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Buying Guide for Secondhand Tools

Buying secondhand tools can save you money if you know what you’re looking for. Here are some tips on buying used tools that make it worth the hunt.

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When building your home improvement workshop, the cost of buying new tools can add up pretty quickly. If you want to get going on your DIY projects, but the thought of buying used tools scares you, don’t despair.

Arm yourself with knowledge of how tools are supposed to perform, what to look for in used tools, and the best places to buy them. Then, you’ll be ready to shop for secondhand tools and save on your tool budget.

Before You Buy Secondhand Tools

Knowing the basics, like which tool performs which tasks and how, is important. Learn by reading books and magazine articles, and perusing websites. Major retailers’ sites often include specifics in their product descriptions that make comparisons easy.

Visit the brick and mortars. Hardware store employees can show you the differences between brands and models. At pawnshops, you can learn the going resale prices. Pawnshop owners only buy items with a high resale value, so if a tool is going to sit, they won’t buy it.

What to Look For in Specific Tools

Once you’ve done your research, you’ll know what a particular new tool looks like and how it behaves. Now, you can compare what you know with what you see. You don’t want to buy a power tool that doesn’t work. And you want hand tools, especially bladed ones, in good shape, too.

Hand tools: When buying hand tools, look them over carefully. Choose tools free from corrosion and rust, cracks, or any other signs of wear. Make sure that moving parts move freely. Certain manufacturers offer lifetime warranties on some of their hand tools, so it may be worthwhile to contact customer service for a replacement of an inoperative secondhand tool.

Tools with blades: The most important thing about wood carving tools is the blade edge. When sharpened improperly, a craftsman runs the risk of ruining the edge. Telltale signs include grinder marks or a bluish hue that indicates the steel was overheated. The edge on these tools will need to be fixed by an expert, the trouble and cost of which should be considered before purchasing them. Also, pass up chisels that are short due to years of being ground down.

Power tools: When looking at a used power tool, first inspect the plug and cord. If you see any signs of fraying, loose, exposed, or taped wires, walk away. The plug should have all the original prongs, too. If everything looks good, plug it in and test it.

The battery packs on cordless tools only lasts a few years. Test run these long enough to make sure the battery will hold up. The cost of a new battery pack often negates the savings of buying used. Only buy a used cordless tool from someone who can tell you how old it is.

When running the tool, listen for any unusual noises and note how it feels in your hand. A wobble could indicate a loose blade or shaft. Look at the motor vent on starting and watch for smoke. Is the area around this vent clean or does it show signs of burning? Smell it, too.

Finally, inspect the housing for cracks, missing screws, and missing parts. Make sure all guards and safety features are in place.

Where to Buy Used Tools

Contractor grade tools are made with heavier parts and are more durable than standard homeowner DIY tools. So, they often make the best used-tool purchase. Look for names like DeWalt, Bosch, Ridgid, Makita, or Milwaukee Tools.

Also, watch for tools sold in large lots—a sign they could be stolen.

Yard sales, flea markets, pawnshops, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace are typically the best places to shop for used tools. If you don’t mind paying shipping, you’ll find used tools on eBay, too. When buying from someone online, always check their ratings and reviews.

Once you get shopping, you’ll probably find you enjoy the hunt as much as the projects waiting to be done.