Think Twice Before Buying These Things at Harbor Freight

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Jonathan Weiss)

We’ve talked about our love of Harbor Freight before — the discount hardware store known for its affordable prices — and all the ways it comes in handy. If you missed the list of favorite picks, read about all the things you should stock up on while you’re there. For the most part, our readers agree: stuff like tarps, storage bins, and cheap paintbrushes aren’t worth paying more for elsewhere. But there were certain items that some shoppers fervently suggest you avoid.

After reading the comments on our own post, we got curious, did a little digging and found some robust online discussion about what’s worth buying at Harbor Freight. We went through all the last post’s comments, and also dove deep into Reddit, to pull out some items that people should think twice about, and do some research on, before buying. We also reached out to Harbor Freight, who had this to say about their products (their full response can be found at the end of the post):

Whenever we receive a report that a product doesn’t perform as expected, we investigate. One of our core values as a company is continuous improvement, and we’re passionate about improving the quality of our tools and accessories.

Here are some of the recurring themes:

Battery-related items came up a number of times. someguy64 took exception to our battery pick, and several folks, including fattybear, chimed in about their tenders and chargers:

The batteries are garbage. They don’t last long and I’ve had many of them start leaking acid after just a few months, wrecking the device. but that’s the only thing that I’ve had issues with from there.

You’re right about the battery tenders and chargers, they don’t work at all. Even a store employee told me almost every one they sell gets returned.

After reading our post, Chris35745 had these strong words about their angle grinders:

I have either bought and used or own just about every item in this list. One thing I strongly disagree with is their grinder. DO NOT EVER buy one. I had one for several years. It was only used a handful of times in that time span. One day I used it and it worked fine, the very next time I picked it up and tried to use it, it was completely dead. Pressed the button and….nothing, nada, zip. Tossed it in the trash and bought a brand name one from HD.

Commenter Valleycapfan extends the warning to include anything they sell that has a motor:

Be VERY cautious about anything that uses any kind of motor, as quality control for those items is questionable. Some years back I bought an off-brand mitre saw from HF only to have the motor immediately get stuck in the “on” position and begin to smoke, forcing me to quickly pull the plug in order to turn it off. Very dangerous and disconcerting. Other such items aren’t much better.

They bring up a good point. If you are worried about the quality of the item you’re thinking about buying, and safety is at all a concern, it probably makes sense to buy it elsewhere, something Redditors seem to agree with. These two comments from this post sum up the point nicely:

The general rule is “If it has the ability to kill you when it fails, do not buy from Harbor Freight.”

Things I would not buy at Harbor Freight: Parachutes… 🙂

I will leave you with this Redditor _Skylake_‘s thoughts, which is a nice way to think about what to buy, and what not to buy, at Harbor Freight. It comes from the same post:

There’s an art to having Harbor Freight tools.

For home use, everyone should consider them. Buy all your tools from harbor freight and replace the tools that break with higher end tools. 95% of the tools in my garage are from Harbor Freight.

For professional use, one should be wise with their selection. I get paid very good to have a toolbox at my work, so I want good tools. About 5% of my tools at work are Harbor Freight…

Here’s Harbor Freight’s full response.

With 44 million customers nationwide and more than 4,100 tools and accessories, we receive a lot of customer feedback on how well we’re achieving our goal of providing quality tools at the lowest prices. We take all feedback seriously, especially when the quality of a product fails to meet a customer’s expectations. In recent years, we have invested millions of dollars in our quality assurance labs and state-of-the-art equipment so we can test our products to make sure they perform and last. Whenever we receive a report that a product doesn’t perform as expected, we investigate. One of our core values as a company is continuous improvement, and we’re passionate about improving the quality of our tools and accessories.

We often say that we provide our customers with the right tool for the right job at the right price. Sometimes our customer needs a low-priced drill that they’ll use only infrequently. We sell that tool. And sometimes, they need an affordable drill for a construction jobsite—a drill that has to perform day after day under punishing conditions. We sell that tool, also. Our goal is to provide compelling value by delivering a tool that offers a level of quality that meets or exceeds the customer’s expectations at a price that is low enough to beat their expectations.

All of our hand tools come with a lifetime warranty, and we offer a reasonably priced bumper-to-bumper, no-questions-asked two-year warranty for our power tools.

What’s your experience with Harbor Freight? Is there anything you’d add to this list?