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Super-expensive replacement light bulbs?

I was looking to purchase a “194” side marker bulb for my Corolla, only to discover at the big box auto parts store they cost $2.50 each, $5 for a package of two. To me this seems a little steep. On RockAuto the Sylvania 194CP goes for 17 cents each!!! That seems more what I’d expect. To avoid dealing with mailing and shipping etc, I’d have no issue to pay for as much as 50 cents per 194CP bulb. But not $2.50. That’s not happening. I got to thinking there must be a place to purchase common auto light bulbs for cheap, and locally. Where do you folks purchase your auto replacement light bulbs? I’m not talking about the headlight bulbs so much as the low power tail lights, signal lights, and side marker lights.

You might check the auto parts department at WalMart. I have bought turn signal bulbs there and the price didn’t seem outrageous.

I was thinking of trying Walmart. They sometimes have good prices on some auto things, like oil filters, provided they have them in stock. It will have to wait though, no regular WalMarts in my local vicinity. But that’s an excellent idea @Triedaq , thanks.

I don’t consider that price unrealistic. Much of the cost of those bulbs is in packaging, handling, and shipping, and shipping costs have gone sky-high these past years.

If you shop around for any other bulbs, such as incandescent light bulbs, you’ll also find a huge variation in price. I cannot explain it, but that’s just the way it is. It may have to do with variations in the stocking and distribution systems of the different retailers. I don’t know.

When the feds banned the manufacture of incandescent bulbs in the common wattages, I did a whole lot of price shopping, intending to buy a supply sufficient for at least 15 years. The price varied wildly. I found the cheap places and stocked up.

Harbor Freight has reasonable prices for headlight bulbs if they happen to stock the kind you need. I’ve never tried their brand though, so can’t speak to the quality. 9006 and 9006 here on this link for about $7 each. Rock auto list the 9004 – the one I use for the Corolla – at about $2 each.

I don’t mind the $2.50 for one bulb, its having to buy two of them at a time. The second bulb ends up floating around in my tool box or the glove box for years, only to disappear the moment I actually need it, and I have to buy two more.

I don’t consider $5 for a pair of bulbs you’ll probably only have to replace maybe once a decade or so to be anything really fret over.

@keith Why not just replace them both while you’re at it. Preventive maintenance.

Walmart gets $3.14 for a two pack.

@FoDaddy the life of a filament based light bulb varies so wildly that it is quite possible for the replacement bulb to burn out before the original would have. Most of the time I have had to replace a bulb, it was when the vehicle was new and one bulb just didn’t make it. Replaced it and did not need to replace any others for many years.

If you ask at the counter for small wattage car bulbs of all kinds, Autozone stocks packages of ten of most sizes for about $5 to $8. Large packages of all types of sizes are not stocked in the aisles, but behind the counter. So what if you have a few left over, they’re incredibly cheap. It’s been a while since I needed ten 194s, but I replaced all of those itty bitty ones on a Buick Reatta last year. There is no point in taking that side-to-side tail light assembly off a second time.

I wish headlights packaged that way, but they do have cheaper ones back there.

Same thing with windshield wiper blade “refills”. If you don’t need to replace the metal portions of your wipers, and why would you, why not go with refills? They run about $8 a PAIR, not $15 EACH.

Seems like a long time since I’ve replaced a bulb. I still have a stock on hand for most but that price didn’t seem all that bad and agree the cost is in the packaging and shelf cost. I usually just go to Walmart or Checker if they are open.

Be thankful you’re not having to buy those tiny matchhead sized bulbs that Fords uses en masse on their cars.
They’re not available in the aftermarket and the last time I priced them at the Ford dealer here they were quoted at 11 bucks each.

Even worse, the bulbs don’t fail because they burn out. They fail because of the lousy Xmas light type sockets and no doubt the new ones will fail just as easily as the old. Pure crap.

I’ve got 4 or 5 out in the door panels, 3 or 4 in the steering wheel, and another half dozen or so in the EATC unit. Multiplied X 11= ouch.

You can replace them with LEDs. They are using 5mm LEDs. They do make 3mm LEDs and maybe they would slip into the the hole and not require enlarging the hole.

By my estimation the OP has already wasted more time (time = money) than he could ever recoup by buying the bulbs more cheaply. That doesn’t even include the gas he already burned and the wear and tear on his car to go to the “big box auto store”. This is a case of penny wise and pound foolish. A dollar or two extra in this case is meaningless. It’s not like he is saving $50 or $100.

I am as cheap as the next guy but I have learned not to get worked up by seemingly high prices on small items at the store. Buy it and move on. It costs you a lot less in time and aggravation.

Just for the heck of it I looked at Rock Auto and yes the bulb was $0.17 and shipping was $2.69 so why would someone think the $2.50 price was something to complain about.

I buy all my bulbs at our local RV store parts department. The bulbs are name brand and are better priced than the local auto parts store. The reason is that they buy in bulk and sell individual bulbs from plastic drawers from behind the counter. I worked at the store as the parts manager for several years and they still sell them the same way. I also buy my car and truck batteries there for the most part.

VOLVO V70: I bought a 1981 Mazda RX7 in 1993. It had a burned out side marker bulb. I purchased a 2 pack at Napa for $.89. I suppose I could have made a 16 mile round trip to the dealership and possibly purchased a single bulb that may or may not have cost less but why would I? I tossed the “spare” bulb in the glove box. It was still there when I sold the car 3 years later.

@missileman, is that a common practice at RV stores?

Probably. I no longer own an RV and don’t shop at any other than my local store. I used to order 100 ct. bulbs in all the common sizes when I worked there and most of them fit passenger cars and trucks as well.

Update: I did a little research on the internet, and I’ve found them for at little as $1.50 each locally, but that’s still too much money for a 17 cent part in my frugal … i.e. cheap … opinion … lol … . I’ll try autozone as recommended above, or walmart, next time I go there for something else. I used to use NAPA in Colorado, and even here in San Jose some years ago, but NAPA has become pretty scarce in these parts of late. I don’t mind buying a package of 10 since I have 3 bulbs to replace, and I can use extras for electronics hobby project work.

Here’s my plan: If neither vendors above work out I’ll wait until I need to buy something from rock auto and add some 17 cents bulbs onto the order. Thanks for the comments.