Buying power tools online is like buying anything else online, there are some shady companies out there and you need to watch out. There are also many reputable companies who have been selling power tools for many years before the internet was ever around. There is no reason to be concerned if you are buying from a reputable company but how can you tell who is reputable or not?
Who Are These People
Any company doing business on the internet should tell you who they are. There should be an About Us page where they tell you about their company’s history and background. Ohio Power Tool for instance has been in business 25 years; I imagine it would be pretty hard to stay in the local tool business 25 years without a lot of happy customers. Also how knowledgeable are the people on the other end? Do they know tools or is it just a warehouse of products and no one really know anything about the tools. Some times it may not matter to you, if you know you need a V28 SDS Hammer 0756-22 does it matter if they know what they are selling? Maybe not but if you had a choice of who to do business with wouldn’t it make sense to deal with someone who can knowledgably compare it to the Bosch 36V Litheon Hammer. Also a company who could repair the tool or send you a part if something was to get damaged? Are you ever going to buy another power tool in your life? Wouldn’t it make sense to deal with a company you can trust, ask questions and order from again?
The Old Switcharoo
The internet is great because you can find such good deals and compare everyone to each other. There are also those deals that are too good to be true and on the internet that is probably the case. There are several reasons tools on the internet might be much cheaper than the competition.
The first is pretty obvious; sometimes a cordless tool is sold without batteries as a bare tool. This is good for people who already have several tools in a line and don’t need new batteries. Double check to make sure you are getting the kit which has two batteries and a charger, on some website this is not clearly marked.
The second reason a tool may be cheaper is because it is a recondition tools, basically tools that were defective or broke and then repaired. These are sold as reconditioned, which can be a good deal although not the same as a brand new tool. For professionals we do not recommend these tools but for your DIY weekend warrior on a budget I personally would feel better with a reconditioned Milwaukee than a new discount junk tool special. If you buy a reconditioned tool it is very important to make sure that the tool was reconditioned by the manufacturer and not some shop overseas. Ohio Power Tool doesn’t sell any reconditioned tools, only brand new tools. The big problem with the internet is when retailers sell reconditioned tools without disclosing it has been reconditioned (basically as a new tool). This is extremely dishonest and a problem in the industry. If you purchased a new tool that is actually reconditioned you just got ripped off, email the manufacturer and let them know where you bought it.
The third reason you will find cheaper tools is the “Grey Market” which could be a wide range of things but basically is when a retailer gets products from outside proper distribution channels. Did you ever watch the Sopranos toward the end when they were selling all the stolen power tools? I always think of that when I see super cheap tools online. These products might be stolen, brought in from over seas or a variety of other scams I don’t know about. These can be dangerous, you may not have a vaild warranty or worst you may be in possession of stolen property. A good way to see if a company is legit is to visit the manufacturer’s site and see it the company is authorized to sell the tool. Check out these Manufacturer’s “Where to Buy” pages: Bosch, Milwaukee, Ridgid or Hougen although not all manufacturers list these. This doesn’t always assure any specific level of service from the company but it at least assures they are buying products from the manufacturer.
Personally I never do business with any company that doesn’t provide a phone number and their address. This isn’t always your first though when purchasing an item but trust me after the first time of waiting 3 weeks and not hearing anything on where your product is you are going to be extremely dissatisfied with that email form that goes to the land of no response. With power tools especially sometimes you may need the tool for a job right away. Wouldn’t it make sense to be able to call, see if it is in stock and see if the tool or part will go out today? Just like dealing with someone as if you went up to the store counter.
What are Others Saying
The internet is great because there are many third party resources for learning about a company. Ohio Power Tool does not hound its customers for positive feedback as some other companies do but our feedback is all very positive. Here are a few good resources for customer reviews epinon.com, shopping.com, ebay.com as well as forums such as the Ridgid Forum where you can ask others about a company.
Hopefully this has been helpful. Please feel free to comment and let us know if you have any other suggestions!