Power tool buying philosophy

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Forum topic by one19 posted 11-06-2014 04:29 PM 1615 views 0 times favorited 39 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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65 posts in 1301 days

11-06-2014 04:29 PM

Hey fellas (and ladies too, if any are present!),

I wonder about my tool-buying philosophy. Like most, I have limited funds so I do a lot of research before I buy. I feel goofy saying it, but $100 is a moderate investment to me. $500 dollars is a once-every-three-years kind of purchase, so I try to make my choices good ones.

I spend a lot of time checking out Craigslist for deals, but that’s produced mixed results. I just bought a PC 3×21 belt sander from a guy, and while it looked good and powered up just fine, I didn’t find out until I got home that the drive pulley was broken, so the belt stops moving once it hits a piece of wood. Ouch. The worst thing is that I know the guy knew this, but he said nothing and sold it to me anyway.

What’s a good approach for you guys? Would you rather buy a Craftsman router for $90, knowing it’s new and a protected purchase (you can return it), or would you take a chance on a used Bosch or PC for the same price, and accept the risk…?

I know there’s no right or wrong answer… just interested in hearing everyone’s thoughts and experiences.


39 replies so far

View jmartel's profile


7895 posts in 2149 days

#1 posted 11-06-2014 04:42 PM

Depends on reviews of the cheaper new unit and parts availability of the older unit. Plus, it depends on how much each one would cost me. No one good way to go.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View JayT's profile


5632 posts in 2210 days

#2 posted 11-06-2014 04:43 PM

For handheld power tools, I prefer to buy new. If something goes wrong, you have a warranty and you never know how the person before you abused a second hand tool. A lot of times parts and repair on these tools exceeds the price of a new one, so it’s just not worth the risk to me.

For stationary machines, I usually look used first. There is a lot more savings, the machines were designed & built for longer life and parts are usually available to fix just about anything that goes wrong.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View bobburk's profile


78 posts in 2330 days

#3 posted 11-06-2014 05:23 PM

Have you considered reconditioned tools. I’ve bought a few and have had no issues. Some sites even offer a warranty plus some extra warranty you can purchase.


-- Bob, Kingwood, TX

View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 2952 days

#4 posted 11-06-2014 05:27 PM

You pose a very good question. These days, I admit, I can buy anything I want, but, that has not always been the case, so I can relate. I guess, If I have anything at all to offer to the question, it is that the more you know about what you’re buying the more likely you are to be satisfied. If you are a “student” then you stand to do well.

If money is not an object, then buy the best. You won’t be disappointed. But if money is short: then you have to be more creative and the more you know about what you’re buying the more happy you’ll be. It’s possible to find incredible deals out there from folks who, for whatever reasons, are willing to sell stuff for pennies. But, you have to be persistent, knowledgable, and quick to take advantage of those opportunities.

New tools, used tools, old tools; it’s all a matter of taste and persistence. All are possible on limited budgets, but it takes a bit of effort. ...and patience. Know what you want, then look hard to find it.

-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

View georgiaken's profile


49 posts in 1717 days

#5 posted 11-06-2014 05:28 PM

What JayT said…

View Tedstor's profile


1643 posts in 2632 days

#6 posted 11-06-2014 05:35 PM

I have a couple of Craftsman routers. I purchased them in 2010-2011. They work fine. If you need a router immediately, its not a bad tool IMO. But I do typically try to buy mid-priced tools when possible from Makita, Milwaukee, Dewalt, etc. I usually look for a used tool on Craigslist or Ebay before looking at brand new options. Pawn shops can be good too…..but NEVER pay their full asking price. A 20%+ discount is almost always doable.
Sorry to hear about your bad experience on Craigslist. However, I’ve bought dozens of tools via CL, and all have been solid. I do avoid buying anything that looks heavily used though. I’ve also sold my share too…..all were in A+ shape, and if they weren’t, I fully disclosed the issue/blemish.
I think your experience is more the exception than the rule.

View MT_Stringer's profile


3168 posts in 3230 days

#7 posted 11-06-2014 05:42 PM

Here is some food for thought.

A friend of mine used this quote often during discussions of just about any object…

”The bitter taste of poor quality remains long after the sweet taste of low price is forgotten.”

I know many folks recommend Craigslist. I did buy a jointer once that has worked out well. Other times, the seller wouldn’t respond or went up on the price. I gave up.

In my opinion, a lot of tools for hobbyist like me will be lifetime purchases. I still have Craftsman hand tools (wrenches, sockets, ratchets) from a set I bought in 1967. My table saw, band saw, drill press and most of the other tools will belong to someone else some day.

