I read as many of the RepRap Wiki pages http://reprap.org/wiki/Main_Page as I could, browsed the RepRap Forums http://forums.reprap.org/ , did a whole bunch of Googling, and decided on a plan of action. (Feel free to tell me here how wrong I got it!)
First step was to try to find the cheapest, simplest overall option - the Mendel Prusa http://reprap.org/wiki/Prusa seemed to be the logical choice. But how to source all of the parts -
would I go for a full all-in-one kit, or source the parts from a range of suppliers. Where to buy - eBay, links in RepRap Forum posts, track down RepRappers in my neighbourhood, or what? The whole ethos of RepRap seems to be about encouraging "do-it-yourself", so I decided to go for a range of suppliers, but I needed the RP parts, and I don't know any local RP owners, and I figured I needed to make sure that the main "hardware" components were "spot on", so my first big decision was to go for a kit of RP parts and basic hardware (the "Vitamins"), and then source everything else as best I could. I hunted around a bit, and eventually decided to buy a Metric Prusa kit from an eBayer in the USA by the name of "elderfarrer2hy7" (if you are interested, you should be able to find him on eBay; I haven't linked to the original listing because it will probably "evaporate" eventually) - kit price was US$164.95 (+ US$58.50 P&P to Australia), for a kit containing "all the Printed Parts for your Prusa, Plus all the Nuts, Washers, Bolts, Belts, Springs, Bearings, Bushings and 5mm Clear Acrylic Sheets (Still has protective blue film on). Plus all the Printer Parts for a Wades Extruder and the Bearings, Washers, Nuts, Springs and Bolt (Not yet Hobbed)."
The price was good, even if the P&P cost to Australia was a bit dear - but by this time, I was too keen to skimp on the P&P cost and maybe wait weeks to get the bits in my hot little hands!
About two weeks after I ordered, it arrived in the post. Great! I unboxed and checked everything - all seemed to be in order: