You know how sometimes saying cheap is always better seems good, and how sometimes it’s really not? Well, let me tell you this, in the model train world you can always find something that is high quality for better price. You’re probably saying “Okay you’re talking about end of clearance sales right?” Well, yes and no. I am talking about shopping around online, or in different hobby shops and compare their prices for the same models. You looking to see how much they differ in price. Even if the price is a few dollars less, that can go a long way if you’re on a budget.

Here Is what I Do:

1. Ask yourself these questions: how badly do I want the model train, how rare is it and do I really need it? Well if I can’t decide that then I wait for the prices to drop. Now sometimes this can take weeks’ months or even years depending on the model and how popular it is. Now obviously it takes a large amount of patience for this and sometimes I even forget about the model until I come across it again. Now, I know you don’t have this kind of time so let just skip to another step.

Train Shows

2. I go to train shows or train events in and around the Philadelphia area. The reason is because a lot of hobby shops, like  Nicholas Smith Trains in Broomall PA, or retailers set up booths at these shows. They showcase their newest models and past ones there. Here is why this is an advantage. You can talk to the owners or sellers directly and bargain for a better deal than the online prices. But don’t low ball them because that is not right or cool. That’s the fastest way to make a good situation bad. Here is how you bargain: For example if the model train you want is being sold for like $200 online or in person you might be able to get it for $160-$180 at the show. The key thing is find a happy medium, and be fair and trust me, a lot of people will be willing to work with you.

How Rare Is the Train?

3. Repeat of part 1) how badly I you want the model train, how rare is it and do I really need it? If the train is only available in a limited number then its best to try to find a good price ASAP. A lot of hobby shops will pre-order at a lower price from the factory. They will also sell them cheaper then their competitors.

For example, the Fleischman Amtrak ICE (Inter City Express) trains were made in a limited number in both HO scale and N scale. Both models in each scale can easily go for $500-$1000 dollars in today’s time. Why, because it’s an extremely rare limited train made to commemorate the real one that Amtrak imported from Germany. Marklin made their own version but the Fleishmann’s are harder to find and have better proportions then the Marklin models. I mean how often you can say: “I’ve been on the ICE train (Inter City Express) without leaving the United States?” Yeah, once in a life time, as Amtrak may never import another foreign train for testing again.

I’ve personally looked at an N scale Fleischmann Amtrak ICE that was being sold for over $900 dollars!  Trust me, I wanted it but I am not paying that for that set. You can find the cars and the engines for sale in N scale and HO for cheaper than that. In some cases not all. Sometimes the ICE engines letter for Amtrak or DB alone can go for $100-$300 dollars without the cars. The ICE cars depending on the scale can go for $30-$130 dollars for one car! Now these are prices I’ve seen personally so it depends on who sells them.

Be careful as if a price is too cheap it might now be a good idea to buy. Here is a personal experience I had on eBay. I saw an HO ICE car for sale for under $30 bucks and well it was too good to be true. I got my money back but I learned that the best (low) price for those cars with a proper seller is around the $37-$40 dollar range. These prices can vary greatly and that’s for any model train.

Amtrak ICE Train Links

Amtrak ICE consist Information

Amtrak ICE Fleischmann

Amtrak ICE Marklin Amtrak ICE

Is It In Your Budget?

4. Finally, and this is probably the most important step, do not, and I MEAN, do not go broke over any train! Personally I have spent all my pocket money on trains and had to go and get more out of the bank. You’re probably saying “that’s crazy” but, there were some reasons why I did it that way. One reason was I wanted the train now, the other reason was I could not put it on lay away, because I already had one at the store. It’s not a good feeling not having money on you.

I must note I pay all my bills first before buying trains..LOL… What I am saying is, if you’re able to buy it then and there do it. If not see if the store has lay away and make payments on it. That’s easier on your pocket even if it takes longer. Another good idea and, I do this will online sales, is I see if I can fit it in my budget. I add up the cost of the model with the sales tax and I always over estimate. Better to overestimate then under. Sometimes I am $20-$100 dollars under what I planned for. That allows me to either by more trains, or save up for something else.

However you decide to do this is up to you, but please remember if that train or train set is not there when you go back, another one in better condition, for a better price always pops up. Trust me I know.