People replacing tefillin or buying a first set for a bar mitzvah boy or themselves often debate how much they should spend and which type to buy. Should they go with very affordable tefillin peshutim that will set them back "only" $300-$450, or should they lay out the cash for a set of tefillin gassot, which are often in the $550-$850 price range. Here's an inquiry we got from a fifty-something birthday boy this week.
Hello! I've just bought a new tallit from you this week. A question about tefillin: How long, on average, might tefillin dakkot last? I'm turning 55 tomorrow and expect to live (B''H" perhaps another 20-30 years...given that I lay tefillin regularly throughout the year, could I be reasonably sure of about 20-30 years of life for tefillin dakkot? I'm quite conscientious and take good care of my current tefillin. Thank you! - Joel
Happy birthday, Joel!
If you take good care of them and there are no unpleasant surprises, I'd expect tefillin dakkot to last no more than six or eight years (with at least one or two strap replacements along the way).
I bought my tefillin gassot when I got married twenty years ago. A few years ago I had them reconditioned. They weren't in really bad shape, but the back edge was curved and some of the corners were not so sharp.
Usually if tefillin peshutim are in need of repair work, there's little or nothing that can be done, because the leather isn't thick enough to work on it much.
Also, tefillin peshutim are inferior, both in terms of halacha and quality.
Tefillin gassot may sound expensive, but over time they really aren't. Let's say you bought a set of tefillin for $600 and they last you for the rest of your life. I hope you live to be 120, but let's say you at least go beyond your estimate and live to the age of 95. According to my calculation, those tefillin will cost you $15 per year, or $1.25 per month.
Let's say you somehow found an arrangement to lease tefillin. Would you go with an $0.80/month option or a $1.25/month option?