What are your methods for cost effectively shopping for parts on BrickLink? How many parts do you shop for at once? How many do you try to get from a single seller? Are you ok with making small orders, paying lots in shipping and minimum order fees? What are your methods for using the site to optimize your orders?
My goal is to get the best total price for parts and shop from the fewest different sellers (to minimize shipping charges). I'm currently shopping for maybe 350 parts per set. Here is my method:
I manually optimize my orders since the Want List "Easy Buy" button doesn't do a great job. In a Want List, I use the "Buy All" button to view sellers with the most parts. I click "Select" on each of the best matches to see how much they'd charge, then scroll to the bottom of each list to see which parts are they charging a lot for. I will "Confirm Selection" for the shop with the best ratio of parts I need to total cost. Then repeat, finding other shops with good prices for the remaining parts that the previous shops didn't have.
This method reveals sellers with large inventories who charge a fortune for certain parts, though smaller sellers charge much less for the same parts. Always check the most expensive parts in the proposed shopping cart for odd outliers.
This method can get me 95% of the 350 parts I need from two sellers. This requires me to place a small order with a third seller for the final 5%. My solution to this is to keep multiple wish lists (~350 parts each) and shop for all of them at once. Since I just started shopping on BrickLink, I only had one wish list and ordered 97% of it before I realized this solution, prompting me to make a second list. More lists yields more savings, but how many lists should I make before I start placing orders?
Ordering for more than once list at once also requires sorting out the parts you receive into each of the different projects. I haven't done this yet but I assume it could get tedious.
I always try to buy as many parts as I can get from one seller (which typically reduces S&H costs from ordering from multiple sellers), and buy parts in bulk if buying overseas (as best as one can) which typically means while I may pay an increased amount, it will still be worth doing that. Also if Im bricklinking a set I typically buy enough parts for more than one set to again reduce the cost (as silly as that can sound)
Least favouriting expensive sellers is also a very useful way of saving time.
I then try running Auto-select with and without "Exclude lots over max price" checked. Sometimes, the smaller number of stores that charge higher prices that are selected when ignoring max price are cheaper overall because of shipping savings, but that is not always the case. When comparing options, I've found that, in the US, $7 is a very very good estimate for average shipping per store on domestic orders.
Finally, it's always good to take a peek at which parts are being allocated to which stores. For example, on this project, I discovered that it would be cheaper, considering shipping, to order from 110 less expensive stores (enforcing max price) than 30 pricier ones. I found the number of stores in the former option anomalous, so I looked into the parts lists and discovered that I was buying green 2x2 round plates from almost every store. This was because the quantity of that part that I needed was exceeding the quantity that was available in bulk for reasonable prices in the US, and so the max price was forcing Auto-select to add a huge number of stores to compensate, buying just a few of the part from each. Ultimately, I found it would be even cheaper to buy that particular lot internationally, even with elevated shipping costs.
Auto-select claims to take estimated shipping into account and to consider all possible store combinations. In reality, its behind-the-scenes shipping estimation leaves something to be desired, and it certainly does not consider all options, because that would require a supercomputer. Still, Auto-select will do a better job than you can for wanted lists with many parts in many different lots (even for projects much smaller than the one I've described). It's just up to you to tame the algorithmic beast.
After using the Buy All and Auto Select features, I used the advanced search parameters to select BL stores within the U.S. to eliminate any long and/or costly international shipping issues.
Then it was just a matter of consolidating shopping carts to arrive at the 9 final orders. Probably not the cheapest methodology, but I didn't mind paying a bit more if it meant fewer orders that I could count on receiving within a week or so - I had a limited amount of time off from work for the build.
If I'm placing multiple orders, I go through the carts and make sure the cheapest option for any duplicate parts is selected and delete the others. I would love to have this bit automated.
This is operating on a scale I can barely fathom. How do you know which parts to bother checking and setting a max price for?
Well, that's the basics of what I do. I hope it's helpful for others too.
- Open a separate web tab for each bulk part I'm after.
- Enter HALF of what you need for that part into the advanced search (I'll explain in a moment).
- Get a sheet of paper and write down stores that have multiples of what you're needing, and what quantities.
- Try to find the top 2-5 stores that have the most of what you need.
