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post-hfhead.jpgWe just received the latest circular from Harbor Freight, and (as usual) it’s a hoot.

We generally look for three things in these mailers: the loss leader (the item that’s way underpriced — even in Harbor Freight terms — that’ll be gone in the first 10 seconds after the mailer hits), the interesting deals (tools you might buy just to use-and-abuse or tools so cheap you could take them apart for parts), and the what-the-hell-is-this-doing-in-a-tool-flyer tools. 

Read on for some great entertainment courtesy of HF.

The Loss Leader




This time it’s a Chicago Electric Power Tools corded reciprocating saw for $16.99.  This normally-cheap-anyway-at-$40 tool is priced so low that a 28-piece cheap-ass blade set costs more.  Note the prominent “limited quantities” tag.

It’s fascinating at how these Chinese tool manufacturers/importers always choose such midwest-like names for their products.  “Chicago” electric.  Makes you feel all down home like, doesn’t it.

The Interesting Deals




They’ve got their Drill Master 115-piece drill bit set on sale for $40.  Yeah, we know, they’re junk.  But think about it: You can buy four to eight of them for the price of a since decent set.  This wouldn’t be a bad deal for a home shop where you’re not doing a lot of drilling — a way to finally have the right size bits for all your taps without breaking the bank.




72″ x 40″ cargo pads for $4 each are always a good deal.




We saw this Chicago Electric li-ion cordless screwdriver a while back and thought they were nuts selling it for $20, considering that you can have the awesome Black & Decker SmartDriver for $40.  But when they mark it down to $15, it’s starting to look like a better deal for someone with lots of screws to install and a thin wallet.  Don’t get us wrong: This is a cheap-o drill.  The casing looks rickety and the trigger’s uncomfortable, but hey — it’s $15. 

Hell, this might make a great little package to disassemble and use to power a small robot.

The What-The-Hell-Is-This-Doing-In-A-Tool-Flyer-Stuff

This stuff speaks for itself.

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In Case You Want to Buy This Stuff [Harbor Frieght]


17 Responses to Deals: Fun With Harbor Freight

  1. Dean says:

    I think the real fun begins when you order something from them. Then you get to play “Find The Order” and “Where’s My Stuff?” and “WTF” with the oh-so-helpful customer service reps at HF.

  2. Arnold says:

    While I’ve heard many horror stories regarding ordering online and through mail, if you have a store close by, I suggest taking a trek at least once a month to reap the deals. The employees are usually helpful. BTW, just picked up the cheap recip saw. Seems like it’ll perform just how I need it. Also if some of you are skeptical of these china imported tools, you may want to think again. I’ve had to repair my Craftsman/Dremel many times where I had to resolder these four points where the two main compartments meet. Essentially had to melt the plastic to get to the solder points. However my cheapo rotary tool, while fairly large in size compared to the Dremel, is a workhorse. And at a cheap price I’m not too concerened about it breaking on me.

  3. Rob says:

    I hate to admit it but I shop Harbor Freight. It’s simply too cheap to pass up sometimes. I just couldn’t bring myself to pay $300+ for a portable bandsaw so when the HF model was on sale for $70, I jumped on it and haven’t looked back. Maybe when it breaks I’ll get a big name one but so far this one has done pretty well on stainless, CRS and aluminum and is a long way better than my previous method, a hacksaw.

  4. Jeff says:

    I had the misfortune of using a Harbor Freight tile saw. I had borrowed it from a friend and he claimed that while the tool has pretty shoddy, it at least got the “job done”. My experience was that it did not get the job done. It did not so much cut the tile as assault it. It broke the tile about as often as did not. However, I still love looking at the catalog and going to their stores. I wish they still had the dental tools, imagine what your dentist would think next time you came in for a check-up…

  5. Big teebo says:

    I bought a brake caliper push-back set there for $40. BMW wanted the same thing for an insane $140. Maybe it’s both. HF sells things cheaply, while BMW would sell the same thing for 10 times more if they could.

  6. TL says:

    Harbor Freight is great as long as you don’t get carried away. Where else are you going to get an anvil at the same place that will sell you a garden gnome?

  7. Jason says:

    I attempted to buy that $20 cordless driver online (I wanted one with a clutch and I’m cheap). It’s backordered. I was in the local HF store the other week and they have plenty on the shelf. Of course if I cancel the order and go back to the store they’ll be fresh out.

  8. james b says:

    I own that drill bit set, and it isn’t -all- that bad. The bits are pretty hard and brittle, so they do OK in the drill press. I broke a couple of the smaller ones in the handheld drill. I’ve bored some 1/2″ holes in 2″ aluminum, and 1/4″ steel without trashing the bit, the work OK in the lathe for center drilling as well.

  9. Jim Nutt says:

    Harbor Freight is a great place to get tools you don’t want to worry about losing. When I lived in the Bay area, there was one just down the street from me… very dangerous! I’d buy tools from them to carry on the trail when out four wheeling, I wouldn’t worry about loaning them out, losing them or breaking them because I could easily replace them cheaply. And that way I could leave the good tools safely at home…

  10. Chuck Cage says:

    Jim: I totally agree. The reason I’m on their mailing list is that I make kits out of their tools to keep in the cars and to carry to the junkyard — for exactly the reason you mention. I’m not that concerned about someone pilfering them (or me misplacing them or even abusing them to get the job done).

    One thing I didn’t mention in the post originally is that when we were touring Unique Performance’s shop, they used HF air tools almost exclusively. They’re so cheap they can literally buy almost 10 for the price of a single Snap-on or MAC tool. Add in the fact that they’re “shop tools” as opposed to personal tools at Unique — which means they don’t always get maintained perfectly anyway — and you’ve got a great reason to shop HF.

