How to Save Money on Obscure Electrical Parts

When tackling an electrical project, you may find yourself needing some obscure parts that can be difficult to find and expensive to purchase. However, with some savvy shopping techniques, you can save substantially on even the most esoteric electrical components. In this comprehensive guide, I will share my best tips for getting great deals on those hard-to-find electrical parts.

Shop Online for Better Selection and Pricing

The internet has been a boon for finding obscure items. Online retailers can offer selection and prices that physical stores simply can't match. Here are some of the best online sources for electrical parts deals:

Online shopping allows price-comparison so you can find the best deals. Don't forget to factor in shipping costs when comparing prices between retailers.

Check Electronics Salvage Yards

Electronics salvage yards are warehouses of used and surplus electronics where you can uncover hidden treasures. While you can't search for specific items, obscure parts turn up here regularly. And with the used surplus parts, you'll pay a fraction of retail price - often 90% less.

To find local electronics salvage/surplus stores, search listings sites like Yelp or Google Maps. Or search "electronics surplus" on eBay to find sellers listing their surplus inventory.

When visiting a salvage yard, come prepared:

Substitute More Common Parts

Sometimes you can make a project work by substituting more readily available parts. For example, if you need an obsolete vacuum tube, find a modern transistor that can be adapted to work similarly. Or replace a rare relay with a series of more common relays or transistors that provide the same switching function.

Reference datasheets and schematics to identify possible substitutes that can serve the same role at a lower cost. You may need to get creative, use adapters or tweak other parts of your circuit, but with some electrical engineering know-how, substitutions can save you big on obscure parts.

Buy in Bulk

For parts you use frequently in your projects, buying in bulk can lead to huge cost savings. Rather than purchasing individual components at retail markup, you can buy large quantities directly from wholesale distributors at a fraction of the small-quantity price.

For example, say a certain transistor costs $2.50 each at the local parts shop. But you can buy a reel of 100 of the same transistors for $120 from a wholesale supplier - just $1.20 each. You'll save 50% or more per part buying this way.

Scavenge from Old Electronics

Instead of buying new parts, see if you can salvage them from old electronics destined for the landfill. Vintage electronics often contained quality components that are now rare and expensive.

eBay and Craigslist can be great sources for broken or obsolete gear still rich with usable parts. Or ask friends and family if they have old gadgets they were planning to throw out.

Use care when removing salvaged parts to avoid damaging them. And thoroughly test any salvaged components to make sure they still function properly. But this recycling can be a goldmine for finding cheap obscure parts.

Join an Electronics Enthusiast Community

Connecting with fellow electronics hobbyists can be a huge help. Online forums and clubs give members a place to buy, sell and trade parts among each other. And fellow members are often happy to offer advice for finding rare components.

Sites like Reddit, Q&A sites like Stack Exchange, and niche hobbyist forums often have active electronics subcommunities. See if there is a local hackspaces or amateur radio club in your area too. Tap into the hive knowledge of the community to uncover new sources for obscure electrical parts.

Be Patient and Persistent

The key to saving big on electrical components is having patience and persistence. The exact part you need may not be readily available, but if you regularly check auction sites, forums, salvage yards and online retailers, you're likely to eventually find it at a great price.

Sign up for email alerts and saved searches on eBay and other platforms to get notifications when sought-after parts become available. Check back regularly with retailers and community forums. Setting up notifications and repeatedly searching takes some work, but can pay off when you uncover an elusive part for cheap.


Finding deals on obscure electrical components just takes some creative sourcing. Tapping into online retailers, salvage yards, substitutions, bulk orders, salvaging and electronics communities can help you find those unusual parts often for a fraction of normal cost. With the right resources and some patience, you can save big money on electrical components for your next electronics project.