- Now remember step #2. There's a good chance that you'll be going through a few other stores that also have that same part... and combing the stock from a few separate stores may get you to the quantity you need!
As for individual orders, I tend to spend $15-$30 USD per store to make it worth it for shipping. However, I rarely buy just bricks on BrickLink. I typically buy my bricks through a local bulk used LEGO store, or buy a bunch of cheap incomplete sets for parts. I usually use BrickLink for minifigures. If I'm after, let's say, a special $5-$6 minifigure, I'll throw in a bunch of interesting $1-$3 figures to average out the cost and cover the shipping. If that same store has special parts I can't find easily elsewhere, then I'll definitely throw those in my order too.
For your new questions, to only see the parts you still want, when in your parts list tick the hide items if have qty is > want quantity. (See below)
This page also lets you choose the country/region you want to buy from.
You can also define a lot of other stuff by playing around with the settings in your profile to suit you.
There isn't a list of stores (that I know of) that are unreasonably expensive but you soon learn which are by doing a bit of research prior to buying then add them as least favourite stores which you can then block from your searches.
Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a quick or easy way to negotiate Bricklink to get the cheapest LEGO (otherwise the expensive stores would sell hardly anything) but with a bit of trial and error (and a fair bit of research) you learn from experience how to get the best out of it to suit you.
Yeah, any time you start going over like 15 cents each it may be worth checking. Honestly, of all the improvements that could have happened when LEGO bought BL, I think this brings up probably the biggest one: Integration of BL with BnP would be amazing. Just have LEGO listed in the site like a regular seller for pieces, so that when you're going to shop they show up. If people want to sell at higher than LEGO prices, go for it, but then we have an option right there were we can actually see/shop from BnP if they have what we want for the right price.
I could see the argument that this could be a conflict of interest or anti-competitive, but LEGO already sells those pieces themselves, and this would just be saving people the time of having to go back and forth between the two sites to compare. As long as LEGO wasn't intentionally dropping the prices on pieces on BL compared to what they normally sold them for, I feel like it bring way more positives than negatives.
(I have no affiliation, just a very useful tool IMHO!)
That being said, there is a small group of outlier stores that sell parts for about 10 times the going rate, hoping to make as much money from a few orders from naïve buyers as most sellers make from many orders at reasonable prices. Lucky Ed's Good Ol' Bricks, AndrusBricks, and eBricksOnline come to mind, but there are more. When you don't set a max price on your wanted list items, these kinds of stores pop up frequently in Auto-select because they often have a very large number of lots and large quantities.
However, from doing lots of research in the past, the two cheapest colors in general are red and yellow.
There's some things like bricks with studs on two adjacent sides that can be cheaper in tan or light bluish grey, but I'm already using light bluish grey in the build...
There's no perfect way, but I usually find the 2-3 colors with the most lots available, then see which one appears cheapest among those options.
Below is an image of the colors I use for various elements when color doesn't matter. No guarantees that they're the absolute cheapest options, but they've worked pretty well for me in the past. (PM me if you want the Studio file.)
Edit: disregard the green bricks, those were for a special circumstance and are not price-optimized.
And then half an hour later I'll remember about an element I forgot to put on my wishlist.
There is no real answer, as it depends on prices, quantities needed, other parts being bought, shipping.
The autoshop function is good if you only have half a dozen elements or so and can get them from one or two shops, but with 20 or 30 or so it'll often spread out the elements over so many different shops that I'd end up paying loads in postage. So in those cases I prefer to have more control over it by doing it manually. Usually in such cases I'll end up spending about £50 or more in total.
I estimate each Rover has cost me about £25 and each Castle Byers about £6-7.
What you could do is look at incomplete sets. There is currently a US seller selling the red mini (new) at $30.
For example, I've bought an 90% complete Space Police Galactic Enforcer (missing 3 minifigures) for $40, and all the missing parts were common and cheap. Another time, I was able to snag a Power Miners Crystal Sweeper for $30, and all it was missing was the blue rock monster and half the catapult. More recently, I bought Exo Suit for $17 and all it was missing was one spaceman and most of the turtle robot.
All that to say, buying incomplete sets is an amazing way to get parts. Sometimes buying a couple incomplete sets to make one complete one is way cheaper.