I love tools! When I see a tool that I don’t have, my mind tries to create some need for it.
And I already have a ton of tools. There is no way around it in this business. But from experience, I have learned when to splurge and when to go bargain shopping for a massive discount.
For example, do you know where you can get free hand tools? (I’ll tell you more about this in a bit).
Sometimes you need to plunk down hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a specific tool, but often there is a used or bargain version that will do the job almost exactly the same, but cost 70%-90% less. In this post, I’ll show you where to go and what to buy to get the maximum tools at minimum cost!
Get Power Tools on Craigslist
It’s local, there are no shipping costs and no sales tax. Plus everything is negotiable. If you’re a good negotiator Craigslist should be your go to place for huge discounts on tools (especially power tools).
Like-New Tools – Look for tools that have barely been used. Tools where the owner bought it for a particular project and then didn’t need it anymore. You can usually get a 20%-30% discount on these like-new tools.
Industrial Tools – Industrial power tools are crazy expensive. A lot of small businesses that are closing up shop will sell off their machinery at a HUGE discount. I’m talking 70% or more off! If you can be patient and wait for the right sale you can usually outfit an entire workshop in one stop.
Try Harbor Freight
If you haven’t heard of Harbor Freight Tools it’s time you did. Their slogan is “Quality tools at ridiculously low prices.” The quality tool part is a bit questionable in my mind, but the ridiculously low prices statement is spot on.
You won’t find heirloom quality tools. I affectionately refer to these as my “disposable” tools. I’ve bought some lemons here, but some have been absolutely amazing and they are all hugely discounted.
For example, I have owned two Multi-Tools. The first is a Makita which cost $159 and the other is a Chicago Electric (Harbor Freight’s brand) which cost $9.99. The Makita is a little quieter and transfers less vibration through the handle, but they are both just as effective.
The Chicago Electric died after about 3 years and the Makita is still going strong, but at 16 times the cost of the bargain brand it will have to work for 51 years to make up the cost! Not exactly worth it.
Buy these tools for one-off jobs that you won’t need on a daily basis. I’ll also buy some of these cheap tools to test out how a particular tool works for a job before sinking money into the fancy brands.
I created a video to show you how I use Harbor Freight and Home Depot in my tool purchases and how to find their best deals.
A lot of times the selection on Craigslist is limited because it’s only local folks, but Ebay has items all over the world for sale. Sure you will have to pay some shipping and the auction setup causes prices to get out of control sometimes, but you can still find many a deal on tools here.
I use Ebay for hard to find and vintage heirloom quality tools. I’ve bought several glazing point drivers on Ebay for $15 when the new ones run about $170.
The hard to find stuff is here. You just have to look around and be patient for the right tool at the right price.
Get Free Tools
Who doesn’t love free stuff? Well, Harbor Freight also has an ad flyer that has a free tool available every month. You can use as many of the coupons as you want too.
Join the Inside Track Club and you get even bigger discounts and more free tools. Tape measures, screwdrivers, hammers, etc. Basic hand tools are usually the free stuff, but a free tool is a free tool and if you are just getting started this is a great place to stock up or find Christmas gifts.
I’ve gotten a least a dozen tape measures and screw drivers to outfit my shop this way!
I don’t get any commissions from Harbor Freight, in case you were wondering. I just use them and love saving the cash.
When to NOT Buy Used
In certain situations you don’t want to buy used tools because they can be more trouble than they’re worth. Here are a few times when buying a used or discount tool is a bad idea.
Batteries – Batteries and battery powered tools are rarely a good idea to buy used. Batteries have a limited life and they generally become less reliable as the years progress. Lightly used ones might work well, but anything over 6-months old is generally a bad idea.
Repaired or Rewired – Think like buying a used car. If there has been a major wreck or it’s a salvage title, you probably want to keep looking. The same is true of power tools. If they have been extensively repaired or rewired you can’t always trust that the work was done properly. Stay away.
Levels and Squares – If I’m buying something that has to be dead on square or perfectly level I never trust used or discount tools. I want something that is guaranteed to be perfectly square and true and level. Your eye won’t be able to tell if something is off, but when your projects come out misaligned you’ll sure notice then.
The right tool for the right job. Don’t be so quick to say you can’t afford another tool. The question isn’t, “Can you afford it?” The question is, “Why haven’t you gotten it yet?”
If you’re looking for a specific tool for working on an old home, you can also check out my Old House Store. Just about everything we use in my restoration company is available there.
Also, if you know of a great place to find a steal on tools post it in the comments below!
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.