Buying a Drone vs. Building It: Which Is Best?


Drones are both for leisure time recreation, and also for doing work with efficiency. It is perfect for capturing photos and videos from an aerial view, delivering things to others with ease, and even for your security. Because of these enticing benefits and uses, more and more people want to get into drones.

Buying a drone is proven to cost less time and effort compared to building your own from scratch. However, building a drone gives a sense of self-fulfillment, and can teach you many new skills. Seeing the fruits of your labor is very gratifying, and doing a hands on project is the best way to learn.

Before you go ahead and choose between buying a drone and building it, you have to understand several factors. In this article, I will provide all information necessary to find out what the different factors are that make buying or building drones more desirable to different people. In this way, you can think through which one you might prefer. 

Is Building A Drone Worth It?

Usually, building a drone is worth it for those who like to tinker with the components that go into a drone. If you have a knack for disassembling and putting things back together, you can go ahead and use your trusted tools to remove every part of the drone. In that way, you will be able to fully understand how each part of the drone works, and as well as understand how it is assembled.

But for those who might not have the drive to disassemble and build stuff, but are curious about creating a drone of your very own, then you came to the right place. In this article, I am going to show you the price of some parts, as well as touch on some of the ready-to-fly drones if you just want to buy them instead. 

As we go through the article, you will not just learn the different aspects behind building a drone. You will also understand the value of being a drone builder, and how it can save you some money during certain emergencies. There is a lot to understand in building drones as you read, but who knows, you might be inspired to think that building one is worth it!

Is Building A Drone Hard?

When building a drone, the basic required parts are surprisingly consistent, and are known to be less confusing even when completely disassembled. What is even more interesting is that you can purchase spare parts of the drone to replace something you want to upgrade or completely change.

Building a drone is not that hard at all, as long as you have the interest to do it. However, if you don’t have any interest in building something from the ground up, you should buy one instead and move along. But if you want to learn how to build one, I suggest looking for drone making tutorials or asking a knowledgeable friend to help you build one. 

One benefit of building a drone despite being a lengthy process, is that it will boost your knowledge of how its mechanism works. It can also grant you a brand new skill where you will become well-versed in repairing drones. Drone repair services are known to cost a lot, but learning how to repair your drone can save you a lot!

Before you go ahead and think about building a drone, it’s best to understand more about the factors you will need to face when it comes to building the drone. Factors such as pricing, the materials, the duration you might need to spend when building it, and many more as we move along with this topic.

How Much Does It Cost to Build a Drone?

Assembling or buying a drone is actually a big investment. Expect that drones and their parts are not that cheap at all. Some also say that building drones can be more expensive than buying one. But according to my expert friends in building drones, it is not pricier as long as you find the right price for each part.

For the overall cost when budgeting for a drone, without any accessories factored in, you might need to spend around $205 to $1200. Note that the price depends on factors such as material, size/capacity, and purpose of each part. For more details, the next question will answer all you need.

» MORE: How Much Does it Cost to Build a Drone?

What Do I Need To Build My Drone?

For a better understanding of how much would it cost to build a drone, here are the costs of each main part of the drone:

Frame 

The drone frame will depend upon your objective in using the drone. Frames range from a tricopter to an octocopter configuration. The more propellers, the heavier a load it can carry, plus the more stable it will be during an event where one motor goes down.

Frames cost around $20 to $250. Frames that cost around $100 are good as it is durable enough to last for a long time. For the material, go for carbon fiber frames for guaranteed durability, but at a higher price. On the other hand, aluminum frames can help you save more money, but can easily be damaged.

Flight Controller

The flight controller cost is around $100 to $250, depending on the features and material of the controller. There is not much to observe when it comes to controllers. But for the best ones in the market, aim for the known brands for trusted quality.

Transmitters and Receivers

The transmitter and receiver let your drone pick up a signal from the controller for you to operate it. These could end up being more expensive than the frame, as each may cost from $50 to $500

Purchase a transmitter and receiver that has a wide range to cover a huge distance. The quality of the material is also needed to ensure perfect communication between the drone and its controller. Note that there is no need to buy an advanced model if you’re just into taking videos and photos only.

Motors

The motors cost around $10 to $100, but you will need more than three of these. The number of motors needed to be installed depends on the number of propellers because the motors are installed for each propeller to work. Also, listing the motors on your budget is where the costs start to go up. 

ESC

The Electronic Speed Controller needed for your drone depends on the number of motors you purchased to ensure stability as your drone runs. Each costs around $20 to $50

Batteries

The battery of the drone depends on the type of drone you are building. The battery life of a drone may last from 10 minutes to 30 minutes, depending on its capacity. This is why advanced and high-performance drones require a battery with the highest capacity to fulfill their work. A typical battery costs around $2 to $20.

