Buyers’ Guide to Second-Hand Power Tools

DIY work is a great way to save cash when renovating or extending a home, but for the uninitiated, the extra cost of purchasing new building supplies can add up to more than what would have been spent on hiring a tradesperson. Power tools, in particular, can be a significant drain on an owner-builder's budget, so it's no surprise that buying second-hand is a popular option. Generally, when buying from retail stores or second-hand dealers (pawnshops), you should have no issues with faulty merchandise, as consumers are protected under the Australian Consumer Law. However, when buying from an individual or at a garage sale, this law doesn't apply, so read on to learn what to look for when buying pre-loved power tools.

Be a brand shopper

For a novice DIYer who only plans to use their tools once or twice, buying new discount-brand drills and saws can be a good option. However, by the time these tools make it to the second-hand market, they will likely have come close to the end of their useful lives. Try to drive a good bargain for tools made by well-known manufacturer, even if this costs more than buying a discount brand.

Check the electrical cords

Power tools get used in rough environments and are often exposed to the elements, so don't be surprised if a drill or circular saw has some wear and tear. However, according to NSW Fair Trading, tools with damaged electrical cords and plugs should be avoided at all costs—the risk to users is so great that sellers may even face fines for supplying them. When inspecting second-hand tools offered for sale, be sure to check that the cord is firmly attached to the body of the tool, the cord insulation is intact, and the grounding prong on the plug is not missing.

Inspect the case

Take a look at the vent area on the plastic housing of the tool. Are there any burn marks or smoke odours? If so, the tool may have had electrical problems in the past. Check for missing screws, as these may indicate the tool has been re-assembled after having parts replaced or a fault repaired.

Test the tool

Finally, before putting any money down, turn on the tool and test it. Make sure there are no signs of smoke or sparks coming from the motor vent. Tools that typically vibrate when in use, such as drills, should not be jerky or overly noisy. For circular and table saws, check to make sure the blade does not wobble. 

By taking a few minutes to inspect second-hand power tools before you buy them, you can safeguard yourself against running into any trouble down the track.  If your inspection of a tool you are considering purchasing raises any questions, it may be best to walk away from the deal. There is a large market for second-hand power tools in Australia, so no deal is too good to pass up.