Choosing a Lego Set
The sky is the limit when it comes to the possibilities of Lego -- but also the price. Each glossy brick holds the potential for boundless creativity. The cost of a set can reach into the thousands, and the company’s products rarely go on sale, so cheap Lego sets can be hard to come by. Especially when it comes to popular collections such as Lego Star Wars, budget-conscious builders should focus on value over price. Fans hotly debate what this means in terms of cost per brick, but a general rule of thumb is to look for sets priced at less than 10 cents per piece. We also took into account things like the number and rarity of included minifigures (which generally command higher prices than bricks) and dozens of online reviews for each set to build this guide to the best Lego sets selling for $40 or less.
Between its own collections and licensing deals, Lego covers a range of themes, with something to appeal to devotees of all ages and interests. DC Comics fans can fight for Gotham City with cheap Lego Batman sets; wannabe architects can construct New York's Guggenheim Museum in their living rooms; and toddlers can get in on the fun with Lego Duplo. Some Lego owners are attached to a particular theme; for others, any engaging set will do.
Lego Bricks.Collections of classic Lego bricks are generally the best value in terms of price per piece, especially for Lego lovers who prefer to build their own designs rather than construct by the book. Our top picks include two sets that encourage creative play and supplement other Lego sets but also come with instructions for many possible builds. The Lego Classic Medium Creative Brick Box (starting around $28) provides nearly 500 bricks for putting toward feats of Lego engineering. For younger children, the Lego Duplo All-in-One-Box-of-Fun (starting around $24) features larger bricks that occupy kids for hours. Duplo sets cost quite a bit more per piece than Lego bricks, but this one gets high marks for value.
Lego Star Wars.Of the many themes available, Lego Star Wars sets are the most sought-after by far. This wildly popular Lego franchise was launched in 1999 and comprises hundreds of sets and mini-sets, featuring builds from every movie in the series. Licensing costs make them more expensive than many other Lego sets. But our top pick, the new Lego Star Wars First Order Heavy Scout Walker (starting around $35) from “The Last Jedi,” is one of the most affordable Star Wars sets currently available. Fans willing to splurge just a little will want to check out the Lego Star Wars Y-Wing Starfighter (starting around $48) from “Rogue One.” This huge set includes desirable Star Wars minifigures, and the starfighter has a functional bomb door.
Lego City.Lego City is one of the company’s most enduring non-licensed lines. Typically designed for ages 5 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 several hundred Lego City sets. The Lego City Fun at the Beach People Pack (starting around $32) is a great way to populate a Lego City environment. The set includes 15 minifigures and several animals.
Lego Architecture.Models of buildings in Lego’s Creator Expert series start at $150 or more, but there are a number of impressive sets in the cheaper Lego Architecture collection, as well, including cityscapes from Chicago to Venice and famous buildings such as the United States Capitol. The Eiffel Tower (starting around $35) is one of the most popular and least expensive.
Lego Video Game Sets.Lego produces sets based on its own Dimensions video game and the Angry Birds mobile game, among others. Minecraft fans young and older will love playing with the Lego Minecraft Nether Railway (starting around $24), which brings to life the best-selling video game and has a track that can be put together in multiple configurations.
Lego Alternatives.For many consumers, Lego is in a class of its own and cheaper competitor brands are not an option. But there are good, cheap sets of toy building bricks from brands besides Lego, most notably Mega. The Mega Construx Halo Warzone Wasp Strike (starting around $40) will fire up Halo fans. This incredibly detailed model has moving parts and includes two minifigures. The 80-piece Mega Bloks Big Building Bag (starting around $15) is a big bargain compared with Lego Duplo, at about 19 cents per piece vs. 37 cents for the All-in-One-Box-of-Fun.
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Lego Reviews: What We Considered
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. In choosing the best cheap Lego sets, we thought about function: Some sets are more interactive, while others are best for display. Our favorite cheap Lego sets have characteristics that appeal to both collectors in search of a showpiece and kids in search of an engaging toy. Lego's own website is perhaps the best source of Lego reviews, attracting detailed feedback from customers who identify themselves as advanced or expert builders . We also read through reviews on retail sites such as Amazon, Toys R Us, and Walmart.
Construction.At the core of Lego's appeal is the process of assembling a set. Not surprisingly, users are most impressed by cheap Lego sets that fit together smoothly and stay that way unless purposefully disassembled. Reviewers appreciate orderly instructions and marvel at sets with nondescript pieces that come together to create recognizable objects. Lego purists ding sets with stickers, preferring printed bricks and realistic building techniques, such as using Lego grille and light pieces instead of stickers on a vehicle.
Playability.Many Lego aficionados thrive on the thrill of the build and the pride of creating display pieces. However, for children, especially, playability is a key concern. Sets that are too fragile or 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 are designed with multiple builds in mind. For themed sets, functional features and accurate detail add to the make-believe experience.
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. For example, a specialized boat bottom contributes to playability by making a Lego watercraft seaworthy but isn't terribly versatile.
Classic Lego brick collections excel here. They appeal to children who aren't picky about color and theme, as well as die-hard Lego lovers looking to expand their architectural arsenals. Those who need particular types and colors of blocks can buy them on a one-off basis through the Pick A Brick section of the online Lego Shop. Individual Legos run anywhere from 6 cents for a 1x1 round plate to just under $3 for a 16x16 plate. Another way die-hard Lego lovers bolster their supplies is by purchasing used Lego lots on Craigslist or eBay. We've seen lots selling for $6 to $8 a pound on Craigslist and bulk Legos ranging from 2 to 8 cents apiece on eBay.