If you’re a homeowner you are constantly buying tools and supplies to make repairs and fix things that break. We’re all looking for the best tools and supplies at the right price so I thought I’d give you my thoughts on how and where you can snag some deals and not get burned buying the wrong things.
My two favorite stores for home improvement have some distinct differences so I figured why not pit them against each other in a Harbor Freight vs Home Depot match up to see where you should be buying what items and where you can get some serious savings. Granted Harbor Freight is really a tool only store so you won’t find the variety of items you need for your project there, but every project requires the right tools and they certainly have some of those.
For those of you that aren’t familiar with it, Harbor Freight is a discount tool seller that has some ridiculously cheap tools. Some of which are a waste of money, but some are great and well worth the price and then some. You just have to know how to cull through the items that are a waste of time and money. That’s what this post is about.
I’ll show you what to buy at Harbor Freight and compare some prices here in early 2020 between these two stores so you can see what the savings really are. Consider me your personal shopper today so you don’t have to do the price comparisons and quality comparisons. I’ve been playing this game with both of these companies for over 10 years as a contractor who is on a tight budget.
Harbor Freight vs Home Depot
The main thing you need to think about when buying tools and tool supplies is what you will be using them for and for how long. Are you looking for an heirloom block plane? If you are then neither of these stores is where you should be looking. Lie-Nielsen is more your speed for things like that. Neither Harbor Freight nor Home Depot will provide you with heirloom quality tools, but they both will provide you with the tools to get most jobs done.
I use Harbor Freight as my proving ground for a new tool in my arsenal. For example, when I looked into buying a needle scaler for restoring steel windows I saw that I could purchase a nice one for about $58 or I could try out a Harbor Freight model for $29.99. I wasn’t sure if it would be a tool that would get the job done so I decided to spend half as much money on what I assumed to be an inferior tool to try it out.
If it didn’t work out then I’m not out much. But if it really got the job done then maybe my next needle scaler would be an upgraded model from Home Depot that should only improve my production. I used the cheaper tool as a low-risk trial.
Another way to utilize Harbor Freight’s super low prices are in basic goods like gloves, brooms, moving blankets, or chip brushes. I don’t think you can really screw up a moving blanket can you? Sure, there are premium moving blankets but I really just need something to protect the floor or my windows from damage so I don’t care if they are triple pleated to feel like angel kisses.
When you need a utilitarian item that is not reliant on precision engineering Harbor Freight is almost always the answer unless you like spending more money. I’m going to go through some specific items below that should help you make the right decisions as well a great video to show how I do it! So, let’s get into it.
Harbor Freight Wins
These are the items that Harbor Freight wins on almost every time, and it’s not a small margin, most of these items are around half the cost of a similar item at Home Depot.
- Nitrile Gloves – $7.99 at Harbor Freight compared to $14.98 at Home Depot
- Screwdrivers – $11.99 at Harbor Freight compared to $29.97 at Home Depot
- Tarps – $7.99 for a 9×11 at Harbor Freight compared to $24.97 at Home Depot for a 10×12
- MultiTool – $29.99 at Harbor Freight compared to $29.97 at Home Depot
- Needle Scaler – $29.99 at Harbor Freight compared to $57.85 at Home Depot
- Moving Blanket – $7.99 at Harbor Freight compared to $17.98 at Home Depot
- Chip Brushes – $12.99 for 36 qty at Harbor Freight compared to $12.80 for 24 qty at Home Depot
Home Depot Wins
Home Depot still crushes it with these items hands down. Buy the Harbor Freight version at your own risk. This is not about the price, these items are precisions tools and buying a bargain version isn’t worth the risk. Home Depot has a lot of brands to choose from but their prices are significantly higher than Harbor Freight on these items as they should be due to the higher quality in my opinion.
- Battery Powered Tools – Much more power and longer life
- Pneumatic Nailers – More precise and less jams
- Levels & Squares – You can trust these to be square and give dead on accurate readings
- Saws & Blades – Precise cutting needs precise saws and blades
- Welding Equipment – Welding is no joke and though I haven’t tried them I simply don’t trust Harbor Freight’s brands for this activity
- Paint Brushes – For a quality paint job you need a quality brush
What else am I missing? How do you shop these two stores and what deals are your favorite? Tell me what you think in the comments below. If you’re looking for restoration specific tools you’ll want to swing by The Craftsman Store for those special tools and supplies you won’t find at either of these stores.
Founder & Senior Editor
I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.