the time, had poor hygiene and didn’t smell particularly great.
In modern times, cologne isn’t used to mask your natural scent and therefore it’s nowhere near as strong. Instead, it’s used lightly to give a slight aroma when you first meet or pass someone and then it will fade as the person acclimatizes to it.
If you go to the beauty aisle in a store you’ll find a huge range of colognes of all different types. Some of the most common will include, eau de cologne, eau de toilette and eau de parfum.
Although we use the word ‘cologne’, what we are generally referring to is a fragrance, cologne is just a specific type of fragrance.
Types of Cologne
This helpful graphic from RealMenRealStyle shows the different types of fragrance and their strengths. The only difference for example, between most eau de toilettes and their respective eau de parfum is the concentration of the fragrance.
Eau Fraiche is the weakest and most diluted type of fragrance, with a usual concentration of 1-3% of perfume oil in a mixture of alcohol and water. It will only last for one hour.
Eau de Cologne (Cologne) is one of the most common types of fragrance for the lower end of the market. It’s typically composed of 2-4% perfume oil in a mixture of alcohol and water. It will last for about two hours.
Eau de Toilette (Toilette) is extremely common and is often found as the cheaper version of an Eau de Parfum, it normally has a concentration of 5-15% perfume oil in a mixture of alcohol and water. It will last for three to four hours.
Eau de Parfum (Perfume) is the most common type of fragrance you’ll find in higher end brands and from famous designers. This offers the most preferable ‘staying power’ for most people and contains 15-20% perfume oil in a mixture of alcohol and water. It will last for five to eight hours.
Parfum is the final type of fragrance and is relatively rare because its the most concentrated and therefore the most expensive of the types. It’s composed of 20-30% perfume oil in a mixture of alcohol and water. It will last for up to twenty-four hours!
What are Notes?
If you’ve ever done any research into fragrances then you’re likely to have come across the phrases ‘top notes’ or ‘base notes’.
Fragrances have three main parts, top notes, medium notes and the base notes. Perfume is comprised of many chemicals and ingredients, all of which react differently to meeting and interacting with the oil on your skin.
Throughout the day your fragrance will evaporate, with different ingredients disappearing before others, this means that you will smell differently at each point in the time.
Top notes are the initial smell that you get when you first spray the fragrance. These notes only last for a short period of 15-minutes to 2-hours. Top notes are generally the light and most ‘delicate’ smells like; floral scents, citrus, powder and spice.
Medium notes are stronger than the top notes but don’t have the staying power or strength of the base notes. These medium notes last between 3 and 5-hours after being sprayed onto your skin. Typical medium notes include jasmine, grass, cinnamon and clove.
Base notes are the last to develop but are often the strongest and most overpowering scents that become particularly noticeable later in the day as the lighter top notes have worn off. Base notes make a huge difference to the staying power of the fragrance and lay the foundation for the overall scent of the fragrance. Typically masculine base notes include; sandalwood, vanilla, leather and moss.
How we Chose the Top Cologne for Men
Fragrances are one of few mens products where price can make quite a big difference in the quality of the products. This obviously isn’t always the case, there are plenty of horrible and expensive colognes, as theres are some great, cheap perfumes.
This made it difficult to find a list of colognes that smelt great, were universally appropriate for a large range of readers and could also be classified as cheap.
Surprisingly, the price was the easiest part of our search. The hardest part was finding fragrances that weren’t too risky and wouldn’t divide readers.
When we looked at an individual product we considered a few factors:
Price - Obviously, with this being an article about the top cheap colognes, it was crucial that we factored price above everything else. We put a hard limit of $30 on our choices, keeping all of our choices well within most peoples budget.
Smell - Too obvious? We wanted to pick fragrances that smelt great. There were some fragrances that we looked at and smelt ourselves that fitted within our budget and were safe picks, but they just didn’t smell good enough. We wanted to ensure that every scent on this list smelled fabulous.
Agreeability - That’s a great word… We factored in the agreeability of each of the colognes, some fragrances are really quite wonderful, but too many people found them offensive or overly potent. In this case, it doesn’t make sense for someone on a budget to pick a cologne that isn’t universal.
Availability - Finally, there were some colognes that were available in our local area but seem to be unavailable across the USA and Canada. Unfortunately, we had to discount these for the sake of keeping this list universal and applicable to the most amount of men.
