An example might be a car like this: fiat panda or a laptop like this: thinkpad t430

Both of which are simple and cheap yet reliable. If something breaks down, replacement parts are also cheap or even free.

Is there a word that describes what they are?

  • 8
    'Cheap and cheerful' and 'bog standard' come to mind.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 14, 2018 at 11:26
  • 5
    "A 'no-nonsense' car that gets excellent gas mileage." Google Dictionary
    – Nigel J
    Mar 14, 2018 at 11:38
  • 5
    "Basic" isn't quite it, but comes close.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 14, 2018 at 12:36
  • 7
    Why is a ThinkPad laptop simple and cheap? Do you mean because it's an older model? Maybe reputation has changed, but the ThinkPad line (even after IBM transferred it to Lenovo) hasn't really been particularly inexpensive. Mar 14, 2018 at 22:00
  • 4
    A FIAT reliable? cough
    – Thomas
    Mar 15, 2018 at 8:19

11 Answers 11


I would use utilitarian.

Designed to be useful or practical rather than attractive. Oxford

  • ...but this says nothing about being cheap?
    – Kinaeh
    Mar 15, 2018 at 14:40
  • 2
    @Kinaeh colloquially it does imply at least not being high-end expensive Mar 15, 2018 at 14:46
  • @CarlWitthoft yeah, that's true.
    – Kinaeh
    Mar 15, 2018 at 14:48
  • Yup, there's no style markup or extra frills on a utilitarian item. Mar 15, 2018 at 18:38

Workhorse might work. It has various connotations, but these include dependability:

Definition from Google Dictionary:

A person or machine that dependably performs hard work over a long period of time

-- http://googledictionary.freecollocation.com/meaning?word=workhorse

And also includes the idea that the work done is not particularly interesting, which suggests a sort of basic model:

Definition from Cambridge English Dictionary: ​

a person who does a lot of work, especially of a type that is necessary but not interesting:

a willing/reliable workhorse

a machine that operates without failing for long periods, although it might not be very interesting or exciting:

The steam engine was the workhorse of the Industrial Revolution.

-- https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/workhorse

Its definition doesn't inherently include being inexpensive, but a workhorse is seen in contrast to a racing horse or riding horse, which may be seen as 'flashier' or more expensive models, so it sort of has a connotation for being less fancy (and by extension, perhaps less expensive):

Definition from Dictionary.com:

a horse used for plowing, hauling, and other heavy labor, as distinguished from a riding horse, racehorse, etc.

-- http://www.dictionary.com/browse/workhorse?s=t

  • 4
    Not sure if a workhorse has to be cheap. Reliable and not too complex for sure, but it doesn't really have to be cheap. Affordable maybe. Workhorse somehow more conveys the meaning that it's used in the majority of the cases. But what about cheap, reliable, simple things not used that often? Mar 14, 2018 at 20:14
  • @Trilarion Agreed. A workhorse for me would actually signal a more expensive tool, but with the underlying promise that it will last longer than the cheaper models and perhaps be less expensive in the long run.
    – pipe
    Mar 15, 2018 at 16:16
  • Why do I feel a connotation of slavery in the word?
    – Ooker
    Mar 16, 2018 at 2:18
  • disagree for the record Apr 11, 2018 at 4:58

The idiom no frills refers to a service or product which the non-essential features have been removed to keep the price low. From 1980-1997, the American supermarket Pathmark used "No Frills" for their store brand.

  • 3
    Not sure that it captures "reliable". Have you ever been on Ryan Air?! Mar 15, 2018 at 15:00

Not sure if this quite works with the replacements aspect, but I'd probably describe those objects as "Economy"

Economy Definition from Dictionary.com

Economy adjective 10. intended to save money: to reduce the staff in an economy move. 11. costing less to make, buy, or operate

e.g. "I use an Economy laptop"

Also, turns out an Economy Car is a recognised thing which describes the kind of car (although normally bought new) that you seem to want: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_car

  • Could you use it in a sentence?
    – xDaizu
    Mar 14, 2018 at 16:10
  • "He drives and economy car" I could really have given a link to this as it seems to fit the first thing en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_car
    – user286747
    Mar 14, 2018 at 16:15
  • Ok, thanks, it makes more sense to me now. Could you add example(s) and/or that reference to your answer?
    – xDaizu
    Mar 14, 2018 at 16:25
  • A thinkpad as pictured is not an economy laptop
    – icc97
    Mar 15, 2018 at 16:23
  • 1
    I don't think "economy" fits the reliable requirement. For example economy cars aren't known as reliable (think Chevy Spark, Aveo, Ford Escort, etc) Mar 15, 2018 at 16:32

Consider bare-bones:

adj., Reduced to or comprising only the basic or essential elements of something.


For the laptop you pictured, check out the wikipedia entry for a "barebook":

A barebook computer (or barebone laptop) is an incomplete notebook pc. A barebone laptop is similar to a Barebone computer, but in a laptop form. It has only basic elements (case, motherboard, display, keyboard, mouse, etc.) and one has to add components such as CPU, memory, video card, hard drive, solid-state drive, WiFi card, etc. separately. Most times you can buy barebone laptops without a pre-installed operating system. This enables the computer and Linux enthusiasts to build their own custom laptop.


(Note that "barebook" is a simple combination of "barebone laptop/notebook", and only applies to computers - but does show usage of barebone.)

