You Get What You Pay For?

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Forum topic by Mark Davisson posted 12-11-2013 09:34 PM 1589 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Mark Davisson

597 posts in 3826 days

12-11-2013 09:34 PM

Topic tags/keywords: value quality cost benefits

If it is true that you get what you pay for, then I want to buy the most expensive item every time. But, while I understand the sentiment, I don’t think “you get what you pay for” is a reliable axiom by which I can live my life.

I believe a person should look for value. And, to me, value is what you get for what you pay. It is dependent on both variables. Just as you can’t calculate the mpg of your truck without knowing both the miles driven and the gallons used, you can’t judge the value of anything (including a tool) unless you know both what it gives you and what it costs.

How the performance of a tool is gauged is subjective. I might enjoy using a particular foreign-made hand plane, but I might enjoy even more using an identical hand plane that is American-made. The American-made plane performs better, in my opinion, than the foreign-made plane because of the way it makes me feel when I’m using it, knowing that it’s American-made. Consequently, I would be willing to pay more for the American-made plane. At a higher price, the American-made plane would represent a value that is equal to the identical foreign-made counterpart at a lower price. Another person might not get that feel-good-feeling when using the American-made plane, so that plane at a higher price would represent LESS value than the identical foreign-made counterpart at a lower price.

I could just as easily have compared the value of the TS blade to the value of the more expensive TS blade that lasts longer. Or the value of the circular saw to the value of the identical model that includes a laser guide.

I get the impression many lumberjocks believe that the highest-quality, highest-priced tools necessarily represent the highest tool value. I believe that, in some cases, they do. But, as I see it, the highest tool value is often found among the mid- and lower-priced tools.

If you agree or disagree, I’d like to read your thoughts.

-- I'm selfless because it feels so good!

16 replies so far

View Dwain's profile


597 posts in 4368 days

#1 posted 12-11-2013 09:53 PM

First off, I agree that “you get what you pay for” isn’t always the case. Still, I think you are taking too naïve an approach. In general, it is clear that a unisaw cabinet saw will be better than a craftsman 113-x contractor’s saw, all things being equal (condition and so forth). Obviously you pay more for the cabinet saw, but you get a beefier machine that will most likely run better and do more for a longer period of time, in all possible comparisons, you get more from the unisaw, but you pay more for the unisaw.

Now, if I can get that unisaw for say, $150.00, then I have gotten more for my money, but because I paid less for a better machine doesn’t disprove this axiom.

Performance of a tool must be as un-subjective as possible. That is hard to manage here on LJ, as none of us review tools for a living. Still, we must have objective tests to review a tool. All the “how it feels” stuff is added, but after the objective stuff.

So, I agree, but I disagree. I probably disagree more.

Good topic, thanks for posting.

-- When you earnestly believe you can compensate for a lack of skill by doubling your efforts, there is no end to what you CAN'T do

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5227 posts in 4469 days

#2 posted 12-11-2013 10:02 PM

Guess that I’ve got a “tool” (a Samsung Refrigerator) that I paid over $2000.00 for 2 years ago. So far a complete replacement of the ice maker, and now a circuit board is in the crapper. Oh well…..........
Doesn’t help with the cost associated, but at least I have had a chance to spew!!!!!

-- [email protected]

View Mark Davisson's profile

Mark Davisson

597 posts in 3826 days

#3 posted 12-11-2013 10:44 PM

Dwain, thanks for your thoughts! To be sure I’m understanding them, let me ask you a question.

Let’s say you’re looking at two items that are identical except for the life expectancy of the materials used in construction (for example, two identical pairs of shoes, made by the same shoe maker but using different grades of leather). It is proven to you that the better pair will last twice as long as the cheaper pair, and the better pair costs three times as much. To you, which pair represents the greater value?

I’d also like to provide a clarification on another point. You wrote ”Still, we must have objective tests to review a tool. All the “how it feels” stuff is added, but after the objective stuff.” I’m not talking about tool reviews. My thoughts relate to buying decisions and the relative values I place on competing products.

-- I'm selfless because it feels so good!

