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Cheapest way to build vehicles and houses

I have a son who is almost 3 years old and he is really enjoying playing with some of the vehicles that comes with the lego city city. Cars, police cars, trucks, etc. He really enjoys putting the people in the cards, pushing them around, taking them out, etc...

He also enjoys putting people / cars in the various buildings we have (police station and city garage) However because he is only (almost) 3 he needs a little big bigger space / wider openings than the buildings we have if that makes sense. His motor skills aren't that advanced (he also has Down syndrome which we blog about here so I need to make some buildings that are easier for him to get people and cars in and out. (Almost like a doll house maybe? Big / wide openings.)

I'd love to get some feedback on the cheapest way to create some of these things. Again the cars / trucks, etc that come with the city stuff are great, but I'd like to make some of these without buying the set (I'm assuming that is a cheaper way.)

Same goes for the houses.

Any thoughts / feedback? Thanks!


  • dougtsdougts Oregon, USAMember Posts: 4,110
    the vehicles are going to be more of a challenge, but my first thought on the buildings is to get some of the bulk brick boxes. the thing you need here is brick to make longer/taller walls, more space between them, etc.. lots and lots of brick. Another good option is to get generic brick (always plenty of 2x4 and 2x6) from the PAB walls if you live near a LEGO store.

    And finally the most obvious. Why not Duplo? 3 years old with the challenges you describe seems to make Duplo a better fit, given the larger size of the pieces (and openings)

    Good luck!
  • RickSmithRickSmith Member Posts: 7
    @Dougts - Thanks for the feedback. We actually have a ton of duplo blocks...lots of various sets. Do you know any places online where I can get some instructions to build houses / garages with them?

    Also are there any sets that are currently out that give you the best bang for the buck when it comes to vehicles? Thanks!

    Also I used rebricker to put in all my sets to see what other cars we could make with all of the sets we had and didn't get a ton of great results...however I'm sure I can take my existing sets and make bigger houses / different cars, that site just didn't help us figure out ways to do that. Are there other sites I could visit to help find ideas / building instructions? Both for Duplo and using my existing sets / bricks? Thanks!
  • ColoradoBricksColoradoBricks Denver, CO, USAMember Posts: 1,659
    You could check out some of the education sets, their RRP is usually high but they can be found at large discounts for example:
    LEGO Education Rescue Services Set 779314 has vehicles and lot of bricks for buildings.
  • RickSmithRickSmith Member Posts: 7
    Thanks! Quick question, what does RRP mean? Also what is an "education" set? Do they fall in to a different category then the other sets (city, etc..)
  • ColoradoBricksColoradoBricks Denver, CO, USAMember Posts: 1,659
    RRP: Recommended retail price
    You can not find the education sets in LEGO store or [email protected], they are available mostly online, checkout No free shipping, no VIP, they are dedicated to teachers and educators but I like to use it to buy Technic/Mindstorm extensions.
  • RickSmithRickSmith Member Posts: 7
    @ColoradoBricks - Wow..interesting. I don't think I knew about these. Thanks for sharing. Are they generally cheaper / better deal than buying the box of legos?
  • EKSamEKSam Member Posts: 349
    We recently built cars to match #3183 (6 stud wide) but in different color. It was fairly easy, did a bit of research and then ordered parts from Bricklink and PAB wall at the Lego store.
    Choose the cars you think he will like, look up the parts list on Brickset. The PAb at the lego store will give you tires, windshields, bacis plates like 2x6, 4x6 etc. Other parts can be sourced from Bricklink. Regarding houses, coming by roof tiles is a little harder but I have seen PAB walls carry those too and assorted sizes of 1x4, 1x6 and so of bricks. Again, look up the house he will like, you will find instructions to build them on Brickset. You can use #5766 ( the back wall opens) to base your design on or use hinges like the Haunted house and whole thing will open like a dollhouse.
    All the best with your projects, Happy Building to your little one and you. :-))

    I rambled. *sigh*
  • RickSmithRickSmith Member Posts: 7
    @EKSam - Thanks for your comment and your help. Do you have any idea how much it cost to build each of the cars?
  • JenniJenni JapanMember Posts: 1,390
    My first thoughts are #60007, #60023 and #60025. Each set has a RRP of $30 and has multiple vehicles, also each set has an open top vehicle, convertible, race car or motor bike, that might be a little easier for him to play with. 60007 is $23.19 at Amazon at the moment and you'll often be able to find these kinds of sets on sale in stores.

    Some other sets might be #10655, #60017, #4437 and #3184 because the whole side of the camper swings open.

