Ratings Of Tools By Brand

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Courtesy of RiceBurner

Only a rich man can afford to buy cheap tools

Where do tools become "too rich for your blood"? Obviously, the same tools are not needed for different people... a professional body man can use a 60 tooth 1/4" ratchet that costs 75 bucks, because there are times when you simply need that close, small ratchet motion. However, most of us working on our own bikes just to save money wouldn't consider that. We'll stick with the Craftsman ratchet that only has 45 teeth, so it has a larger swing, but it also only costs 25 bucks.

Here's a guide on how to "value-rate" tools and decide which brand you need for your purposes.

It's set up like this:

  • Brand Name
  • Cost (1-5) Why? (1 is cheapest, 5 is most expensive)
  • Value (1-5) Why? (1 is worst value, 5 is best value.)
  • Warranty (1-5) Describes warranty, dealer availability for warranty, and turn around time. (1 bad, 5 good)
  • Usability (does it work how it's supposed to?) (1-5) Why or why not? (1 doesn't work 5 you keep finding new uses for old tools.)
  • Overall rating (1-5)


Cost: 4 Tools are expensive, partly because the dealers are mobile and will often drive where you are.

Value: 4 While expensive, the tools are high quality, perhaps the best I've consistently seen. If they weren't so expensive, I would rate them a 5. There is an additional factor, as well. Since Snap-On is mobile, you will often deal with the same person when buying tools. A first name basis with your tool man is a Good Thing.

Warranty: 4 All hand tools have a lifetime replacement warranty, unless it is apparent the tool has been abused. Power tools have a 1 or 2 year warranty, depending. It is hard to track down the dealer, though he does come by my work place every Wednesday. Since the dealer is mobile, he cannot stock as much as say, Sears, so turn around time varies... Anything in stock is immediate; anything else must be ordered.

Usability: 5 I've never used a Snap-On tool and thought "wow, this doesn't work." Ratchets have more teeth for smaller ratchet swing than any other brand I've used. Sockets are high quality and never slip, even on slightly rounded bolts/nuts. Screwdrivers have a very comfortable handle, and IMHO you can apply more force to them than most other screwdrivers. LOTS of specialty tools; if you can imagine a tool, they have it, and it will probably work really well.

Overall: 4 Great tools, Great service, need a central store. Good stuff to buy if you never want to buy another tool like it again. Too bad they are so expensive, often 20-30% higher than Craftsman, sometimes more.


The only difference between Snap-On and Blue-Point is where the parts are made. Snap-On is 100% made in USA. Blue-Point can have parts from all over the world, *but* they are manufactured to the same level of quality as Snap-On.

Cost: 3.5 About the same as Craftsman most of the time. Not as expensive as Snap On.

Value: 4 Less cost, but less quality, compared to Snap-On.

Warranty: 4 I've never broken a Blue-Point tool, as I don't own many. Blue-point has the same warranty as Snap-on.

Overall: 4 Slightly lesser quality (but still very good) and slightly cheaper costs. A good tool for home mechanics, and several of the guys at the shop here use Blue-Point tools (perhaps because the Snap-On one is too expensive.) If Snap-On is out of your budget but you want high quality, get Blue-Point. You won't regret it.


Craftsman makes a range of "qualities", from Ace Hardware to near-Snap-On. Their Craftsman Professional hand tools are pretty well-regarded (see review).

Cost: 3.5 Somewhat expensive unless you get a sale, but not so much as Snap-On.

Value: 5 I rate these highly because they are still very good quality tools with a good warranty, and for less than Snap-On.

Warranty: 4 Lifetime no questions asked replacement on hand tools. Almost always in stock, zero turn around time. Power tools aren't as great; 1 year limited warranty, with option to buy 2nd year of the same for a few bucks when you get the tool. Very easy to find a Sears store.

Usability: 5 As with Snap-On, these tools never fail unless you use them wrong. The worst I've had happen was breaking the tip of a P2 phillips driver while using it correctly. Very stubborn screw, though. A quick trip to Sears and I had a new one.

Overall: 5 It's hard to get such a good combination of price, value, and warranty. For me, Craftsman is simply the best for a home mechanic, or in many cases a professional. Many of my tools at work are Craftsman.

Companion (Sears)

Cost: 2.5 Fairly good tools at a cheap price.

