How to Buy Used Tools

A pile of coins and cash with hand tools.

Purchasing new tools to outfit your workshop can be an expensive endeavor, but you can offset some of these expenses by buying used tools. While you can find some great deals online, there are a few things you should consider before purchasing used tools for your DIY needs.

Know the Market

Before you purchase a used tool, research how much it costs brand new. This will establish a starting price for how much you should pay for the used tool. If the tool is in great condition, then you can expect to pay around 20 to 30 percent of the original value. Tools that are in bad condition should only cost a fraction of their original price. It's also a good idea to check online and see how much similar used tools are selling for in your location.

Hand Tools

Hand tools.

Hand tools are great to buy used because you can purchase them without testing their function or worrying about a motor going out. There are also some hand tools that feature a lifetime warranty, making them easy to replace down the road. You can remove rust from hand tools made out of steel and generally get a great deal out of an old set.

Power Tools

Buying power tools is a little trickier than hand tools. You will need to inspect used power tools and make sure they are running correctly, especially when it comes to cordless tools. Inspect plugs and cords and make sure they are not frayed, and that safety equipment is still in place and functioning. Before buying, run the power tool and listen for any questionable noises. If the motor sounds bad, then pass on it.

Cordless Power Tools

A cordless drill.

You should have a general idea when cordless tools were originally purchased before buying them used. Keep an eye out for contacts that have rust or corrosion and test each battery to make sure it works. This should give you a good idea of whether you will need to replace the batteries in the near future. Buying new batteries can sometimes cost more than the tool. If possible, buy the same brand as tools you already own. Not only will you be more familiar with the setup, but you will also have an extra battery or two in case one goes bad.

Where to Buy

The best place to find used tools is online via sites like Craigslist and eBay. While you can find great prices online, you need to be cautious about scammers, junk peddlers, and people who overprice their items. The best way to avoid these common pitfalls is to buy specific tools for whatever project you are currently working on. This is not the fastest way to build a workshop, but it will prevent you from buying a bunch of duds from one dealer. You should also consider who you are buying the tool from and how much it has been used since the original purchase date. A contractor, for instance, will have put the tool through a much more rigorous life than a casual homeowner.

When to Buy

It's best to purchase tools in the offseason and when you don't need them as soon as possible. Buying tools out of season drives their cost down, while giving yourself a little time for the purchase enables you to walk away if the deal is questionable. For example, lawn mowers sell at a much lower price in the winter and the same is true for snow blowers in the summer.


A saw.

You should have a general knowledge about tool brands before buying anything used. Some tools are specifically made for DIYers and weekend warriors and might not stand up to regular use. Other brands, such as DeWALT, Bosch, Makita, Hilti, and Milwaukee, are made for professionals and have a much longer life. DIY brands include Craftsman, Cobalt, Black + Decker, Skin, Porter Cable, and Ryobi.