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Lifetime warranty on tools? really?
May 9, 2011 12:23 AM   Subscribe

Tool question: Is it really worth the extra cost to buy Craftsman wrenches, sockets and similar tools? Do they really honor the lifetime warranty?

I've heard about people having trouble exchanging Craftsman tools for the warranty.

If I were to buy a used set of Craftsman wrenches and sockets, do I need the original purchase receipt to make use of the warranty, or can anyone that is in possession of a defective tool take it to Sears for an exchange?
posted by thewalrus to Technology (36 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
They really do honor the warranty. No receipt needed. I've gone in with a ratchet of my dad's that broke and got it exchanged no questions asked. It's worth it.
posted by 6550 at 12:28 AM on May 9, 2011


My dad found a Craftsman hammer that was at least 20 years old and was missing its handle nearly entirely. He took it in and they replaced it with a new one.

This was in Salt Lake City, in the '90s.
posted by aniola at 12:28 AM on May 9, 2011


And to expand there are both cheaper and more expensive tool lines that have the same warranty but Craftsman's real edge is the ubiquitousness of Sears stores all across the country which makes getting a new tool about as convenient as possible, almost regardless of where you move.
posted by 6550 at 12:34 AM on May 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


One might consider whether Sears will still be in business when you want to replace your tools.
posted by grouse at 1:04 AM on May 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


They may very well replace them, but on the other hand, most tools are pretty hard-wearing. Power-tools are a different story, but even cheap hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches etc will last a lifetime of wear for all but the most demanding of handy people or professionals.
posted by smoke at 1:55 AM on May 9, 2011


Buying cheap/poor quality tools and finding out why they were cheap/that they are of inferior quality while in the middle of working is one of the crappiest afternoons you will ever have.

Craftsman tools are good tools, the warranty is an added bonus. (Rigid also make good tools, as does Estwing and Knipex and Klein - these are tools I've used, for years, and found to be of generally better quality. Good tools take on their own life, have memories and, most importantly, don't lose the ability or desire to keep doing what they were built to. I have experienced embarrassingly emotionally feelings toward tools that I have used a lot (stop sniggering), but there is something to be said for knowing that for all of the other chaos this thing will, without complaint or comment or inflection of any kind, do this thing.)
posted by From Bklyn at 2:12 AM on May 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


Yes, it's worth it. They're not the best tools available, but they're a good value for the money, especially if you buy sets and watch for sales. The warranty is for real.

*I once bought a broken 1/2" ratchet at a garage sale for fifty cents, of style that hadn't been manufactured for probably fifty years or so, and Sears replaced it with the current version.

*I was given an old Craftsman block plane with a cracked casting. I took it to Sears to have it replaced, only to find that they don't offer a Craftsman block plane any longer. They offered me 2 choices: a Sears-branded plane that was kinda junky and which wouldn't have carried the lifetime warranty anymore, or a check. I took the latter, and they actually paid me enough to buy the equivalent Stanley plane.

*Sears discontinued the lifetime warranty on their tape measures (because tape measures break all the time), and bought back my tape measure when I went to exchange it.
posted by jon1270 at 2:57 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had a rake from Sears that I used for years. It broke and they replaced it no questions asked. I'm sure their new Kim Kardashian clothing line will end up losing millions but they still make great tools.

FYI- Kobalt tools at Lowe's are made by Snap-On
posted by JohntheContrarian at 3:56 AM on May 9, 2011


FYI- Kobalt tools at Lowe's are made by Snap-On

That hasn't been the case since 2003, since then Danaher Corporation makes many of the tools. Danaher also manufactures some of Craftsman tools along with many other brands.
posted by Harpocrates at 4:20 AM on May 9, 2011


There's some controversy over their low-end ratchets - you're likely to get a refurbished replacement that can be in pretty rough cosmetic shape instead of a new one if/when you need to swap it.

If you spend the money on the nice ratchet, then it's more in line with the rest of their full-replacement tool warranties. You're also unlikely to ever need the warranty, as it's one well-made tool.

Also, unlike Home Depot or Loewes, the sales staff at Sears really know their business - tons of training on everything in the tool department.

