June 25, 2007

Buying A Bugaboo From Parts A La Carte? What's The Catch?

cameleon_wheel.jpg cameleon_frame.jpg

Just when I think I've heard every $900 stroller angle there is, a DT reader who asked to remain anonymous emailed--maybe "e-gloated" is the better word--about how much money he saved buying a Bugaboo a la carte. Is this for real? Is it possible? Can you really "build your own Bugaboo Cameleon" by ordering only the parts you want? The answer appears to be yes. Is there a catch or a downside? The answer appears to be, "I can't say. Can you?"

How It Works:
At least one online retailer, CSN Baby, offers to help you "Build your own Bugaboo" out of it's complete selection of replacement parts. [Complete for the Cameleon and the Gecko, that is. For some reason, there Frog parts list is much shorter.]

It's really not magic; you could just buy only the parts and accessories you want and skip those you don't. Less stroller for less money, no problem. But there's also an arbitrage opportunity here: it looks like the parts for a Bugaboo Cameleon cost less than the stroller itself. [updated again: no there isn't.]

cameleon_part_chart.jpgHow Much It Costs
If you ordered every part and accessory separately that comes with a new $899 Cameleon--from all four wheels to the seat fabric to the air pump--it'd run you about $950. Silly. just $817, Amazing. $950. Silly. [I redid the math when I saw the wheels are included with the chassis, and then I redid the math again when Mike corrected me; the wheels are separate after all. The original tipster actually lists the price paid for "wheels and chassis" as $431.]

If you live in the desert, and know you won't need the rain cover, or if you hate the underseat storage bag and know you'll never use it, ordering parts a la carte can shave from $10-35 for each accessory left behind.

The real opportunity seems to be for folks who know they won't need the bassinet assembly. The Cameleon bassinet fabric, mattress, supports, and other pieces part out at $125 [The Gecko bassinet is available as a set for $90.] Skip a fleece seat cover here, a mosquito net there, and soon you're talking real money. Replicating our Cameleon as we actually use it, with no bag, covers, or seat fleece, would take about $725, $175 less than the original price.

The Gecko Gap is small, but real. A complete set of Gecko parts prices out at $664.75, a measly $14 less than the stroller. At $310, the Gecko chassis looks like it costs $10 more than the Cameleon's. [What, a regular Joe can't get a break against those Fat Cats, even in the high end stroller market?] But that price actually includes all four tires. Also, CSN uses a picture of the Cameleon chassis on the Gecko chassis page. Confused yet? Unfortunately, the easiest way to remember it is to forget it: no one buys the Gecko. [Which is too bad; I'm really liking its minimalist, functional aesthetic more and more these days.]

Is It Worth It?
The quick answer seemed to be, "Duhyeah," until I got the numbers fixed. I don't know--and so far, neither does the reader who just got it-- if it's a hassle not having something you turn out to need later.

The big question, though, is about warranty and service. How does Bugaboo treat a bunch of parts that just happens to have been assembled into a complete stroller? Are there other retailers, online or off, who do this? If anyone has some experience or perspective on this move, I'd be interested to hear it.

"Want to build your own Bugaboo Cameleon?" [csnbaby.com via anon]


I just checked csn baby and the frame does *not* include the wheels. They are optional and cost extra (big wheels are $30 a piece and the swivel wheels are $36 a piece). That's how I read it, at least.

[d'oh, you're right, and I was right the first time. the Cameleon doesn't include wheels, but the Gecko does. never mind. -ed]

I don't know that I'd risk not having the excellent customer service Bugaboo provides. They even sent me a free replacement cupholder after the prongs in the one I bought started snapping off one by one.

I would be thrilled if I could buy new seat fabric for our Frog. My husband said I was being nit-picky about it fading last year while it was still under warranty, but now that we're expecting another kid, I would kind of like to upgrade a bit and we're past the free replacement. Ugh.

Question... on CSN baby there is a part listed as Bugaboo Cameleon 12" Wheel for 29.95, and another with the same pic that says Bugaboo Inner Tire 12" Wheel for 5.54.
What is the difference, or do you need both?

[no, the inner wheel is a component of the complete wheel. same with the canopy ribs and the canopy complete. just double check the pieces included in the larger sets. -ed.]

I was wondering if the Gecko Chassis came with the seat/basinett frame? From the large picture it looks like it doesn't but the large picture is actually of the cameleon not the gecko. The smaller picture if you scroll does infact include the seat frame. Do you have any idea if it is included?

[uh, no, it doesn't. again, check the detailed list of included parts to see what you're buying -ed.]

Does anyone know, if building a Bugaboo Cameleon a la carte, which part the the 5 point harness comes with?

[it's pre-sewn into the seat fabric. -ed.]

I know this is an old post but I thought I'd add that when building a Bugaboo it's worth knowing US parts aren't interchangeable with European ones. Outside the US the harness is attached to the seat frame. Which I think is actually not as sensible, but there it is none the less.

The real savings for building a Bug are in 2nd hand parts on eBay and trading rooms, by using a 1 year old Chassis, seat frame, hood wires/clamps, grab bar & rear wheels - but new swivel wheels, seat fabric, toppings & basket. My denim Cameleon was $912 AUD; it retails for $1,700 here. A 1 year old one would fetch about $1,200; with worn fabrics & wheels which I don't have.

I also got $200 more for my Frog than the going rate by selling it as separate parts.

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