The expense of the winches comes from the fact the gears are cut and not cast. It makes for a strong winch but it takes a good machinist / machine to cut them. Bronze gears last the longest and perform well. All the good winches use bronze gears.
It's amazing how many people don't clean them - ever. You can usually revive a poorly operating winch with a good cleaning
and replacement pawl springs and sometimes new pawls. Pawls are about $1 and the pawls are more like $10 (4 for a two speed). If your winches don't make a nice sharp clicking sound it's time for a service
. It also means you may get some great eBay deals on the good old Barrient, Harken
, or Lewmars. It would have to be totally trashed to not be worth repairing.