  • 2
    Barebone doesn't carry "reliability" in its meaning; in fact it may be the opposite because the thing in question is so minimal. Also, the Lenovo laptop pictured is not a "barebook" by that definition; it almost certainly includes all of the hardware components listed, such as a CPU, memory, and so on. Mar 14, 2018 at 22:59
  • Honestly, I agree. It doesn't imply reliable, but at the same time, I don't think it implies "unreliable." I don't think any of the answers yet cover all 3, and barebones is the word that I would use in the context given. I'm ok leaving my answer here; you all may upvote or downvote as you wish. I do agree - the barebook definition wouldn't be functional on its own, but it seems so closely related to the question that I think it's relevant. Mar 15, 2018 at 18:29

The idiomatic use of the word "student" as an adjective, most particularly found in advertising, would seem to fit your requirements. viz: "Good little student car." or "Great student laptop."

  • The usage implies:

    • economy (cheapness), suitability for function (No-Frills),
    • ease of use (inexperienced or low experience User),
    • ruggedness (students are assumed to treat things indifferently),
    • and low maintenance costs (students reputedly have little access to funds).

Hope that assists you.

  • 1
    I think "student" implies that you're going to get rid of it and upgrade after graduation, though, so it only has to last for a few years. Mar 15, 2018 at 18:22
  • But surely the 'get rid of it' process would be either a sale to another student, or passing on to a sibling - both implying longevity. Mar 25, 2018 at 20:32
  • For a car, mayyybe, but not for a laptop imo Mar 26, 2018 at 13:39

how about "thrift(y)"?

"using money and other resources carefully and not wastefully". i know the "careful" bit may make it less than ideal, but certainly what you're describing would be a form of thrift?

edit: Hi Mary, yes I understand when you're using thrifty in a sentence, you have covered the common approaches. this too, came to my mind, when i proposed this answer.

what i then asked myself was, on a purely abstract level, is "thrift" not some description of near-optimal efficiency? your usages are correct, and the word does not work.

but certainly economic, while it sounds better (as do some of these other suggestions), does not necessarily describe what the OP is asking, better.

when i look at both the car and thinkpad in the OP's original post, and then use his description:

Both of which are simple and cheap yet reliable. 
If something breaks down, replacement parts are also cheap or even free.

so ultimately when we factor in the second part of the description, conditioning it on the first, would you not agree the acts associated with replacing parts, etc for the car and thinkpad are purely under "thrift(y)"? i have a hard time thinking of any other word for the downstream effects of the pictures given. everything can be a "steal".


Growing up in west Texas I would have referred to the IBM machine or maybe that bad little robo-car as a "hoss". It to me is slang for being designated as a "workhorse" or as mentioned simply horse.

Descriptive word that implies a level of supremacy or supremity. Interchangeable with the words boss, deadly, beastly, superhuman.

What I'd call pretty bad ass is the pictured Lenova model that ive had for three years. Goin strong. That said my second suggestion is "trooper".

definition of trooper- (noun) a reliable and uncomplaining person.

"he was a real trooper for going on while he was feeling less than his best" · "she even managed to sign some autographs one-handed—what a trooper!"

  • hoss is common in the SE USA
    – lbf
    Mar 15, 2018 at 13:50
  • yourdictionary.com/hoss A car
    – lbf
    Mar 15, 2018 at 13:56
  • You should either embed a link or two, or embolden the two suggestions, so they stand out more. It's easy to miss trooper
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 16, 2018 at 8:46
  • @lbf nah man I hightly doubt its used in the same context as Ive tried to describe. Im not Not throwin up my set or anything. Granted, I hold those who I came up with in very high standing. In summation, just bc the term is prominent there doesnt mean it actuatlly represents the same ideal. Apr 11, 2018 at 4:52

For your consideration, I submit: Standard
I believe that a standard (something) fulfils your requirements:

Standard ‘somethings’ are simple enough, cheap enough, and reliable enough to become
… a standard.

A standard (something) is easy to repair with standard replacement parts, or cheap enough to replace it with another one like it, and do whatever-it-was-designed-to-do — as advertised.

… used or accepted as normal or usual
… of a size, measure, or design, etc. such as is regularly used; not exceptional or special
(New Oxford American Dictionary)


Entry level (noun), entry-level (adjective).

(noun) the cheapest or simplest version of a particular product or service

(adjective) used to describe a product that is cheaper or simpler than other similar products, and therefore suitable for someone who has not used or bought one before

Cambridge English Dictionary

  • To me this implies that you're not going to keep it once you can afford an upgrade, so it doesn't have to be particular long-wearing or reliable. Mar 15, 2018 at 18:23
  • I mean it in marketing terminology when a company has a range of products which are positioned differently, from basic/affordable* to fancy. *Affordable itself can be a suggestion. @Trilarion already used it in a comment for workhorse. Mar 15, 2018 at 18:34
  • Sure, but even then it sounds like it's just a "starter pack" kind of item. I would buy an "entry-level" DSLR so that I won't be out too much money if I decide I don't want to become a photographer after all, but if I understand that if I get really serious later I'll want to upgrade. Mar 15, 2018 at 18:37

I suggest value item, value range, value-for-money, as in value menu on Wikipedia. It is widely used in retail (at least in Britain), e.g. `we display our value items in this food aisle'.

Are you looking for a noun or an adjective?