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Harbor Freight is a dangerous enough place without the allure of tent sales that offer even greater discounts on cheap-ass tools. About 3 months ago Harbor Freight opened up a location about 15 minutes from my house. I held out as long as I could. But when the tent sale flyer arrived in the mail I had to go. It was a moral imperative.

The old man and I headed down and thumbed through the stacked items and leafed through the boxes of overflow with abandon. After about an hour and change both inside the store and out, I came away with a 1-lb. shot hammer for $2, and the parental unit (who had never been to a Harbor Freight before) rolled out with an entire shopping cart full of shiny swag.

Though I always like going, the tent didn’t have anything that the store didn’t have, and most items weren’t really marked down from the normal price. I mean, once you list a 6″ trigger clamp down to a buck how much lower can you really go? I’m not sure what the old man needed with the 8″ survival knife he found for $7 but I’m sure he had a good reason.

I felt proud that I learned my lesson a while back: don’t get purchase-happy. Even if the prices are low or there’s a tent, what you need doesn’t change.

Harbor Freight [Website]


28 Responses to Harbor Freight Tent Sales

  1. tedknaz says:

    I’ve got the Harbor Freight corporate headquarters in my backyard (it’s 2.5 miles from my house) and they just had a parking lot sale this weekend. I found much the same thing, some decent things on sale but nothing too amazing. What I want to know is what a normal Harbor Freight store looks like. I have a suspicion that the corporate store, what with it’s giant distribution center attached on the building, is smaller than what would otherwise be normal.

    • tom says:

      Not to shill for HF but, if you’re where I think you are, trucking up the 101 to Victoria Ave and heading away from the ocean a couple of blocks will answer ‘what a normal store looks like’

  2. Dave A. says:

    Agreed. Sign up for their flyer. Save the 20% coupons and free crap coupons they have in their. The free utility scissors are really nice. The free screwdriver set isn’t half bad either. The free tape measure is always nice to put one at each power tool station.

  3. Bob says:

    I’m from Ontario Canada and often find the Harbor Freight Ads very tempting, but I always heard the only ship Fedex and the broker fees at the border are Extremely Costly!
    I’d be okay with U.S Postal Service, it always treats me well.
    Does anyone else have any experience with Harbor Freight shipping to stuff Canada??

  4. James C says:

    I went to the tent sale this last weekend. They had a returned heat gun for $3.00 (I know, I should know better). The HF worker saw me looking at it, asked for the price, and said I could have it for a buck as he printed off a new price sticker.

    Well, I got home and fired it up, literally. Twin puffs of flame and smoke shot out of the side vents like a hot rod as soon as I plugged it in. I promptly unplugged it and tossed it in the middle of the driveway where it could do no harm.

  5. aaron says:

    love the fake flyer, had a few good laughs with that one… as will anyone else who has signed up on their mailing list 🙂

  6. jose says:

    You get what you pay for.

  7. Cameron Watt says:

    The last sentence of the post rings true; resist the mania.

  8. gary zumwalt says:

    HF is one of those places that you need to hit about once a year if for no other reason than the entertainment value. There are times though that the cheap import crap will do. Like my electric fly swatter…now there’s freakin entertainment value my friend.

  9. Ben says:

    A friend of mine refers to HaArbor Freight as (no offense intended) “The Section 8 of tool stores.” Poor taste? Maybe. But given the content of the stores it might not be that far off. A few gems mixed in with some utter crap. I purchased a sliding table wet saw at a parking lot sale a couple years ago for a price I haven’t seen them even approach since. It has performed like a champion cutting both paver blocks and tile. I have had luck with several other items too. The key for me is to have my smartphone with me in the store and to check the reviews of things before I buy.

  10. Mike Lee says:

    Sometimes when a new tool come on the market, Harbor Freight would get it first. If it sells, a well known company will manufacture it with better quality. Has anyone notice this trend or is it just my imagination?

    • Ben says:

      I think that is mostly right, except I think the first to produce it is generally a high-end manufacturer producing it for a very high price. Then HF comes in with a low-end knockoff and if the market proves itself for the tool you start to see the major manufacturers get in the game.