    All of LEGO's current set instructions are available online, you can get most of them through this website. Look around, if you see a nice open backed building (City, the Lone Ranger town, pretty much all of the Friends buildings) download the instructions and give it a go with the pieces you have. Rebrickable is a great site but for most people you have to be able to find a workaround for the pieces you don't have. When you're looking at Rebrickable make sure you set the color match to any color, that will help find things, also don't be frightened by less than 100% matches, the missing pieces may be parts of the minifigures or the other vehicles that you're not interested in. The Haunted House #10228 is a great doll house but not exactly budget friendly.

    I would definitely look at some Duplo instructions if you have a bunch of those bricks. Generally kids transition to LEGO from Duplo after 4, my daughter was 6 and I have vivid memories of trying to help a 5-year-old build a polybag and he just couldn't get the bricks to go together.

    There are several LEGO stores in Dallas/Fort Worth, you can look for your closest one here

    Each will have a Pick A Brick wall with different elements. The better stocked walls will have windshields, wheels, steering wheels and vehicle bases. You buy them by the cup for $8 or $15. Feel free to call and ask the store if they have the elements before you make the trip, if nothing else it should encourage those who don't to put more effort into stocking their wall :).

    The internet is awash with ideas for LEGO, Flickr alone will keep you occupied for days. I don't know how much content there is for the things you want to build but you don't know until you try.

    Finally, yard sales and Craigslist, especially for Duplo, in such a large city you shouldn't have any trouble finding lots of extra bricks for your creations. LEGO bricks can be washed in the dishwasher in a pillowcase :).

    Good luck.
  • ColoradoBricksColoradoBricks Denver, CO, USAMember Posts: 1,659
    Price per part is comparable at RRP, the set I linked to amazon is currently at 5.5c a piece which I think is an good deal (I bought that set earlier this year for $75). Things to consider, they come in a plastic bin, not a box and there is little to no instructions, you can build what you see on the picture but no step by step is provided. The part selection for building and vehicle is quite good and also has a dozen minifig.

    They may have more specialized sets for your needs, amazon only has a subset of what is available on the LEGO education website, just beware of the prices. At 5-6c a part, I like them.
  • EKSamEKSam Member Posts: 349
    I had placed orders for bunch of other things along with the car parts and bought several pab cups so I honestly don't know how much it worked out per car :-)The objective was to match the cars to #3183 . :-) ( long story) It was around 100 parts per car.

  • RickSmithRickSmith Member Posts: 7
    @Jenni - Thanks for all the great info! I actually have a few of those sets that you linked to...they are some of his favorites!
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 20,388
    You can get some decent cars in the superheroes sets. If you try eBay, people often buy the sets and sell off the minifigs separately then sell the parts. The recent Nick Fury / Spiderman set had a good car although possibly too old for a 3yo.

    In UK you can pick that car up for £4 or so inc postage.
  • haakonohaakono Member Posts: 62
    edited September 2013
    A few points to add:

    I concur that the lego education sets found on amazon,
    are both good deals currently, for new bulk bricks for buildings and cars.
    As mentioned above, they do not come with instructions, but amazon provides PDF versions for each of the builds in the main picture at the links above. Search the page for the "Downloads" heading on each of the above pages to find them.
    (You can find them on, too)

    Next, Duplo and System bricks are compatible. A 2x2 small system
    brick will fit on a single stud of a Duplo brick. Also, two 2x4 system
    bricks will cover a square 2x2 Duplo brick, and vice versa. We use this at
    our house quite often to build bigger structures out of Duplo, for quick height and sturdier walls, but then cap them with system bricks to add finer details. The 1x2 tall Duplo bricks are really useful for this, as they fit on a 2x4 system brick footprint. New Duplo bricks can be pricy, but are often plentiful at garage sales and the like.

    HTH, and happy building!
  • RickSmithRickSmith Member Posts: 7
    @haakono - Thanks for the great feedback! Do you have any examples or places to get ideas on how to use the duplo and system bricks to make things? Sounds great!
  • haakonohaakono Member Posts: 62
    With apologies, I don't have anything specific I can point to at the moment.

    Most of what my 3 y.o. and I build together look similar to the "Fire Station Garage" in the Rescue Services set linked above---parallel walls, with a roof, some times staggered to give a more natural feel. With the duplo/system trick, he can work on the walls, and I can work on the accents. When we put them together, they look quite reasonable. The accents help make the build look more like the 'big kid' sets, yet still use the duplo bricks which are easier for little hands to manage.

    For inspiration, I often browse brickset/bricklink for older (80s and 90s) fire and police sets. They tend to be simpler, and easier to build from a picture.

    If I can find an example tomorrow, I'll try to post it here.
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