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What to get at Harbor Freight

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Harbor Freight is half angel and half demon. They offer alternative-brand tools at incredible prices, but there is definitely a time and a place for a Harbor Freight tool. This is because in my experience, the cheaper items sacrifice quality and durability for lower price.

Interestingly, many of the reviews for Harbor Freight tools are overwhelmingly positive, even on products that I had horrible experiences with. This can be difficult to navigate so I thought I’d make a list of products I do and don’t recommend getting from Harbor Freight.

Best Harbor Freight products

  • Moving supplies – moving blankets, dollies, hand trucks
  • Stepped drill bits – the Warrior 3-piece titanium set in particular is an incredible value and the bits have held up extremely well for me
  • Super glue (gel) – I keep some gel and some regular-consistency super glue on hand for a variety of uses
  • Casters
  • Digital calipers – I love this thing as I switch between imperial (decimal and fraction) and metric and it helps me to get a quick, accurate measurement on things
  • Bauer 5 in random orbital sander – adjustable speed, a quality tool
  • Neodymium magnets – these are small but a great price for a specialty item. Perfect size for fridge magnets, etc.
  • 6-in magnetic parts holder – perfect for screws and bits that I don’t want to lose but also don’t want to put in their proper place
  • 18″ magnetic tool holder – I have several of these attached to pegboard and they’re extremely convenient
  • Shop towels – great if you need something thicker/more absorbent than a paper towel but also want to throw it out
  • Microfiber towels 4-pack – been using these occasionally for years and they’ve held up very well for the price
  • Band clamp – band clamps are annoying to use but if you need to get one, this one hasn’t let me down
  • Quick-release bar clamp – the plastic jaws broke after I left them in the sun for a long time, but for the price these are very strong and otherwise well-built
  • Bench brush – hard to mess this up, but I’m sure it can be done

Things I sort of recommend

  • Tarps – good value if you’ll be storing them indoors and using them every once in a while, but I left one of the cheaper ones out in the sun and it disintegrated over time
  • Portland corded trimmer – great if you need a trimmer but don’t want to invest in cordless, but does lack power needed for thicker grass/weeds
  • Ratcheting bar clamp/spreader – good for the price if you need to apply some pressure to something big or weird, but not a ton of pressure, and the plastic jaws broke on mine after being left in the sun
  • 29-piece titanium drill bit set – a few of the smallest sizes broke for me, but I got it on sale for like $12 because I needed some weird sizes of bits, and they were in this set. Makes much more sense than buying individual bits of certain sizes

Consider an alternative for these things

  • Drill master corded drill – definitely the worst drill in the entire world. Big and awkward, no clutch, and the switch failed on me in less than a year, so I could only operate the drill at the highest speed. Read about my favorite drill instead
  • Central Machinery drill presses – I have the 8 in model and it wobbles at any speed, worst at high speeds. I’ve tried adjusting the belt and belt shaft things which helped but the problem came back. The depth adjustment nut is also the thinnest and tiniest nut, and the table is difficult to adjust and keep aligned with the drill bit. Also the angle of the drill chuck shifts when you go all the way down to the depth nut. I’ve completed many projects with this drill press, but I’m excited for it to die so I can upgrade. I’d recommend starting with either a Ryobi or Wen drill press
  • Chicago Electric belt sander – incredibly loud and cumbersome and has issues keeping the sanding belt in line. But I have not owned any other belt sanders to compare. But I’m sure there are better

For their cordless tool ecosystems and higher-end tools, I prefer to go with brands that have been around for longer, but Harbor Freight has good extended warranty options that could make up for the fact that their brands are newer and reliability is not as well known.

Let me know if I’ve missed anything!

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