Whether it’s residential and commercial framework construction or the design and installation of a cabinetry system, carpenter skills are required to complete dozens of contracting projects. Alongside many other trades,…
There’s very little more satisfying than tool shopping. However, you don’t want to jump in and start throwing around 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.
The last thing you want to do buying new tools is walk in with your wallet in hand and spend money on something that won’t last more than one project — or, worse, might be a danger to you. To get yourself prepared, ask yourself these questions before buying used or secondhand tools:
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 only saving 10% by purchasing a tool used, especially if you don’t get to look at or test it yourself.
It’s easy to take a look at a used set of wrenches and decide in a moment if it’s going to do the job; secondhand power tools are a little more tricky. A good deal might be tempting, but you have to consider the difference between secondhand corded or cordless tools with a battery.
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 tricky 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.
If you don’t need to buy or replace your tools immediately, 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!
Stores like Home Depot usually offer their best power tool deals in Spring and around Black Friday.
Another good time to check for used tool deals is when that brand releases a new model or edition of the tool. Some contractors might be selling because they’re looking to upgrade from a perfectly decent machine to a brand new cordless tool— all the better for you to pick up a used tool in excellent condition.
It can be tempting to stick to bargain hunting when looking for your next toolset. However, it’s important to remember that even the most money-conscious tradesmen should consider buying new in some situations.
For example, specialty or precision tools work best when purchased new. But if you only need the tool for a particular project or a short amount of time, it might be better to rent it from a store like Home Depot.
If you’re looking for good deals, try some of these blogs.
Pro-Tip: DeWalt can be extremely cheap new; it’s reasonably priced, popular as the most trusted power tool brand, and so many retailers sell the brand that you can almost always find deals or promotional offers to lower the cost.
How To Buy Used Tools Without Getting Ripped Off
The first thing you should do buying secondhand tools is research. You’ll need to narrow down exactly what you’re looking for, define which tools will do the best job, and decide whether a secondhand tool is worth the cost.
If you can, you should decide on a brand and model and spend some time familiarizing yourself with that item before you shop. 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.
The internet – especially forums like Reddit or Facebook groups – is a handy tool for comparing products and discovering which other people like and trust regarding brands. Who’s better equipped to tell you how durable tools are than the people who use them every day?
While the ‘star’ review system is convenient, make sure you’re reading through the actual reviews as well. For example, a quick Google shows that DeWalt’s 20v line isn’t actually a 20v.
Contractor grade tool manufacturers make higher grade tools with heavier parts, which means they last longer and are more durable than other household tools. If you can find a used Milwaukee or Makita, snatch it up; you’ll be less likely to find yourself needing a replacement anytime soon.
According to most contractors, the best tool brands include:
Power Tools: Makita, Milwaukee, DeWalt, Bosch, Ridgid
Hand Tools: Wera, Knipex, Wiha, Klein, Craftsman, Channellock, Tektron
UsedPrice.com is a great place to find the value of used tools online, and you can’t go wrong with searching eBay or Amazon.
Online research and local comparison shopping are essential for finding the average price points for both new and secondhand tools. This way, you can ensure you’re not paying new tool prices for secondhand items.
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 generally 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!
It’s always worthwhile to check which manufacturers offer warranties on their tools.
Craftsman has transferable lifetime warranties on a selection of their hand tools. So, even if you purchased the tool secondhand, you still might be able to contact their customer service and get a replacement if it’s malfunctioning. Similarly, it might be possible to replace a retail tool brand for free without needing a receipt.
Warranties vary for each retail outlet, so be sure to check ahead of time. Here are some general rules of thumb though. Usually, precision tools are only under warranty for a set amount of time, but the brand is unlikely to replace or repair them without proof of purchase. Other tool-related items, like tool organizers and tool boxes, can have even more restrictive warranties.
