- Published on
- By Gina Briles
When it comes to both the promise and the price of Legos, the sky is the limit. Each glossy block holds the potential for boundless creativity and staggering feats of engineering. The cost of a set can reach into the thousands. For most consumers, though, Lego is in a class of its own and cheaper competitor brands are not an option. Lego sets also rarely go on sale, so cheap Legos can be hard to come by. Any Lego discounts or promotions typically emerge during the holiday season, making it a good time for serious collectors (or their parents) to stock up. During the rest of the year, and when it comes to popular collections such as Star Wars and Harry Potter, budget-conscious builders should focus on value over price.
Cheap Lego Buying Guide
Taking into account things like the number of bricks and other pieces in a Lego set, the number and rarity of included minifigures, and the number of possible builds the set offers, we zeroed in on cheap Legos high in function and reasonable in price. Luke's Landspeeder from the Star Wars collection (starting at $25) is a Lego iteration of a popular Star Wars vehicle. Its star-studded cast of Lego minifigure characters gives it broad appeal. Serious hobbyists will want to display the rare Obi-Wan Kenobi and C-3PO minifigures, while children will love acting out classic movie scenes with their favorite characters.
The Power Boat Transporter from the Lego City collection (starting at $34) offers a lot of variety for a relatively small, cheap Lego set. With a boat that really floats and a tractor-trailer rig that begs to be steered along homemade highways, little drivers can journey across land and sea. Collectors will find that the pieces mesh well with a number of other sets, and the blocks can easily be reconfigured or repurposed toward custom builds.
Two other good cheap Lego sets have a narrower focus. Hagrid's Hut from Lego's Harry Potter collection (starting at $40) has many specialty parts and accessories that might not adapt well to free building, but the set should please anyone who's into Harry Potter. It's the only one that features the characters of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley together in their Gryffindor uniforms. Those minifigures, along with the hut's meticulous finishes, propel these cheap Legos to a spot on our list. Mace Windu's Jedi Starfighter from the Lego Star Wars collection (starting at $40) gives collectors a hard-to-find Mace Windu minifigure (known to moviegoers as the character played by Samuel L. Jackson) and offers young pretenders their choice of four battle stations to operate. Collectors posting reviews seem a little underwhelmed by the Starfighter itself, saying it's nothing new, but parents report that these cheap Legos clock a lot of playtime.
Aside from traditional cheap Legos, we found two low-cost Lego games that caught our attention. Minotaurus (starting at $22) is easy to play and easy to explain to others, according to reviews. Players must navigate their way through a maze to the center before they cross the path of the mythical Minotaur. The game introduces grade-schoolers to the concept of strategy and can easily be tailored to different ages and abilities. In the Lego game Magikus (starting at $8), players scramble to collect all the ingredients needed to make a magic potion. Like Minotaurus, Magikus has a strategic element and can be modified depending on who is playing.
The Lego Creationary game (starting at $35), on the other hand, doesn't live up to expectations. It's basically Pictionary with Legos, but non-specific picture cards and minimal instructions leave players confused. The lack of a timing element means the game can drag on, trying the patience of many children, and reviewers say it doesn't come with enough Lego blocks.
Before choosing any cheap Legos, think about function: Will this be a child's plaything or a hobbyist's showpiece? Some sets are more interactive, while others are best for display. Our favorite cheap Legos have characteristics that appeal to both collectors and kids in search of a fun toy. Do the Lego lovers in your life prefer to construct by the book or build their own designs? If the answer is the latter, it can be cheaper to buy blocks in lots -- either new ones through the Lego store or website or used ones through a venue such as eBay or Craigslist. Is the Lego owner attached to a particular theme, such as Lego City, or will any engaging set do? Read on for a breakdown of other key things to consider when choosing cheap Legos and to see exactly how our recommendations stack up.
Lego's quality is consistent and its popularity undeniable. However, factors such as playability, versatility, and collectability make some sets a better value than others. Regardless whether a set is purchased by a Lego connoisseur or used as a traditional toy, it should be fun and versatile. Lego reviews by experts and users also note each set's theme and the number and rarity of included Lego minifigures.
Lego Playability.Many Lego aficionados thrive on the thrill of the build and the pride of creating display pieces. For children, however, playability is a key concern. Sets that get tossed aside after initial assembly become nothing more than plastic playroom shrapnel, leaving both kids and parents disappointed.