I'll echo the sentiment that Craftsman powertools are midrange at best - Porter Cable or Milwaukee for the indestructable stuff.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:28 AM on May 9, 2011


I was a professional mechanic for a good portion of my life. The tool I used every day were snap-on, the tools I needed once in a while were Craftsman. For the price you can't beat them, at 1/3 (or more) off the cost of snap-on and 95% the quality they are well worth it. I have never had a problem retuning anything to Sears. Also, as a previous poster said scrounge through yard sales and pick up Craftsman tools for a few bucks, bring them to Sears and get brand new ones....
posted by alfanut at 4:47 AM on May 9, 2011


NO, it's not worth the extra cost, especially if you're not a professional. I used to buy Craftsman almost exclusively, but I found that I can buy Harbor Freight hand tools for 1/4 to 1/3 of Sear's sale prices and the difference in quality isn't enough to matter, with only a few exceptions. For example, I still buy Craftsman screwdrivers.

HF has a lifetime warranty on their hand tools also.
posted by 14580 at 4:58 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, the warranty is legit. Heck, the sales people practically love it when you bring something in for replacement. It gives them an opportunity to make a positive statement about Sears.

In recent years, Sears has introduced a value line of their hand tools. These do not carry the same lifetime warranty, and are not as well-made as the normal Craftsman line, so avoid them if you're serious about your tools.

I always opt for Craftsman when I need a new tool. Say what you will about Sears, they've taken care to maintain the quality and value of their tools.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:00 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have to agree with 6550, they are pretty good tools, not the best, but there is many that are significantly worse. The best thing about them is not having to mail or drive very far to get them replaced. I have broken a couple sockets and a ratchet and had no problems getting them replaced.
posted by DJWeezy at 5:26 AM on May 9, 2011


My father had a 1/2-inch ratchet made before WW2 - no plating at all, very basic tool, but it said Craftsman on it. He took it to sears when it stopped working, and they let him pick their best current one.



...even cheap hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches etc will last a lifetime of wear for all but the most demanding of handy people or professionals....

This is not true. While Harbor Freight may sell some good enough tools, there are lots of really poor-quality cheap tools out there. I've used some, and I have the scars to show for it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:56 AM on May 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've returned 2 or 3 Craftsman hand tools over the years and have never had any resistance.

Just be wary that not everything with the Craftsman name has this warranty. Their power tools, for example, carry a 1-year warranty.


posted by PSB at 6:26 AM on May 9, 2011


I've heard about people having trouble exchanging Craftsman tools for the warranty

I haven't. But I have personally witnessed two different returns of nearly ancient tools that resulted in essentially delighted, no-questions-asked (except they did ASK, but just in a making conversation sort of way) exchange for brand new goods. In different states and decades.

Craftsman tools sell at a premium. Not a HUGE premium, but they are a bit more. The cost allows them to a) give you a good tool that probably will never break, and b) honor that warranty, no questions asked. They know, even if you end up returning a broken 50 year old socket you bought at a garage sale, the impression you'll get is "DAMN does Sears ever stand by their tools", and you'll realize that it is worth the premium. The $2 loose ratchet that my dad exchanged without a hassle in Kentucky 20 years ago made me a lifetime Craftsman hand tool buyer. That's good marketing.

Oh! Regarding hearing people have trouble: I can imagine people full of the idea that you can exchange Craftsman stuff hassle-free going in and trying to exchange a busted power tool and, of course, not getting it. Different stuff.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:38 AM on May 9, 2011


To add to the stories already here: my dad had an ancient Craftsman screwdriver. You would push straight down on the handle, and some sort of mechanism would then twist the head and drive the screw. You could store extra bits in the handle. Hard to even explain how the thing worked.

Sears did not even sell anything like it anymore when it broke. My dad took the thing back in there and they puzzled over it a bit: we don't have anything quite like that anymore. They were apologetic, and they gave him the closest thing they had then, which was a ratchet screwdriver. Receipt? Yeah, right.

