Good afternoon Jim2,
Electrolysis is permanent hair removal. It is and has been the gold standard by which all other methods are judged for over 130 years!. It works 100% of the time IFFFFFFFFF performed properly and iFFFFFFFFF the client cooperates and follows a time schedule so the electrologist can treat anagen hairs (growing phase hairs) one by one. It is slower than laser, but it is permanent. The larger the area being treated, the longer it will take. With an experienced electrologist and good equipment, progress can be seen after several weeks in most areas.
Laser is not cleared for permanent hair REMOVAL, but rather for permanent hair REDUCTION. That means that hair that was once dark and thick can GROW BACK lighter and finer. That is success for a lot of people. You need less sessions than electrolysis as laser disables a lot of hair follicles at once. After a while when the hair is light and thin, another laser treatment will not be effective to remove the remaining light, fine hair. Some people have gone to the Aurora laser to remove the fine, blond hairs, but the jury is still out on this one, since it is fairly new technology. Just not sure how effective it is at this time.
The people that say they are 90% hair-free seem to have a common denominator: they have had greater than the 6-8 treatments suggested, sometimes as many as 20 sessions and they have tried a couple different lasers over a period of 5 or 6 years. They are still continuing to use laser to control the hair growth. Add the cost up on that one.
A lot of people say that clearing a large area with laser and then having electrolysis performed on hairs that come back is helpful.
There is no easy way to remove hair. Laser and electrolysis are costly and can be ouchy. I would just start the journey and stick to the plan whether it be electrolysis (permanent hair removal) or laser (permanent hair reduction) or a combination of both.
P.S. Have you read the electrolysis and laser forums yet???
P.S.S.Someone else will have to answer your last question about a good electrolysis epilator for a couple hundred dollars. I only know about the higher quality professional epilators, but will be watching for an answer to this one.