Where can I get screws, nuts, bolts and other hardware most cheaply?

I'm planning to build a car-top bike rack based on this gentleman's design:


As I've been pricing materials, I'm pleased to find that the wood, pipe, tubing and conduit will cost me only about $20. I'll need to buy one tool (a rigid backsaw) for about $10.  I was hoping to get away with less than $100 out of pocket for a rack to hold four bikes, but then I hit the screw aisle.

Picking out machine screws, nuts, and wing nuts for the uprights and jotting down prices, I hit almost $10 for those items alone.  Then I looked for galvanized angle brackets to attach the uprights to the base, and those plus the screws, etc to attach them were close to $35!  Once I started looking at U-bolts and other things I'd need to put the whole thing together, I got quite discouraged.

So, is there a place to go where I can get those kinds of things at more of a discount?  I tried McMaster/Carr, but they sell only in bulk quantities.  Once I'm an old established tinkerer, I'm sure I'll have a workshop full of hardware bits that I can make work, but for now, I'm flummoxed.  Suggestions? Or am I just "screwed"? :-)

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orksecurity6 years ago
Your choices really are:

1) Buy in bulk (boxes of 100 and up, typically more) and therefore buy more than you need for the current project. That can actually be a reasonable choice if you're buying something that's generally useful and that you think *will* be used later, or if the bulk price is sufficiently cheaper than the small-package price that you come out ahead even if you don't use them all. This is the approach most serious hobbyists take for things like wood screws, which are almost guaranteed to be used eventually.

2) Or buy onesie-twosie quantities and pay a surcharge to cover the additional stocking and sales costs therefor.  This is the approach hobbyists tend to take for oddities such as U-bolts, shelf pins, and the like which aren't used as frequently. It also tends to be right answer for many electronic parts, for the same reason -- wire may be worth getting in bulk, op-amps might be if you work with them a lot, but NAND gates probably aren't.

3) Or try to reuse leftovers from past projects and your junk bins. This requires that you have already built up that backlog.

If you know someone who is a more serious hobbyist/handyman, you might ask them whether they might have some of these parts that they could spare.

Note that buying at a hardware store which itself stocks parts in bulk may or may not be cheaper than buying poly-packed parts at a home improvement store. The bigger stores can buy in large enough quantities to keep their overhead very low, but those packages of ten screws are bulky for their contents  and that can drive costs up again.
anvil_man6 years ago
I would say if you have the time, check out yard sales and buy all the little jars etc. of bolts, screws etc. you can sometimes get real cheap, I also save all fasteners from things I take apart.

Also auctions, I have bought buckets of stuff for next to nothing, if you done mine going through the stuff sometimes you can find a real gem.....

But if you are on time frame you any have to bite the nut per-say.
good luck
I know this has been best answered but I thought I'd share my tip with you. Old swing sets that people have in thier back yard after the kids grow out of them. There are some great nuts/bolts/brackets/clamp style fasteners in them if they arn't too rusty. I have quite a few coffee cans full from differant sets I've scavanged from, and no matter if I'm repairing the muffler on a car or attempting to make something I tend to get pieces and parts from that stash.
yoyology (author)  RedneckEngineer6 years ago
That's a great tip! I'll keep my eye out.
noahh6 years ago
The simplest way to get hardware is from a hardware store, as the name suggests. Home Depot and similar mega-hardware stores are going to be slightly cheaper than a local hardware store, but I suggest supporting your local hardware store. They will be much friendlier and more helpful than at a huge store, where you can barely even flag someone down to get some help.

I hope this helps a bit,

yoyology (author)  noahh6 years ago
That's a good point. I'm planning to do my next pricing trip at Midtown Hardware here in Tulsa. I'm big on local support as well.
GrotBox6 years ago
It won't help you, but it may help other readers of this question; There is a really good place in Bridgtown, Cannock, Staffordshire, UK called Midland Fastners Ltd who supply all manner of nuts, bolts and fasteners at ridiculously low prices.
caarntedd6 years ago
I have a huge supply of miscellaneous hardware accumulated over many years, and only ever need to buy the odd item or two. I've been able to do this by following (sort of) Jack A Lopez' advice.
Everything that I have ever dismantled, stripped, broken, found etc. I keep the hardware.
If you go to a wrecking yard to get parts for a vehicle, get the hardware. Now you have spares.
Pick up junk on rubbish night, strip it and put it back minus the useful bits. Nuts, bolts, brackets, springs, hinges.
Jack is completely right, if you can spare the time, there is a fortune in hardware to be found. You will never see junk in the same way again.
A few years back I remember somebody in old Detroit bought a house for one USD. Erm here:

So I was thinking... Maybe you could buy a house like this, or simply find one like it that no one seems to be watching too closely, then go there with a screwdriver, and a crowbar, and a hack saw, and some bolt cutters, and... um... basically just take the place apart.  Then you'll have lots of screws, and bolts, and wire, and tubing, and other hardware!

Burf6 years ago
It has been my experience that it is rarely worthwhile buying anything on the net that is less  than $15-$20 unless that is the only place I can find it,  because the shipping charges will almost double the price.
I would recommend that you just bite the bullet and go to your local hardware store and gather what you need there.  Stay away from the crap made in China and  you'll probably wind up ahead.