Tools from big box stores

I’ve heard many opinions on this subject so I though I’d ask here. One of my contractors refuses to go to lowes or HD because, in his opinion, “tool companies use inferior products to sell at lowes or HD to make them cheaper in order to make more money.” Apparently they even have different product numbers that proves this theory. I’ve heard the opposite as well. I’ve bought many tools at these stores and they have the same warranty and they work the same, but I’m just curious. Is there any truth to this?

I’ve heard the same, but if they offer the same warranty and cost less, I don’t see a risk in buying them.

This is somewhat true in the world of home electronics, for example Denon would make an AVR*** and AVR**** yet both are identical, the 3 digit model would be sold at the box stores while the 4 digit would be sold at the mom and pop stores, this would be done so that price matching wouldn’t be an issue. Also it is common to find at mass merchants a striped down lower specd TV, Samsung would make an 8000 series TV and Walmart would have a 8003 model that would lack inputs and lower contrast ratio. There is a small sliver of truth in the tool world too but that is also easy to identify. DeWalt for example makes 2 nearly the same cordless circular saws, the stand-alone DCS391 and the one found in combo kits the DCS393, Stuart has an article outlining this:.
I would hardly call the combo kit saw a lesser quality saw, but it does lack some nicer parts of the regular saw.
Personally when I go to any store to buy anything, I have probably researched the crap outta what I’m going to buy and if I find something I’m unfamiliar with that looks cool I probably take my tiny 4g LTE computer out and Google it.

Besides what @cr8ondt said, I think another problem with the large box stores is that they tend to sell the entry level products as well as the more pro grade products, whereas a place that caters to contractors only sell the more professional grade products. If you’re not a savvy tool buyer you might not know the difference.

To address @Bmill25 original question: a Flexvolt table saw is a Flexvolt table saw and a Fuel Sawzall is a Fuel Sawzall no matter where you buy it. These companies aren’t going to sell an inferior product at a big box store under the same product number, that would be suicide.

There is no substitute for doing your homework.

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A lot of this also has to do with the distribution strategy of the company and for the big box stores how much shelf space they are allocating a manufacturer and at what price points. Home Depot knows that the top price point for a drill/driver combo is roughly $300. So if the manufacturers make a $450 combo; they know it won’t get onto the shelves at the store. As such they spec the equipment to match the targeted consumer price point. Hence you’ll never see a $1000 Makita AVT demo hammer at HD. They won’t sell enough of them to justify the retail space. That doesn’t make the products inferior as others have noted- they just come with lower specs and without any frills (and not just bare tools, but lower RPMs, no dust ports on circular saws, etc)

Once upon a time I worked at a big box store. At the time it was a fact that DeWalt had a separate factory, supply chain and model numbers for that big box chain. The tools look the same and had the same warranty. They were not the same. They had plastic gears instead of metal as well as other inferior parts. As a GC, warranty or no, I’m not buying power tools at the big box stores. They don’t stand up to everyday use and down time cost me money.

I know there are different, perhaps more budget-minded power tools in some of the kits, but I construed the OP’s post to be about hand tools. I recall a thread on Garage Journal or somewhere a few years back, where someone was venting about the quality of Estwing hammers sold at Home Depot compared to those found elsewhere. He stated that the overall fit and finish was far inferior on the former.

That said, I stopped into an electrical supply house a couple of years ago to look at tools. The ones they sold there seemed identical to their big box counterparts, with the only difference being cost.

yeah, maybe BUt once your warranty is over you are stuck with an inferior tool that will untimately cause you frustration later.