Refurbished products have been recently inspected and repaired to function like new. Always double-check whether a tool has been factory refurbished. When the item is officially factory refurbished, it often comes with a power tool warranty and the original accessories straight from the brand shop–the same as a brand new item. Factory refurbished can be a great deal if you want to go with a safer bet than a ‘used’ option; factory refurbished can be discounted up to 20% the price of a new tool.
Other refurbished options aren’t necessarily bad, but they come with limitations and more risks. Without the factory stamp of approval, you don’t know how rigorously a power tool was repaired, and the original manufacturer may not honor the warranty after someone else has worked on the product and potentially caused irreparable damage. Additionally, an individual may guarantee the tool for a shorter time. Or, if the guarantee is through an individual seller on a website like Amazon or eBay, it may be harder to plead your case if you get ripped off.
You can always do a bit of DIY to restore an older hand tool. Hand tools often get rusted, dirty, or dulled, but those cosmetic problems are easily fixed with some rust remover, a sander, or a combination of whetstones. Steel hand tools are straightforward to clean and restore. Chisels can be re-sharpened. And wooden handles can be sanded clean and refinished if you’re willing to put a little extra time into your used tool purchase.
When 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. One tool could have collected dirt and grime simply from lying around for a long time, barely used. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be skeptical. Below, we’ve listed a couple of 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, it’s best to shop for factory refurbished tools if you want to buy them used – and to always stick to the same battery platform. That way, you can swap batteries between specific tools as needed if one goes bad.
If you decide to take the risk and buy used, be sure to check the battery contacts for rust or corrosion – they can usually indicate if a cordless tool will need to have its battery replaced soon.
Only opt for cordless tools that are a couple of years old and, if possible, have been refurbished.
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 a 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.
Likewise, it’s important to check out the vents of power tools. If the motor has had problems in the past, you may 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 confident 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 the tool was maintained.
Cosmetic damage isn’t always as straightforward. There are plenty of tools that can last for years to come even if they’re unattractive to look at. Plus, if you’re purchasing hand tools, it’s often pretty easy to restore them to their original state if the damage is primarily 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 this one tool has 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 asides, though. Accessories are usually easy to replace and consistent across brands.
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:
Several websites sell secondhand tools, all with great return policies and warranties. Two of the most popular places to find used tools online include:
Manufacturers like Dewalt often list reconditioned tools you can purchase directly from the manufacturer for a discount.
Home improvement and hardware stores often have an 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 a better selection.
A local pawn shop 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 toolsets like wrenches or even someone’s rarely used drill set. Despite this, you should be ready to haggle. Pawnshops 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 when you shop!
eBay and Amazon are both popular sites to buy tools from not just the company itself but individual sellers. When buying from someone online, always check their ratings and reviews. eBay in particular can be a great site for finding deals; sellers often buy kits at a discount and break them down. Be sure to compare savings across websites though. Amazon blocks a lot of sellers, so you will usually see higher prices on Amazon because of MAP pricing.
Craigslist is a popular option for finding tools used but be warned. For the large part, Craigslist is unmoderated, and you can’t see users’ selling history to check if a specific user has a history of ripping people off. And unlike sites like eBay or Amazon, you usually won’t have the item mailed out to you from someone states away; you’ll be meeting up with someone from Craigslist locally. Also, good deals go fast on Craigslist as a result of re-sellers. 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.
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 tools. (Pro-Tip: Get van tool insurance to avoid having to start from scratch if this happens to you.) Your best bet is to look for someone who recently changed brands, like switching Dewalt to Makita or is upgrading to a cordless option. Often, this is a professional whose tools will be well-maintained. Also, these sites tend to have better moderation, making it easier to click through ads to learn more about the user.
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.
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 are a method of selling/auctioning off everything inside a home, either to downsize, move, because of a death, or some other misfortune. This is often one of the best ways to find quality used tools. Keep an eye on your local classifieds and find local estate sales using the following websites:
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’ll find everything from expensive power tools with new batteries to a hand tool that’s only a couple years old. 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 job 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.