What expensive tool is absolutely worth the price?

By Colin Wood
Jun 22, 2022 | Tools

Photography Credit: Alexander Schimmeck/Unsplash

Let's be honest: Some of our tools are bought on price above all. 

Perhaps we're following the adage of “buy a cheap tool and if it breaks, buy a better one,” or maybe we simply don’t like spending a lot of money.

However, what expensive tool is absolutely worth the crazy price tag?

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David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/22/22 12:45 p.m.

I have one that we were just discussing this past weekend: Griot's synthetic clay bar. For like $25, you get a piece some kind of rubber bound to a foam handle.

But it's totally magic for pulling junk out of the paint. You can hear, see and feel the difference.  

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
6/22/22 12:52 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

I've heard before that clay bars are definitely worth it if you really keep your paint clean. Next time I'm buying car care products, I'm going to go all out.

Sonic UberDork
6/22/22 12:54 p.m.

The Eastwood brake line flaring tool.  It turns a sad job into an easy one. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/22/22 1:00 p.m.

Good torque wrench. You're using one for a reason, you can't afford a bad one. 

wae PowerDork
6/22/22 1:01 p.m.

A lift.  All sorts of things are easier when I can put the car where I want it.  I even use the lift for interior work - it's much easier to get under the dash when you can stand next to the car and work at eye-level.  $1,800 well-spent.

TJL (Forum Supporter)
TJL (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
6/22/22 1:03 p.m.

Pretty much any specialty tool that works correctly when needed. 

i was majorly impressed with following


brake flare tool

bearing removers/presses

hub flange tool

Im sure there is plenty more, but just having the exact right tool for the job that makes it quick and easy vs having to just scratch, hammer, bang and inevitably getting pissed and breaking or damaging what you are working on. 

ShawnG MegaDork
6/22/22 1:03 p.m.

Power Probe.

Incredibly hand for electrical diagnostic. 

kb58 SuperDork
6/22/22 1:07 p.m.

TIG welder, lathe, and a mill, and you can make or fix anything.

kb58 SuperDork
6/22/22 1:08 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:

I have one that we were just discussing this past weekend: Griot's synthetic clay bar. For like $25, you get a piece some kind of rubber bound to a foam handle.

Jerk, now I have to have that!

pointofdeparture UltimaDork
6/22/22 1:10 p.m.

A nice, high-quality multimeter.

I got a Fluke as a gift a few years ago and I use it way, way more than I ever would have thought.

trakktapedude New Reader
6/22/22 1:16 p.m.

Hands down, a lathe and a mill.  Once you have them, you can never do without them. Not a machinist?  Go YouTube. Joe "Pie" is the best teacher. 



Patrick GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/22/22 1:19 p.m.

Mastercool flaring tool



aw614 Reader
6/22/22 1:21 p.m.

A decent OBD2 scanner and for VW's VAGCOM/VCDS. 

No Time
No Time SuperDork
6/22/22 1:23 p.m.

Not super expensive, but so much easier than pliers. I finally gave in and spent the $40 on a set yesterday to replace the lower hose on the 98 Ram. 

6/22/22 1:24 p.m.


Knipex Parallel Jaw Pliers.  1 tool to grab that will take off just about any nut or bolt.

wspohn SuperDork
6/22/22 1:26 p.m.

Good micrometer and a dial indicator and magnetic stand.

rob_lewis UberDork
6/22/22 1:26 p.m.
  1. Beta Tools t-handle hex wrenches.  Karts have a ton of hex wrench bolts so mine were used a lot.  Never rounded off.  The sliding t-handle part was something I didn't think was a big deal and now get frustrated when I don't have one.  They're stupid expensive, but one of the few tools that I was happy to spend money on.
  2. Gear Wrench cross force ratchet wrenches.  I got a Craftsman set years ago as a Christmas present.  Thought the twist in the handle was a little gimmicky.  Boy was I wrong.  Wrenching on a bolt and being able to push against a flat surface instead of the edge of a wrench is so much more comfortable and easier to apply force to.  I honestly am shocked more companies don't offer something similar (maybe it's patented). They're harder to find now, but I always recommend them.



