Shopping Hacks

Home Depot, Lowe's, Ace Hardware, or Harbor Freight?


Home Depot, Lowe's, Ace Hardware, Harbor Freight Storefronts

We have been wondering about the best U.S. home improvement store for a while and finally decided to do some investigation and comparison between the four most popular ones. Three, really, but Harbor Freight  can’t be forgotten even if it can’t rival the biggest three in selection. It sure can in price though.

The first three offer similar selection of products and similar setup. They all are known as go to destinations for all home improvement and DIY project needs. They also are pretty different and we would like to explore all of those things in depth to help you make some shopping decisions.

 

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When it comes to numbers, Ace Hardware wins with over 4,400 stores nationwide. Most of them are small and independently owned. Home Depot has 2,284 stores, and Lowe’s - 2,370. All of them offer shipping and in-store pickup.

Home Depot is the most contractor-friendly and feels like a big warehouse. Ace Hardware resembles the old-style hardware stores, and Lowe’s falls in the middle, even though size wise it’s closer to Home Depot.

 

Home Depot Lighting DepartmentLighting department at Home Depot

 

All three stores are doing well with sales lately, with Home Depot reporting 8% growth, Lowe’s – 0.6%, and Ace Hardware – 2.2%.

Home Depot is popular among professionals and millennials, while Lowe’s and Ace Hardware cater to DIY inexperienced crowd.

What can we say about every one of them?

 

Home Depot

Home Depot Store FacadeThe Home Depot storefront

 

What was the first impression?

As soon as you enter Home Depot store, it feels like you have entered a warehouse store with tall ceilings and commercial lighting. One thing about the store is that it seems to have endless selection of everything – styles, brands, colors, and patterns. The isles are wide, clean, and well stocked in every department. You can expect to find countless appliances, fixtures, lighting choices, paint colors, garden supplies, cleaning supplies, craft supplies, and everything a house owner could possibly need.

 

Color Gamut Of PaintsThe color scheme of paints for walls

 

What services are available for customers?

 

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Home Depot offers showrooms, model kitchens and bathrooms, designer services, key making, paint mixing, lumber cutting, and helpful associates all over the store. There are workshops for people who want to learn a thing or two about DIY jobs. The store offers same-day paid delivery for nearby customers.

 

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Are the signs and labeling very clearly marked?

No, the store is geared towards people who know what they are looking for. But the good thing is that the rest of us can ask questions and get help from friendly and knowledgeable associates.

 

Home Depot Store InsideHome Depot interior

 

Does Home Depot do price matching?

The retailer not only price matches,  but beats competitor prices by 10%, so make sure to always be on the lookout for cheaper products at other stores.

 

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What is the return policy?

If you bring something unused with the receipt, you will get full refund. You will get store credit if returning without receipt. You can return online purchases to stores and enjoy online order store pick-ups.

 

Home Depot Philips Light BulbsPhilips light bulbs at Home Depot

 

What are some other useful features and services?

  • Online store finder
  • No interest for 6 months financing
  • Commercial credit cards
  • Special Home Depot website for business
  • Combos and tool kits that are great for professionals

 

Home Depot Coupons:

  • $20 OFF Your Order
  • Free Shipping on $45 Order
  • 70% OFF Overstock Items

 

Lowe's

Lowe's StorefrontTustin Lowe's - 2500 Park Ave, Tustin, CA

 

What was the first impression?

 

Lowes Store InsideLowe's interior

 

Lowe’s is just as big as Home Depot, but feels cozier when you walk in. It’s easy to see that the store is geared towards people who are not professionals. We saw more labels and lots more materials about and for projects.

 

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How does product assortment compare to Home Depot?

 

Lowes Garden CenterLowe's Garden Center

 

Lowe’s clearly has less of everything and doesn’t feel overwhelming. The garden section is smaller; there are less paint choices, less lighting fixtures, tools, and all other things.

