Every tradesman loves getting new tools, even if someone had them before you. There’s very little more satisfying than having just the right tool for the job at hand, and having the perfect excuse to go tool shopping. However, you don’t want to just jump in and start spending money (which can be very tempting if you happen to find what looks like a great deal or a good bundle). You need to know what brands and prices to look for, how to examine used tools, and - of course - where to buy used tools.
Questions To Ask Yourself Before Buying Used Tools
Rather than walking in with your wallet in hand, and spending money on something that’s not going to last more than one project --or even something that might be a danger to you--you should make sure that you know the proper questions to ask before buying used or secondhand tools:
How Much Are Used Tools Worth?
The whole point of buying used tools is that you’re supposed to be saving money while still getting the tool you need for the job. To start, you should consider the price comparison between new, refurbished, or used tools. Depending on what you’re looking for, you may be better off buying new than saving 10% on used, especially if you don’t get to look at or test the tool yourself.
Should I Buy Second Hand Power Tools?
While it is easy to take a look at a used set of wrenches and decide in a moment if it’s going to do the job, second hand power tools are a little more tricky. A good deal might be tempting, but you have to consider the difference between secondhand corded or battery powered tools.
You could find a deal that would save you a lot of money on a cordless drill, but if it turns out that the battery pack needs replacing, all those savings go right back into a new battery pack or charger, which can cost nearly as much as a new tool. The difficult part is that you won’t know how good a used battery will be until you use it, and by then, it’s too late.
When Should I Buy Tools?
If your need for a new tool isn’t immediate, the best thing you can do to save yourself some cash is to wait for the opportune time to get the best deal.
If you’re looking for weather related tools such as mowers, snow throwers, leaf blowers etc, make sure to set a reminder for yourself to check for deals during the off-season. Keep ahead of the game and anticipate your tool related needs!
Another good time to check for used tool deals is when that brand releases a new model or edition of the tool. This means that other people who might not be so strict in their money management will be looking to upgrade from a perfectly decent machine to a brand new one. All the better for you to pick up a used tool in excellent condition.
When Should I Buy New?
It can be tempting to stick to bargain hunting when looking for your next tool set. However, it’s important to remember that in some situations, even the most money conscious tradesmen should consider buying new. For example, specialty or precision tools are best when bought new. But if you only need the tool for a particular project or a short amount of time, you can always check with a nearby rental shop. If you’re looking for good deals, try some of these blogs. DeWalt in particular can be extremely cost-efficient because so many retailers sell the brand that you can almost always find deals or promotional offers.
How To Buy Used Tools Without Getting Ripped Off
The first thing you should do as a potential buyer is research. You’ll need to narrow down exactly what you’re looking for, define which tool is going to do the best job, and decide whether a secondhand tool is worthwhile.
If you can, you should decide on a brand and model and spend some time familiarizing yourself with that item. When you know what you’re talking about, you’ll be less likely to get taken in by false information, or sellers who want to claim they’re selling the newest model or best brand.
Regarding brands, the internet is an incredibly useful tool for seeing what brands/products other people like and trust. While the ‘star’ review system is convenient, make sure you’re reading through the actual reviews as well. For example, a quick Google search might show that DeWalt’s 20v line isn’t actually a 20v.
Online research is also going to be the simplest way to find average price points for both new and used tools. This way, you can ensure you’re not paying new tool prices for secondhand items. UsedPrice.com is a good place to start and you can’t go wrong with Ebay or Amazon.
Once you’ve got an idea of which brands you’re interested in, it’s time to head to the store. Local vendors will usually have tools available outside of the packaging to test out. You can usually pick them up and get a solid feel for how the tool functions. Plus, in-store you might find that there will be a clearance or closeout section. You could get lucky with a new item that was returned for cosmetic reasons, and get it at a good discount!
Which Brand Lasts The Longest?
As contractor tools are made to a higher grade with heavier parts, they are more likely to last longer and be more durable than other household tools. If you can find a used Milwaukee or Makita, you’ll be less likely to find yourself needing a replacement anytime soon.
Name Brands To Look For:
Check Whether Tools Have Warranties Included
It’s always worthwhile to check which manufacturers offer warranties on their tools. Craftsman brand has transferable lifetime warranties on a selection of their hand tools, so even if you got the tool secondhand, you still may be able to contact their customer service and get a replacement if it’s malfunctioning. Similarly, it can be possible to replace a retail tool brand for free without needing a receipt. This varies for each retail outlet, so be sure to check ahead of time.
Usually, precision tools are only under warranty for a set amount of time. But even if you’re fortunate enough to get a second hand tool within the warranty timeline, they’re unlikely to replace or repair it without proof of purchase. Other tool related items, like tool boxes, can have even more restrictive warranties, so make sure your secondhand item is going to serve its purpose without needing any warranty service.
Look For Factory Refurbished
Of course when looking at tools, there is new, used, and the ever popular ‘refurbished’. You should always double check whether a tool has been factory refurbished or not. When the item is officially factory refurbished, it often comes with a power tool warranty as well as the original accessories--the same as a brand new item. This can be a great deal if you want to go with a safer bet than a ‘used’ option, as factory refurbished can be discounted up to 20% the price of a new tool.
This isn’t to say that other refurbished options are necessarily bad, but without the factory stamp of approval, your power tool may not be guaranteed for any length of time, and the original manufacturer may not honor the warranty.