Propellers

The number of propellers you’re going to purchase depends on the frame you purchased. Tricopter frames need 3 propellers, 4 for quadcopters, 6 for hexacopters, and 8 for octocopters. You should also observe the length of each blade, and all of them should be the same to ensure balance as the drone flies. 

The purpose of a propeller’s length varies as well. Shorter propeller blades are great for a sudden change in speed when needed as they can slow down or speed up faster. On the other hand, long propeller blades are more stable and energy-efficient. The longer blades allow longer time in the air as you operate the drone.

Each propeller costs $2 to $50. Take note that propellers are very easy to break over time, which is why the next part is not just an accessory, but a solid investment to consider.

Propeller Guards

Your propellers should have a guard installed on each of them. Beginners should expect that their drone will bump into something as they practice operating it. It would be bad for their blades to break right away upon the first attempt, especially if you don’t have any spare propellers with you. 

Propeller guards were made to avoid such incidents. Each cost around $1 to $20 only. Aside from adding protection to your propeller, it also prevents harm or damage to anyone or anything due to the rotation speed of the propeller. 

Do You Still Need Accessories?

There are also additional accessories that can help you transport and operate the drone with convenience and efficiency. Here are the following accessories that you might want to try out:

  • Drone Case – This helps in keeping your drone free from damage when not in use. The case may cost from $20 to $100 depending on the size and additional features such as cushions inside it. 
  • Gimbal – Gimbals make sure that your camera will always be in place no matter how high the flight of your drone may get. It also ensures that the camera won’t move around in it while the drone moves even at high speeds. These only cost $5 to $10
  • LED – The LED kit is an option only if you are planning to use your drone in the dark. It is also a good security feature for surprising any suspicious bystanders near your home. The price of buying an LED kit ranges from $10 to $50

How Long Does It Take To Build A Drone?

It may take 3 to 10 days to complete the drone. The duration depends on your current knowledge, the parts you already have, the possible number of people helping you out, and the number of mistakes made during the process. No expert drone builder has ever claimed that they built their first drone in a single day!

Also, expect to have a little trial-and-error with every attempt you make in building the drone as well. After all, you need to test out the machine first. Testing out machines always have that very small risk of having to repeat the whole process just because of a slight mistake. 

Just remember that some things will never be easy the first time you do it, especially if it is you don’t have experience with similar projects. The same goes for building a drone, as some of its components need to be perfectly placed for the drone to function properly and avoid any damage.

How Much Does A Decent Drone Cost?

The cost of a ready-to-fly drone depends on the make, model, and purpose. If you choose to buy one instead, think about the reason why you need a drone with such a price. The following is a list of the most common drone types depending on the simple purposes that most users think about when buying one:

  • Beginner-level Drones – These drones are good for practicing your flying skills, as well as for fun when taking photos and videos you want to share with your friends. You may call these “nano drones” as well due to their size. These typically cost under $100, but the cheapest ones range from $20 to $30
  • Entry-Level Drones – these entry-level drones are a good fit for sports such as drone racing, or for aerial photography. Entry-level drones are built with stronger motors to allow long flights and better performance in speed and stability. These can cost from $200 to $500.

How Much Do The Best Drones Cost?

The best drones are regarded as fit for consumer use, business purposes, and professional work. Switching to these from the mid-level models causes a huge improvement when capturing videos and photos up in the air. They can have a surprisingly high range, yet can still communicate well with your controller even when at a far range. 

Most of these drone models have a camera built-in so then you won’t have to spend too much on another gadget or accessory. These drones have good cameras, whereas the top models can provide HDR and 4K resolution images. These drones also have improved flight features and safety options thanks to automation, making them a worthy investment despite their price. 

With the given features of the best drones for mid-tier and high-end consumer purposes, expect a range of $1000 to $2000 for the finest drones in the market.

Should You Build Or Buy A Drone?

The costs for buying and building a drone are almost the same. The final choice depends on whether you are in a rush to get one, or if you feel like accomplishing a major project. But regardless of whether you buy or build one, flying a drone is still a huge accomplishment worth being proud of.

Elizabeth Ciobanu

Editor-in-Chief. Elizabeth is a full-time (homeschooling!) mom of four, and serial entrepreneur in a variety of enterprises, one of which is producing content for Droneblog. If free time existed, she would love to spend more time on hobbies such as flying a drone.

Recent Posts