What services does Lowe’s offer?

 

Lowes Price Match GuaranteeLowe's 'Price Match Guarantee' service

 

Customers can also find model bathrooms and kitchens, designer advice, store associates for questions, workshops, shipping, and store pick-up. Lowe’s also offers return services and 10% competitor price match. All benefits are very similar at both stores.

 

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Lowe's Coupons:

  • $20 OFF Your Order
  • Free Shipping on $49 Order
  • 75% OFF Clearance Items

 

Ace Hardware

Ace Hardware StorefrontAce Hardware storefront

 

What to expect?

 

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Every Ace Hardware store has very different character and is owned by different people. The store was much smaller than Home Depot or Lowe’s. What was the most surprising is the fact that random items, seemingly belonging to a convenience store, are instead sitting in hardware shop. We found soap, toys, and random supply of different things at the front of the store.

 

Ace Hardware Special SavingsAce Hardware sale items

 

What about tools?

Ace Hardware had a good selection of tools, not much smaller than the big home improvement stores. Everything was clearly labeled and displayed.

What else could you expect to find at Ace?

 

Ace Hardware InteriorAce Hardware interior

 

The stores feel like family-owned businesses and are very different from one another. Most of them will have keys, lumber, cleaning supplies, batteries, nails, basic building materials, and Christmas decorations sections. All the random items tend to gravitate towards one place, so it might be hard to find something on your own, without associate help. Don’t be surprised if you will see some empty isles.

 

Harbor Freight 20% OFF CouponAce Hardware weekly ad

 

When buying bolts and screws, customers are asked to write down the quantity and the price, which is an unusual request, but makes sense for a small business.

The rest of the store containes hooks, coat and shoe racks, and bath and kitchen fixtures, but there are not nearly as many choices as at Lowe’s or Home Depot.

Ace Hardware PlumbingPlumbing department at Ace Hardware

 

There are also sections for electrical supplies, plumbing, garden, and light fixtures, but none have much to offer and were poorly labeled.

What about price matching and delivery?

 

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Ace Hardware doesn’t advertise price matching, but some locations might, it is up to the owner. Some stores offer next day delivery, and all do in-store pick up and returns for 30 days with receipt.

 

Harbor Freight Printable CouponAce Hardware printable coupons

 

Ace Hardware Coupons:

  • 15% OFF Your Order
  • Free Delivery on Orders of $50
  • 60% OFF Clearance Items

 

Harbor Freight

Harbor Freight StorefrontHarbor Freight storefront

 

Finally, there is Harbor Freight with its 600 physical locations and strong online presence.

What kind of services and features can customers expect from this retailer?

 

Harbor Freight Gift CardHarbor Freight gift card

 

First of all, there is standard 3-7 day shipping with FedEx. Most orders leave the warehouses in 24 hours. All items are insured.

There are great clearance deals available on the site and in stores. Harbor Freight is well known for its reasonable prices.

 

Harbor Freight $0.99 Items$0.99 items at Harbor Freight

 

Returns are accepted for 90 days with receipt and can be shipped back or taken to the stores. You will be charged 20% restocking fee.

What are some exceptional features that other stores don’t have?

 

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Harbor Freight is known for extremely far reaching price matching policy – the retailer will beat competitor’s price for a year after your purchase, so keep the receipt and follow competitor prices.

 

Harbor Freight Cordless ToolEarthquake XT 20V Max Lithium 1/2 in. Cordless Xtreme Torque Impact Wrench Kit

 

Some tools have lifetime warranty and can be used with a peace of mind.

 

Harbor Freight Tool GrinderChicago Electric tool grinder

 

In conclusion, all four stores had some positive and some negative elements. It probably comes down to personal taste, likes, dislikes, expectations, and needs. We like Home Depot the most, but there are plenty of people who will swear and stand by Lowe’s, local Ace stores, or the affordable Harbor Freight.

 

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