    Still, you’ve gotta laugh at some of the crap that ends up in the flyer. Last time it was “ribbiting” frogs, this time it’s magic magnetic fuel savers and electronic Suduku games. C’m on! I don’t care who you are, that’s funny stuff.

  11. Jerome Sadler says:

    I like to have your mouthly flyer.

  12. I confess… I love Harbor Freight. They recently opened a location a couple of miles from my house (I live about 80 miles from their US headquarters, so this saves a LOT of driving), and it’s like having a crack house on your block… easy access to dangerous temptation.

    Some things I’ve bought there and been VERY happy with:

    – 2gal. air compressor, $45
    – Drywall texture sprayer, $12
    – That reciprocating saw, $19 (it’s lasted for four years now, and I only bought it ’cause I had a job I thought would ruin my Makita)
    – “Cutout” tool (generic Rotozip), $15 (I bought the original Rotozip for $85, and killed it in a month or two. I killed my first HF “cutout” tool, too, but at this price I didn’t cry over it.)
    – 18v cordless drill, $19
    – Various air-tool fittings, too numerous and cheap to list

    I’ve also bought crap there. Oops. Mostly electronic stuff where precision matters… don’t buy the $39 OBD II reader, for instance.

    If I had to sum up what they do well – what I’d be willing to buy there – it would be: durable, low-precision hand, electric and pneumatic tools. Tarps (best source in town.) Wheelbarrows. Tires, wheels, and castors. Pipe wrenches. Anvils and vises (although they insist on spelling it “vice”, which cracks me up.)

    They also sell a few national brands (Estwing hammers and WonderBar wrecking bars, for instance) at rock-bottom prices. Not very many; that’s not their primary function, but enough to be worth a look.

  13. david sillik says:

    A few blocks away id the HF main warehouse and offices. I buy there often. I am a professional handyman and own a ton of high quality toos…when i don’t need A-1 quality HF works for me. watch the ads, at one time or another most all of thier tools will be on sale for 1/2 price. I even purchased an 8′ trailer for $200, had to assemble but it has worked out very well, i have thousands of miles on it. I buy most my helper’s tools there, a lot of realy good stuff…a lot of junk as well, just watch what you buy…if you don’t like it take it back. If you go on line you can sign up for thier mailers and email promo’s…i often get coupons for $5 & $10 off $50 & $100 purchases…i think all that go there will find a good deal on a tool that works for them…good luck…david

  14. shawn says:

    I buy all those tools that I will probably only use one time from Harbor Freight. I also bought a big heavy floor jack from them as well. I didn’t need a 4000lb floor jack, as all I own are small cars closer to 2000lbs, but knowing Harbor Freight quality I bought big. I think it was about $40. The price was a lot less than a similarly sized jack from another store. I bought air hoses & the needed fittings from HF as well. They are cheap, & I’ve never had a problem with any of them yet. I bought quite a few air tools on sale that I couldn’t justify spending a lot of money on & they haven’t broke yet. I also bought the cheap torque wrench they sell, I took it to work & had it checked, & it was within 5% of the set value, which is pretty good considering the Snap-On torque wrenches are about 4%. My uncle has a band saw from HF that he has had for years, & it still works good & it has gone through a LOT of blades. Don’t buy blades from HF, they don’t stay sharp.

  15. glenn says:

    Harbor Freight has a few tools that have no equal anywhere that I know of. Their 301 piece tool kit in a case is the best, most complete truck tool kit I have ever seen anywhere.

    I have never seen a 1″ gas engine powered 1250 ft lb impact wrench anywhere else. It works great.

  16. RENO-vater says:

    I agree some of their stuff is junk, but I have a $19.00 sawzall knockoff that has lasted me years on both residential and commercial jobs (wood and metal.) I’ve cut out subfloor and sliced galvanized pipe frequently with no trouble. My favorite purchase, next to the always cheap sanding sponges, would have to be the tile saw I got from them. I think that I paid $150 (maybe less– It’s been with me a while.) Something comparable at Lowe’s was around 6 Bills. I did invest $70-$80 on a HotDog Blade-the best blade in my opinion- from another source . The saw seemed to be having motor problems after the 2nd job we did with it, but it turned out the belts that came on it were stretching and generally worthless. Less than $10 later, the saw was back in action. Since then, I have loved every minute of owning this tool. I think it has seen action on no less than 20 tile jobs ranging from thin, brittle el cheapo ceramics to heavy slate and super hard quality stuff. This tool paid for itself on the first job, and has made me thousands more through out the years. Still, it’s sad that all our tools and equipment come from China and all our workers from Mexico.
    People won’t buy American if Chinese imports are enabled to be sold here, free of tariffs that could level the playing field for domestic manufacturers. The revenue that would be generated by such tariffs could surely help our own economy. American products cost more simply because we don’t use slave labor or sweat shops, and are subject to rules that limit our ability to damage the atmosphere or the consumer.
    Don’t even get me started on the Labor/Immigration issue…
    If you’re broke or just getting started, there’s no shame in buying HF. Some of their stuff is top rate, as well. Although, If we buy Chinese tools, we should probably boycott WalMart for all our other needs in order to level out the kharma….

  17. Miss Frannie says:

    HF sells junk as well as great bargains I bought a grinder there for 10.00. It won’t die even though I beat the !@#$%^&* out of it. A broom I bought there, yes a broom, broke right a way, The handle just snapped at the base.
    I took it back with receipt and they apologized. And gave me my money back. That place is always crowded with people looking for bargains. Their coupons are a draw.

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