That, and I remember when I needed a socket to remove the plug from the oil pan in my car. I didn't know the exact size I needed, and it seemed that Sears only sold the sockets in big sets. I talked to one of the salesmen. He broke up one of the sets, had me leave my driver's license with him, and let me take a few of the sockets out to my car to see which one fit. He then charged me for just that socket.

Sears is a great place to buy tools.
posted by massysett at 7:04 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


smoke writes "even cheap hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches etc will last a lifetime of wear for all but the most demanding of handy people or professionals."

To a certain extent better quality tools will do a better job. A good socket will resist rounding off the corners of a fastener better than a cheap socket. A better quality screw driver will fit better and have higher resistance to cam out because if the better fit. A good ratchet will have finer gears allowing for smaller minimum turn angles. A good hammer will have better and more precisely forged face which won't deflect as easy. A good wrench will have a thicker body that hurts less when you use it. All these things make a difference even if a user doesn't know about them.

massysett writes "You would push straight down on the handle, and some sort of mechanism would then twist the head and drive the screw. You could store extra bits in the handle. Hard to even explain how the thing worked."

Yankee screwdriver.
posted by Mitheral at 7:38 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I broke the end off of a Craftsman tape measure and went looking for a replacement tape. Person in the tool department said to just go get a new tape measure.
posted by JohnE at 7:47 AM on May 9, 2011


I have heard good things about the warranty and do own a few craftsman wrenches and have had no troubles with them but I really prefer Bonney or Allen for wrenches that I use every day. They are just IMHO better and more beautiful.
posted by Iron Rat at 7:52 AM on May 9, 2011


I have taken several Craftsman (hand) tools in for warranty replacement and had no resistance. I even took in an old torque wrench that was my grandfathers and must have been at least 40 years old. I broke it while working on my car and took it in. They happily gave me the current model (which was strikingly similar) with a smile. Since my grandpa was a tinker and one of my inspirations, I asked if it was at all possible that I could have the old tool back. I was ready to buy the new tool if they balked because I wanted that well-used, if broken, tool in my shop. They understood, handed it back to me, and threw in a few adapters for the new one to thank me for the nice story.

There are better tools sure, but there are MUCH worse tools as well and the way I use my stuff and for the price, Craftsman often makes sense for me.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 8:06 AM on May 9, 2011


the craftsman warranty pretty much only applies to the 'solid' tools these days. They honored it on the ancient torque wrench i took in, but the new one they gave me only had a one year warranty on it.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 8:08 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know why, but I've got a lot of various screwdrivers and bits laying around, and when I get really frustrated on a project and can't get the darn screws to turn and I'm stripping the heads, I switch to the craftsman bits and the job gets done. Same for sockets. I should really throw all the other stuff away for all the frustration.
posted by Straw Cab at 8:20 AM on May 9, 2011


The best argument for decent tools like Craftsman - not necessarily the very best tools but decent ones - is that they are unlikely to surprise you by breaking when you are in the middle of something. Things sometimes break and if you are pulling hard on a wrench, imagine what would happen if it broke. You are supposed to consider things like this but if you're in the middle of a big slog, it's easy to forget. An ER visit dwarfs the cost of decent tools.
posted by jet_silver at 8:26 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Power-tools are a different story, but even cheap hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches etc will last a lifetime of wear for all but the most demanding of handy people or professionals.

Not true, smoke. I have broken a hammer (head came loose), screwdriver (handle shattered while trying to free a stuck screw), and multiple wrenches (usually the ratchet mechanism, but I've broken a crescent wrench handle). None of these were under abnormal use/abuse, and I'm only an occasional craftsman.

The hammer was 2nd-generation, so... it lasted a lifetime, I guess.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:56 AM on May 9, 2011


Echoing most everyone - yes, Craftsman warranty is real. I've brought in shovels that I snapped in two trying to dislodge roots or rocks and they simply hand me a new one. And I find nothing wrong with their tool quality. You really have to abuse them.. and even if you get a bad batch, bringing them back is never a hassle.
posted by rich at 9:04 AM on May 9, 2011


Power-tools are a different story, but even cheap hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches etc will last a lifetime of wear for all but the most demanding of handy people or professionals.

No, they will last a lifetime for only the least-demanding.