6/22/22 1:31 p.m.

Hands down Kinipex Cobra pliers 

93gsxturbo UltraDork
6/22/22 1:37 p.m.

Glad to see a few of my favorites already mentioned.

  • Mastercool flaring kit - anything else would be uncivilized
  • Snap-On screw drivers, sockets, wrenches, picks, and bits (hex, torx, etc)
  • Ingersoll-Rand air impact wrenches
  • Milwaukee M12 and M18 power tools
  • Name brand cutting and grinding wheels (bonus points if from an industrial supplier/weld shop and not a big box store)
  • Name brand drill bits, taps, and dies
  • CRC Brake Cleaner (heck, most of the CRC stuff is excellent)
  • Irwin quick clamps and bar clamps
  • USA Made Vice Grips
Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
6/22/22 1:50 p.m.

I'll put a vote in for good power tools. Fighting with off-brand stuff is just a miserable experience. 

fidelity101 UberDork
6/22/22 1:59 p.m.

for me hands down this:

Rotary Compression Tester

it can help pinpoint issues and support troubleshooting but its also good at ruining your day with said information. 

rluciano GRM+ Memberand New Reader
6/22/22 2:07 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

Fortunately mine arrived yesterday. Now I just have to use it. smiley

300zxfreak Reader
6/22/22 2:07 p.m.

In general, the cordless impact wrench (compact  size is even better ), and for Audi owners, the VCDS software.....lots of fun.

evildky SuperDork
6/22/22 2:10 p.m.

Cordless drill and impact driver, it's my superpower.
My first cordless drill was a 7.2 volt Black & Decker that you had to plug in to charge. I've owned a number of brands and voltages. My current is Dewalt 20v and I'm heavily invested in their eco system. 

philacarguy New Reader
6/22/22 2:21 p.m.

I have an Ingersoll Rand 1/2" drive, 20V battery powered impact wrench (W7000).  Indispensable at the track for changing wheels.  I kept borrowing a friend's and finally broke down and bought one.  Another friend bought his own after using mine and has thanked me ever since.  

I used to use the classic air powered IR wrench in the home garage, but this is just easier.

Don't cheap out and buy an inferior one - not enough power.  You get what you pay for.

Appleseed MegaDork
6/22/22 2:24 p.m.

In reply to evildky :

Seconded. I've used the 1/4 on impact so much, the cordless drill that came with it only gets used with drill bits.

Dremel tool. There are just some things that require finesse that a drill onmr grinder just don't have. If you do anything hobby related, models, RC, trains, its indespensible.

Aaron_King PowerDork
6/22/22 2:30 p.m.
Bkennedyjr123 said:

Hands down Kinipex Cobra pliers 


frenchyd MegaDork
6/22/22 2:48 p.m.

In reply to Colin Wood :

Snap On wrenches and sockets.  They fit the bolts and nuts better, they fit your hands nicer. They clean up easier.  

thatsnowinnebago GRM+ Memberand UberDork
6/22/22 2:49 p.m.
No Time said:

Not super expensive, but so much easier than pliers. I finally gave in and spent the $40 on a set yesterday to replace the lower hose on the 98 Ram. 

I wish I could thumbs up this more than once. These things are a game changer. 

CrustyRedXpress GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
6/22/22 2:51 p.m.

In reply to thatsnowinnebago :

What is it?

pointofdeparture UltimaDork
6/22/22 2:57 p.m.

In reply to CrustyRedXpress :

Remote spring clamp pliers. You hook the free end on the tabs of a spring clamp and then squeeze the pliers to lock the clamp open, push the little red lever to release.

I have a set, they are absolutely necessary if you own a NC Miata.

No Time
No Time SuperDork
6/22/22 3:04 p.m.

