Why are Tamiya Model kits so expensive [Researched 2023]


If you’re an experienced builder, you know that Tamiya is one of the most popular manufacturers of plastic model kits, owing to their long years in the model building industry and their wide selection of old and new-tooled kits. 

Yet, the most perplexing thing about Tamiya models is that they are expensive. For one, Tamiya kits have a plastic frame, meaning their cost should not be so high since plastic materials are cheap and accessible. 

We did some research and found some likely reasons why Tamiya kits are so expensive.

So what exactly makes Tamiya models so expensive

The simple answer is the nature of their kit. 

Tamiya tanks are very high-quality with many small details reproduced with a great deal of attention paid to accuracy. 

I’d think it’s because they spent so much researching the originals so that the scale models with the mold take a realistic appearance to the original pieces that their kit has such perfect accuracy. 

Besides this, five things affect the price of Tamiya model kits: attention to detail, little to no fitment issues, ease of build, demand, and quality. 

  1. Perfect Fitment

I have yet to build a Tamiya kit with significant fit issues (that I didn’t cause myself).

While newly tooled kits like Airfix’s 1/72 Mosquito B.XVI and the 1/72 Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR. 1 have far supreme build, unlike these kits, Tamiya models have finely detailed molds to ensure perfect fit and accuracy, giving them an edge over most plastic kit brands

  1. Easy to Assemble

Most plastic kit manufacturers tend to show off by making large parts count or focus so much on detail that the whole kit becomes over-engineered and a slog to build.

However, many builders today favor kits with parts that don’t just fit well but also make assembly easy. This is where Tamiya comes in.

Tamiya puts a lot of effort into precise engineering and manufacturing molds so the low parts count of Tamiya kits makes their models easy to assemble but highly-priced. 

  1. Good Quality

If you’ve assembled more than two 1:35 tanks from Tamiya, you know how really strong they are at providing consistent kit quality. 

Tamiya’s M10 Wolverine and M40 Howitzer tanks have flawless engineering and sculptured fine details that set the benchmark for war tank kits from other manufacturers. 

  1. Attention to Detail

More than this, manufacturers don’t like losing dollars to after-market part makers, so they include so many pieces in the kits, which jacks up the price.

While this applies to Tamiya to an extent, the difference is that Tamiya only makes adequate parts to painstakingly replicates detail some plastic model kit manufacturers ignore. 

  1. High in Demand

Tamiya has made a name as a brand that sells precision kits so that their models don’t always suffer from flaws. Now, that’s quality on a different dimension. 

In today’s world driven by the need for convenience, precision kits would always sell out and since people are always willing to pay a premium for quality; it’s no wonder Tamiya kits are expensive.

Why are Tamiya kits more expensive than other brands

Tamiya makes plastic models. 

Hence, like every other plastic model kit brand, Tamiya models have a plastic shell designed by injecting liquid styrene plastic into two halves of a metal plate and pressing them together.

Are Tamiya Models more expensive than other brands?

While Tamiya models may cost a fortune, they aren’t the most expensive brand in the market. 

For instance, Tamiya’s German tank cost $35.75 and there’s also the more expensive kit like the Tamiya Spitfire Mk.VIII priced at $104.95 and there’s also the more expensive kit like the Grasshopper model that cost between 475.95 and $100.50. Yet, brands like Dragon, Eduard, and Trumpeter also sell expensive kits.

A Dragon 1/35 scale Sd.Kfz.3 Maultier Ambulance cost $72.59, while the Thunderbirds TBI Launcher is priced at $140.75.

Tamiya is a high-end brand

It can be annoying to pay a high sum for cheap stuff. But, the best part of buying Tamiya kits is that they only make quality stuff worth the money. 

With Tamiya models, you get more detail, and parts that fit perfectly and won’t require sanding before painting. 

Their 1:35 scale armored tanks like the German Hanomag kit and 1:32 scale aircraft models, such as the Spitfire MK. VIII is possibly Tamiya’s best model in the market.