Strength - On this list we’ve included a range of potency from colognes through to eau de parfums, however, we gave extra weighting to stronger bottles.
Size - Similarly, it was important that the bottle was of a decent size. There’s no point us including a $30 bottle that was 0.2oz because it’s not a fair comparison to a $20 bottle that’s 4oz. Size was factored in very strongly to our analysis.
10 Best Cheap Colognes for Men
Cerruti 1881 By Nino Cerruti (Eau de Toilette, 3.4oz)
Cerruti 1881 was originally launched in 1990 and has been popular ever since then. The main top note that you can smell as soon as you apply is a spicy blend of herbs and lavender, it’s quite refreshing but with a musky scent that feels extremely masculine
The middle note you should pick up is a lighter patchouli scent that comes alive around 30-minutes after spraying.
Finally, there’s a medium to heavy base note of a range of woods. Some of the spice can still be felt in the fragrant woody base notes, rounding this fragrance out as an excellent choice.
We feel like this is a scent that is very agreeable, all of the notes are safe and it’s unlikely that you’ll dislike it.
A 3.4oz EDT can be found for a little less than $20, usually, making this more expensive than some of the other choices on this list, but well worth the money.
We would recommend this as an evening cologne, but if you’re trying to stand out you might consider it as a daily wear. This scent is quite strong although it fades within four-hours.
The great thing about Cerruti is that it’s a relatively obscure line and so it’s very unlikely that you’ll smell like the other men in the room.
Passion by Elizabeth Taylor (Eau de Cologne, 4oz)
Passion is one of the more popular fragrances on this list and so if that bothers you then you might look to the Cerruti 1881 instead.
Passion is great value at around $13 - $15 for a 4oz cologne. Unlike the Cerruti, this is an Eau de Cologne and so the staying power will be weaker, however, for a cologne it’s reasonable.
Elizabeth Taylor recommends that you use this as an evening or romantic fragrance, however, the notes make this a great choice for a daily wear.
Originally introduced way back in 1989, Passion was always designed as a romantic fragrance that’s perfect for a date where you’re hoping to be intimate.
On the top notes you’ll find the spice of ginger and nutmeg, some even report that they could pick up on clove oil. This spice fades quickly, leaving a hint to linger around for a little while.
In the heart of the fragrance you’ll find a strong jasmine smell that’s complemented excellently by a deep base note of vanilla. Elizabeth Taylor has balanced the sweet vanilla with the spice of a the ginger and nutmeg, adding an interesting twist with the jasmine.
This isn’t a complex or snobby fragrance, it’s blatant and there’s little left to the imagination. Passion is a beautiful floral fragrance for men that’s pleasing to the nose from the second you spray it to the end of the night.
The projection is weaker than many other scents, but this is designed for intimate dates. We much prefer fragrances with lower projection, you don’t want to stink out the room the moment that you enter.
Again, for a Eau de Cologne, the strength is great and will last just as long as many EDT’s. This, combined with its cheap price and large bottle makes this one of the best budget colognes for men of all ages who want a mature fragrance that provides incredible value.
Nautica Voyage (Eau de Toilette, 3.4oz)
If you ever ask someone to recommend a cheap cologne, this is almost always going to be their top recommendation. There’s two reasons we didn’t rank this as our top pick; it’s extremely common and it’s more expensive that the previous two.
The price is still very reasonable, but provides less value than the others at around $22 for a 3.4oz Eau de Toilette. However, if you’re looking for a daily wear then this is one of the best options.
The top notes are exactly what you’d expect from a fragrance with a nautical reference, you’ll get a citrus/lemon blast, followed by a salty cucumber smell that’s very refreshing. The top notes are strong but fade quickly, leaving behind just a hint of citrus.
The middle notes are hard to tell because they are overpowered by floral notes with a hint of apple. It almost smells like an apple martini that you’d sip on the beach, relaxing in the sun!
Finally, there’s a dewy moss base that prevents this from becoming over the top and anchors the fragrance relatively well. For a cheap cologne there’s excellent balance with a mix of complex scents that develop well as the cologne works with your skin.
The projection is okay, not as strong as you’d get from more expensive perfumes but reasonable for everyday wear.
