One of the cheapest tool sellers in the U.S. is Harbor Freight Tools. Their stock is almost 100% imported, most of it from China and most tools sell for about half what similar ones do in hardware stores. I’ve been a customer of the store for years and there are some advantages and disadvantages of buying tools there.
If you are a professional contractor, and want tools that will last a lifetime, this probably isn’t the place for you. If on the on other hand you just want tools that will last for a couple of jobs, then the quality of Harbor Freight Tools should be fine for you.
Quality Issues With Harbor Freight Tools and What Tools To Avoid At Harbor Freight
You’ll notice little things with many of the parts you get from Harbor Freight, such as air hose connectors that may not be machined as precisely and more expensive ones, and which leak a small amount of air, or bristles that come out of cheap paint brushes when using them.
The quality of Chicago Electric tools is decent, along the lines some store brands, but often you may find that things such as the switch on a drill will act up, or batteries on cordless drills won’t last as long as major name brands. Harbor Freight has done a good job of coming up with names for Chinese made tools that sound like they could be made in the U.S. Names such as Pittsburg, Chicago Electric, Central Forge and Central Pneumatic almost sound like major brand names. The quality of Central Pneumatic air compressors is decent and prices are hard to beat. I’ve got a 25 gallon upright air compressor from Harbor Freight that has been working fine for over two years. I’ve used it on jobsites, hauled it around in the back of the truck, and it still works.
Things like tape measures and hammers from Harbor Freight won’t last near as long as brand names like Stanley and Craftsman. Avoid buying Harbor Freight hammers with wooden handles, since they often break, like the one below. Also avoid wire brushes, since the metal bristles may come out.
Having been warned that “you get what you pay for”, I’ve been pretty satisfied with the bargains I have found and the quality of Harbor Freight tools in general. When you consider that on new home construction sites a lot of little tools like hammers will go missing before the end of the job, it might be a good idea to buy cheaper ones.
(Note that these are my personal opinions about the quality of Harbor Freight Tools such as Chicago Electric, and are not those of TheInfoMine or any other party.)