Buying Guides

Buy This Instead of a Harbor Freight Impact Driver


Sure, there are some legitimate reasons to shop Harbor Freight and we were impressed with the Hercules impact driver’s performance considering their low pricing. But there are also some legitimate quality concerns to go along with its 90-day warranty. So if that $99 price tag is almost too tempting, we have an alternative for you. Here’s why we’d buy the Kobalt 24V impact driver instead of a Harbor Freight impact driver.

Head-to-Head

  • Price: Tie
  • Warranty: Kobalt
  • Speed Under Load: Harbor Freight Hercules
  • Torque: Kobalt
  • Noise: Kobalt
  • Weight: Harbor Freight Hercules
  • Footprint: Kobalt
  • Feature Set: Kobalt
  • Compatible Tools: Kobalt

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Kobalt 24V Impact Driver or Harbor Freight Impact Driver?

Price

Lowe’s dropped the price of Kobalt’s 24V impact driver from $195 to $99 and it’s not just a sale—it’s the new price. That puts it within a dollar of the Harbor Freight impact driver.

Kobalt comes with a 2.0Ah battery and Hercules has a slightly higher capacity with a 2.5Ah pack. Kobalt uses an extra cell in their system so the watt-hour comparison is pretty close: 43.2Wh for Kobalt and 45 for Hercules.

Verdict: Tie

Warranty

Put Harbor Freight’s warranty against any other major brand and it’s nearly always behind. Kobalt backs their tool for 5 years and the battery for 3. Even if you spend the extra money on Harbor Freight’s extended warranty, it falls short.

Verdict: Kobalt

Speed Under Load

On paper, the Harbor Freight impact driver has a 100-RPM advantage in speed over Kobalt (2800 to 2700 RPM). Hercules extends its lead in our speed under load testing with the third fastest average at 565 RPM. Kobalt is quite a bit further down the line at 398 RPM.

Verdict: Harbor Freight Hercules

Torque

Kobalt’s packaging boasts 20% more torque than Hercules (1800 in-lbs to 1500 in-lbs). In our fastening torque test, Hercules requires 1498 in-lbs to break it on average. Kobalt bests it by more than 1000 in-lbs, needing 2585 in-lbs to loosen its fastening efforts.

Kobalt is able to break more torque as well, consistently loosening 3600 in-lbs compared to the 3000 in-lbs Hercules hit.

Verdict: Kobalt

Noise Level

Both of these impact drivers are in the middle of the pack for noise, with Kobalt (100 decibels) enjoying a 1-decibel lead over Harbor Freight (101 decibels). It’s a slight lead, but it’s a lead.

Verdict: Kobalt, slightly

Weight

With a battery, the Harbor Freight impact driver weighs 3.1 pounds and Kobalt is just a little heavier at 3.4 pounds. While these are both on the light side of the impact driver landscape, it’s another notch in the win column for Hercules.

Verdict: Harbor Freight Hercules

Footprint

Kobalt is about 0.5″ taller than Hercules. Most Pros argue that head length is more important since it’s what determines how tight a space you can work in. Kobalt’s 24V impact driver has a slight advantage of 0.2″ here.

Verdict: Kobalt, slightly

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Feature Set

Harbor Freight has a pretty basic feature set that Kobalt eclipses in 3 particular areas. Kobalt packs a brushless motor (1) and 3 speed selections (2) with a finish mode (3). Hercules sticks with a single speed brushed motor.

Verdict: Kobalt

Compatible Tools

There are exactly 3 tools that work on the Hercules 20V Max battery: an impact driver, drill driver, and hammer drill. While Kobalt’s 24V Max lineup doesn’t have as many tools as some of the premium Pro brands, it has a lot more compatible tools than Harbor Freight offers.

Verdict: Kobalt

Final Thoughts

The price drop from Kobalt makes it the most attractive option out there right now for bargain hunters. Hercules has a solid advantage in speed under load and slightly lighter weight. However, Kobalt’s 24V impact driver is the leader a lot more areas, including torque. With pricing that’s slightly under Hercules and a much longer warranty, there’s almost no reason to buy this Harbor Freight impact driver.

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Chad g WilkinsMatthew LitseyIts_EaritXavier PettisJim Premo Recent comment authors
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Matthew Litsey
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Matthew Litsey

Lowe’s also has a military/veteran discount through the MyLowes program. That drives the price down even further.

Its_Earit
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I’m an electrician who does commercial construction. I use all Kobalt tools and my tools get borrowed all the time. I have no complaints after using my impact heavily every day for 6 months. It’s as powerful, fast, reliable, and holds a charge as well or better than the Milwaukee and DeWalt stuff my peers use. I never wish I had a different set until it comes to highly specialized tools like cable sheers or an SDS drill. And I doubt Kobalt will ever make a 24v cold weather jacket. With that said, the biggest pro is the inexpensive cost… Read more »

Xavier Pettis
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Xavier Pettis

You actually can buy a 3 year warranty at harbor freight that is 100 times easier to redeem. You bring the tool in to any harbor freight and they give you a new one no questions asked.
On top of that the Hercules brand is expanding the compatible tools quickly.

Jim Premo
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Jim Premo

Comparing Kobalt to Harbor Freight. I doubt that this is the future that Lowe’s had for the Kobalt brand. Junk vs junk? I have and still use Ryobi and occasionally see Ryobi used by professionals. Never have seen Kobalt or Hercules.

Aterfy27
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Aterfy27

Another thing worth noting is you can buy Lowe’s coupons on eBay or elsewhere for around a dollar – $20 off a purchase of $100 or more. Add a pencil or something and you can pick up their driver for ~$85 after-tax. (that’d apply for other tools too, of course) Dunno if that’s frowned upon or something, but it’s always worked for me, no problems…
Of course harbor freight has the 20% off but I feel like sometimes it doesn’t apply to their “named” merchandise