Tamiya designs their aircraft kits complete with decals, moveable parts, a detailed cockpit, and interchangeable elliptical and extended wingtips most manufacturers don’t include in their kit.

Tamiya Models Are of higher quality than other brands

Attention to detail and demand are good reasons why Tamiya models are expensive, but the most significant reason is that their models are of higher quality than other brands. 

I’ve built the de Havilland Mosquito and the Il-2 from Tamiya, and while they were more than 40$ each, they are highly detailed, fit perfectly on the first assembly, and their shells are tough, unlike most expensive brands offering fewer advantages.

The Effects of COVID-19 on the price and production of Tamiya Models

During the lockdown in 2020, the factory in the Philippines, which produces most of Tamiya Models, was forced to shut down and this resulted in Tamiya losing many weeks of production.

To salvage the situation, Tamiya decided to move production to Japan and then moved it back to the Philippines later that year.

These factors set Tamiya months behind the production and led to an increase in the price of the available model kits.

Is model-making expensive

Attention to detail and demand are good reasons why Tamiya models are expensive, but the most significant reason is that their models are of higher quality than other brands. 

I’ve built the de Havilland Mosquito and the Il-2 from Tamiya, and while they were more than 40$ each, they are highly detailed, fit perfectly on the first assembly, and their shells are tough, unlike most expensive brands offering fewer advantages.

Your Extra Read:

Why are Tamiya RC CARS More expensive than other RC cars

Why are Tamiya Ready To Run Models more expensive than other brands

Tamiya RTR models are perfect for people who prefer to plug and run, it does not require assembling like the kit model. The quality of the RTR models is worlds apart from other brand equivalents and similar knock-off versions.

What are Tamiya shells made out of

Some Tamiya shells are molded from ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) plastic while others are molded from Polycarbonate (Lexan). ABS plastic is an opaque thermoplastic polymer while Polycarbonate is a naturally transparent thermoplastic polymer. Polycarbonate shells are lighter and more impact resistant than ABS shells but an ABS shell is cheaper to manufacture.

Polycarbonate shells are painted from the inside and cannot be painted with regular automotive paint because the paint won’t stick. Tamiya “PC” paints and Tamiya “PS” aerosols are paints that can be used on polycarbonate shells. 

ABS shells are nonporous and slick and are therefore not ideal for paint adhesion. Without proper surface conditioning/prepping, the paint will peel shortly after application. A Tamiya ABS shell can be prepped by abrading it with sandpaper to promote adhesion. The paint selected for painting an ABS hard body has to be specifically for ABS plastic. Tamiya paints for ABS shells include; 

  • Tamiya “TS” spray paint which is used for painting large surfaces. It hardens quickly and is not affected by acrylic or enamel paint.
  • Tamiya bottled paint is used for painting finishing details like the door handles. The Tamiya “X” bottled paint is used for a glossy finish while the Tamiya “XF” bottled paint is used for a flat finish.

ABS shells offer extremely realistic look with a level of accuracy that is unmatched when compared to polycarbonate shells which is why most manufacturers today have switched to producing bodies molded from ABS plastic instead of polycarbonate.

Tamiya shell replicas can range from $30-$50 with some costing as high as $150-$200 depending on the model. 

The manufacturing cost of an ABS shell is about $1.15-$1.25 per pound, while the manufacturing cost of a Polycarbonate shell is around $1.60 – $1.90 per pound.

How RC shells are made

Tamiya’s electronics are expensive

Tamiya Electronics like the Tamiya speed controllers, RC motors, and AM receivers are used to enhance the user experience and make RC vehicles even more lifelike.



It’s been over seventy years and Tamiya products are still thriving with frequent new releases and modern reissues of classic models. Even with the increase in prices, the demand for Tamiya products is still very high and it remains one of the most recognized brand names in the industry.

So if you’re in the market for a model kit, you’ll find many brands, some cheap and others expensive. Tamiya is one of those expensive brands.

Then again, the best bet Tamiya offers is that you get the worth of your money with their focus on details, perfect fit, easy assembly, and high-quality parts.