Longevity is worse than Passion by Elizabeth Taylor, but acceptable for this price point. The only area that is a let down is the uniqueness, naturally, a fragrance of this quality at such a low price does mean that a lot of other men use the same scent. This doesn’t bother most men but if you’re looking for a unique smell then this isn’t going to be right for you.
Intimately Beckham (Eau de Toilette, 2.5oz)
Intimately Beckham by David Beckham was the first fragrance that I ever bought and to this day is still one of my personal favorites, however, it’s less agreeable than some of the others.
Firstly, the bottle is gorgeous and looks like it should cost far more than it does. Similarly, the fragrance smells like a $60 bottle and has great balance.
Although this is designed as an everyday wear, it has the sexy scent of an evening wear that is really quite intoxicating. Fortunately, the staying power is excellent for an Eau de Toilette and if applied in the morning it will last for five-hours and have hints for longer than that.
The top notes are complex with a mix of grapefruit, pine and cardamom. This makes for a very interesting fresh and woody combination that works well but is maybe a bit peculiar. Fortunately, these top notes give way to a much more pleasing scent.
At the middle you’ll find an excellent balance of nutmeg, violet and star anise. These are combined perfectly to give you a floral spice that remind us of an evening wear but with the fresh top notes are dulled to a complex everyday wear.
Finally, the base notes are sandalwood, amber and patchouli. Sandalwood is our favorite base and so, we might be a little biased! This rounds it out excellently and these base notes really stick around, particularly the sandal wood, as you’d expect.
The complex scent means that it’s not perfect for everybody, but if you’re looking for a complex and sexy everyday then seriously consider this fragrance.
It also provides good value, a 2.5oz bottle can be found for $13 - $14. For a fragrance this complex and intriguing, this really is an excellent choice for younger men.
Joop! Pour Homme (Eau de Toilette, 4.2oz)
Joop! Pour Homme has been around since 1989, but made a comeback in the past decade as a class, oriental and woody fragrance that millions of men have enjoyed.
This is a sweet fragrance that was designed as an everyday wear for younger men, but is suitable for men of all ages.
The first thing you’ll notice is a very strong top note of cinnamon and jasmine, unfortunately, the cinnamon is overpowered by a much stronger jasmine. This makes for a floral scent that isn’t as balanced by spice as some of the other options on this list. However, the floral scent calms down after a few minutes to a more agreeable level.
This gives way to a strong middle note of sweet honey and cream, this combines relatively well with the floral top note to give a sweet smelling flower fragrance.
Finally, this is anchored surprisingly well by a strong tobacco base note that kills off some of the excessive sweetness to leave a pleasant cologne at a reasonable price.
This is a fragrance that gets far better throughout the day, apply in the morning or well before a date and let this develop.
Best of all, this 4.2oz bottle is available for $24. This is more expensive than others on this list, but once the scent has developed and mellowed, it truly is a great fragrance for this price.
David Beckham Instinct (Eau de Cologne, 2.5oz)
David Beckham Instinct is another excellent cologne by the House of David Beckham and is just as popular as Intimately.
The 2.5oz bottle is available for between $12 and $14, depending on where you buy it from, which is relatively good value for a name brand cologne that has seen such widespread success.
Unfortauntely, the bottle is boring a plain compared to some of their other colognes, not a deal breaker for sure, but appearance matters too.
Firstly, we should mention that this is sold as an everyday cologne but the reviews on Amazon suggest that the longevity is weak and that it fades within a few hours. Obviously, this isn’t horrible for an Eau de Toilette, but is worse than some on this list.
However, the scent is really quite great and worth the effort of re-applying throughout the day, especially to get those wonderful top notes again.
On the top notes you’ll get a very classic orange blast. There’s very little else there, it’s pure citrus on the top and if you have a great nose you might pick up variety of orange notes - bergamot, orange and mandarin.
Once the orange begins to fade, you’ll be blasted again with a mixture of star anise, cardamom and red pimento. The anise is very interesting and the pimento can be detected too, however, the cardamom slides by without any discussion.
Finally, the base notes are what make this fragrance. Instinct is an interesting twist on the traditional orange and wood combo, they’ve used a heavy vetiver which is rare in a fragrance of this price
The vetiver is dry and sharp, with the star anise and patchouli notes giving it a little bit of a bite. Instinct is a bold and strong fragrance that isn’t aggressive and is very agreeable.
