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How Harbor Freight Did in a Best Mechanics Tool Set Review

Should you consider buying a mechanic’s tool set from Harbor Freight as a gift this Christmas? Find out now how Harbor Freight compared in a multi-tool set review.

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Tool sets that come with a wide range of tools to meet the minimal demands of most auto repairs make good gifts for someone who does not have any, or owns just a few basic tools and definitely needs more…even if that person does not possess any inclination or desire to repair or maintain their car.

In fact, such basic tool sets come in very handy for:

  • Assembling IKEA furniture
  • Basic home repair tasks
  • Their portability and compact storage for those rare moments when you do need a tool
  • Helping others as an emergency toolbox in your car trunk

Mechanic Tool Set Price Range

Choosing a good tool set can be difficult. Pricing ranges anywhere from a $99 special to $500 depending on the brand and just how many pieces are offered in a kit. However, do not let the number of pieces sway your buying decision---it’s what the kit has to offer that really counts.

Related article: Toyota Mechanic Unhappy with This Harbor Freight Product

Mechanic Tool Set Review

To help consumers know which tool sets offer what and how they compare in quality and performance, a recent Project Farm YouTube channel episode does the work for you by offering a timely tool set review from brands Craftsman, GearWrench, Husky, Kobalt, Pittsburgh, DeWalt, Crescent, and Starwork with prices ranging from $140 to $355.

Of special interest amongst the brands, Harbor Freight’s notorious Pittsburgh brand is the one priced lowest and ofttimes is the least-liked tool brand overall by consumers. However, as pointed out in earlier articles, many brands appear to come from the same manufacturing plant and differ only with the packaging and labeling. Therefore, an informative and trusted review provided by the Project Farm YouTube channel could clear the air as to whether going cheaper with a tool set is such a bad idea.

Related article: Insider Secrets and Tips to Shopping at Harbor Freight: Part 2

That all said, here is the review provided below:

Best Mechanics Tool Set? Let’s Find Out!

Final Thoughts on the Review

The GearWrench brand came out as the top winner when it came to performance and quality; however, at a cost of over twice that of three other brands (Husky, Craftsman, and Pittsburgh) that were mid-level competitors. The remaining brands either did poorly and/or were priced higher than the aforementioned three.

The most significant reveal of the tests was that when it comes to open end wrenches, most of the brands tested did poorly when stressed---a common finding (and complaint) among tool users for typically the lowest priced/lowest quality tools. So, no surprises there.

Another fail with most of the tool sets reviewed was that all are considered “incomplete” because they do not provide some common socket and/or wrench sizes or other needed/expected tools found in a more complete toolbox.

However, I believe the take-away message for shoppers is that aside from price, what needs to be factored in is the expected use of the tools. In other words, is the intended gift for a budding Gearhead who needs the best tools he or she can afford? Or is the intended user someone who just needs a tool on occasion and will in all likelihood get by fine with a marginal tool?

Last Christmas I bought a similarly tested Pittsburg tool set for my son for just under $100 while taking advantage of a sale. Perfect for him because he is only now just beginning to realize that he can save money learning to do his own basic car maintenance. If he had needed better tools, I probably would have cleaned and giftwrapped my old ones and bought myself a new tool set upgrade.

There is one other factor to take into consideration. Since it is a gift and it is human nature to feel that brand name does make a difference, you might also want to consider how the gift receiver feels about particular brands. For example, Craftsman is a well-known brand and recognized by all Americans. Harbor Freight on the other hand still has that Pittsburgh tool stigma going on among consumers. Therefore, since the Craftsman tool set is only $9 more than the Harbor Freight Pittsburgh “brand” you might make the receiver happier by choosing the mid-level reviewed Craftsman over the mid-level reviewed Pittsburgh tool.

For additional articles related to tools, here are a few for your consideration:

Timothy Boyer is an automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on  “Zen and the Art of DIY Car Repair” website, the Zen Mechanic blog and on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites  and Facebook for daily news and topics related to new and used cars and trucks.

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Image source: Deposit Photos

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