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On the very first group ride I ever went on, a chick said something to the effect of “I think a woman that rides a bike should know how to work on it.” I remember thinking to myself, “um, no that’s bullshit. I own a car. I don’t know shit about cars.”

Fast forward a few years, and I think she may be onto something (I’m sorry it took me so long). Now before you tell me to “fuck off” I want to preface this by saying I think you should know how to do basic things and learn more IF YOU’RE INTERESTED.

I happen to be interested in this shit.

So as a total noob, here’s what research and a bit of guidance has taught me about tool shopping specifically.

Where to Shop

When it comes to actually shopping for tools, there are a number of places to consider. Remember that the hunt is on and you’re trying to get a good deal. Leave no stone unturned. Be ruthless in your quest for a real dope deal.

Sears: They not only have a tool section in their physical stores but also a link right on their main navigation. This indicates they mean business. Sears is no joke. They sell tons of tools from a bunch of brands. They will not fail you. However, it’s important to note that the main brand Sears carries is Craftsman.

Harbor Freight: You can smell the cheap when you walk in. Shop here with caution. Although I don’t recommend buying a set of quality wrenches (because you won’t find quality) here, they are good for some things. For example, I recently bought an organizer for my sockets from Harbor Freight. It fits in my toolbox perfectly and is labeled so I can’t really fuck anything up. Another purchase I made from Harbor Freight was a set of wire wheels that attach to a drill. I bought the whole set for about $4. If you bought just one of these brushes on its own at an auto part store, you’d be paying $4 per brush. Shop here for non-essential items or things you need late / last minute.

Tool Shopping

Estate Sales: Once you know what you’re shopping for, start looking for estate sales. This is your chance to score high-quality tools at an incredibly low price.

Craigslist: Much like an estate sale, this is again a place to bargain hunt. However, know what you’re shopping for and roughly what it costs before you purchase to avoid the typical Craigslist scammer bullshit.

Tool Shopping

Offer Up: I’ve been really obsessed with this app lately. Same advice as the two above is applicable here. So far, I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with sellers on this app. I definitely recommend lurking here for a few good deals.

Auto Part Stores: You’ll be able to find a few items you need at places like AutoZone or Pep Boys, but avoid shopping here for all your tools. It’s not cost effective by any means. However, visit these places for auto-specific items that you can’t find elsewhere.

Craftsman or Husky are probably your best bet as hobbyist. There’s a Lowe’s or Sears just about everywhere to take them if you break one. Most are lifetime warranty. Harbor Freight is good for consumables — supplies that are going to get used up or beat on and thrown away. – Derek Mitchell, Mechanic

Brands Breakdown

When it comes to tool brands, generally price aligns with quality. This is a very general categorization of tool brands.

Top of the line: Snap-On, Matco, Mac Tools, Cornwell

Midgrade: Craftsman, Stanley, Husky, Kobalt

Low end: Generic products found at stores like Harbor Freight and Ace Hardware.

Basic Tools to Buy

Ready to shop, but not sure where to start? I’ve got you covered.

  • Multi-bit screwdriver
  • Ratchet(s)
  • Socket set (¼ drive) – metric and standard
  • Socket set (⅜ drive) – metric and standard
  • Wrench set
  • Drill

On all your basics, look for high-quality tools. Remember, this is your BASE. You’ll use these tools frequently and have them for a long time. Buy within your budget and/or build piece by piece, but ensure you’re happy with each piece you buy!

Did I miss any basic tool buying tips? I’d love to hear about your experiences. Leave your best tips in a comment below!

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