We receive numerous emails over the years about buying cheap power tools. Over and over again I hear: why would I buy an expensive professional power tool when I can get the same features in a no name brand for half the cost? Well, part of that statement is exactly true, you can get tools for half the cost, but it stops there. There is six major reasons to buy a professional power tool or “more expensive” power tool. The six reasons are tool options, material, efficiency, safety, aggravation and time.
Before I go one, I am not saying you should never buy a cheap tool. There are times when a cheap tool is very useful and can save you a ton of money. If you are tiling your kitchen, why spend a ton of money on a tile saw that will only be used once every 5 years.
See for me, I think there are times you should go cheap, but a majority of the time, spend the extra money and get quality tools.
The first reason for going with a professional power tool is tool options. Let's take a reciprocating saw. The cheap one and the professional one will both look alike, take the same blade, probably have the same stroke length and same amp motors. But when you look closer there is a big difference with options. For example, take the Milwaukee Sawzall. They invented this tool and have perfected it. This is considered a demolition tool which means it will get abused and be used under harsh conditions. No matter what you do, you will not get this blade to pull away or break loose from the tool while using it.
The cheaper tools lack this option and use cheaper components. With these tools, if the blade binds, chances are the blade will be released from the tool instead of jamming through the work. The blade will lock into place, but when you put a certain pressure on a certain angle, you will more than likely get the blade to bind up and pull away from the saw. This can be a huge frustration when you are just trying to get a job done.
The motor is going to be superior with the Milwaukee over a no name brand. Not only will the tool last you longer, but it will get the work done quicker since it can transfer the power from the motor to the blade more efficient.
I could go on and on about how the Sawzall has more options for the user than the no name brands, but I won't. In most power tool categories this will be the case. Professional tools are designed for the serious user and designed for the long run. These companies need to stay on top of the game to compete in the competitive industry.
Professional power tool companies use the better material in their tools. They spend millions of dollars each year on research and development. They build lighter and stronger tools by the material they use. They search for the optimal settings in the tools. A simple example of the material is metal.
First is stainless steel. There are different grades of stainless steel on the market that these companies can buy. One way for a no-name manufacturer to keep cost down is by buying a cheaper stainless steel, (there are over 60 grades of stainless steel). They can still advertise it as stainless steel because technically it is. Using a lower quality stainless steel can still cause corrosion and having corrosion on the inside of the tools is bad for the motor and wear and tear. On the outside it just looks bad, not to mention cheaper stainless steel is more fragile.
Is steel the same? The purer steel is the better. Some no name brands save money by buying a cheaper steel, so it might have more iron in the steel. Well, Iron is what cause rust and spot rusting. Some users say they always keep their tools dry and don't have to worry about that. Well, actually the small amounts of water and oxygen in the air are enough to get the corrosion process started.
I just touched on the aspect of corrosion. There is still the whole idea of using better materials, such as metals create a better motor. The better motor will have less heat build up and therefore last longer. A simple better plastic on the tool can make it easier to hold. There are lots of reasons that materials make a difference between tools.
Efficiency is another reason and one of the most important reasons. A power tool made with a better design and better materials is more efficient, meaning it can transfer more power from the source (input) to the output.
Compare a no name to a name brand power tool. Maybe they both have the same amps and volts, but a brand name power tool can transfer the energy better. A tool that transfers 93% of the power to the blade is far better than a tool that only transfers 79%. Unfortunately, most power tool manufacturers never state their efficient transition from input to output and I am not sure why, but studies have shown that the better design and material make an efficient transfer.
Some of the no name brand tools are made in foreign countries. Don't assume that they have the same standard as other countries. Some of these countries don't have the technology to make good machines that produce quality tools.
Also, some of these countries either don't have the same laws or laws may not even be enforced. So these companies in the foreign land can cut corners. The tool might not be designed with good balance and could cause fatigue earlier, resulting in injuries. Sometimes the cheaper tools will break and when they break without the proper design, it could actually end up causing an injury.
Safety is the most important thing to consider when operating a tool. Why save a couple of extra dollars when you are talking about safety. Again, this may not seem like a big deal, but remember you are dealing with tools and it is not a good idea to fight tools. The tool should be doing the work, not you. Often with a cheaper or no name brand, you will have to fight the tool, causing more fatigue.
More times than not the biggest thing I have seen is aggravation with no name power tools. I see people all the time trying to use no name power tools that shouldn't even be used, they can lack power and efficiency. They end up getting frustrated with a simple project. I don't know about you, but having the right tool for the right project makes a world of difference.
Take a simple screw as an example. Have you ever gone to the store and seen a great deal on screws and thought to yourself, “Wow I have to get these, I could save a bunch.” Well, I am sure we have all seen a great deal and not wanted to pass it up. What happens next. You put them on the shelf and next time you need a screw you grab for them. Sure some of the time they work fine, but sometimes the screw head comes right off. Worst yet, and it happens a lot, the screw ends up stripping. That's when it dawns on you that you got ripped off. They used a cheaper material and now you have to deal with it. The screw is just a simple example, but it happens a lot with power tools.
Another factor is time. If you are going to work with a power tool, do it the right way and use the right tool. Using a cheaper tool is just going to waste time. You might end breaking bits quicker, or take longer to cut or drill trough certain materials.
Then, there is the factor of buying the tool again down the road. Using the right tool, a professional tool can save you a lot of time. Professional power tool manufacturers designed this tool for a specific use. They have tested it to make sure it works the way it is supposed to.
By now you may be thinking that I work for the power tool industry, but I don't. I know this stuff first hand because that's how I used to shop. I ended up buying that cheap no name brand junk and learning the hard way. I don't know how many cheap power tools I ended up buying before I finally got my act together and bought the good stuff. Well, I still have the good stuff and have realized that it pays to spend a couple of extra dollars now.