Anecdotally, I was at my mom's yesterday and helping her with some repairs around the house. Her go-to screwdriver, some flower-handled multi-bit piece of crap, had the fins on the Phillips part ground/stripped through. This from a 70+ woman with not a lot of hand strength. I'm no pro, but I cringe at the thought of all the people getting ripped off with "convenience" tools. It makes me want to post negative Yelp reviews.
posted by rhizome at 10:40 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


My dad worked at a big steel fabrication shop back in the 70's - 80's. They would order big 1"+ sockets from Craftsman, use them for a few months on their monster impact drivers to bolt girders together. When they finally shattered under the abuse they would take them back and get replacements. The time spent getting replacements outweighed the cost of getting more expensive special purpose sockets that would last longer but had no warranty.
posted by zengargoyle at 1:28 PM on May 9, 2011


Kirth Gerson and jet_silver both speak truth about cheap tools. Your worst case scenario isn't just "Oh, shoot, my tool broke and now I need to drive to the mall" but "Oh, shoot, my tool broke and I just lost the sight in my one good eye" or "This metal sticking out of my forearm, did Wolverine get started like this?" Good tools are definitely safer, even simple ones like screwdrivers (which when they slip off under torque become handy stomach-perforation devices). I swear to God every time I save money on a cheap tool it lets me down, sometimes in a spectacularly instructive way. I just yesterday had a "decent enough" ratchet pruner snap on me, sending a piece of hard, sharp plastic winging past my left shoulder -- and because I was "just" trimming a hedge, I wasn't wearing safety glasses.
Ironically, all my nightmares about using pruners involve chopping off a finger before I realize it.
posted by dhartung at 1:43 PM on May 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


We had some resistance on getting some Craftsmen screwdrivers replaced a couple of years ago. The handles kept breaking on them, and we took 2-3 in to the closest Sears and were pretty much laughed at initially. With pressure they replaced them, but didn't seem to be happy about it.
posted by BryanPayne at 1:47 PM on May 9, 2011


I've broken my share of Craftsman tools over the years and never had any trouble getting free replacements from my local Sears. As many have said so far, they aren't the best tools but they are usually good enough for most tasks. I have rebuild several motors and performed many, many other car and home related projects with my Craftsman tools, and they have worked very well. I use them constantly.

Unfortunately, this statement, "Also, unlike Home Depot or Loewes, the sales staff at Sears really know their business - tons of training on everything in the tool department" is far from a universal truth. My local Sears' tool department is staffed by uninformed idiots and slackers. Thankfully, they only sell the tools and don't make them. Know what you want before you go in and you'll be fine.

Finally, it's worth repeating the old adage: a good tool will allow you to do things you shouldn't attempt, while a bad tool will fail while trying to do the task for which it was intended. Craftsman hand tools are generally good and worth the slight premium for which they sell.
posted by mosk at 1:48 PM on May 9, 2011


DON'T use a breaker bar on a Craftsman ratchet wrench, they wouldn't replace mine, or the 2 sockets I snapped trying to get some stubborn lugs off a wheel.

They said " you used a breaker bar, improper use of tool, nopers." ( I hadn't told them I used a breaker bar, but the marks on the tool made it obvious).
posted by Max Power at 2:24 PM on May 9, 2011


http://consumerist.com/2009/03/craftsmans-lifetime-warranty-depends-on-tool-associates-mood.html

http://consumerist.com/2009/03/sears-cant-get-its-story-straight-regarding-rust-and-craftsman-tools.html

http://consumerist.com/2009/03/sears-clarifies-craftsman-tools-warranty.html
posted by WizKid at 2:45 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


DON'T use a breaker bar on a Craftsman ratchet wrench...

If you mean don't use a pipe to extend the handle of a ratchet, I wouldn't do that on any ratchet. Nobody makes one strong enough for that - that's why there are breaker bars.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:06 PM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


One might consider whether Sears will still be in business when you want to replace your tools.

Craftsman is still somewhat connected to Sears, but is also a separate company now. Select Ace stores carry Craftsman tools.
posted by drezdn at 7:17 AM on May 10, 2011


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