Home Forums WWII How much did a tank cost?

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    Avatar photoSane Max

    Hi all

    I remember reading a popular history book a while back where each time a German Tank Commander helped salvage a tank he would say ‘thats x thousand Reichsmarks saved’ or some such.

    It made me wonder, how much DID a tank cost? What was the cost of your typical tank – say a Sherman in 1940’s dollars, or a Cromwell in 40’s £? Does anyone have figures?


    Avatar photoMike

    No idea sorry, but a good question, I am subscribed and awaiting some informative answers.


    Avatar photoSam Mustafa

    There is some great information on this, regarding the Germans at least, in Adam Tooze’s  THE WAGES OF DESTRUCTION.  A brilliant book about the Nazi war economy. He does give figures, although I don’t have the book here at home.

    One of the interesting points he makes is the massive increase in cost for introducing an entirely new model, and how much cheaper it was to tweak existing models and keep them in service long after their obsolescence.  Half-measures like the Marder or Hetzer were much cheaper than a truly new and dedicated platform.  That’s the reason the Me-109 fighter and the Mark-IV tank remained in service right to the end of the war.

    Avatar photoNorm S

    I have been able to pick these figures up from books – though I don’t know the value of the 1943 RM, but wiki says there were 5 RM to 1 pound sterling in the channel islands. Axis history forum says 2.5 RM to the dollar and 991 RM = £100 (so 10:1). The official price of gold per fine ounce was $10 and 25RM

    The Stug IIIg (self propelled gun) cost RM 82,500, while the PzIIIm cost RM 103,000 and the Pz IVg cost RM 125,000 (source Osprey Stug III vs M10 duel series)

    Tiger Ie RM 250,800

    Panther RM 117,100 (without weapons !!!!)

    The cost of a Tiger II was double the cost of a Panther …… whatever those costs really were and that sounds odd, as it puts it around the same price as the Tiger I, which can’t be true.

    Macksey says ‘a single main battle tank had cost about £20,000 in 1939, by 1945 the price had more than doubled.


    Avatar photoRod Robertson

    An interesting discussion can be seen here:



    Rod Robertson.

    Avatar photogrizzlymc

    Funny to quote the price without the gun. I would have thought that the gun would be a pretty big piece of the pie. Now, whereas I would guess that a 75/L71 isn’t too much pricier than and L48, an 88 might be quite a bit more, if you are depreciating development costs, the 88 is a mature gun which can be amortised over a number of platforms; the 75/L71 was almost unique to the Panther.

    Amortisation of development cost would give the Sherman and T34 a bit of a price advantage, although the Sherman probably has higher delivery costs than the German tanks.

    Avatar photoSparker

    As an aside, I’m surprised at Macksey’s use of the term ‘Main Battle Tank’ in the context of WW2. The concept of a ‘Universal Tank’ had just about become current towards the end, an AFV that combined the role of Cruiser and Infantry tank, (Centurion) but I’m sure this didn’t segue into the term ‘MBT’ until the post-War period. Perhaps in this context he was referring to size, ie, other than ‘light tanks’.

    'Blessed are the peacekeepers, for they shall need to be well 'ard'
    Matthew 5:9

    Avatar photoNorm S

    It’s from his book ‘Tank Warfare – a history of tanks in battle’, so he covers WWI through to 1971 when the book was published, I am guessing he has just slipped on using the term both  generically and retrospectively.

    Yes it sounds odd to quote the price of a tank without the gun, but that’s what it says. I would make more sense if the Panther had been a multiple weapon platform, but is was only ever given the 75/70 (a superb gun).

    I imagine that if you factor the costs of a crew including training and the maintenance of the vehicle in the field, plus fuel consumption and fuel administration and ammo load,  then you could end up with something substantially greater than the initial raw cost.

    It would be interesting to see if here is any correlation between approximate cash costs compared to the in game points costs that some systems use.

    Avatar photoSam Mustafa

    Any discussion of manufacturing costs in WW2 must concede that it’s nearly impossible to compare costs across the three very different economic systems.  The US and UK had a capitalist system, albeit massively subvened through government spending and arms contracts. (The costs of labor and materials, which normally would have skyrocketed during a war in which so many men were conscripted, were artificially controlled.)  The Soviets, of course, were literally in their own world, with a system whose costs were almost untranslatable.

    And the Germans started out with a capitalist model, increasingly undermined by the intrusion of Nazi party organs (as Himmler, Goering, and even Bormann began to create and/or confiscate factories to run as part of their political organizations), and then of course German labor costs after 1942 were totally skewed by the massive use of slave labor.

    In other words…  we really have no idea whether a Sherman was cheaper than a T-34 or Mark-IV.  I don’t know if it’s even entirely possible to compare the cost of a Mark-III manufactured by one of Goering’s plants in Austria using slave labor, with the cost of a StuG manufactured by the plant in Anhalt, which was still managed by Daimler-Benz.

    And we can’t really compare any of them to the price of a modern-day Challenger 2 or Leopard, produced in small numbers during peacetime by economies that are not mobilized for war.

    Avatar photoEtranger

    Richard Overy’s “Why the Allies Won” looks at the economics of WWII & IIRC has details of the various costs. My copy is in a box somewhere!

    Avatar photoSane Max

    <div class=”d4p-bbt-quote-title”>norm smith wrote:</div>
    It would be interesting to see if here is any correlation between approximate cash costs compared to the in game points costs that some systems use.

    Even cooler for a campaign system!