In reply to CrustyRedXpress :


ARrotard New Reader
6/22/22 3:07 p.m.

*Snap-On screwdrivers

*Snap-On semi-deep sockets,, the perfect depth

*A quality 1/4 ratchet , a friend of mine turned me on to the idea that so many things I was doing with a 3/8 wrench could easily be done with a 1/4in, saves space and less chance of over tightening. 

madmrak351 Reader
6/22/22 3:13 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

Good torque wrench. You're using one for a reason, you can't afford a bad one. 

Absolutely number one on the list. Rebuilt a 327 SBC using  my dad’s torque wrench. He was a professional mechanic. Felt a main cap bolt go “soft” I was nearly afraid to pull it back out. Got lucky and the bolt stretched instead of pulling the threads out of the block. I was 19 then. Got a Snap-On torque wrench and a new set of main cap bolts. Lesson learned!! If your torque wrench has some age on it have the calibration checked or replace it with a quality unit.

m4ff3w GRM+ Memberand UberDork
6/22/22 3:40 p.m.

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
6/22/22 4:07 p.m.

I came here to say lift, but it's been said, so I'll go with an enclosed trailer instead. :)

Portable garage to keep the race car out of the elements, storage for all your tools and tires, shade at the track, and if you bring a generator you can even mount AC on the roof.

No Time
No Time SuperDork
6/22/22 4:09 p.m.

I almost forgot about the Christmas present I got this past year. A Bolt Buster inductive heater, never out of gas and works in areas I wouldn't think of using a torch. 


GeddesB Reader
6/22/22 4:31 p.m.
robismyname GRM+ Member
6/22/22 4:31 p.m.

Battery operated whatever... impact gun, screw driver, sawzall ... I'm still old school and have a compressor and related but dang the battery operated stuff is so much easier, and quieter! $500 may seem like a lot of a set but its worth it. 

charlesl New Reader
6/22/22 4:57 p.m.

If you work on older Mercedes diesels then you need a set of valve adjuster wrenches. Not too expensive but irreplaceable. I tossed (or let my sister sell as part of estate sale) a set when I went through my late dad's tools. I forgot what they were for until I needed them.

buzzboy SuperDork
6/22/22 5:27 p.m.

In reply to charlesl :

We made a set using cheap-0 renches. Not as much fun as using real ones.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/22/22 5:51 p.m.

In reply to kb58 :

It's magical. 

Some talk about the synthetic clay pad here:


nmdouglas New Reader
6/22/22 5:52 p.m.

In reply to wae :

Couldn't agree more. Spent 40 years lying on my back jacking cars up and down, jack stands etc etc. Finally got a 2 post lift and what a difference in frustration levels and willingness to start a job. Expensive and takes up a lot of room but worth every penny and square foot.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/22/22 5:59 p.m.

I am fascinated that people think $80 tools are expensive smiley

There is a kind of inverse usefulness with tools though.  My $1100 thermal camera sees less use than my $200 Pico scope. (which does need like $700 in accessories to be useful, but still cheaper than a $5000 setup from Bosch)


AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
6/22/22 6:29 p.m.

My new M18 Milwaukee...... mower.  I can post photos when I am back in town.  It was pricey, but it was as advertised.  Kiddo is 8 and she was helping mow the lawn with it.

Folgers Reader
6/22/22 6:36 p.m.

Frlf80a Snapon, 3/8 drive, flex head, quick release ratchet. And quality Snapon wrenches.

When it’s 100 degrees out, your standing waist high in a E36 M3 pit, and the guy next to you is an shiny happy person, I  take solace in the fact that at least my wrench doesn’t suck.

Power tools are great, diagnostic tools are wonderful, but my ratchets will be buried with me. 

Further eloquence escapes me, but they are worth it. 

burdickjp Reader
6/22/22 6:47 p.m.
rob_lewis said:

Gear Wrench cross force ratchet wrenches.