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 3431 days

#4 posted 12-11-2013 11:39 PM

Mark, if the better pair costs three times as much it should last three times as long , not twice as long.
You made some very good points in your post. I personally don’t believe just because something costs more it’s better.
I would have to be able to see the quality difference.
Anyway, good post.

-- Life is good.

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

23372 posts in 3614 days

#5 posted 12-12-2013 12:27 AM

I look for the tool that will do the job I want it to do and that is designed heavy enough to hold up or have enough power to cut what I want to cut. Also, I am frugal so I don’t discount the Harbor Freight stuff just because it is cheap. But by buying a cheaper tool, I expect that it might need some tweaking to come up to my standard of performance. I do rework a lot of new tools when I buy them.

It would be nice to have a $7000 American Beauty lathe, but I can’t justify that for what I do and a $350 Craftsman will do everything I need it to do. You get what you pay for but I don’t like to pay for a whole lot more than I need…if that makes sense!!


-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View MrGoodCat's profile


76 posts in 2141 days

#6 posted 12-12-2013 02:10 AM

I agree with “you get what you pay for”. With that being said you should also buy for the purpose. I have 2 circular saws, one is used for rough framing on the job that I bought at a pawn shop for $20 it’s a craftsman . It’s been dropped, cords been cut, kicked, wet, you name it. Employees don’t care for your tools like you do. Now at home I have my Bosch that I bought in 1990 it stays in its bag and I use and care for it. When it’s for me it’s the “best” price doesn’t always go hand and hand. When someone else uses the tool it’s cheap and disposable.

-- I dream of a world where a chicken can cross the road without having their motives questioned.

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3506 days

#7 posted 12-12-2013 04:14 AM

There are 3 levels. The base level is basic functionality. Does it do what it is supposed to do? Then you move up to it working as well and as fault free as possible. Then you get to it just being prettier. Now, there are some tools that I really admire (Bridge City Toolworks and some of the high end Japanese tools for example.) But honestly, it is about the aesthetics rather than the functionality for most of them. They are just drop dead gorgeous. You can set a lamp on an orange crate but sometimes you want the pretty table.

Sometimes it is just creative marketing. It doesn’t have to be US made vs Foreign. Look at Stanley planes. The Bailey pattern planes were perfectly fine. Of course they had to make the Bedrock planes for “discerning” buyers. Do they really work any better? Not really. They do have a lot prettier machining though. Seriously? Who adjusts the frog on their plane after initial setup?

Now, the last thing is the US made vs foreign made. There are very few tools made in the US any more. You really have to look around to find them. A few are great tools and a lot are crap. Pay more for a tool that is better? Quite possibly. Pay more for a tool that isn’t any better just because it is “Made in the USA”? If I am going to give to a charity, I would rather send the money to the Salvation Army.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View americanwoodworker's profile


185 posts in 2882 days

#8 posted 12-12-2013 10:16 AM

This is a subject that is just as touchy as politics or religion. Talking about a mans tools is worse than disrespecting his wife. So be careful especially on lumberjocks. There are some professional victims that lurk here. I tried to help one guy who had a poulon weed eater that he could not get started after trying to use it for the second summer and guess what, it would not start. I told him my experiences with that brand and he berated me then called me a brand snob.

With that being said I am not really sure about the old saying of “you get what you pay for”. I bought a craftsman drill /saw combo years back that lasted 1 year before the light burnt up and the batteries quit working. Try buying a replacement battery for a craftsman product. Your better off buying the whole kit again. Cost me $500! Then I bought a cheap one from Wal-mart that has lasted me 15 years and counting.

With grizzly I have bought table saws and jointers from them and they work well. Then I have bought chisels and measuring tools that either chip extremely easily or are not accurate.

I could go on and on with examples of cheap products going for the long haul and expensive ones lasting only a handful of years, and vice versa.

-- Your freedom to be you, includes my freedom to be free from you.

View Mark Davisson's profile

Mark Davisson

597 posts in 3826 days

#9 posted 12-12-2013 01:40 PM

Talking about a mans tools is worse than disrespecting his wife. So be careful especially on lumberjocks. There are some professional victims that lurk here.

americanwoodworker: Ha ha! How right you are! One of the points I’m trying to make is that value is in the eye of the beholder and that a purchase that represents value to one person might not represent the same value to another person. Every person has their own value system – that is, places their own mix of importance on the various elements or aspects of any tool.

