Is it worth buying cheap garden tools?

davidtimeJanuary 12, 2011

Hi friends, I have recently started buying a bunch of gardening tools at Home Depot and Lowes, but the prices are really high. Then I found out about buying discount wholesale tools through a local website (attached - I live in OKC) and there are a couple of places near me that sell these tools so I went there and the tools aren't branded, but they seem to be of good quality. Any advice. Are brands worth the price? I mean gardening is a pretty heavy-duty pastime and I don't want them to break after a few uses. On the other hand I don't want to pay over the odds.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cheap Tools Oklahoma City

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If I were just starting out I would only buy what I could afford, even if it was cheap junk ( except end wrenches or a tool that would cause you to screw up a job). A cheap tool is better than no tool at all. I would replace with better tools as I could. I have some tools that I have used for over 40 years, also some that belonged to my dad who died in 1957.

I think it is more how you take care of tools than their price. I am in favor of quality if you can afford it.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 10:00PM
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Hi David,

In a word - no. The problem with foriegn made, cheap tools is not only that they're cheap, but they're also unpleasant to use. A good quality tool is worth the extra expense.

examples -
A cheap shovel is made of thin gauge steel which will wear faster and bend easier than a good shovel. The step will be smaller and bent once, making it uncomfortable to push it into the ground.

A hoe at the big box store is actually an old medieval torture device. The angle of attack guarantees you'll be stooping as you use it. The blade is spot welded to the ferrule and will break with much use. It's only good for mixing cement in a wheel barrel.

Really, why wouldn't you buy a good shovel for $60 or a nice hoe for $50? Most people spend more than that on cable or satellite.

If you can't afford new tools, watch the estate auctions and garage sales.

A book I would recommend to anyone wanting to drool over tools is The Tool Book by William Bryant Logan

    Bookmark   January 13, 2011 at 7:30AM
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Good advice. As with all things it depends on where your wallet is. In the long term it feels like a better investment to buy the good tools now rather than the cheap tools, estate sales sound like a good idea. Has anybody had any luck with pawn shops? The other question is how do you tell a tool is quality. Does high price good quality, or can I take it that if it is in Home Depot and it costs $50 it's therefore good quality?

    Bookmark   January 13, 2011 at 2:38PM
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Hi David,

I just reread my post and think I came off as pretty arrogant. Sorry.

Price doesn't always translate into quality, but it usually does. Sometimes it just translates into an overpriced store. I can't really tell you how to determine a good quality tool - I just "know" from years of using tools. If you have a low quality tool next to a high quality tool you'll just "know", too. Good quality tools tend to weigh more at the head. Shovels are made of higher quality, heavier gauge steel. The connection point between the head and the handle is solid and strong. The handle itself is strong and of good quality materials.

Of course, another important factor in a good quality tool is its comfort in use. I mentioned a common hoe. You can buy an excellent quality hoe, and still have a torture device. Much better hoes to use are the oscillating stirrup hoes and collinear hoes. D-handled tools today are made with a too-short handle for a 6 foot tall guy like me. I tend to stick with long handled tools for this reason. I wish I didn't have so darn many D-handled aluminum scoop shovels because each and every one of them are uncomfortable for me to use.

Pick up a copy of "The Tool Book". It not only shows lots of excellent quality tools, it also gives a good review on what to look for in a tool and tips on how to use them.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2011 at 2:37PM
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Don't forget yard sales.My best lopper looks like it is hand forged and was a rust bucket when I bought it for 3.00. It works better than my 40.00 compound cutter. My sythe is a snow and nealy yard sale 10.00 and it will out cut any string trimmer on the market. ( maybe that is cheating I cut river bottom straw in the 60's) I don't believe older is always better but good tools last many lifetimes. Ps. I am not as fast with the sythe as I was at 14 in the 60's.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 8:35PM
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All of the information here is right on. I have some garage sale tools, some that were given to me and some were purchased ~ some cheap, some spendy. I may look silly at a store but I pretend that I'm actually using the tool I may buy. It helps! Oh, and my favorite hoe/weeding device is the stirrup style. Was my grandfather's and given to me about 25 years ago. So there ya go for quality!!

Here is a link that might be useful: How to choose yard tools

    Bookmark   February 26, 2011 at 5:08PM
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I have quit with cheap tools. I got so tied of stuff bending and breaking right in the middle of a job...I went to our REAL hardware store and ORDERED some killer good (contractor grade) shovels. I've since done similar with snippers etc. I'm very happy with my decision. I will also say that you have to live with-in your means.

Thus...if I were not able to buy some better tools due to limited cash on hand...

I'd spend some time deciding what I needed the most and then try some local auctions (try being a loaded word with an auction...with so many auction zombies (glazed-over eyes is the key to I.D. these critters) can TRY to buy good (older manufacture in many cases) at reasonable prices.

Of course Craig's list etc is also out there.

I say buy good stuff and then USE it!

    Bookmark   February 26, 2011 at 8:13PM
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mocknbird(MoCo, MD (6B))

I have found Martha Stewart tools at Kmart to be surprisingly good value. Good quality, Kmart prices.

They don't compare w/ superpremium handtools but the quality for the price was excellent.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2011 at 12:31PM
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I like swap meets most peaople look at tools and say that looks like hard work and they right but a good tool that holds an edge and has no flex to it will out work a cheap flimsie tools hate them they will not get sharp you wear the tool away and no edge. I like to only buy the tool once. my kids will have a bunch of tools that will service them for there live time.keep them sharp they work better so learn how to sharpen them.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 10:48AM
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