Where to buy electronic components?


Years ago the question of where to buy electronic components was easy, you had to get them through mail order. Several companies used to advertise in electronic magazines like Practical Electronics and Everyday Electronics. You wrote to them and requested a catalogue. This came with an order form which you filled in with your best hand writing, descriptions, order codes, quantity and cost. You then had to add it all up and get a postal order to cover the amount and send it to the address. That would be in a pre-paid envelope if you were lucky.

Electronic components shops

I can remember when one of those companies Maplin, started to open high street shops and when one opened five miles from me it was like all my Christmases had come at once. To go to the shop and come away with electronic components seemed bliss.

Unfortunately Maplin is no more in my area and the other bricks and mortar shop, Tandy has long since gone. For me it’s the post office that delivers my electronic components again. This time there’s no hand written order forms or postal orders.

Electronic components online shopping

Luckily the World Wide Web provides the answer. There are a good many online electronic component suppliers these days and it’s entirely up to you who you prefer however if you are new to online component purchase I’ve a few companies and recommendations.

First is postage. I don’t know about you but a hate paying postage. Even something small like £3.95, I think there’s £3.95 worth of components that I could have bought instead.

My usual source of online components is Rapid Electronics and if your order is over thirty pounds it is sent free postage. So I make sure my orders are over thirty pounds. This I do by making a list every time I need a component. Like little things I tend to forget about that are not essential, they all help to make sure I’m over the thirty pounds threshold. Let’s face it there’s always something you need.

My other usual supplier is Bitsbox. If I can’t wait until my order is large enough for Rapid I use them because they charge £1.75 postage which is about as cheap as I can find.

Both of these are UK based which is where I live.

Update​

Having tested a few online component suppliers in the last month or two, I can confirm what I've found to be true with UK component suppliers online and that is most are pretty good compared with other goods and services I've used online. I feel it only fair though to mention one component supplier for their excellent service.

​I placed an order in on the 15th December with Rapid Electronics and in haste didn't check everything properly, it was about 3.15PM and I looked at my emails about half an hour later to confirm they had the order. Upon looking closer I realised I'd not updated my delivery address as I'd moved a few months before. The order was going to my old address!

I rang Rapid up and the call was answered straight away. I told the person what I'd done and they said that as it was a while ago it had probably been picked already. I was surprised as how quick the order had been processed and I said not to worry, I know the people who lived where a had moved from and they would keep it for me, but he said it wasn't a problem and he would get it swapped to my new delivery address.

To my amazement the order was delivered to my new address the following morning! less than 24 hours after I had placed the order and free delivery as my order was over £35. In this day and age of poor service I have got to thank and congratulate Rapid electronics for their excellent help on the phone and the service that I received. Absolutely first class and especially when so many other companies make excuses around Christmas for delays.​

For PCB production I haven’t found anyone that can come anywhere near the prices of the over sea Chinese production companies and the one I use is Seeedstudio as I have found them to produce excellent boards at an excellent price.

Another source of components that I have been using lately is Amazon. It seems like there isn’t anything you can’t buy from them and electronic components are no exception. It’s worth noting where they are being sent from and the expected delivery dates as there are a lot that come from Hong Kong and China and have five weeks delivery times. Not exactly what you want if you’re waiting to finish a project but there are some very good prices.

Hopefully this article has answered the where to buy electronic components question if its price your after its difficult to beat the online shops but as usual nothing beats the speed and convenience of a bricks and mortar shop. It’s worth mentioning that if we all stop using these shops in our towns and cities they will cease to exist.