If you are a DIY kind of guy like me, you probably own a reasonable collection of power and hand tools. Some are great, some not so great. You probably have tools you regret cheaping out on and some you probably overspent on. I have.
Whether you already have a good amount of tools (and will end up buying more eventually), or own very few and are looking to expand, here are some points to consider. This is the good judgment that comes from "experience"-- which of course comes from bad judgment.
Disclaimer: this may not apply if you use your tools professionally, where time is money.
So without further delay, here's a list of general principles for tool acquisitions:
- If it's simple to make, buy cheap. A flat screwdriver, for example
- If precision is crucial to function, buy the nicer one. Torx screwdrivers, diagonal cutting pliers, Miter saws, table saws, etc.
- Never sacrifice safety for low cost. That said, not all "safety" features really add much safety at all. Some are marketing gimmicks or just annoying.
- Pay no attention to where it is made. Junk can come from the US, and quality stuff can come from China. What matters is design, material, and workmanship.
- Simple things like air compressors, grinders, buffers, etc should be the cheapest you can find.
- A spray gun should be the best you can afford (hint: it won't be sold at any big box store)
- Apart from dust collection and vibration, a sander is a sander is a sander
- Welders should be purchased from a specialty shop-- the mass market welders are most only newer designs because they tried to cheapen them as much as possible. A Lincoln welder from Lowe's is NOT the same grade as the one welding supply shop sells.
Here's an example of where I went cheap; I have an air compressor that is "oilfree" and whose motor directly drives the actual compressing cylinder. It is loud and obnoxious. It will probably only last about 500 hours or so before it burns out. But it costs half of what a nice oil-lubed, belt-drive compressor would cost, and my infrequent usage will take decades to hit 500 hours of compressor usage. I can replace the compressor and start the clock all over again and STILL not have spent more money than buying the nicer compressor the first time.
On the other hand, I learned the hard way to buy the nicest wire cutters you can find. Cheap ones will be made of softer steel and have blades that don't align properly. The soft still gets nicked and even if the edges align properly, you'll end up with a gap that prevents clean cutting.
Generally speaking, buying something middle of the road will cause you to end up skimping when you should have splurged, or overpaying for a high-end piece when a cheap junker would have worked just fine.