    That is sort of where I was thinking, but it was as much idle curiosity as anything else



    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Sam Mustafa is entirely right in pointing out the meaninglessness of comparing cash costs between different nations. It is very hard to assign costs accurately for defence equipment even today, in a peacetime acquisition system when information is presumably readily available, within a single country. And what cost do you want? The contract price per piece at contract award? (It should be obvious that the cost for a tank and the cost for its gun are quoted separately because they are made by different firms) The in-service cost, excluding people costs? The whole-life engineering cost, which must include spares, repairs, disposal and all sorts of stuff?

    In war time, things get still less simple. British, and even more so American and Russian, experience was that as the war went on production became increasingly efficient, hence “cheaper”. And it makes little sense to consider many categories of cost if, like the Germans, you use a lot of stolen tank chassis (Pz 38 t notably) and make widespread use of slave labour.

    Having said all this, I have looked through the two books I have that contain tank prices.

    From Postan, Hay and Scott, “Design and Development of Weapons”, HMSO, 1964.

    “To a considerable extent these are ‘estimated’ not real costs. Original prices
    are quoted but costs were later scaled down in cases where production went on
    for some years (Matilda, Valentine, Crusader and Covenanter).”

    Year of    Type              Basic cost price 
    1st order                    (contracts)
    1937       Infantry Mk. I       £6,000
    1937       Cruiser Mk. I       £12,710
    1938       Matilda             £18,000
    1938       Cruiser Mk. II      £12,950
    1938       Cruiser Mk. III     £12,000
    1939       Cruiser Mk. IV      £13,800
    1939       Covenanter          £12,000
    1939       Crusader            £13,700
    1939       Valentine           £14,900
    1940       Churchill           £11,150
    1942       Cromwell            £10,000

    From Fritz Hahn, “Waffen und Geheimwaffen des deutschen Heeres 1933-1945”,
    Doerfler Verlag, 1998.

    Pz IIa 52,640 RM from MAN in 1936
    Pz IIF 49,228 RM without weapons in 1942, 3,500 RM more for the 2cm KwK 38
    S Fl Pz II mit 15cm SIG-33 53,000 RM
    Pz IIIM without radios 103,163 RM in March 1943
    Pz IV F2 115,962 RM in 1942, of which 12,500 RM is for the 7.5cm KwK 40 L/43
    The 7.5cm KwK 40 L/48 in Pz IVH costs 1,000 RM more.
    Panther 117,100 from MAN in 1942 without weapons,
    12,000 RM more for the 7.5cm KWK 42 from Rheinmetall,
    21,000 RM for the 8.8cm StuK 43 from Krupp in Jagdpanther.
    Tiger E 250,800 RM from Henschel without weapons, 299,800 RM fully equipped
    Export price to Japan 645,000 RM
    Tiger II 321,500 RM from Henschel in 1944

    Notice the difference between the cost of a Tiger E without weapons, fully fitted, and for export to Japan.

    All the best,


    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    I might add that, taking the exchane rates for 1939 from


    there were about 10.87 Reichsmarks to the pound sterling.

    Avatar photoSane Max

    12 grand for Covenanter? What a bloody waste.



    Avatar photoRod Robertson

    Would the 1938 listing for a Matilda tank be for a Matilda I A11 or for a Matilda II A12 tank? At that cost I hope it would be the A 12.


    Rod Robertson.

    Avatar photogrizzlymc

    I think the Matilda 1 is the Infantry Tank Mk I, bargain at 8K, just the thing for nipping down to the shops or taking the kids o school.

    The Panther, on the other hand, really is a bargain. Something sporty, powerful and comfortable at about the cost of a covenanter.

    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Would the 1938 listing for a Matilda tank be for a Matilda I A11 or for a Matilda II A12 tank? At that cost I hope it would be the A 12.

    The Infantry Tank Mk. I was the original Matilda, the comic duck, but this was not an official name.
    The Infantry Tank Mk. II was the Matilda Senior, and Matilda became an official name.
    The Infantry Tank Mk. III was the Valentine.
    The Infantry Tank Mk. IV was the Churchill.

    Note that there could be another mark number within the mark of tank, too, so it is quite in order to speak of, for example, the A22 Infantry Tank Mk. IV Churchill Mk. III.

    Valentine was the only WW2 British tank not to have an A number, as it was not designed in response to any staff requirement. To make up for it, Churchill had two A numbers, A22 for the Marks I to VI and A42 for the “Heavy Churchill” Marks VII and VIII.

    Light tanks did not have names untill the Light Tank Mk VII Tetrarch.

    Cruiser tanks did not have names, and are often known by their A numbers, until Covenanter:

    A9 Cruiser Tank Mk. I
    A10 Cruiser Tank Mk. II
    A13 Cruiser Tank Mk. III
    A13 Mk II Cruiser Tank Mk. IV
    A13 Mk III Cruiser Tank Mk. V Covenanter
    A15 Cruiser Tank Mk. VI Crusader
    A24 Cruiser Tank Mk. VII Cavalier
    A27M Cruiser Tank Mk VIII Cromwell and A27L Cruiser Tank Mk VIII Centaur

    The idea of calling things “Cruiser tank Mk something” was dropped thereafter, and cruiser tanks Challenger and Comet were known just by their names; mark numbers were written in Arabic rather than Latin numerals; and with Centurion, the designation “cruiser” was dropped, too, although the habit of tank names beginning with C continues to this day (Caernarvon, Conqueror, Chieftain, Challenger, Challenger 2).

    The British preference for naming tanks rather than giving them dull, soulless numbers, as other countries did, extended to the many American designs generously supplied under Lend-Lease. The tank names Stuart, Lee, Grant and Sherman were all British in origin.

    All the best,


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