When I started with Arduino I found it difficult to figure out which board I should buy, which components I should buy with it, and whether or not I really needed a starter kit. To help anyone figure out the costs involved for a new Arduino project (including boards, kits, shields, and components) I put this guide together.
Typical costs of an Arduino are between $22 and $46. The cheapest Arduino is the Nano which is available from $18 and includes a basic processor with Bluetooth and WiFi functionality. Additional purchases for an Arduino project typically include cables, wires, and other components which can add between $10 and $20 to the cost. Projects with greater complexity or more components increase this cost.
A list of the costs of various Arduino boards is in the table below:
|Arduino Board||Cost Range|
|UNO Rev 3||$22 to $23|
|Mega 2560||$39 to $40|
|Nano||$18 to $24|
|Due||$36 to $42|
|Leonardo||$19 to $22|
|Micro||$18 to $21|
|UNO WiFi Rev 2||$45 to $46|
|Yun Rev 2||$56 to $58|
|MKR WiFi 1010||$32 to $36|
|MKR Vidor 4000||$72 to $82|
|Portenta H7||$103 to $105|
Some of these boards are available in starter kits. Buying an Arduino starter kit typically adds $50 to $70 to the cost of getting started. Arduino boards that can be found as part of a starter kit include the UNO Rev 3, the MKR WiFi 1010 and the MKR1000.
After trying to build a few projects, I found the best Arduino boards for:
- Getting started with the basics: UNO WiFi Rev 2
- Building sensors and other wireless connectivity processing: MKR WiFi 1010
- Saving money: Nano
Additional purchases to consider when starting out with Arduino include:
- A starter kit for $77 to $114, which includes an Arduino board, instructions and components for building predefined projects;
- Circuit components, such as resistors, capacitors, and motors, typically costing $2-$9 per bundle;
- Arduino shields, which add functionality to your Arduino (such as WiFi), starting from $10, but typically costing $20 to $30.
Summing this all up, typical costs for starting with a simple Arduino project are between $30 and $70, depending on the board and components that are involved. More complicated projects, involving wireless connectivity, image and sound processing, or controlling motors are typically more expensive due to the requirements for faster Arduino boards and complicated components and circuitry.
In this cost guide I’ve gone into more detail about the cost for starter kits, circuit components, and shields further below.
Cost of Arduino Starter Kits
Arduino starter kits include an Arduino and accompanying components and instructions for making a series of curated projects that offer an introduction on how to work with Arduino. These kits cost between $77 and $114. The components can be purchased separately for a similar price, and the instructions are typically published by Arduino online as well.
Arduino starter kits are worth it for those who do not want to spend time ordering individual components. While the kits typically cost more than purchasing the components from other websites, this cost is not significant compared to the amount of time it would take to acquire the components required for the beginner Arduino projects.
|Arduino Starter Kit|
With UNO Rev 3, instruction book, cables, breadboard, wires, and components.
|Arduino Student Kit|
With UNO Rev 3, online instruction book, multimeter, cables, breadboard, wires, and components
|Arduino Explore IoT|
With MKR WiFi 1010, an MKR IoT “carrier”, extra sensors, cables, wires, and components
|Arduino MKR IoT|
With MKR1000, cables, wires, and components
I found the Student Kit to be interesting as it’s the cheapest and includes a multimeter. The included instructions seem to hold your hand a lot as it’s designed for students who are still learning about electricity and circuits. If you have even a basic understanding of circuits, consider one of the others (the Starter Kit or the Explore IoT) instead.
Components, such as wires, resistors, and capacitors, can be bought from third-party suppliers very cheaply. I feel this can be a bit tedious – having to pick out bundles of parts from a website and wait for them to be shipped to you – if you’re not sure how to do this, then the starter kits solve this problem nicely.
Cost of Components for Arduino
Components are the elctronics that an Arduino project uses to function. These components typically form circuits that the Arduino has some control over, and can be used in conjunction with or as part of various shields. Examples of common components for Arduino projects include breadboard, wires, LEDs, and motors.
Here are some typical parts you’ll use and their costs
|Breadboard||$3 – $4|
|Wire (bundles)||$6 (100+ pieces)|
|DC Motor||$2 – $4|
|Resistors, Capacitors, LEDs||$1 – $9 (per bundle)|
I find you spend more on an Arduino project in the discovery phase – when you’re experimenting with the way wires / configuration whatever else will work. If putting the Arduino to work, particularly if building multiple units (e.g. an array of Arduino powered sensors), money can be saved by not buying prototyping material, such as breadboards
Cost of Arduino Shields
Shields are expansion boards that ‘plug’ into an Arduino to give it extra capability. This capability can be extra processing power, more connectivity (such as adding WiFi), adding sensors, or controlling other devices (such as motors). Compatible shields can be made by Arduino themselves or by third parties. It’s important to look at compatibility with your Arduino when adding a shield.
Arduino shields typically cost between $3 and $30. Cheaper shields usually expand the ability to interface with simple circuits, such as LEDs and switches. More expensive shields can be self-contained processing boards, such as a camera with image processing capability built into the shield. Shields can be purchased from the Arduino website or from third-parties.
Common shields and their costs are outlined in the table below:
|Shield||Typical Price Range|
|Prototype Shield||$7 – $10|
|LCD Shield||$20 – $25|
|WiFi Shield||$20 – $25|
A prototype shield usually offers extra space to connect wires and other circuit components. It can be made of breadboard or of PCB which requires soldering. Sometimes for convenience they’ll include buttons and LEDs that can be used in your circuits.
A multifunction shield is a bundle of components included on a shield that offer a convenient interface for the circuits you’re building. These components typically include buttons and switches, LEDs, display modules, potentiometers, and other similar components. Multifunction shields, similar to prototype shields, can be useful when experimenting with a design.
I took the price data from Adafruit, SparkFun, and the official Arduino website. Check the References section at the end of this guide for more detail.
My source for these prices was the official Arduino store and some third party suppliers (SparkFun – because it’s popular; Element14 – because they’re my local supplier and I like the coffee shop below their office). Other places I’ve usually found reliable for Arduino supplies are AdaFruit and Amazon. For more details on the references I’ve used, check out the References section at the end of this guide.
- Arduino official site for: UNO Rev 3 – Nano – UNO WiFi Rev 2 – MKR WiFi 1010
- SparkFun Arduino shields
- AdaFruit Arduino shields
- Element 14 (though I don’t recommend them for beginners, it can be a bit harder to make sure you’re buying the right parts)
Chris recently dived back in to Arduino projects and is trying to put all the pieces together 😉