Popular Hardware Stores Compared: Ace Hardware Corporation vs. Grainger vs. Harbor Freight

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Got tools? When it comes to Ace Hardware Corporation, Grainger and Harbor Freight the answer is a resounding, YES! These three hardware stores are among the most popular for their extensive inventories, competitive pricing and customer service. One??

Got tools? When it comes to Ace Hardware Corporation, Grainger and Harbor Freight the answer is a resounding, YES! These three hardware stores are among the most popular for their extensive inventories, competitive pricing and customer service.

Covered in this report:

Ace Hardware Corporation—Best Features

  • Ace Hardware Corporation breaks the mold when it comes to hardware stores. It also features a UPS/Postal Service Center and customers can purchase a hunting/fishing license.
  • Ace Hardware customers can own their own Ace store.

Best for: Homeowners, contractors and subcontractors.

Grainger—Best Features

  • Grainger caters to small businesses.
  • Grainger has thousands of products to help you prepare and execute your readiness plans.

Best for: Anyone who needs a tool.

Harbor Freight—Best Features

  • Harbor Freight stocks over 7,000 tools and accessories.
  • Harbor Freight's inventory accommodates your home, garage and shop as well as your lawn, garden and vehicles.

Best for: Mechanics, carpenters, electricians, contractors, welders, builders…

Ace Hardware Corporation

Founded in 1924 by a small group of Chicago hardware store owners, Ace changed the retail landscape by allowing individual stores to purchase merchandise in bulk to save money and buy at the lowest possible price. This partnership allowed even the smallest store to compete effectively at retail despite the larger stores in their market. Today, Ace Hardware boasts 4,000 stores nationwide. Each one offers a wide variety of hardware and fix-and-replace type products as well as niche items and services relevant to the area.


Ace Hardware Corporation offers the following features:

  • Become an Ace Reward Member and earn reward points. Points are earned whenever you use your VISA card. Members also get money saving coupons, sale reminders, helpful tips for taking care of your home and instant in-store savings.
  • Visit Ace Hardware's Rebate Center to track your rebates online, download rebate forms and get the answers to frequently asked questions.
  • The website's "Tip and Advice" section features step-by-step how-to's, learning guides, paint tips, interactive project videos, tips from Ace Hardware's home expert, FAQs by category and preparing for natural disasters.
  • Free ship-to-store delivery.
  • In addition to tools, Ace Hardware also offers a variety of other services, such as glass, screen and small engine repair, blade sharpening and glass and acrylic sheet cutting.
  • Ace Hardware gift cards can be purchased online.
  • Shop Ace Hardware's "Sales and Specials" section for money saving deals that include Red Hot Buys, "As Seen on TV," online exclusives and clearance items.
  • If you have your own website you can make money by joining Ace Hardware's Affiliate Program. It's easy and free and it allows you to buy your own hardware store. As an affiliate, you decide what type of store to build. Using the AceHardware.com logo, banners, and product links, you earn commissions on any products sold as a result of your link to AceHardware.com!

Here's what customers are saying about Ace Hardware Corporation.

"Shopping at Ace Hardware is easy and the employees are very professional. This is the best hardware customer service I have seen. Great job Ace Hardware."

"This store is actually great! I was hesitant to order through its website because of the poor review. However I found its price plus shipping is 10% lower than the next lowest store."

"This order was for a ship-to-store item and acehardware.com doesn't seem to have a feedback collection system. It took a week to locate and ship the item, while most online merchants do this by the second day, maximum.

"Beware their on-line service. I ordered a new 3-speed fan and received a unit that had been sold previously and returned to them as defective."

Read more Ace Hardware reviews at ResellerRatings.com.


Headquartered in Lake Forest, IL, Grainger helps its customers (a/k/a stores) save time and money by providing them with the right products. Those customers are 2 million businesses and institutions in 157 countries. This Fortune 500 company carries more than one million products ranging from adhesives, hand tools and hardware to motors, office furniture and safety equipment.


Grainger offers the following features:

  • Grainger has its own exclusive brands of industrial products.
  • Grainger's Small Business Center helps small businesses save time and money by providing product resources and an  info library.
  •  Grainger helps its customers plan, prepare for, respond to and recover from disruptions to your business or operations, including earthquakes, extreme heat, fire, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes, even communicable diseases.
  •  Browse Grainger's clearance items, hot buys and new products for big savings.
  •  The Grainger monthly eNewsletter is full of helpful tips, new products, time-saving features and more!
  • Auto-Reorder from Grainger helps you make sure you don’t run out of the products you need to get the job done. You decide how much you need and how often you need it Grainer takes care of the rest. You'll always receive email notifications before your order is automatically replaced and you can adjust or cancel orders any time.
  •  Customers can have Grainger catalog delivered right to their door.
  • Sign up to receive Grainger's exclusive e-mail discounts and promotions.
  •  Real Time Product Availability gives you access to real-time ship and local branch pickup product availability information. You can find out if the product you need is available without picking up the phone. You also can search nearby branches when you need a product right away so you can make faster, more informed purchasing decisions.
  • Grainger's SupplyLink features a growing collection of informative articles to help you manage the issues that affect your business every day. Topics include "Choosing the Right Ladder for the Job," "Worker Safety in High Places" and "Four Quick Tips for Optimizing Your HVAC System."