I grabbed an entire set of cross force wrenches in ratcheting and not ratcheting, took all of the rest of my wrenches and threw them in a bag. I effin' love them. If I could fix one thing it would be to have 6-pointed box ends instead of 12.

Nomad Reader
6/22/22 7:09 p.m.

In reply to No Time :

I was going to post this very thing. When you need it, it's the best way to take pipe clamps off, makes the job nearly fun

And I just taught my son how to clay bar with a bar I've had for about 12 years. (1/2 still new)

Cousin_Eddie (Forum Supporter)
Cousin_Eddie (Forum Supporter) Dork
6/22/22 7:13 p.m.

Snap On flare nut wrenches. Nothing else is near as good. I can't overstate how superior these are to everything else.

Astro Pneumatic "big nasty" model air hammer.  Frame rivets take about 4 seconds to remove with one. 

MasterCool flare tool. It does way more than just flares, ie. quick connect fittings. I have never made a bad flare since I got mine. Not once.

Knipex pliers (of any variety)





ShawnG MegaDork
6/22/22 7:49 p.m.

The snap-on long barrel air hammer is great when you need the "I'm not asking, I'm telling" sort of tool.

wvumtnbkr GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
6/22/22 8:06 p.m.

Since I race and need to do alignments and other things all the time, my fm hibstands are my favorite.  They are amazing at saving time and adding versatility. 

gunner (Forum Supporter)
gunner (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
6/22/22 8:52 p.m.

Eagle Grip by Malco LP10WC 10 in. Curved Jaw Locking Pliers with Wire Cutter

Hands down the best locking pliers I have laid hands on and made in the U.S.A.

759NRNG UberDork
6/22/22 8:55 p.m.

Don't have it yet, but worth every cent .....Two Post Lift.....regardless 

CrashingTiger New Reader
6/22/22 9:03 p.m.

Impact driver. I have this one from Mac Tools. 

Funny thing is, I wanted to use it with a hex screw recently and couldn't find bits for it, so I found a $10 one at Harbor Freight that had a 1/2" square drive with a removable 5/16" bit socket. When I got home and took it out of the box, I noticed that the bit socket looked a little like the Mac Tools one. I grabbed the Mac and and tried to pull the bit socket off and was amazed to find a 1/2" square drive. 10 years I had this Mac one and never knew the bit socket came off!l

pinchvalve (Forum Supporter)
pinchvalve (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/22/22 9:13 p.m.

Good drill bits. Cheap bits that come in sets of 30 for $10 will cause more frustration than anything, as well as wasting time. Spending $ on quality bits makes such a difference. 

lotusseven7 (Forum Supporter)
lotusseven7 (Forum Supporter) Dork
6/22/22 9:16 p.m.

I build LOTS of rollbars & rollcages and my FEMI NG120XL bandsaw has been one of the best purchases ever!

kb58 SuperDork
6/22/22 9:18 p.m.
pinchvalve (Forum Supporter) said:

Good drill bits. Cheap bits that come in sets of 30 for $10 will cause more frustration than anything, as well as wasting time. Spending $ on quality bits makes such a difference. 

This. While I bought a mid-range full set of drill bits, I use places like McMaster to pick and choose really good drills, typically the most commonly used sizes.

Same goes for taps, and there are a TON of different styles of taps.

MyMiatas New Reader
6/22/22 10:50 p.m.
No Time said:

Not super expensive, but so much easier than pliers. I finally gave in and spent the $40 on a set yesterday to replace the lower hose on the 98 Ram. 

Where did you purchase that tool? How well did it hold up with squishing the hose clamps? I have borrowed one in the past but have not spent the cash for one.

My good buy on a tool is a air pop rivet gun. When you have to install large pop rivets this is the one you need.

Also the Bosch impact and drill combo pack is a winner.  I have used mine for years daily. The impact tightens and loosen bolts great.

pirate Dork
6/22/22 11:04 p.m.