  11. Mac says:

    I have stuff across the cost/quality spectrum, but I buy there all the time… and have about eleventeen flashlights, tapes, and screwdriver sets. (Even that may not be enough for my son, who loses them faster than I can acquire them.)

    I found the quality of the scissors worse than the other stuff, but you generally get what you pay for. Several pair have been sacrificed without remorse, because they were free.

    Use the store appropriately and it serves it’s purpose well.

    Nice closing sentence Sean.

  12. Jerry says:

    Seems as though all the toolmongers on here are very astute folks! Tent sale at HF = no super deals. Save the 20% off coupons and the ones for free items. I do think that those of us who live close to HF (3 miles)tend to own a bit more HF stuff than those who have to travel. However, as Sean noted, it can be fun to take someone in who has never been there. Seems we all notice the low price long before looking at the quality – or lack thereof.

  13. tom says:

    re quality: I’m very wary of anything at HF that requires electricity or air but trust most of their muscle powered offerings — if I get hurt with a chisel or a sledge is it a crappy tool or did I do something stupid? whereas a crappy power saw or air hammer will find a way to do GBH when it fails.

  14. Miss Franciene says:

    I must say I do go there but not for tent sales just the normal stuff. They have great gloves. I bought a hammer there works great every time. Demo hammer that thing will not die. Hand grinder great deal for tenspot. Read the reviews on there website. You can get a feel for the quality of a item. Pick and choose your poison sweeties.

  15. Toolfreak says:

    I don’t have a HF very close, so it’s easy not to buy much there, but I only ever go for tools I either can’t get anywhere else, or that are the same thing as the $30 product but at $10, like the Taiwan-made torque wrenches. The $9.99 coupon makes them an unbeatable deal, and they are the same wrench sold at auto parts stores and wallyworld for $29.99.

    Generally I avoid HF these days though, it smells like cheap metal and oil, and almost all of the tools are cheap, disposable made-in-China stuff.

    Maybe if Harbor Fright got a lot less business, we’d have a return to domestic manufacturing, and there might be a lot more tools made in the USA again.

    Just a thought.

  16. Jerry Silverman says:

    Worked for HF a number of years ago. Then as now their tools are pure chinese crap. Only suited to be looked at, not used!

  17. brew says:

    my closest store is about an hour away, so I don’t go very often, probably once a month. I have a rule that if it has a cord or a battery, I won’t buy it.

    Unfortunately (IMHO) they are “changing” the stores. They no longer carry 20 different brad nailers, ranging from $6 to $80. Instead they only carry 2, a $50 one and the $80 one. They no longer accept coupons on top of cheaper web prices, they no longer accept them on a multitude of things people actually want. The 20% coupons are only good on $150+ purchases, and you get 5% off one thing if you spend under $50, and so on.

    People went there to buy a $40 rotary hammer to get through one or two jobs, not a $150 one that will make it through four or five jobs. Especially when for $200 you could get a descent one that will last most people forever.

    I thought I read somewhere the original owner died and his son is taking over. Probably another of those guys that went to school for business, and actually has no idea how to run one. they don’t really understand their type of customer and are ruining their business.

    Ok, rant off. 🙂

  18. El Jefe says:

    Good rant brew.

    There are a few other forums I belong to where guys list the good, bad and ugly from HF. Some items have graced my tool box for years without complaint while others are pure junk. Threads like those help me make a good choice if I need that “once in a blue moon” tool.

    While their free screwdriver sets will never replace my Snap Ons, just today I gave my neighbor a HF multimeter. No need to fret over loaning him my expensive one when I can GIVE him a freebie.

    As for Toolfreak’s US manufacturing comment, the idea that we are going to re-open a bunch of factories to produce handtools is outdated and unrealistic. To satisfy their own greed, labor unions would kill that just the same as they killed every other American manufacturing industry. At some point Americans must realize that the Chinese have beat us at our own free market game and until we have realistic salary expectations we will continue to be beaten.

    Flame on…

  19. Leo says:

    I get shop happy at HF or any tool store. I buy a way too much when I go but, hey, its tools. Plus I use all my tools a lot.

    To me, going to HF or any tool store is like a woman going to the mall or shopping for shoes.

  20. Walter Williams says:

    Their 60363 engine rocks. Abused, ran indefinetly, changed the oil and got a honda air filter (elements cheap and available)

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