Staying The Course

Harbor Freight Salvage Co.

Who remembers when Harbor Freight Tools was called Harbor Freight Salvage Co.? If you do, consider yourself one of the hardcore long-timers. I was searching on Google the other day, looking for any mention of the company’s former identity, when I stumbled onto this old ad that ran in the February 1988 issue of Popular Mechanics. I immediately recognized a number of items that Harbor Freight still carries and was astonished to see that, in many cases, the current prices are less than they were 25 years ago!

So I went to the site,, and had some fun. Check it out: The 20-Gallon Parts Washer with Pump on the top of the ad listed for $145 in 1988. According to the inflation calculator, that product should be selling for $285.31 today. The actual current Harbor Freight price? $95.99!

parts washer

Next, take a look at the 9-pc. Wobble Extension Kit for $13.95. The calculator suggests it should sell now for $27.45– but you can pick it up at Harbor Freight at just $12.99. Another example, in 1988, we were selling a 15″ Central Machinery scroll saw at $119. Today, even though inflation justifies a price tag of more than $234, we’re now carrying the Central Machinery 16″ Variable Speed Scroll Saw at just $67.99.

central machinery scroll saw

In the Popular Mechanics ad. the Central Pneumatic Air Paint Spray Gun is listed at $25.50. Instead of the inflation-adjusted 50 bucks, Harbor Freight sells it today at $24.99.

Finally, take a look at the first item in the ad: the Chicago Electric 8 volt, 120 amp portable MIG welder, on sale in 1988 for $199.95. Now, we currently don’t sell a MIG welder with exactly those specs, but if we did, the adjusted-to-2013 price would have been $393.43. What we DO sell, however, is a Chicago Electric 170 Amp 22 Volt MIG/Flux Welder for just $199.99– that’s more power that can cut into much thicker metal. And, if you look at the reviews, you’ll see it’s a real performer.

170 amp MIG welder

Finding this ad was extremely gratifying to me. It told me that, 25 years later, Harbor Freight’s mission is right on course: to deliver quality tools at the lowest possible prices and save our customers some of their hard-earned cash. And, now– with 20 MILLION satisfied customers– we will continue to make this our Number One job.

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4 Responses to Staying The Course

  1. Randy says:

    Thank you Harbor Freight , for selling great tools at a great price.

  2. marcuswardMarcus says:

    I’m glad your prices have dropped relative to inflation – your customers, the American workforce, sure isn’t making income enough to keep up with inflation!! Keep up the great work.

  3. Becky Reeb says:

    Great prices and customer service!! Come visit us in Fairview Heights, Illinois

  4. Chris says:

    Better quality tools at even better prices, that’s Harbor Freight!!!

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