By itself, the price of stock doesn't tell you anything about the real cost of an investment. A company priced at $50 per share could be far cheaper than one that's valued at $10 per share, which is why valuation metrics can be more useful. Furthermore, businesses can boost the pool of outstanding shares through moves like stock splits and thereby lower their share price at will.

Still, most companies prefer to allow their stock prices to rise over time. That fact, plus a decade-long bull market that ended in early 2020, means that low-priced stocks are often riskier investments. In other words, they are priced cheaply for good reasons.

Yet, there are a few potential deals in the sub-$20 space for investors seeking quality businesses. Let's take a look at three of the most appealing ones.

A man and woman holding cash

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A cheap vacation

TripAdvisor (NASDAQ:TRIP) shares have been battered as the COVID-19 pandemic erased demand for everything from vacation travel to theme park experiences. Shares were over $60 each in late 2018 and have recently dropped to below $19.

Investors have had good reasons to worry about this business. Bookings dove by more than 90% in March and April, management recently revealed, thanks to diving demand in the travel, hospitality, and leisure industries.

Yet TripAdvisor has many of the ingredients of a long-term rebound story in the makings. It is a leader in its space, with nearly 500 million visitors frequenting its sites during an average month leading up to the pandemic. The tech stock has plenty of cash the see it through the current slump, too.

Those assets suggest that an investor might get good returns buying this stock following its over 40% discount in 2020. Any gains could take time, though, and expectations should be tempered by the fact that TripAdvisor was posting modest sales declines even before the pandemic disrupted its industry.

Cannabis for less

Canopy Growth (NYSE:CGC) has lost its shine with investors recently thanks to the combination of COVID-19 pandemic selling and a poor fiscal fourth-quarter earnings report that showed weak sales growth and ballooning net losses. It would be a mistake to just write off this pot stock, though.

The leading recreational marijuana producer has plenty of cash on the books today, and its new CEO is prioritizing financial discipline through cost cuts and efficiency gains. Partner Constellation Brands is as bullish as ever about the business and recently upped its stake. Investors might want to follow that lead and bet that exciting innovations like the cannabis-infused beverages now making their way to the market could help Canopy Growth reach sustainable profitability over the next few years.

Squeeze into these jeans

Levi Strauss (NYSE:LEVI) just reported some awful sales metrics for the fiscal second quarter, which matched up almost exactly with the peak social distancing efforts around the world in the first phases of COVID-19 outbreaks. Revenue dove 62%, gross profit margin plunged to 19% from 34% a year ago, and the jeans specialist generated a net loss of $364 million.

Jeans on display

Image source: Getty Images.

Levi left the quarter in a strong inventory position, though, and has slashed costs while doubling down on its direct-to-consumer platform. Management said most stores were back at about 80% of their prior sales pace by late June and that the company has now returned to positive operating cash flow.

These wins suggest the fiscal second quarter will go down as an outlier to Levi's longer-term growth story. Still, as with the other stocks on our list, investors can expect volatility ahead that may be amplified by additional virus outbreaks and changing economic growth forecasts. Waiting for more clarity about this retailing business is always an option, although that extra information might mean you're paying a bit more than $20 per share for Levi Strauss.