A portable hand held band saw with a SWAG Off-road table either stand alone or vise mounted. I bought a used Mikita on eBay and new vise mount table. I use this thing all the time. Great for fabricating small parts and really doesn't take up much space.

Jay_W SuperDork
6/22/22 11:09 p.m.
No Time said:

Not super expensive, but so much easier than pliers. I finally gave in and spent the $40 on a set yesterday to replace the lower hose on the 98 Ram. 

TIL that I simply have to have one of these amazing things that I had not one clue existed prior to.. just now. Til then, the best money I ever spent on a tool, in that it paid for itself and continues to, was on a Miller mig welder. A 2post lift will replace my quickjacks as soon as the shop is built. And like so may others here, I can't go without my Fluke and my Snap-on torque wrench..

No Time
No Time SuperDork
6/22/22 11:36 p.m.

In reply to MyMiatas :

I bought it at O'reillys, but I'm guessing most chain parts stores would carry them. 

It held up to the clamps on the upper and lower hoses without issue. There would have been some foul language and skinned knuckles on the engine side of the lower hose if I was using pliers on the clamp. 

The lock feature is a nice bonus when working at odd angles. 

stukndapast Reader
6/23/22 8:13 a.m.

Once you have your lift, at least two underhoist stands and a hydraulic transmission jack are are essential.  Your back will thank you forever.

wae PowerDork
6/23/22 8:23 a.m.

The hose clamp pliers was my first thought, but at $20 from Auto Zone, I didn't consider that expensive.  But it's an amazing tool that I feel stupid for not having bought sooner. 

I was trying to remove the power steering reservoir from the GL350 back when I started that whole project and I fought that thing with pliers and Vice-Grips forever.  In a fit of desperation, I decided to drive up to Auto Zone and buy the stupid "special tool" for stupid spring clamps.  When I got back, it took me only a matter of seconds to have the spring clamp off.  I spent more time monkeying around with the pliers than it took me to change my clothes, drive to the store, buy the tool, drive back, change, and then remove the clamp.  I have found that it doesn't work as well with every clamp.  There are some that it just doesn't compress enough, leading me to wonder if there are different sizes that I should have.

Another tool that was cheap, but that I would have spent 10x on and still felt good about was my set of Irvin bolt extractors.  I bought them to get the bolts off the EGR valve on the motorhome.  It was another case of taking longer to use the wrong tool with no results than it took to go buy the right tool and use it.  I've used them since and they have been a real time-saver.

chgrec GRM+ Memberand New Reader
6/23/22 8:46 a.m.

For me it is my spot welder...invaluable for rocker replacement and for so many other metal repair tasks. (Please don't tell my other tools I have a favorite!)

Ranger50 MegaDork
6/23/22 9:17 a.m.

Pgj9m pliers from Matco. I got my pair after a shop left them in a radiator shroud of a Durango 4.7 they tried to fix. I use them on just about everything, including those damn spring clamps.

Channel lock 414 "nut buster" pliers. If the nut/bolt is round, these will hold it in place just fine. I used them on sway bar endlinks all the time....

aw614 Reader
6/23/22 9:37 a.m.

The hose clamp pliars work great on the larger clamps, but the ones that are hard to get or in tight spaces are still a bit of a challenge. 

AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter)
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/23/22 10:03 a.m.

today i established a tool fund for bolt buster, masterkool, and remote hose clamp plier thingy

bigeyedfish Reader
6/23/22 10:56 a.m.

Does a garage count?  I worked in my gravel driveway for years, but eventually bought a house with a garage.  Yesterday I replaced a starter in a parking lot in 95 degree heat and was reminded how awesome a garage is.

Appleseed MegaDork
6/23/22 11:13 a.m.

In reply to bigeyedfish :

Most definitely.

wae PowerDork
6/23/22 11:27 a.m.

In reply to bigeyedfish :

And once you have the garage, it gets even better when you can heat it!  I'm very jealous of garages with A/C and may have to investigate that option...