Check Whether Restoration Is An Option
Even if you cannot find a factory refurbished tool, you can always do a bit of DIY in order to restore older hand tools. Tools can get rusted or dirty or dulled, but often these are cosmetic problems that can be easily fixed with some rust remover, a sander or a combination of whetstones. Steel hand tools are very easy to clean and restore. Chisels can be re-sharpened, and wooden handles can be sanded clean and smooth and refinished if you’re willing to put a little extra time into your used tool purchase.
How To Examine Used Tools
When it comes to buying used tools, you shouldn’t always judge based on appearances. Sometimes, a rusty wrench that’s sat around accumulating rust is one quick soak and scrub away from looking brand new. Other times, a tool could have collected dirt and grime simply because it’s been laying around for a long time, barely used. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be skeptical. Below, we’ve listed a couple tips so you know how to inspect used tools like a pro:
Replacing a tool’s battery usually costs just as much - if not more - than placing the tool itself. To avoid being left with a low charge and tool that’s basically useless, buy refurbished and buy the same brands. That way, you can swap batteries between them as needed in case one goes bad. Either way, be sure to check the contacts for rust or corrosion - they can usually indicate if a tool will need to have its battery replaced soon.
Corded tools are a little simpler, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look them over carefully. If there is any sign of a fraying or damaged cord (like a bend or crimp), you’re better off passing. The same goes for corrosion, looseness, rust, cracks, and other sides of wear around the cord. This is usually the most obvious sign of wear and can be a fire hazard. Only opt for cordless tools that are a couple years old and, if possible, have been refurbished.
Likewise, it’s important to check out the vents of power tools. If the motor has had problems in the past, you may be able to see smoke residue on the vents. If there’s no visible debris, go ahead and give it a sniff when no one’s looking; that way you can be certain the seller isn’t trying to get rid of a faulty tool. Then, check it for wobbles, unusual noise, and any other grime or build-up to get an idea of how well it’s been maintained.
Cosmetic damage isn’t always as straight forward. There are plenty of tools that while unattractive to look at, can last for years to come. If you’re purchasing hand tools, it’s often pretty easy to restore them to their original state if damage is mostly cosmetic. But a general rule of thumb is to pay close attention to any parts of a tool you touch, like handles and triggers.
The more damaged this area is, the better the chances are that it’s been used extensively and doesn’t have a ton of life left in it - so you might be able to ask the seller for a better deal. Also, be aware of cosmetic issues that could lead to safety issues like missing guards, screws, or large cracks in the casing where skin can get caught. Don’t worry if your tool is missing accessories, though. Accessories are usually easy to replace and consistent across brands.
Where To Buy Used Tools
There are a lot of great places online to find tools - from private sellers to open box deals from hardware stores to factory reconditioned tools. Here are just a few of our favorites:
Online Retailers. There are several websites online that sell used tools, all with great return policies and warranties. Two of the most popular include...
Manufacturer Websites. Manufacturers like Dewalt often list reconditioned tools you can purchase directly from the manufacturer for a discount.
Home Improvement & Hardware Stores. Big stores home improvement and hardware stores often have open box and factory refurbished deals, especially inside clearance aisles and online. For example, you can see Home Depot’s list of available products here. Check professional tool suppliers and smaller local tool stores, too, they'll have much better prices than big box stores and usually have better selection.
Pawnshops. A local pawnshop can be a goldmine for decent used tools. They only buy items that they are already certain are good enough to sell back to someone else; so, you know that they’ve already tested it to make sure it’s functional. It’s a good way to find hand tool sets like wrenches or even someone’s rarely used drill set. Despite this, you should be ready to haggle. Pawn shops will be doing their best to get as much out of the purchase as they can, so know the ‘new’ ‘refurbished’ and ‘used’ price tags for your specific item!
Ebay/Amazon. Amazon blocks a lot of sellers, so you will see higher prices on Amazon because of MAP pricing. A lot of eBay sellers buy kits and break them down. When buying from someone online, always check their ratings and reviews.
Craigslist. Using the Craigslist Notification Chrome Addon, you can set up "saved searches" so you get a notification when someone posts a listing relevant to your interests.
Buy & Sell Apps. Facebook Marketplace and apps like OfferUp, LetGo, and 5miles are also great places to look. Just watch for tools sold in large lots at a price too good to be true, especially on Facebook Market—it’s often a sign they could be stolen. Your best bet is to look for someone who recently changed brands, like switching Dewalt to Makita. Often, this is a professional whose tools will be well-maintained.
Online Forums. Online forums can be a great way to discover tools, especially from contractors in your trade who are likely to have treated them well. Message boards (e.g. trade forums like Contractor Talk, or Reddit communities like r/plumbing) or Facebook Groups - both local and trade-specific - are all great places to start.
Flea Markets/ Yard Sales. You won’t always find what you’re looking for at flea markets or yard sales - especially if you’re searching for power tools. But you’ll sometimes find some real gems, if you look carefully, like well-kept antique tools which are often better made.
Estate Sales. Estate sales are a method of selling/auctioning off everything inside a home, either to downsize, move, or because of a death or some other misfortune. You can find local estate sales using the following websites:
Auctions. Like estate sales, auctions are also a great way to find deals. Often, businesses will have surpluses or go belly up and you’ll find great deals on tools and expensive equipment. You can find local auctions using these websites:
Now that you’re familiar with all the factors you’ll need to consider when buying used tools, you’re almost fully equipped to jump in. But before you do, you might want to consider another tool: FieldPulse’s field service management software. With FieldPulse, you’ll be able to invoice customers on the spot, schedule jobs with ease, and never lose track of customer information or payments ever again. Want to get to know us? Book a demo today for a free product walkthrough.