It’s like bidding $1M for Bob Dylan’s guitar. The person who is not a Bob Dylan fan is probably less likely to part with that kind of cash for the thing. Where we need to be careful here on lumberjocks is not trying to apply our own value system on everyone else. If we’d say something like “To me the satisfaction of owning an American-made tool is worth the additional cost” rather than insulting those who express satisfaction with their Chinese-made tools, there would be a lot less acrimony, in my opinion.

-- I'm selfless because it feels so good!

View mafe's profile


12109 posts in 3598 days

#10 posted 12-13-2013 03:39 PM

Fine words.
No doubt that ‘we get what we pay for’.
But that does not mean the more expensive is the better.
For a hand plane, if you know how to tune it, a second hand Stanley can be set to perform as least as good as a equal LN plane – but for those who get the joy of the LN, by having the most beautiful plane, made in US and sold at the highest price – this is pure love and good energy and so it’s good.
In general, I will say do not buy crap, it usually don’t last to finish the job.
Better buy a used quality tool than any new at the matching price.
Buy the tool that can do the job you need and a little more, never less.
Think ahead, for how long do you need it.
Rent a quality tool if you will use it only once or twice.
Chinese or Japanese don’t mean that its bad, just that you need to pay the same if you expect the same quality.
Take care of your tool, this will make them last longer.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View Mark Davisson's profile

Mark Davisson

597 posts in 3826 days

#11 posted 12-13-2013 05:57 PM

mafe, thanks for your comments!

My understanding of the sentiment behind the phrase “You get what you pay for” is that the more expensive choice is the better product. In other words, the more you pay the more you get. And vice versa.

I believe the phrase also implies that, if two products which offer identical features are priced equally, then it doesn’t matter which you choose.

-- I'm selfless because it feels so good!

View mafe's profile


12109 posts in 3598 days

#12 posted 12-13-2013 06:13 PM


-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View casual1carpenter's profile


354 posts in 2984 days

#13 posted 12-13-2013 08:32 PM

Mark, I find the phrase “You get what you pay for” to be rather confusing as it often defines the argument solely on the product and it’s end pricing. I believe that there are numerous considerations that should be added to the equation.

A while back I found myself wanting a 22-1/2 Degrees lock miter bit set for two base and wall cabinets. As there is a friendly woodcraft near me I went to their web page and found CMT and Freud bit sets for 122.99 and 113.47 respectively today. The MLCS offered a Two Piece 22-1/2° Lock Miter Set for $49.95 today which at the time i purchased the set in-store at MLCS I received a substantial discount because I was able to purchase a set that they had cut a few inches with as part of their in-store quality assurance check of a new shipment. Excluding the “used” markdown pricing I still received a very acceptable set of bits that were sure to outlast their intended usage at less than half the price of the others that I had found.

View Richard's profile


11307 posts in 3541 days

#14 posted 12-14-2013 06:20 AM

Why Should I Pay For an Incredibly Expensive Tool i.e.. Festool when I’m Perfectly Happy with a Less Expensive Tool that will do All I want I to do?

I’m A Hobby Woodworker and I ‘m Happy With My Ridgid ROS at Half The Price I’d have to pay for a Festool.

-- Richard (Ontario, CANADA)

View Mark Davisson's profile

Mark Davisson

597 posts in 3826 days

#15 posted 12-14-2013 12:15 PM

Rick, what you’re describing is value. What you get for what you pay.

Not to pick on Festool, but I had a chance to test drive, side-by-side, the Hitachi 12” sliding compound MS and the Festool Kapex. If I hadn’t known their prices before the test drive and had been told I could have either saw for free, I would probably have chosen the Kapex, but mostly because it looked cooler in my opinion. But the Festool at $1400 vs the Hitachi at $400 results in the Hitachi, to me, representing higher value. Often the choices aren’t that easy, though.

-- I'm selfless because it feels so good!

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