Since 1980, when Harbor Freight opened its first location, the brand has been committed to, “Providing hard-working people with great quality tools at the lowest prices.” With over 1200 stores and 20 million customers (about the population of New York), I would say they have gotten their tools into some hands, but are they as good as they claim to be?
Although Harbor Freight tools cannot compete with many of the more expensive brands, if you need a tool for occasional or light use, Harbor Freights easily offers the best value for your money. Especially with their lifetime warranty on hand tools.
Continue reading to get all your Harbor Freight questions answered.
Who Is Harbor Freight?
Harbor Freight is a warehouse and distribution company that specializes in selling quality tools and accessories at lower-than-average prices. According to Harbor Freight themselves, they carry over 4,000 products, but they specialize in the areas of:
- Air compressors
- Welding supplies
- Hand tools
- Automotive tools
- Tool storage
They’re the Dollar Store of tools. A place you can spend hours browsing through because you never know what you’ll find around the next corner. A treasure trove that you cannot leave empty-handed because even though you didn’t need moving blankets, they were only $3 each!
Why Are Their Tools So Cheap?
The reason Harbor Freight can offer such ridiculously low prices is simple—they cut out the middleman. When you go to your local grocery store and wonder why butter is $5, the answer is simple—they have a middleman. What the founder of Harbor Freight realized was that he could buy tools directly from the factory and sell them directly to customers, without having to deal with a… You guessed it, middleman.
What Brands Does Harbor Freight Sell?
The giant discount store stocks its shelves with several brands. Some of those brands are in-house brands (which is a decorative way of saying that they’re owned by Harbor Freight), and some are not.
Harbor Freights in-house brands include:
- U.S General
- Central Pneumatic
- Chicago Eletric
- Central Machinery
As far as where these tools are made, well, it’s incredibly difficult to get an answer to that question. Their website simply says that their tools are made in the same factories as many other “leading” brands, but it doesn’t go on to name those leading brands or where those factories are located. However, according to AllAmericanReviews (who went directly to the source), at least one of their in-house brands is made in China.
Can I Return Tools to Harbor Freight?
Yes, you can return items to Harbor Freight, but their policies may vary from store to store so it’s always best to call ahead first. However, as of 2021, these are the policies that we could find.
- You may return a product to any store location within 90 days of purchasing the item.
- You might be charged a 20% restocking fee on certain items unless the items are unopened, you are upgrading to another item, or the item is eligible for a warranty replacement.
- You will need to have an ID and a receipt (or packing slip). If you do not have proof of purchase, you will have to get a return authorization by calling their customer service number.
- You can return things you bought online at a physical store.
- You can return items by mail, but you will need to call to get a return authorization.
- They will not refund shipping charges.
Do Harbor Freight Tools Have a Lifetime Warranty?
You might be surprised to learn that although Harbor Freight is one of the cheapest places to buy hand tools, they guarantee those tools for life. However, not all their tools are covered under this warranty and limitations do apply. If the product is defective or doesn’t work properly, you can take the product into the store (with your receipt), and they’ll replace it. You can also do this through the mail by calling their customer service and initiating a claim.
Can I Buy Harbor Freight Tools Online?
Yes! They have a huge selection of tools and accessories online. However, buyers are cautioned not to buy through sites like Amazon or other e-commerce sites because the company will often not return or refund products that are not bought directly from them.
You can also order over the phone and by mail. However, many users have complained of higher-than-average shipping prices, with some toolboxes costing as much as $189 dollars to ship.
As of right now, Harbor Freight does not offer in-store pick-up on items that are bought online. However, customers can call ahead and ask about inventory before visiting the store.
Does Harbor Freight Have a Credit Card?
Through a partnership with Synchrony, Harbor Freight does offer a brand credit card. Customers can apply online or in-store. As of now, the card cannot be used online or to buy gift cards.
If you’re approved, you’ll receive an added 10% off your first purchase, which can be used in combination with their 20% off coupon. This content is owned by moc.sotuaytsur. Customers can also earn Harbor Freight Money, which must be used within 90 days. Also, because the card is offered through Synchrony, it will reflect on your credit.
As always, it’s recommended that shoppers read the fine print to fully understand the responsibility they are accepting when they sign up for a credit card.
Are Their Tools Safe?
The obvious upside to cheap tools is that people who do not have a lot of extra money, or people who just don’t want to spend a lot of money, can buy items that otherwise would have remained out of their price range. However, the downside to cheaper tools is that lower quality can sometimes mean lower safety.
When compared to other companies, Harbor Freight does have a bit of a reputation for having to recall unsafe tools and accessories. For example:
- 2021: Harbor Freight issued a recall for portable propane heaters because they may leak propane while in use.
- 2021: They issued a recall on jack stands which were manufactured in 2013 and 2019.
- 2021: They issued a recall on Tank Top propane heaters due to potential burn hazards if tipped over or ran in windy weather.
- 2019: They issued a recall for Gordon Folding Knives because they did not always lock in place when open.
- 2019: They issued a recall for propane torches because they stayed on even when the button was disengaged.
- 2019: They issued a recall for rechargeable flashlights that were overheating and posing a burn hazard.
- 2018: They had to recall Bunker Hill handgun safes because they could be opened without a key, posing a risk to children who may access the guns.
- 2018: They issued a recall on over 1 million chainsaws because they continued to run after being turned off.
- 2015: They issued a recall on cordless drills because of potential burn hazards due to internal malfunction.
However, it should be noted that companies such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowes, and T.J.Maxx all have a list of recalls as well.
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- About the Author
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John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and has worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Land Rover, and Jaguar dealerships.
John uses his know-how and experience to write fluff-free articles that help fellow gearheads with all aspects of vehicle ownership, including maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting.