Local shops are nice when you need a few parts right *now*, but they tend to be rather expensive. If you need a dozen or so of the parts it might be better to purchase from one of the regular major suppliers like Digikey, Mouser or Element14/Farnell, they have usually cheap overnight shipping and somewhat better prices than one of your local smaller shops.
Then there’s eBay where you can find some really good deals, especially if you buy in (small) bulk quantities like 100 leds or 100 micro-usb connectors. Of course you’ll be hit with a 14-20 days delivery time unless you are in the same country as the seller – usually China or USA.
But if you want really low prices on parts in bulk (or even small) quantities you should have a look at TaoBao.com. They are like a Chinese eBay where you can find electronic parts (and almost anything else) for prices that will amaze you. The site is in Chinese only, but if you’re using Chrome it will automagically translate the pages to a very strange, but somewhat understandable, English. “Item” is translated to “Baby” so the search box says “Looking for what baby?” :-)
The shopkeepers normally don’t ship overseas and only accepts local payment, so you need to use an agent to make your purchases. You add the url’s of the items you want to purchase at the agents website. You’ll then pay the agent by credit card, bank transfer or paypal and they will order all your items and collect & repack them to a single box in a warehouse in China. Then they tell you how much to pay for the shipping to you plus their agent fee (varies between 4 and 15% of the total purchase values). Once you have made this second payment they will ship the box from the warehouse to you. Usually they have rather good discounts on the standard EMS/DHL/Fedex rates.
They also usually remove all invoices and other information with prices and then put a low value on the goods in order to reduce the risk of having to pay customs & taxes in your country.
These are some of the parts that I’ve just bought from TaoBao. With prices like this it’s easy to order a few hundred, or in case of the switches a few thousands, of them to have a small stock at home in your lab.
$0.50 100 pcs of 6×6 mm tactile switches $0.11 SMD 16 Mhz crystal (small 5x3mm, not big HC-49) $1.60 OLED display 0.96″ 96×64 pixels $0.03 Piezo beeper/transducer encapsulated & wire-leads $0.07 IR 38Khz Receiver module $1.10 LiPo battery 3.7volt 240 mAh $3.45 Full reel of 5000 pcs 0805 resistors
Try matching these prices at Digikey or even eBay… :-)
One thing that I didn’t buy was this 40w Laser Cutter/Engraver. For $283 it’s a steal even if the quality might be shitty. Unfortunately the shipping costs would most likely be another $283 :-). Via the forum.
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Candy has helped numerous startups and makers get their hardware across turbulent seas of the market into their customers' hands. Having studied engineering, she's all round equipped to solve problems in all aspects of our services.