Harbor Freight: Worth It Or Not?

Are all of those cheap tool deals with your money or not?

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Matt Anderson's Take
If you're not familiar with Harbor Freight Tools allow me to explain what they are and what they do. Quite simply, they're a chain of stores specializing in the sale of tools. They offer a massive variety of tools that ranges from simple hand tools like screwdrivers and wrenches to specialized power tools like miter saws, jackhammers, and even cement mixers.

They operate a large number of stores throughout the United States as well as the HarborFreight.com website where you can buy all of their items online.

What's So Special About Harbor Freight?


The magical recipe that Harbor Freight uses is pretty simple, offer a huge variety of tools at an impossibly low price. They offer many brands of tools using very American sounding names like Chicago Electric, Central Pneumatic, Predator, Bunker Hill Security, and Badland to name a few.

Generally, these "brands" that they sell are simply sub-brands of Harbor Freight. In most cases, the items are only sold through Harbor Freight directly (which can cause problems as I'll explain later). In other cases, the products may simply be "white label" versions of products you'll find on bulk, discount "Made in China" type websites.

Making China Great Again


The big draw for tool buyers is that you can get some insane deals at Harbor Freight. They also offer coupons all the time for dollars off, percentages off, free shipping, or buy this and get that free offers. The reason they can do all this is because they're tools are made in China.

We live in a world where everything seems to be made in China so how is this different? It usually comes down to quality. Lower the quality of your item, have it made in China, and you can sell it at a very low price.

I don't think the lack of quality in Harbor Freight products is any secret. I don't think people walk in and assume a $50 cordless drill is just as good as a $300 drill from a name brand like Dewalt or Milwaukee. In fact, there is a time and place for cheap tools but you have to know what you're getting into from the start if you're buying cheap tools.

So Is Harbor Freight A Good Buy?


For most tools, I personally prefer to avoid Harbor Freight. I have purchased a large amount of items from them over the years but have recently stopped. Some good buys include a cement mixer and disposable items like gloves, tarps, polishing pads, and so on. None of these were great, but for the price and the job they worked.

Then I found a problem. Other tools I purchased from them started to break. Drills literally broke while rechargeable batteries would stop holding a charge in a fraction of the time of name brand rechargeable tools.


Then I purchased an 8" Bench Grinder / Buffer from Amazon. It was listed as the Central Machinery brand and the Amazon listing seemed to confirm it was from Harbor Freight Tools. I ordered and it arrived days later.

It was new in a sealed box and supposed to come with 2 nuts and 2 spacers to make it work but instead came with 4 nuts and 0 spacers. Rather than return this to Amazon (because that would be a waste of shipping for Amazon and the seller) I contacted Harbor Freight customer support and asked them to mail me 2 spacers. Simple, right?

I will past their reply below...

Unfortunately, since you bought the item on amazon there is no warranty on the product. Harbor Freight does not sell any of our items on either e-bay or amazon therefore we don't provide any types of warranty. Resellers buy our product either at discount stores, garages sales, or their own personal items and sell them. This is the problem when dealing with resellers with no warranty.

...this didn't make any sense. Over several more emails I explained that I bought this item new and thought I was buying directly from Harbor Freight because of how the Amazon listing looked.

They explained that they don't sell on Amazon and refused to help me. I further explained that if I bought this on their website that they would support it, which would mean sending me the missing parts but nothing worked.

They refused to help a long time customer and all they had to do was pop 2 small spacers in the mail to me. Even if they had to open a box in their inventory to do this, it would have been the right choice to help a long time customer who did nothing wrong but buy their product.

So now I'm done with Harbor Freight for good and will never, ever buying their products again. I did return the buffer to Amazon (at no cost to me) and bought another brand of buffer which also happened to be $10 cheaper and works fine.

Conclusion


I finally realized that putting up with low quality tools to save a few dollars now just creates hassles down the road that cost more money in the long run. But the deal breaker was really how this company treated me as their customer. If you aren't going to help a customer when you're the one at fault, you don't deserve to be in business.

Have your own good or bad experiences with Harbor Freight Tools? Feel free to leave a review of them with your story / comments.
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