Originally Posted by gspivey
Here's a little data to help decide if you want to ditch Craftsman or not. Since I'm hoping to increase my tool set this Christmas I've been looking. For this example I'm looking for a 1/2 drive quick-release ratchet that's' under 12" total length. Here's some price comparisons. (note: better deals can be had if you purchase this item as part of a set.)
Craftsman (Sears) - $22.99
Husky (Home Depot) - $24.97
Kobalt (Lowes) - $39.97
Snap-On - $149.95
Matco - $124.20
MAC - $119.99
Think I'll stick with Craftsman and their refurb return policy.
I too tend to stick with Craftsman. But....
The problem with the comparison above is radically different quality levels between these tools. Roughly you can see that just on the price point alone; the truck brands are far more expensive than the store brands. They are also FAR nicer to use and less likely to break as well. Are they worth it? I guess that depends on your own preferences. A home user who occasionally changes his oil is going to have a different opinion than a home user who does full engine builds and other large-scale projects who will have yet a different opinion than a professional who earns his living with his tools every day.
All these tools may offer a 'lifetime warranty' but that's about the end of the comparison. By that measure you could compare a Hyundai and a Mercedes and determine that the Hyundai is the equal or better simply because it has a longer warranty. Yet one drive is all it takes for you to know the difference.
By the same token, even the base-model Craftsman RP wrenches/ratchets are also out as are the Kobalt (though they seem decent) and certainly the Husky which I find no better than Pittsburgh.
Since you are looking to buy something yourself in the Craftsman range, I would suggest looking beyond the basic RP tools at their higher-end stuff. It does cost more, but they are much nicer. The old RP's are actually decent quality for the money but are simply uncomfortable in the hand and harder to keep clean. The higher end options offer superior feel, full polish, thinner profiles, and higher tooth count. All are worth a few extra bucks in my opinion.
(though as stated earlier, they aren't as nice as they were since the switch to Danahar)
Here's the basic RP 1/2" ratchet you mentioned at $22.99
It's an old stand by. I've had one in my tool box for 20 years or more. But it's certainly not a great tool. Workman-like might be the best description. I can rely on it to do the job, but it's not enjoyable to use.
Here's the next step up at $39.99
I have some of these ratchets as well. They used to be called the 'professional' line, though Sears has changed their naming conventions over the years. It's a much nicer tool in the hand and easily worth the extra money to me. Thinner profile to fit in tighter places; higher tooth count for smoother operations and less swing; full polish for easy clean-up. This has been my 'shopping point' for the last dozen or so years. Not a lot more cost, but a much nicer tool. (though again, not as nice as they were 10 years ago)
And here's their top of the line 'premium ratchet' at $69.99
Yet a higher tooth count and a slightly nicer body. Notice it also looks surprisingly like tool truck brands...not a coincidence I think. And still a bargain compared to those truck brands.
If I were shopping for a new ratchet myself I would likely be looking at this tool, but largely because I already have a good selection of the lower and mid-line tools. And I simply take pleasure in the feel of a good quality tool. Will the old RP do the job? Probably. Will I enjoy it more with a nicer tool? Yes. Will I pay more for that? Yes, to a degree.
Of course, if you really want to get serious just hop over to the Snap-On website and you'll find about a hundred variations of ratchet to fit exactly your preferences. And you'll pay accordingly. I won't pay that sort of money for my tools since I don't use them every day and the return policy would be difficult for me to deal with since I don't have a truck stopping by my office every week. Though I certainly wouldn't be above searching craigslist for somebody liquidating their Snap-On or Matco tools if I were willing to take my time and hunt.
Some people may not be familiar with the term 'RP'. In Craftsman-Speak, 'RP' stands for 'Raised Panel' - if you look at the basic Craftsman hand tools you'll see where this designation comes from. They've offered this construction for decades and I'm sure it still makes up the bulk of their tool sales. At the price point they represent good value, but they don't offer the bells and whistles of the nicer products.