Here's what customers are saying about Grainger.

"The thing I like best about Grainger is that there is no waiting—15 minutes to talk to a real person. Whenever I have a question I simply call and I'm talking to [someone] within 15 seconds. It's also nice being able to buy everything I need from one store. Saves my business a lot of time and hassle."

"Grainger is perhaps the most reliable and prompt company I've dealt with. Any time I needed supplies or work site equipment I've been able to get the materials within a day or so with the best price possible. They have been consistently on the ball with notification of availability of materials and have been prompt about getting anything that they don't have in stock very quickly to ensure there is minimal work interruption."

"I recently set up a business account with Grainger online and had high hopes of buying items from them that I use and sell most. I had heard from so many people (businesses) that Grainger is the way to go if you're a business or contractor. However, right after creating my new account, I logged in to have a look at some items …and found higher prices at Grainger than I did anywhere else on most items."

"You must know exactly what you are looking for. The counter people will not be able to help you with selection of parts and materials."

Read more Grainger reviews at Trust Pilot.


Harbor Freight

When it started out as a small, family-owned business in 1977, Harbor Freight Tools was committed to providing working people with quality tools for low prices. The company has continued to do that for its 20 million loyal customers for 36 years. From hand, air and power tools to generators, shop equipment and automotive tools, Harbor Freight offers over 7,000 tools and accessories that match or exceed competing brands.


Harbor Freightis known for the following features:

  • Harbor Freight's inventory caters to your home, garage and shop as well as your lawn, garden and vehicles.
  • Harbor Freight customers can shop according to their interest. There are 10 featured categories that include automotive, boating, carpentry, farming, woodworking and solar. You also can view the site's most popular items.
  • Harbor Freight gift cards can be purchased online.
  • Customers can download and print out discount coupons that can be used in-store or on Harbor Freight's website.
  • Take advantage of Harbor Freight's $6.99 flat rate for Standard Ground Shipping. Overweight charges may apply.
  • You can return any item purchased at harborfreight.com at any Harbor Freight store for an exchange or refund within 90 days of your purchase! Bring in the item and a copy of your invoice for an exchange or refund, no questions asked.
  • All Harbor Freight items are guaranteed as described and illustrated. If you're not satisfied with any item purchased, you can return it within 90 days for a full refund or replacement.
  • Recall notices are posted on harborfreight.com.

Here's what customers are saying about Harbor Freight.

"This tool shop is really manly. I can't describe it any other way. You walk in and they have trailer hitches attached to the ceiling on display. What I like about this place is that it is local and it's not like those big chain stores…They have pretty much any tool anyone could ever want."

"Shockingly good prices on useful hardware and automotive tools."

"This store fills the purpose of selling disposable and low-quality/low-price tools to people who need to get a household job done at the lowest cost. Customer service needs work, to say the least, both in service and professionalism. Cheap tool store or not, I expect a certain degree of class."

"Selection is very limited at this mom and pop hardware store. I came here twice each time looking for something different."

Read more Harbor Freight reviews at Yelp.


We compared prices for several items frequently purchased hardware items. Here's a look at how these three hardware stores measured up.


Ace Hardware


Harbor Freight

Portable Generator




Cordless Drill




Drill Bit Set




*Prices may vary depending on your area.

Where the Deals Are

Ace Hardware posts its flyer containing sales and specials on its website. You'll also find online exclusives, clearance items and "Red Hot Deals." Customers can become an Ace Rewards Member and earn bonus points and receive money saving coupons and sale reminders. You also can download coupon codes for free shipping, discounts and special deals.

Grainger customers can receive special discounts and promotional offers simply by entering their e-mail address. You also can take advantage of hot buys, new items and clearance item prices. Don't forget to download coupon codes for free shipping, discounts, bulk order specials and online deals.

Harbor Freight posts its monthly ad on its website. Customers can join the Inside Track Club and take advantage of "member only" savings and special offers and receive exclusive new product coupons. There's also a clearance section where you can enjoy big savings. Harbor Freight coupon codes are available for free shipping and a wide range of discounts on products and services.


Pier jean
Posted on Jul 22, 2014
Kane smith
Posted on Sep 27, 2013
Jonathon smith
Posted on Sep 26, 2013