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I've been shopping around for gears, pulleys and other transmission components for building a milling machine over the past few weeks. Many of these parts are so rudimentary and ubiquitous, yet the prices are very high. A ribbed pulley, for instance, about 3 inches in diameter often sells for over $30 online. Many of these parts are either stamped or cast, making them cheap to manufacture. What factors into the cost of these components?

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  • $\begingroup$ Rants in disguise do not make for good Q&A. And yes, you're missing out on a number of variables that dictate the retail price of a replacement part. I'm not saying that the example you cited is reasonable, but rather that there are many variables at play. $\endgroup$ – user16 Jul 8 '15 at 21:45
  • $\begingroup$ I suggest to re-edit your question not looking rant any more. $\endgroup$ – peterh - Reinstate Monica Jul 9 '15 at 1:52
  • $\begingroup$ Look at Chinese sources - if they quote "high" prices then there will be a reason. Low volume may allow "what the market will bear" pricing but in any sort of volume Chinese prices asymptote to about 50% or ludicrously low.look at eg here, find sellers with MOQ = 1 and find price. You CANNOT be sure of $ based on what it says there. You need at least to look at their sites. | $\endgroup$ – Russell McMahon Jul 9 '15 at 13:42
  • $\begingroup$ Also try here - use boxes for MOQ=1 free shippung and sort by price ascending. Set min $ to get rid of small stuff etc. $\endgroup$ – Russell McMahon Jul 9 '15 at 13:42
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In such cases you don't pay for the rubber, but for the administrative and storing costs. Manufacture a such rubber and then try to sell it on the ebay. With taxes, all of the law regulations, with post costs, etc.

For example, if you only want a rare screw to repair a device, you can easily pay even tens of dollars for that. Why? Producing a kilo of such screws would only cost fewer as a single dollar. But storing a thousands of similar boxes full with rare screws, and then sent them on post to countries thousands of kilometers away, it costs much more.

And, there is another effect, which an already deleted answer said. They won't calculate the price on the costs plus a profit, but they will see how is it priced on the ebay.

It is a highly unfortunate feature of the global society.

You can make significantly cheaper your costs if you pay a lot of them, and know the market (so you can buy it from cheaper manufacturers), and pay from them directly. But you can only do that if you aren't a hobbyist, but also a large manufacturer.

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