The sets that score the most points for entertainment value in Lego reviews have a few things in common. First, they are designed with multiple builds in mind. The Lego City Power Boat Transporter (starting at $34) covers both land and sea, letting kids drive up ramps, transport precious cargo, and navigate bathtub waters with their creations. The mom and blogger behind The Brick Life includes the Power Boat Transporter in a roundup of the year's top five Lego City sets. She especially likes how the boat handles in the hands of a child, according to her Lego review. A consumer who posted a review on the Lego site appreciates that the Power Boat Transporter works well with vehicles from other sets.
Hagrid's Hut from the Harry Potter series (starting at $40) is not only a good value but also highly playable, according to Lego reviews. Lego has outfitted the hut with impressive features, such as a light-up fireplace and a swinging cauldron, that add to the make-believe experience. One consumer who posted a Lego review on Amazon reports that the structure holds up well even with daily play, although a user who posted a review on the Lego site opines that the hut is too small.
In the realm of Star Wars, Luke's Landspeeder (starting at $25) appeals to consumers with its easy-to-manage size and details such as a secret compartment for lightsabers, according to Lego reviews. The five included Lego minifigures add to users' enjoyment. A consumer who posted a Lego review at Walmart notes that five is an impressive number of minifigures for the price.
Another Star Wars set, Mace Windu's Jedi Starfighter (starting at $40), offers not only a well-designed starfighter but a Separatist speeder and two STAPs (single trooper aerial platforms) for more battle scenarios. Kids appreciate the fairly simple build and parents, such as this one who posted a Lego review on Amazon, note that the set's multiple vehicles reduce squabbles over sharing.
Lego Minifigures.Kits such as Luke's Landspeeder increase their value by featuring a higher-than-expected number of Lego minifigures. Rare figures up the value of a set to the collector. From a playability standpoint, a robust lineup of Lego minifigures lends itself to detailed reenactments, especially when it comes to licensed characters. How can Star Wars fans recreate favorite scenes without the proper characters, after all?
Luke's Landspeeder comes with five sought-after Star Wars minifigures: a young Luke Skywalker, C-3PO, R2D2, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and a security droid. The only other way to acquire some of these Lego minifigures is by investing in a high-end set such as the Death Star (starting at $400), which makes Luke's Landspeeder a bargain for collectors.
Hagrid's Hut is another such case. Nearly every Harry Potter set includes the boy wizard himself, and a few include Hermione Granger, but Ron Weasley is inexplicably harder to track down. This kit includes all three Harry Potter minifigures for about $40 -- and throws in Rubeus Hagrid, baby dragon Norbert, and giant spider Aragog for good measure. One aspect of the Lego minifigures that contributes to the play experience is their changeable facial expressions, as detailed in a review on the Lego site. A few consumers on the Lego site and on Amazon would have liked to see Hagrid's dog, Fang, in this set as well.
One common issue that comes up in reviews is minifigure theft. It's not unusual to see Lego buyers post about compromised boxes and missing characters. One self-described AFOL, or adult fan of Lego, writing a review on the Lego site Brickset reports that Lego seems to have wised up to this problem and changed the way it packages minifigures so as not to tempt thieves.
Star Wars Lego Sets, Harry Potter Lego Sets
Lego covers a range of themes, with something to appeal to devotees of all ages and interests. Star Wars buffs can stage epic battle scenes with cheap Star Wars Lego sets; muggles of all ages can explore the wizarding world with cheap Harry Potter Lego sets; and wannabe architects can construct New York's Guggenheim museum in their living rooms.
Of the many collections available, Star Wars Lego sets are the most sought-after by far. This wildly popular Lego franchise was launched in 1999 and comprises about 250 sets and mini-sets, featuring builds from every movie in the series. Star Wars Lego sets command prices of around 10 cents per piece on average; licensing costs make them more expensive than many other Lego kits. The cheap Star Wars Lego sets on our list start at $25.
After Star Wars, Harry Potter Lego sets and Lego City sets seem to attract the most attention. More than 50 Harry Potter builds have been brought to market since the first release in 2001. Harry Potter Lego sets also average around 10 cents per piece, though there is more price variance from kit to kit than with the Star Wars products. Hagrid's Hut, our pick for best cheap Harry Potter Lego set, retails for 9 cents per piece, as does the Walmart-exclusive Lego Harry Potter Construction Set Bundle (starting at $69). The bundle packages together the 281-piece Knight Bus (starting at $26) and 466-piece Hogwarts set (starting at $45) and contains 10 Harry Potter minifigures. Although the price tag puts it out of our budget range, the cost per piece is competitive and the set is a good start to a Harry Potter collection.
