Do You Use Harbor Freight Tools?

I've found Harbor Freight Tools one of the most polarizing stores, with some industry techs swearing by their stuff, and others writing it off as total junk. I'll give my own experiences below.

For those unfamiliar, Harbor Freight is known for selling hand tools, power tools, and supplies at rock bottom prices, like $30 for a cordless drill set instead of $150, from no name manufacturers. ...Unless you consider "Chicago Electric" to be a brand name.

So, what's your experience? Do you use anything from Harbor Freight? Do they have hidden gems or just plain junk?

(Hat tip to John Scanlan for the discussion idea.)

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I've had really mixed results with Harbor Freight.

I had two bad experiences with cordless drills, as in they just stopped working within a month, so I gave up on their battery powered stuff, even as a backup. I have a knockoff Dremel that's worked fine for years, though.

Their hand tools are passable, but they're rock bottom quality, not really concerned with ergonomics or comfort. If you're going to be using something everyday, like a pair of cutters or a screwdriver, I think there are better options. But for occasional use, they seem to work fine.

Also, for supplies like moving blankets and tarps, they're a pretty good deal for decent quality.

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If you need an oddball tool for a project, Harbor Freight cannot be beat. If you aren't sure how often you're going to use a tool, buy the Harbor Freight and use it till it breaks. By the time it does, you'll have a pretty good idea of what features you want. If it never breaks, either you don't use it enough to justify the expensive version or you got lucky with a cheap tool from Harbor Freight and don't need the expensive version.

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Heck yes I use them. I grew up with the old adage, "Buy the best tool you can afford. Don't skimp on your tools... " Blah blah. When have you ever had a tool break on you? For me it's never. So now I buy the cheapest tools I can find, and I've got always got some ready for use, including specialty tools. I picked up a sweet 90 deg. auto polisher / die grinder at HF, just because it was so cheap I couldn't say no. I'm sure that thing will still be turning long after I'm not.

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I recently bent a Harbor Freight prybar in half. And I'm not that strong.

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Wow. That was either a low-quality bar, or you are too modest... Save it to show your friends and tell them you are going to return it to Snap-On for a refund...

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Well, it was four dollars.

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When have you ever had a tool break on you? For me it's never. So now I buy the cheapest tools I can find...

You buy the cheapest tools and they never break.

Are you a... collector?

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Harbor Freight stuff is hit & miss for me. It's hard to ignore the savings and the warranties are generally counter exchanges 'no questions asked', but I've had angle grinders burn up, hammers break, and pretty lousy wrenches break before. In the middle of a job.

Especially on a job where deadlines are tight, it's not worth dubious quality throwing a schedule off.

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Their stuff is Absolute Rubbish!!! LOL! I will buy the odd, one time use tool every now and then, but not something I need to use every day. But like the man said, you buy the best tool you can afford, and sometimes that may be all you can afford.

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Disposable tools...all that recycled scrap metal from the US has to go somewhere...

Use their coupons, but don't expect to pass this down to your kids before it rusts away.

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I've never purchased anything significant such as power tools but have purchased hand tools with no issue. There are many technicians who I have worked with who prefer them due to the semi-disposable nature. Tools are frequently stolen or lost on jobsites. Theft is much less likely to occur when it is not a name brand and when it does occur it is much less likely to be a big hit.

As a person who is the polar opposite of a handyman I would likely purchase their power tools for personal use if needed.

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Bought a knock off Dremel from them, and it was horrible. Lasted 20 minutes. Bought a cheap angle grinder, and it's awesome. I use it in dangerously improper way to cut things it wasn't made to cut and in ways it wasn't made to work, and it keeps on going. Did you know that if you go after a seasoned chunk of oak long enough with a metal cut off blade, you can make the whole back yard smell like a cheery camp fire? Fun for the whole family! I've also been eyeing up a seriously cheap drill press. I need it for one project, which will only take about 20 minutes, and am going to be drilling into a polymer, so I can't really justify dropping a big pile of cash.

That being said, I'm not betting my livelihood here, I'm just botching projects in the garage.

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Did you know that if you go after a seasoned chunk of oak long enough with a metal cut off blade, you can make the whole back yard smell like a cheery camp fire?

I would have thought you would have used your arc welder ;)

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I've actually been considering a drill press from there, too. It's not something I'd use frequently, but it would make life so much easier when I do need it. Same with compressors

I've discovered that if you search for "harbor freight <insert tool and/or item number here> review" on YouTube you will find a review of pretty much anything you'd consider. Power tools at least.

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I have a few Harbor Freight tools, a set of T-handle Allen wrenches, some 50' long 3/8" rubber hoses and air fittings, a small tarp I got for free and use indoors. Nothing electrical, except their 9-LED flashlights. Those are conveniently small and work very well. Most of them I have gotten for free with a coupon.

