Reviews Deals

Harbor Freight vs. The Home Depot: 3 Big Differences Between 2 Beloved Tool Stores

Harbor Freight and The Home Depot are two of the nation’s leading suppliers of tools and gardening equipment, but how do they stack up against each other?
Bob Beacham Avatar
Harbor Freight vs. The Home Depot


We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn More ›

To shop at Harbor Freight or The Home Depot is a question that has had home improvement enthusiasts scratching their heads for years. Many people shop at both, while others have a clear favorite. We’ve been looking at how the two compare in several key areas, and whether there is a convincing argument to choose one store in particular.

So without further delay, here are our findings in the Harbor Freight vs. The Home Depot debate.

How We Compared Harbor Freight vs. The Home Depot

We monitor the Harbor Freight vs. The Home Depot debate to try and bring our visitors the best deals. Our article on The Home Depot shopping secrets is informative, while the one on Harbor Freight coupons and sales has helped people find big savings on a wide range of tools and equipment.

For this article, we looked behind the scenes to understand what makes each business stand out. We took a deep dive into pricing and range and researched buyer feedback for any issues concerning supply or customer service.

Harbor Freight

Harbor Freight vs. The Home Depot

Price Range: $ – $$
Our Top Picks: Bauer 20V Cordless Drill/Driver Kit—($54.99 at Harbor Freight) and Fortress 10-Gallon Air Compressor—($289.99 at Harbor Freight).

Harbor Freight is based in Calabasas, California, and has been around since 1977. The company started as a father-and-son business and is still family-owned. In addition to its website, there are over 1,400 physical stores, and around 28,000 associates (employees).

The Harbor Freight company motto of  “Quality Tools, Lowest Prices” is the key ingredient in the Harbor Freight vs. The Home Depot debate. The focus is on tools and equipment for the DIY user at very competitive prices. One of the reasons they can do this is that brands like Bauer and Pittsburgh Tools—which are featured prominently—are also owned by Harbor Freight.


  • Budget pricing of DIY tools, equipment, and consumables
  • Most brands not owned by Harbor Freight come directly from the manufacturer, thus also offering savings
  • Regular “parking lot” and “liquidation” sales, coupons, and other discounts


  • Few “big name” brands and less pro-grade equipment
  • No free shipping; many returns will attract a 20 percent restocking fee

Shop Harbor Freight:

The Home Depot

Harbor Freight vs. The Home Depot

Price Range: $$ to $$$
Our Top Picks: DeWalt 20V Cordless Drill/Driver Kit—($99.00 at The Home Depot) and California Air Tools 10-Gallon Compressor—($463.00 at The Home Depot).

The Home Depot started trading just after Harbor Freight in 1978 but has grown more rapidly. They are based in Atlanta, Georgia, and has over 2,300 stores across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. They employ 475,000 associates.

Where Harbor Freight focuses on cheap tools for the DIY user, The Home Depot seems to have something for everyone. Trade professionals will find the high-quality tools and equipment they demand, but there are also midrange options for keen DIY enthusiasts who are prepared to invest a few bucks. Physical stores also offer kitchen and bathroom displays, design advice, workshops, rentals, and installations.


  • Focused on high-quality, big-name brands while maintaining competitive pricing
  • Physical stores offer model kitchens and bathrooms, design help, plus lumber cutting and paint mixing
  • Shipping is often free (subject to minimum order), and so are most returns


  • In almost all cases, prices are higher than at Harbor Freight
  • The stores can be too large and difficult to navigate unless you know what you’re looking for

Shop The Home Depot:

Harbor Freight is almost always cheaper than The Home Depot 

If you look at Harbor Freight tools vs. The Home Depot alternatives, the former usually wins by a country mile. In our top picks above, we’ve compared two typical power drill kits and the Harbor Freight air compressor vs. The Home Depot’s similar model. In these examples, you’ll save around 30 percent by shopping at Harbor Freight, which is significant.

It can be argued that we aren’t exactly comparing like for like. Bauer is a Harbor Freight brand and certainly doesn’t have the reputation for durability and reliability you get with DeWalt Tools. Likewise, California Air Tools is considered one of the leading air compressor brands, whereas Fortress is not. That said, we were pleasantly surprised with the Fortress when we tested it.

If you compare budget items like a Harbor Freight extension cord vs. The Home Depot versions, there’s little difference, but as prices rise, the Harbor Freight advantage becomes much more obvious.

The Home Depot has a greater focus on leading brands and high-quality equipment

Whether you walk into a store or shop online, there’s a good chance that many Harbor Freight tool and equipment brands will be new to you. By contrast, The Home Depot stocks DeWalt, Milwaukee, Ryobi, Kärcher, Makita, Ridgid, and other top brands that discerning DIYers and pros know and trust. They come at premium prices, but are tools that often last a lifetime.

However, while some people consider Harbor Freight tools a bit hit and miss, a lot depends on what they’re needed for. If you’re only going to use a hammer drill or circular saw occasionally, saving 40 or 50 percent is a big deal. Some Harbor Freight equipment even has lifetime warranties, so it’s not simply a question of price versus quality.

The Home Depot has a way bigger product range and more physical stores

Harbor Freight has great prices as long as they stock what you need. The retailer’s product range is about 7,000 items. It sounds like a lot until you compare it to The Home Depot with around 35,000 items in store and over a million online.

There are some obvious gaps in the Harbor Freight lineup. The retailer offers paint tools and consumables, but not the actual paint. The lawn and garden department is a weak point. We checked some common, and less common, tools to provide examples. Harbor Freight sells one lawnmower, while The Home Depot has hundreds. Check for a Harbor Freight earth auger vs. The Home Depot’s options, and The Home Depot has over two dozen. The bottom line is you are more likely to find what you want and have a choice at The Home Depot.

Our Verdict

There is no outright winner in the Harbor Freight vs. The Home Depot debate. If budget is the key issue, then Harbor Freight wins hands down. However, if it’s a question of quality and choice, we pick The Home Depot.