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/23/22 1:28 p.m.
aw614 said:

The hose clamp pliars work great on the larger clamps, but the ones that are hard to get or in tight spaces are still a bit of a challenge. 

Knipex makes some pliers that are absolutely amazing for hose clamps.  They are straight but asymmetrical, the jaws are three dimensional in contour so you can grab them end-on, all surfaces are deeply grooved for non slipness, and the slip joint has four or five notches, not just two.

I am so happy with them I will run out to the shop to take a pic. (munching tuna and rice with BBQ sauce in breakroom...)

trakktapedude New Reader
6/23/22 1:50 p.m.

In reply to No Time :

what is it called?


trakktapedude New Reader
6/23/22 1:54 p.m.

Sorry, looks like they are hose clamp pliers. Tnx

husky450cr New Reader
6/23/22 2:09 p.m.

Not terribly expensive, but game changers...

Cobalt drill bits...I don't even mess with HSS anymore, unless I am drilling wood or plastic.

MAP gas torch...just enough heat to get just about anything unstuck, and you don't have to wheel around a cart or trip over hoses.

Thread insert repair kit...I went thru inserts like candy when racing karts and autocrossing a Fiat 124.





Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/23/22 3:36 p.m.

In reply to husky450cr :

OMG my hyper-step drill bits.  Amazing.  They do not walk and they cut amazingly fast, through anything.  Just NYEEEROUM through steel, iron, hardened bolts...

I think the set was $450?  Machinists would shrug at the price, hobbyists would cringe...

Purple Frog (Forum Supporter)
Purple Frog (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
6/23/22 3:53 p.m.

Sort of what wae said:

Air Conditioning for the shop.   

When its 101 outside and 72 in the shop, productivity is much better.

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/23/22 6:32 p.m.
Slippery GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
6/23/22 6:42 p.m.

Race ramps

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
6/23/22 7:07 p.m.
Woody (Forum Supportum) said:

They're not expensive, but these exhaust hanger pliers are worth way more than they cost. They save so much aggravation and effort.

They are awesome, but they don't work on VWs.  We broke a set trying to get the exhaust off a 2018-ish GTI.

BimmerMaven New Reader
6/24/22 9:32 p.m.

In reply to kb58 :

better not forget the oxy-acetylene torch for bending, shaping, shrinking, heat treating, annealing, loosening stuck fasteners, cutting thick metal...

oh....and weld steel, braze copper, brass, solder copper pipe....

BimmerMaven New Reader
6/24/22 9:52 p.m.

In reply to bigeyedfish :

with heating, air conditioning, toilet, sink....

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/25/22 8:41 a.m.

Nut splitter


buzzboy SuperDork
6/25/22 11:19 a.m.

We have been using DeFault, Makita and Milwaukee 7" sanders for decades. We bought a Fein with integrated dust collection. Oh my. Just the built in dust collection saved enough sandpaper from clogging that it paid for itself in a year of use. Not to mention that it's smaller and lighter than the other sanders.

chandler UltimaDork
6/25/22 12:02 p.m.

I have a set of Matco ratcheting  long handle wrenches that are amazing, they were real money but I happily ponied up for the full metric and standard sets.

dxman92 Dork
6/26/22 1:58 p.m.

Knipex Pliers Wrench and Cobra pliers. I've tried cheaper versions of both and pale in comparison. 

jwagner (Forum Supporter)
jwagner (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand Reader
6/27/22 2:01 a.m.

Got a previous version of one of these about 6 years ago. More of a contractors tool than a mechanics tool.  Love this thing:


As cordless impacts go, it's tiny and light.  Claims 157ft-lbs, but it took off my Miata axle bolts this weekend without a sweat, removed the been-on-there-years lugnuts from the E350, and got the crank bolt off the K20 after we had given up on it with breaker bars and even the monster Milwaukee 1/2" hi torque impact.  That last one might well have been pure luck in trying one last time on a bolt that had already been loosened, but our general despair turned around real quick.


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