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Matco vs Snap-On vs MAC: Buying tools for college.

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So, I'm going into the Diesel Tech program next August (2020) and I'm buying most of my tools through the school. Only problem is, I don't know what brand of tools to think about getting. I'm trying to make a list now so I can get through the process a bit easier. It'll be once a week the tool dealer trucks come through. The only 3 brands that are for sure coming (hopefully more in the future) are Snap-On, Matco Tools, and Mac Tools. Everybody is telling me to go full send or no send, all Snap-On tools and and a 56" Snap-On toolbox. I've done some looking on my own, and I've had experience with all these brands - but I don't know what the hell to pick. I'm hoping to hear experiences with these tools from the other users on the forum so I can get an idea of what to get. REMINDER: I'm needing heavier duty tools as I'm going into the Diesel Truck industry (hopefully) to work on HD PIckups and Semis. Thank you in advance.

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You've mentioned that you used all of them before. You should remember and analyse all small difficulties and things you didn't like. I have Matco and it's the best in my opinion. You should choose the one that fits you best, not anyone else.

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Those are all tool truck brands. If you notice older mechanics have less of those, if at all.

First thing, those tool markups are normally 300%. Even if you get a 50% discount in school you are still paying 150%. There is a practical reason. Guys running tool trucks have an insane amount of cost in inventory on the truck and they don’t make much money on their routes in the first place. Do high markups are needed compared to buying from an industrial supply house or even a local automotive store where 10-20% is normal.

Second the reason guys buy those tool truck brands is because they want to show off. They sometimes fall to peer pressure too. It’s like lifting your truck and putting Mickey Thompson tires on it or wearing Under Armor shirts and Duluth Trading pants. It’s all showing off. Typically the guy doing that doesn’t know how to use the tools they own.

There is also a problem. Tool truck drivers quickly reach a point where they get burned out and get out if the business. So every couple years the tool truck brand changes. Or you rotate shops. Either way then you are stuck driving across town or to the next town on your time to catch the truck to replace your socket wrenches. It’s just impractical to use tool truck brands long term.

Look at older mechanics and unless they are in a shop bay environment where peer pressure might matter, you are paid for your skills, not your tool brand. The thing is most of us have to supply our own tools. So that means if you have to buy a wrench and you can buy a $300 Snapon or the exact same one in Williams brand at $80, even if you get paid $30/hour that Snapon is eating an entire days pay instead of a couple hours.

One option will be industrial supply house brands. Look on the list on toolguyd.com (search for who owns brands) to see how it works. So for instance you can buy Williams from an industrial supplier or you can buy Snapon. It is the exact same tool just with a different brand name and markup. Others are Proto, Blackhawk, etc. Often an automotive store carries these too. This is still at the Marco/Snapon/MAC grade. Every one of these companies makes multiple grades and brands. The industrial and tool truck brands are identical except price. And you can get the industrial tool shipped to your house or the shop usually the next day.

The second would be home improvement store brands. Dewalt or Milwaukee will be your go tos. Husky and Craftsman are lower grade budget brands for homeowners. The difference between say a Dewalt and a Proto or MAC tool will be minor if at all. They are all premium tools. But noticeably different from Husky.

Third are industrial supply house budget brands. This would be Harbor Freight and Klutch. Don’t knock it. These still have good warranties and face it, an impact socket is going to be the same from everybody. If you lose sockets a lot like if you’re working out of a truck, this is where you shop. Otherwise pick another one. Budget brands are OK for some things like sockets or sledge hammers but not socket wrenches.

Last with power tools I would stay away from tool truck brands period. We have a large motor shop and our shop guys have every tool brand there is. Tool truck power tools are always older models rebranded. When it comes to brands certain ones cater to a specific trade and in your case that’s Milwaukee. They have a stubby 3” impact gun that can get into the tightest spots. They also have.a 2200 foot pound impact gun. But for your use in school I’d get the stubby and a mid size impact say 1/2”‘around 250 ft-lbs torque which handles most diesel jobs. When you get out and need to break rusty bolts loose get the 1400 ft-pound high torque. On a 3/4” bolt it will either loosen or shear off. Plus back to the shopping issue, you can get anything you need at HD or Northern industrial. Dewalt is good too but they cater more to construction trades.

The best thing about tool truck brands used to be the Snap On (snatch on) calendars but they stopped those 25 years ago.

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