Lego City is one of Lego's most enduring non-licensed lines. Designed for ages 6 to 12, Lego City sets have a more general appeal and feature things like police stations, airports, and city transportation. The series made its debut in 1978 (back then it was known as Lego Town) and now includes more than 400 Lego City sets. Surprisingly, they run about 13 cents per piece on average, more than the Harry Potter and Star Wars Lego sets.
Lego Set Versatility.People who are passionate about Legos are often inspired to come up with their own creations. Adult fans of Lego, or AFOLs, as they're known on fan sites, fill forums with posts about this, and parents encourage creative tendencies in their Lego-obsessed children. Free building, or building without directions, requires a variety of bricks. Some sets add more to a Lego stash than others.
The specialized boat bottom of the Power Boat Transporter contributes to playability by making the watercraft seaworthy. It isn't terribly versatile, however. The turrets and accessories of the Harry Potter Lego sets also may be difficult to adapt beyond that collection.
One way die-hard Lego lovers increase their architectural arsenals is by purchasing bulk bricks. Lego stores and the online Lego shop peddle supplementary building kits, such as the Lego Basic Bricks Deluxe set (starting at $30). Basic Bricks Deluxe contains 650 pieces, which works out to a cost of between 4 and 5 cents per piece. These work well for children who aren't picky about color and theme, as well as building enthusiasts looking to expand their inventory.
Those who need particular types and colors of blocks can buy them on a one-off basis through the Lego Pick a Brick program. Individual Legos run anywhere from 5 cents for a 2x2 plate with a ball socket to just under $4 for a 16x16 plate.
Another way collectors bolster their supplies is by purchasing used Lego lots on Craigslist or eBay. We've seen Lego lots selling for $6 to $8 a pound on Craigslist and bulk Legos ranging from 2 to 8 cents apiece on eBay.
Lego Set Construction.Not surprisingly, users are most impressed by cheap Lego sets that fit together smoothly and stay that way unless purposefully disassembled. We saw no prevalence of complaints about Legos being questionably constructed or of poor quality, but some sets seem more breakable than others once assembled.
The Harry Potter Lego set Hagrid's Hut does get dinged by users posting reviews on Amazon for roof panels that detach easily when opened, but a consumer who posted a review at the Lego Shop says the kit is sturdy when carefully assembled. Commenters on the Lego site also complain about the number of stickers, a gripe often heard about Lego products. Lego purists prefer pre-printed bricks or more realistic building techniques, such as using Lego grille and light pieces instead of stickers on a Lego vehicle.
Lego Board Games
Introduced in 2009, Lego board games don't quite fall into the same category as traditional Lego sets but are worthy of mention for their engaging play and usefulness as add-ons to other sets.
We like the Lego board game Minotaurus (starting at $22) for its simple, easy-to-grasp game play and strategic element. Online reviews draw comparisons between Minotaurus and the Hasbro classic Sorry. The Lego board game has players construct their own game board, then strategically block opponents and send them back to start. According to moms posting reviews on the Toys R Us site, part of the beauty is that the rules can be altered to make the game harder or easier. Another parent who posted a review at Toys R Us appreciates the educational facets of the Minotaurus game. A potential downside to this Lego board game is the very small size of the microfigures that act as game pieces, which are smaller than minifigures. Minotaurus is intended for two to four players ages 7 and up and averages 20 to 30 minutes per game.
The Lego board game Magikus (starting at $8) also involves strategy but is a quicker game that younger kids can enjoy. As with Minotaurus, the rules are flexible and are easy to adapt. Players build an ingredient rack and race to collect all the items they need to complete a magic potion. The first person to successfully acquire all the necessary ingredients is the winner. One consumer who posted a review of the Lego board game on Amazon cautions that, while children under 6 may be able to play Magikus, the small game pieces may make parents think twice about letting them. Parents posting reviews at Toys R Us like that the game can be played in short spurts, rather than dragging on for hours. Magikus is for two to four players ages 6 and up, and game play is estimated at 10 to 20 minutes.
One Lego board game that falls short of expectations is Creationary (starting at $35). This version of Pictionary has players craft objects from Lego bricks and have teammates try to guess what they are. Critics of the game say the clever concept has some shortcomings when put to the test. A user posting on Amazon laments the frustrating game play and vague instructions but takes comfort in the fact that the game pieces assimilate nicely into the household Lego collection. A consumer who posted a review at Target says there needs to be a set time limit, and points out that when players guess the object too soon, children don't get a chance to finish building their creations. The reviewer's son simply uses the cards as inspiration for independent building. Several consumers remark on Amazon that not enough Lego building blocks are provided, although others see that limitation as part of the challenge.