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I have a few HF tools, and they're ok. However, my best purchase there was a wagon with oversize tires that I bought for my kids. It lasted well past the time they could fit in it, and I sold it at a garage sale for about what I paid for it.

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For that odd ball tool you may never use. They are perfect. For something to just get the job done and possibly get destroyed. They are perfect. I really don't trust their power tools. I always have the feeling that they will explode and take my eye out because they feel like the bearings are bad out of the box. For their basic hand tools, with the exception of precision tools/cutters, they are more than adequate and will usually serve you well. As with anything, you can usually judge the worth of the item when it is in your hands.

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How come when the discussion is about cheap cameras and where they come from, everyone is up in arms that "buying/using cheap cameras is terrible", "we need to support domestic manufacturers", "so&so manufacturer is ripping off someone else's design". But in this discussion it seems ok to buy and support the cheapest tools available! And buying "knock-off" Dremels??? Is it me or does this seem ironic??

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When my role is that of end-user, I buy mainly upon value. Figuring out what is the best value is hard enough, without investigating whether the rechargable power drills are violating any patents or trademarks, or whether the company is just a tool of a communist state.

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If it's something I use infrequently then I'll pick it up from Harbor Freight. If it's something I'm going to use a lot then I do some research and buy a high quality item. I don't trust the durability of HF tools if it's going to get beat on. I have a HF compound miter saw that I love and works great for my infrequent wood working projects. If I was a contractor and used it everyday I would buy a nice DeWalt or something.

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I've had good results overall with HF, but I'm very selective. I avoid 99% of their power tools, but have had great results from an orbital (not RO) buffer. My father has a drill press and spindle sander from HF that are both solid.

Their purple HVLP spray gun for autobody work is great for the price, when it's on sale. Most of the hand tools seem to be decent, I have a number of impact sockets, ratchets, and some other odds-n-ends that seem high quality.

I bent my HF farm jack, but to it's credit I think I pushed it way past rated capacity. It didn't fail, just bent, overall was impressed for the money.

I've had my eye on the HF plasma cutter for a while, it seems like a good machine for light work.

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I buy some stuff at Harbor Freight, mainly stuff I consider disposable like screwdriver and nut driver bits. I also buy their heavy duty rubber gloves for automotive work, those things are fantastic! I did once buy a 50 foot fish stick there for 6 dollars and still use it to this day. It breaks down into 2.5 foot sections and it very handy!

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I spoke with an integrator tech whose service van (it was a Ford) has prominent USA images and they are experts on NDAA issues. Their corporate colors are red, white, and blue, and their executives all have US Military service, which they market.

I noticed the tech's van is filled with Harbor Freight brands power and hand tools, and I asked this tech if that runs counter to the company branding as pro-US. He didn't think so, but he admitted he just buys the cheapest stuff so it isn't a problem when it breaks or is stolen.

This thread came to my mind.

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You're spot on- I always get sad when I am behind someone with a Veteran, Purple Heart, or other such license plate (In this State the DMV issues some specialty plates with these themes) on their Toyota or Hyundai. If they recognize the irony of fighting a war in a foreign land to maintain freedom and then giving their money to the home office in Tokyo or Seoul they don't show it. Our individual actions don't seem to add up to much but if every American made an effort to make purchasing decisions that benefit us as a collective population overall it would make a very significant difference. Harbor Freight is a dumping ground for shameless Chinese knock offs of brands that have a reputation to loose- I.E., a hammer with a yellow handle that looks virtually identical to the one we (at least this we) have known for years by those colors and design. One day when it's too late Americans will come to the realization that the ship has sailed and our relentless pursuit of cheeeeepness turned out to have irreversible global consequences.

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I realized that I commented on this about 6 years ago. My general attitude has not changed, but I have purchased some stuff since then. I generally avoid them except ...

1) Something that I'm going to use rarely (like once a year or less)

AND

2) It has a very little chance of breaking

Some examples

- a 48" metal ruler (it's a great straight edge)

- a furniture dolly (I bought 2)

and one other - I bought a $20 detail sander for my daughter for a project she was working on. It worked great for her needs.

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I saw this discussion, and I came in here to tell the story of the time I bent a Harbor Freight prybar right in half, only to find that it's an old discussion and I already told this story. Shame on you for giving me hope, Rhodes.

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Congratulations, you are now one of those old guys who tells the same stories over and over. Have you considered buying a rocking chair?

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IPVM Image

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I used to buy HF hand tools, security bits, cheap multimeters, extension cords, and other misc stuff to leave at customer sites so I didn't have to carry my tool bag on the NYC subways. My backpack was heavy enough.

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I got a bench grinder for Christmas once that I could stop the grinding disk with my bare hand. Their step bits are good especially for what you pay for them compared to others.

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