I have a few maxims when it comes to buying tools. One I heard from Adam Savage and I think he heard it from someone else. When buying a tool you haven’t used before:
- When buying a tool you haven’t used before, buy the cheapest possible working version. Not the toy one, but the next level up.
- Once you wear it down, break it, outgrow it, buy the most expensive one you can afford.
The idea here is that the cheapest one will be enough to get you started and learning about the tool, maybe it’s the wrong tool, or maybe the path splits in two or maybe you end up just not using it that much. By the time you are done with the cheap one, you will have gain knowledge that lets you chose a better one.
When you buy a better one, it’s cheaper to buy a for-life tool, than keeping buying it every now and then. At that point the extra quality might also be appreciated, specially around precision and accuracy.
I recently had to choose which family of battery based tools to buy into. Generally when buying a tool, brand-loyalty is a liability, not an asset. Buy whichever tool matches you the best for your need for that tool, whether it’s quality or price. But when it comes to battery there’s an advantage in brand-loyalty because you can interchange batteries between your tools. It would be awesome if there was a standard of battery connectors but that will never happen.
I’m a hobbyist and I do some home repair and DIY, so my demanding on tools is not that high. I do love quality but I found something that I love more than quality: variety. I’d rather have an OK drill and an OK stapler than a great drill. This actually happened recently and we bought the stapler and now we find so many uses for it. Having a large repertoire of tools helps find new paths, new projects, new ideas. When it comes to battery tools, I’d say, buy the cheapest ones that are good enough for you.
Big caveat: if it’s for a job that has a fixed set of tools, then adding variety beyond the tools you need is worthless, so there you should ramp up quality instead.
This was my decision with battery tools: the default is Ryobi, they are cheap but not too cheap and they have a great range of tools. If we outgrew a tool, for example, not enough power, or not enough resiliency, then we upgrade it to Makita and have two battery families, but no more than two. The decision on Makita is not final, I would probably reevaluate it when the time comes… so far Ryobi is performing really well.
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