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Tools Buying Guide: Types, Tips, and FAQs (2023 Guide)

Whether you’re an experienced craftsman or are just trying to build a new piece of furniture or fix a leaky pipe, finding the right tools and knowing how to use them is essential.

Tool bag with a variety of tools Adobe Stock

In This Guide: Types of Tools | Features To Look for in Tools | Ways To Keep Your Tools Organized | Tips for Staying Safe While Using Tools | What Are The Most Trusted Tool Brands? | Frequently Asked Questions About Tools

Hundreds of types of tools are available depending on your needs, experience level, project, and home setup. However, some truths remain evident no matter what tool you’re using. Tools should be durable, reliable, and safe. They should also work as designed and provide clear instructions on operating them.

If you’re new to buying tools, it may be intimidating to narrow down your choices. The This Old House Reviews Team created this buyer’s guide to give you all the must-have information you need to know when shopping for tools.


Types of Tools

Here are some of the most popular and practical tools to keep on hand in your garage, basement, or shed.

Hand Tools

Power Tools

Tool Accessories and Measurement Tools


Features To Look for in Tools

While each tool will have unique features, there are some common components you should look out for in whichever tool you buy. Here are some of the most important factors to consider when shopping for new tools.

Durability

Tools should also be highly durable and withstand years of continuous use. Note the material the tool is made of and check reviews from other consumers to read about any potential issues with wear and tear. Tools made with heavy-duty materials like metal are more likely to hold up than those made from materials like plastic.

You can also take steps to increase the durability of your tool by cleaning it regularly and only using it as intended.

Portability

Depending on the type of tool you’re using, its weight and portability may be important factors. Lightweight and cordless tools are easier to move from place to place and can adjust quicker than heavier tools. Many tools also come with convenient carrying cases, handles, or hooks that make them easy to move around.

Power Level/Speed

While lightweight tools are easier to carry, they may lack overall power, which is especially important when purchasing power tools. Tools with higher torque levels, RPM, or other heavy-duty power indicators will make finishing your project more efficient. However, there are some possible drawbacks to high-powered tools. First, they can be more difficult to operate and are cumbersome to move around. They may also present a significant barrier to entry for inexperienced consumers and will likely cost more than smaller, less robust tools.

Safety Features

Tools, especially power and electric tools, should have built-in safety features that help prevent accidents and protect you from misuse. For example, many tools come with molded grips that help protect your hands as you operate them. Others have an automatic shutoff that ensures they stop when they get overheated or tip over. Others feature a safety switch that can turn the tool off in an emergency. Tools should also come with specific instructions that help ensure you’re operating them correctly and not damaging the device.

Usability

Other than safety, the most critical aspect of a tool is that it works properly and is easy to use. Tools that don’t function as intended can make working with them frustrating and possibly dangerous. Check individual product reviews and descriptions to estimate how simple it will be to use a tool, and look for specific product features that will make it easier to use. For example, cordless drills may be easier to maneuver than corded drills.


Ways To Keep Your Tools Organized

Once you’ve established your tool collection, the next step is keeping it organized. Here are some essential items to store your tools in your garage, shed or bring with you.


Tips for Staying Safe While Using Tools

Some tools have built-in safety features, but you can do more to ensure you’re operating the equipment safely. Here are some things you should always do when operating a power tool.

  • Always wear safety equipment such as safety glasses, work boots, and gloves. You should also wear long sleeves and pants and avoid loose clothing and open-toed shoes.
  • Keep your work area secure. You should have a dedicated working location with a sturdy base like a workbench.
  • Clear the area of potential hazards. Clear the floor and working station before you start working, so you don’t accidentally run into something or trip over a loose item.
  • Keep children and pets clear of the area while you work to avoid any possible accidents.
  • Don’t operate machinery if you’re intoxicated or impaired in any way. You should also avoid using power tools if you’re tired or distracted.
  • Ensure all tools are unplugged and kept in a safe location after you finish working.
  • Check your tools regularly (when they aren’t plugged in) to ensure they aren’t jammed or broken. If they are, don’t try to operate them until the issue is fixed. If you start to feel resistance while you work, turn the device off and unplug or power it down immediately.

What Are the Most Trusted Tool Brands?

While the best tool brand largely depends on the type of tool you are buying, some brands stand out as the most trusted among consumers. Some retailers known to make high-quality tools include:

  • Black + Decker
  • Bosch
  • Craftsman
  • DeWalt
  • Festool
  • Hilti
  • Husky
  • IRWIN
  • Kobalt
  • Makita
  • Metabo
  • Milwaukee
  • Porter-Cable
  • RIGID
  • RYOBI
  • Skil
  • WEN

Frequently Asked Questions about Tools

How much should I spend on a high-quality tool?

The type of tool, power level, and brand will affect the price you will end up paying for a tool. Before making a purchase, consider how often you will use the tool. Are you buying it for a specific DIY project and don’t plan to use it regularly? Or are you looking to take up a new hobby, such as woodworking, that will require the tool to be used monthly or weekly?

Keep in mind that power tools, especially those with a high capacity, can be expensive. Hand tools will cost less but will also be more labor-intensive. If you’re taking up a new hobby and cost is a concern, try starting with a low-end power tool and see if it meets your needs. You can always upgrade later if needed.

When is the best month to buy tools?

When hunting for the best deals on tools, check for seasonal deals that may come about during Labor Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or Amazon Prime Day. You may also find good deals on retailers in the spring before Father’s Day. However, individual brands may decide at any time to put their products on sale. Once you’ve identified the tools you’re looking for, check back regularly to their Amazon store to see if any products have been discounted.

What are the first tools I should buy?

If you’re a new homeowner or a beginner just starting your tool collection, start with tools that will be easy to pick up and can serve multiple functions. A screwdriver set, hand saw, hammer, socket set, drill bits, adjustable wrenches, and a power drill will give you a good place to start, and you can add more tools as you get more comfortable.

To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews team at reviews@thisoldhousereviews.com.