It’s OK if you are a cheapskate, or just thrifty, or simply don’t have the funds to make the purchases. Planning for buying items will help although it didn’t help me. :-(

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View MrUnix's profile


6715 posts in 2198 days

#8 posted 11-06-2014 06:26 PM

You can find some absolutely fantastic deals on CL (or E-bay, or your local classifieds, or….), but you also need to remember you are buying a used tool and have no idea what a PO may have done to it in the past, so need to take that into account when considering the purchase. The good thing about buying in person is that you can examine the thing before handing over the cash.. had you asked to see it in operation on a piece of wood, you would have discovered the problem then and could have walked away or lowered the price even more. I once went to look at a pressure washer that was listed on CL, and when we went to fire it up and test it, it sprayed water everywhere out of the bottom of the pump and had no pressure at the wand. I told him it was useless to me in that condition and offered $20 for it as a parts machine (he was asking $100). He accepted and it came home with me. The problem? Bad O-ring in the hose connector.. a $1 fix.

In the case of your sander, the drive pulley is a cheap fix and not much to get worked up over. Pull it apart, put in a new pulley, and start sanding :)


-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

View MrRon's profile


4769 posts in 3242 days

#9 posted 11-06-2014 06:27 PM

Search catalogs to find what you really want, regardless of price. It should be top-of-the-line. Then wait until you see that tool at the price you want to pay. Examine it in person, if possible. If it meets your requirements, go for it. It is best to look for a used high quality tool than a used average quality too. High quality tools are more liable to be in good condition. Don’t go looking for used Ryobi, Skil, Harbor Freight, etc tools. They probably have seen the end of their days. I’ve bought reconditioned tools with good success. They usually come with a full warranty and new batteries, if cordless. That can save you 25% or more over a new tool. If buying from a private party, never pay the asking price. Make an offer; you have nothing to lose.

View mudflap4869's profile


1736 posts in 1458 days

#10 posted 11-06-2014 06:30 PM

I learned a long time back to avoid pawn shops. I was burned too many times with tools that were worn out then polished up to look good. Most of my large machines were bought used, but I checked them out before I paid for them. Unfortunately the very ones that I didnt test were the ones that werenot worth hauling home. Check with the manufacturer for rebuilt tools, sometime you can even get “like new” tools for 50% of new cost.

-- Still trying to master kindling making

View bigblockyeti's profile


5120 posts in 1720 days

#11 posted 11-06-2014 06:51 PM

I buy used when ever I can, too much of what’s available today just fails miserably to impress, but is usually backed up with a good warranty. I spent a few years working in power tool repair and it was viable when I could fix a $300 nail gun for someone for only $50, now with modular assemblies and everything being made overseas, it’s not possible to charge someone $80 to fix a $70 nail gun. I tend to gravitate more toward older Delta, Rockwell, Milwaukee and Porter Cable tools with a few Makita and Bosch thrown in the mix. Some of the older DeWalt stuff is good too, before B&D downgraded the quality they were once known for.

View JAAune's profile


1799 posts in 2316 days

#12 posted 11-06-2014 09:18 PM

Buying used is the best route when on a tight budget but you have to price risk into the costs. Even with careful evaluation, figure that you’ll get burned on some deals so be sure the total savings for everything cover that loss.

I used to spend a lot of time hunting garage sales and about once a month I’d get something good for just a few dollars like a Bedrock plane for $2.00, an Estwing hammer for $1 or a Kennedy toolbox filled with tools for $10.

-- See my work at and

View one19's profile


65 posts in 1301 days

#13 posted 11-06-2014 09:23 PM

Wow, lots of great comments, and I hope to read even more. Thanks fellas!

Brad, you’re correct, I should have used the tool on a scrap piece of wood in the presence of the seller, but I’ve learned my lesson. I won’t make the same mistake again, so in that regard, it was still a worthwhile tool purchase.

The one thing that’s coming through from everyone however, is to be patient, which historically, hasn’t been my best attribute.

View TravisH's profile


579 posts in 1934 days

#14 posted 11-06-2014 09:45 PM

My biggest knock on being patient….it leaves me without a tool and at that point whats the point. I have watched Craigslist for months on end to no avail. If I take the time spent looking, following up, and the fact I didn’t have the tool during that time it ends up being well worth just buying new (if that is an option). As mentioned above some tools are a one time purchase so I don’t worry as much about price as if the yearly price can’t be justified I just add a few more years onto my lifespan. I think I am pushing 130 or so…....

View one19's profile


65 posts in 1301 days

#15 posted 11-06-2014 10:59 PM

ha, awesome approach TravisH…

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