This isn’t the best cologne in the world, but for this price it’s hard to have any complaints.
Ps By Paul Sebastian (Eau de Cologne, 4oz)
PS was launched in 1979 by Paul Sebastian and is still used by a few men to this day. This is a great scent if you’re looking for something unique that not many men will be using these days.
It has a classic floral, sandalwood and vanilla scent that was so common in the late 70’s and early 80’s, that’s still agreeable even today.
A 4oz bottle of PS can be found for $15 - $16, making it great value for a classic fragrance that has been around for so long. This offers excellent value and is one of the best cheap colognes in my opinion, but isn’t particularly agreeable.
The top notes are characterized by floral lavender and a heavy sage, not the nicest top notes in our opinion, but very floral.
The heart is a strong armoise, essentially, a deep green herb smell and helps to bring the flowery lavender back to earth and grounds the sage.
Finally, there’s a stacked base of sandalwood, patchouli, myrrh and vanilla that really help to make this a fascinating fragrance. This scent gets far better with time, so, let it sit on your skin for 20-minutes before you head out.
The longevity is incredible for an Eau de Cologne and you’ll still be picking up hints after 12-hours!
This is a great crisp and fresh scent that has hints of spice to add some intrigue. Perfect for an older gentleman.
Adidas Deep Energy (Eau de Toilette, 3.4oz)
Adidas has recently been releasing some okay fragrances. We’ve all received a horrible gift set of cheap toiletries that included a ‘sport’ fragrance the we never wanted to wear, but the Adidas Deep Energy breaks out of that stereotype.
Let’s start by talking about the price because this will impact the review greatly. A 3.4oz bottle can be had for as little as $8. Therefore, you should expect $8 of quality.
Firstly, the longevity is very poor. You’ll get projection for the first 30-minutes but after that it’ll become a skin-scent that people can only pick up with a few feet of you.
The top notes are characterized by a very strong orange juice, giving way to a heart of green apple and lavender. Finally, it ends with a dull wood base and musk scent that is kicked with an artificial spice smell.
Overall, it’s not anything to write home about, but it’s better than most ‘sport’ fragrances out there and offers great value for $8. If you’re looking to upgrade from Axe, this is an okay choice within all budgets.
Lucky You Lucky Brand (Eau de Cologne, 3.4oz)
Lucky You by Liz Claiborne is an energetic, if weak, blend of citrus and wood. This classic combo is one that you’ll see across most colognes at this price range.
The top notes are often described as a walk through an orange orchard. You’re going to pick up a citrus scent that’s backed by a very strong green herb smell that’s fresh if a little artificial.
In the heart you get a strong cardamom, this spice actually balances that orange and herb top notes particularly well. You’ll also start getting a hint of wood which appears to come from the cascarilla bark scent.
The base notes are characterized by a strong wood and musk smell that is too chemical smelling for our liking. This is quite a popular fragrance and although it’s got positive reviews, the chemical smell is too much for us and reminded us of orange detergent.
However, because of the popular reviews and the nature of individual preference, we decided to include this in our list.
It’s priced at about $10 for a 3.4oz bottle and so it’s great value for money if you like the scent.
Skulls and Roses by Ed Hardy (Eau de Cologne, 2.5oz)
Skulls and Roses has an interesting bottle that’s a little obvious. It’s another fragrance by a fashion designer, take from that what you will.
However, it’s surprisingly good and the only reason it’s ranked so low is that it’s very expensive for what it is.
A 2.5oz bottle costs around $25 and this makes it tough to rank any higher on a list of the best cheap colognes.
Regardless, it has an interesting fragrance that I think a lot of guys would find appealing. There’s little complexity to it and this is a scent for a confident man who knows what he wants.
On the top notes you’ll notice a strong cardamom and orange scent that’s relatively well balanced and is neither overly spicy or too citrus. However, this fades very quickly and almost skips the moss heart note.
Instead, it jumps straight to a musk scent that persists with little complexity to it. This does seem to last for quite a while which is a positive.
If you’re looking for a basic cologne that isn’t overly complex but is fresh and clean, this could be a good choice for you.