The Best Places to get Gunpla in the US
I’m writing this post as a sort of PSA since I learned something new when I ordered my HG 00 Gundam.
Basically, I haven’t bought a non-brand new model in years. I believe the last three models I’ve bought are the MG SInanju, 1/100 Overflag, and MG Unicorn, all of which were pre-ordered and bought as soon as they were released. I’ve always stood by that RainbowTen is the cheapest place to go for models, and to some degree that is still true, so let me do a quick rundown for ya using a fun scoring system.
RainbowTen – They are stationed in Japan and have an unparalleled level of customer service. Navigating their site has a bit of a learning curve but they announced some time very soon they will be migrating to a more traditional web store layout. This is THE PLACE to go for an recently released Gunpla. Their prices are 20% below other sites like HLJ, and their shipping charges are also usually much cheaper as well.
Model Selection: 10/10
Model Prices: 10/10
Shipping Prices: 7/10
Customer Service: 10/10
Just to note, RainbowTen simply could not make their shipping prices any lower without taking a loss. Basically, their shipping prices are excellent compared to other Japan-based stores, but not so great compared to US-based stores, which is to be expected. Their customer service is simply unmatched… Whether you send them an email or post it on their BBS, you’ll get a response within a day.
Gundam Store and More – I’ve known about this site for years, but last time I checked, which was years ago, they were quite overpriced compared to RainbowTen, even when you factored in shipping. Apparently sometime between the last time I checked and now they got their act together and if you only want one or two models, they actually can be quite a bit cheaper. They currently are having a 20% off sale on Gunpla which definitely helps. The downside to this is that their stock isn’t as up to date is you might like… And by that I mean when RainbowTen has a model for sale the day it is released (and in my experience, if you preorder it they will ship it a day or two before the release date), it is currently January 28th, and GSaM JUST got the HG Seravee in stock, which was released in late November.
Model Selection: 7/10
Model Prices: 9/10 (Probably 8/10 when their sale ends)
Shipping Prices: 10/10
Customer Service: ?/10
I ordered from GSaM, and now actually have twice, but haven’t had to contact them for anything, so I really can’t give an impression for customer service.
HobbyWave – I haven’t used this store personally, but have heard good things from those who have. They have reasonable prices (actually, a quick comparison shows they have the SAME prices as GSaM’s non-sale prices), and shipping is a flat $10 no matter how much you buy. So if you were to stock up on quite a few kits, this could be a good thing. If you were like me and only wanted one HG kit, that’s a bit rough in terms of shipping… They also share the problem with GSaM in that their stock isn’t as up-to-date due to them being based in the US. However, where GSaM’s stock is about two months behind, HobbyWave’s seems to be only one month behind.
Model Selection: 8/10
Model Prices: 8/10
Shipping Prices: 8/10 if you’re ordering just a few small things, 10/10 if you’re ordering several models
Customer Service: 0/10
Prior to ordering from GSaM, I went to HobbyWave and emailed them TWICE asking when they’d have the HG 00 Gundam in-stock again. It’s now been a week and I haven’t heard a thing. They must really not want my money or something. Either way, I can’t really even give them sympathy points for that one, haha.
What kind of conclusion do ya want? It really depends… I’ll still be going to RainbowTen for my orders of anything new or even larger quantities of things. For a quick example based ONLY on price, I just ordered the HG 0 Raiser from RainbowTen:
R10 Price: 640 yen
R10 Shipping: 980 yen (SAL shipping, which is the cheapest but can take up to a month. I’m just not in a huge rush to get it.)
R10 Total: 1620 yen = $18
I miss the days of the strong economy… This would have been under $15 not too long ago.
GSaM Price (calculated based on their current prices): $10
GSaM Shipping: $6
GSaM Total: $16
For HobbyWave it’d be the same price, but the shipping would be $10.
So basically it WOULD be a bit cheaper to order it from GSaM, but I’d have to wait two months until I could do so. Even with the slowest shipping, I’d get the model anywhere from one to two months sooner (I’ve actually had SAL shipping get to me in under a week).
So my advice:
Order from GSaM if you’re getting some not-so-new things.
Order from HobbyWave if you’re getting a LOT of not-so-new things.
Order from RainbowTen for anything slightly new.
I’m still going to order from RainbowTen for my bulk orders because the more you order, the less the shipping charge cuts in to the difference in price, and I honestly wouldn’t mind paying a bit more for RainbowTen’s customer service. And the truth is, depending on how much you order, it might even cost you less.
Please post any experience you’ve had with any other retailers and any conflicting opinions you might have!