Not taking aim...
It's just that bulb talk is kind of superfluous blather. If you buy a projector, it costs something to use it and bulbs are a consumable. Cheap bulbs are nice. But I'm with you, there is a cost for a better picture, if for no other reason than, "because they can" and "they" are in business to make money, provide jobs, and repeat. And it isn't about what the bulb costs, it's about what it costs to make it and cover the cost of doing business. Another way to look at it is that a $500 bulb in a $10000 projector is 5% of the projectors cost. An $80 bulb in a $600 projector is 13+% of the cost of the projector. Which one is more expensive?
There's a reason better performance/nicer things cost more, always have and I suppose always will.
Sorry, but the automobile analogies drive me crazy; dumbing something down to compare it to a car is where a thread "jumps the shark". And then there is the guy who buys a projector and doesn't use it because he's saving the bulb!
If there is an analogy comparing a car to a projector bulb, it's probably something more like "I bought a car and it ran out of gas. I've got to buy some gas" And then there's "my car uses premium gas" or "I would not buy that car because it uses premium." Or maybe, "I wish my premium car used regular gas!"
There, now I've done it too!