Value: 4 Cheap price offsets crappy warranty. Tools are definitely not ultra high quality. I have a set of 1/4 drive deepset sockets, and I have been using them at work for almost a year with virtually no problems at all. Sockets do not fit on bolts as snugly as Craftsman, Snap-On, or Blue-Point. Wrench quality is suspect - I would avoid Companion wrenches.

Warranty: 1 Non existent.

Overall: 3.5 A good starter tool set for a budding home mechanic. Not so great for professionals. Sockets seem to be the best value in this brand. Too bad there's no warranty. There is more difference in quality between Craftsman and Companion than between Snap-On and Blue-Point.

Ace Hardware

Cost: 2 Pretty cheap tools. Good for quick purchases when you can't get to a tool you already own, but not so great for a final tool purchase.

Value: 3 Mediocre quality offsets cheap cost.

Warranty: 1 As far as I know, there is none. A deal breaker for me.

Usability: 3 They work correctly, but I wouldn't reach for a 12 point Ace socket when I need to bust loose a stubborn bolt. I notice some rounding on sockets after much use, and the drive side of it (where you hook up the ratchet) also rounds a little, but nothing close to failing to hook up with the ratchet drive.

Overall 2: No warranty, OK manufacturing, and a half-way selection of sockets at the store gets this brand a lower rating. Good thing they are cheap... that's about all they have going for them.

Great Neck

I won't comment too much on this brand, as I have limited experience with them. The few tools I have bought work reasonably well and were cheap, but they were lacking in quality. Casting marks on brad removers, amongst other things, stand out in my mind.


Again, not much Mac experience. Rumor says good tools. Perhaps someone can confirm?


Never even seen one. My buddy says they are great, somewhere between Snap-On and Craftsman, but you pay for it. Lifetime warranty for hand tools, although their website warranty info is "legally obtuse" (ask about the warranty before you buy anything.)


Cost: 4 KD makes a lot of specialty tools, and you pay for it.

Value: 4 Remember those ratcheting flex head gear wrenches? These guys started that. Gear Wrench is owned by KD. Sometimes there's nothing else that will work.

Warranty: Haven't had to warranty a KD tool yet. Unsure exactly what the warranty is. My KD tools are ordered through Snap-On, though we also have a direct account, so getting the warranty is probably a little harder than getting Snap-On warranties.

Overall: 3 Specialty tool company makes special tools. Sometimes there's nothing like them, but WHEW. I spent 179 bucks for a wrench set, sizes 8-19mm complete. 12 wrenches. That's close to 15 bucks each!

Harbor Freight

Cost: 1 Harbor Freight sells cheap cheap cheap tools. Between one quarter to half the Craftsman price.

Value: 2 While incredibly inexpensive, HF tools are also very cheap, particularly the hand tools. They're made in China and have highly variable quality control. Some of the tools are fine, but some of them fall apart before you use them the first time. Interestingly, the more complex and expensive the tool, the higher quality they seem to be (I have an air impact wrench which cost $18 and has held up fairly well under light use).

Warranty: There's a warranty? Actually, within their warranty time (which is 30 days? 90? Something like that), the HF store I've dealt with has been very good about exchanges with no questions. It's a very short warranty period, though.

Overall: HF has an amazing selection of tools (check them out: http://www.harborfreight.com/), including everything from screwdrivers to welders to CNC mills. They're all surprisingly inexpensive, and some of them are actually decent. Presumably, as the Chinese ramp up their quality (which is visibly happening even now), HF tools will become a better deal. Don't buy hand tools there, but if you need to weld something and only have $100 to spend on a welder, HF is the place to go. Also good for "I need it now, I need it to work once" tools.

(HF section by IanJ)

Other Options

NAPA Auto Parts has a Professional Series ratchet set for $70 or so. They seem to be durable and of Great Neck (middle of the road) quality. The set includes: deepwells and short sockets, both metric and standard, from sizes 4mm-19mm and 5/32"-7/8", two ratchets, two extensions, a converter for 3/8" to 1/4" drive, a nut driver, two spark plug sockets and a nice plastic carry-all attache' to keep it all in place. There is not a single 12 point socket in the whole set. Overall, I found it to be a very good value for someone who does not regularly do heavy duty work. I do not know if they would hold up to hard labor, but I think so.

I have a Great Neck pull bar and two Great Neck torque wrenches that also fill the bill. No problems so far. All my other tools are Craftsman. For the householder or the guy who likes to do his own oil changes and valve adjustments, I highly recommend both Napa and Greatneck. But for the pros, probably not.