Brand Loyalty — Does it make sense?

Walk onto any job site…..or into any garage… will inevitably find people who stick to one brand no matter what.  The question is — does it make sense?  Before the days of the internet, your choices for buying tools were very limited (usually a hardware store or straight off of the tool truck).

I can remember working for a dealership washing cars when I was young, and always saw the mechanics line up whenever the different tool trucks arrived each week.  Inside the trucks were walls & a ceiling lined with brand new shiny tools, and just like kids in a candy store — everyone “needed something“.  Swapping out random broken tools that were under warranty was as simple as walking in/out.  The only thing easier was buying more tools — under your weekly credit account.

Fast forward to working on job sites with my dad — construction tools were what we needed.  Home Depot was the place to go for tools, and just like today — the aisles were lined with them.  The three “big names” that I can remember him buying when I was a kid were Dewalt, Makita, and Milwaukee.  While I do remember some of the tools being the same brand….typically he would buy tools based on what it was (Milwaukee Sawzall, Makita Circular Saw, Dewalt Drills).  One of the standout features that are a thing of the past were the metal cases — long since replaced with bags & blow mold cases.

Now that we the internet….times have changed.  The reliance on tool trucks & brick and mortar stores is gone, and anyone can pick up a smartphone to order a new tool in minutes.

So when does sticking to one brand make sense?

  • Battery conformity – A major expense with any cordless tool line are the batteries.  By investing in a particular brand, it allows you to use the same batteries with a wide range of tools — lowering your operating costs, eliminating the need for additional chargers, and standardizing your entire setup to run off of the same battery packs.
  • Warranties – To put it mildly, some are better than others.  The good news is that things seem to be continually getting better.  Most manufacturers (with hand tools) are now standing behind their products with lifetime warranties against manufacturer defects.  Most power tool/air tool companies are covering their products between 1-5 years.  On the more extreme side, the RIDGID L.S.A. (Lifetime Service Agreement) — covering the tool for the owner’s lifetime.
  • Consistent quality – Good & Bad…..when you find a brand that makes top-quality tools, or specific lines of tools (such as sockets, ratchets, hammers, etc), it would be wise to stick with them.  On the flip side, when you find that a company is inferior in quality — it typically spills over into many of the other tools that they make.  (Unless those companies expand into multiple grades of tools…such as DIYer, Pro-sumer, Professional).

Here is where the problem starts — brand obsession.  A lot of this comes from young people entering a trade & wanting to have “the best” right off the bat (before they make their first dollar).  One big lie that people make themselves believe is that they wont be able to get the job done if they use a cheap tool.  This is 100% false.  Quick/easy credit & low payments can be very appealing — but very soon those numbers add up, and you end up paying more for your tool bill than your rent each month.  Couple the excessive spending on unnecessary tools with high compound interest rates & you now have a recipe for failure.

There is a solution though……save up, buy what you can afford, and upgrade over time.  Remember, the car you are working on doesn’t know if you are using a Kobalt wrench or a Snap-on…..the guy in the next bay might make fun of you, but he also isn’t paying your bills.  We do a lot of run-time tests on cordless tools… drill might go through 100 holes/battery & the premium brand might do 200 holes, but at what cost?  Lets say you spend double, although you can save extra trips to the charger over the course of a week — you will also have to work more hours to pay for that nicer tool.

If money isn’t an issue, then by all means — buy the best.  Just remember, the best typically comes a very high price tag.  Starting with what will get the job done & upgrading as money allows is always the best way to go.