Is Harbor Freight getting rid of coupons? That’s the rumor, but it’s not what’s happening. At any rate, the rules changed in 2021, so let’s talk about the new rules, and how to coupon Harbor Freight in 2021 and beyond.

The rumor is that Harbor Freight doesn’t do coupons anymore. While they do a lot fewer coupons now than they used to, Harbor Freight does still issue coupons. That means there’s still opportunity for savings.

Is Harbor Freight getting rid of coupons?

The rumor in early 2021 was that Harbor Freight is getting rid of coupons, and that rumor spread like wildfire on Youtube and social media. And the number of coupons did indeed slow to a trickle in early 2021. But those eventually got replaced by a smaller number of coupons with a shorter life expectancy, and more in-store specials that don’t require coupons.

In the past, a Harbor Freight coupon was good for 30 days or more. The typical 2021 Harbor Freight coupon tends to be good for a shorter period of time, often an extended weekend. They still run a 2-3 promotions a month, the difference is the promotions are usually good on the weekends or Friday-Monday, and there are fewer coupons to choose from. But some of the coupons are better than they used to be.

Where to get Harbor Freight coupons

How to coupon Harbor Freight

Harbor Freight used to hand coupon-bearing sales flyers out like candy. Not so much anymore. The best thing to do today is sign up for their e-mail list. Harbor Freight isn’t getting rid of coupons, but they are reducing how many coupons are active at any given time.

Harbor Freight used to publish coupons all over the place. They would generally be a percent-off coupon that was good on most of their lower-end merchandise, along with a flurry of coupons for specific products. They would also frequently throw in a few free-with-purchase coupons. It was usually for low-end stuff, but I always appreciated the free microfiber cloths and magnetic parts holder.

That all changed in 2021. It was a combination of factors. Increased prices were one, but COVID-19 concerns were an even bigger problem. Coupons increase the number of interactions with the cashier and slow down traffic, increasing the amount of time people spend in the store. So Harbor Freight got rid of most of the coupons. Now, when they put something on sale, they may just reduce the price in the store. No need for a coupon in that case.

The (in)famous percent-off coupons aren’t going away, but in some cases they’ve changed. There aren’t as many of them and they typically are only good on the weekends, but some of them have fewer restrictions now. On the most common arrangement, Inside Track members get 20 percent off and non-members get 10 percent off. But sometimes these coupons have no exclusions. That means you can use the coupon on big-ticket items like tool chests. That was almost never the case before.

Besides a bigger percentage off, Inside Track members get better sale prices too. If you plan to spend more than $300 in a 12-month period, the Harbor Freight Inside Track membership makes a lot of sense at $30. The break-even point is $162, but anyone can get a $16 discount off that $162 purchase. So you need to spend $300 in a year or $350 in two years (more on that in a minute) for the membership to really make sense. The other time it makes sense is if there are at least five items priced at $19.99 that you know you want, and you can wait for the 30% off coupon.

Of course the rumor that Harbor Freight is getting rid of coupons still runs rampant. That’s a misunderstanding. They do a lot fewer coupons, but they still have something going on once or twice a month. The reduction in coupons doesn’t put sites like the Harbor Freight Coupon Database completely out of business–you can still use it to track price changes and Inside Track deals, and to find any active or upcoming coupons you might have missed.

The 30% off coupon

Harbor Freight runs a 30% off coupon on items under $10 a few times a year. You can buy up to five items with the discount. These are great for loading up on things like clamps, toolbox organizers, and any hand tools you don’t have yet. I got a set of slip-joint pliers, for example. For $7, why not? I use them more than I thought I would. Something else I’ve done, and seen lots of other people do, is use the 30% off coupon to load up on clamps. Almost everyone I know can use more clamps.

And Inside Track members get the discount on items up to $20. Harbor Freight has a lot of nice hand tools in the $10-$20 range, so if you don’t have a large tool arsenal, this can be a good way to stock up. If you’re going to use the 30% off coupon more than once on tools approaching $20, then the Inside Track membership makes sense even if you’re not planning any big-ticket purchases.

This coupon is useful for other things you might not necessarily think of. Harbor Freight has a pretty good selection of car care items, including a lot of Meguiar’s products. If you’re in need of anything like that, keep this coupon in mind.

The ironic thing is, two weeks after news broke that Harbor Freight was getting rid of coupons, they ran one of these 30% off coupons. It’s possible a few people missed that one because they thought coupons were a thing of the past.

Limitations on Harbor Freight coupons

Harbor Freight has two claims to fame: coupons with limitations, and cheap tools of sometimes dubious quality. Read the fine print on the coupon. One of Harbor Freight’s early 2021 coupons had no exclusions. But it still had a big limitation. The limitation was you could only buy one item with it, and one item per day at that. And you also couldn’t use it on something that was already on sale. It was only good on regularly priced merchandise. You could get around the one item per day limitation by having your spouse come with you and have your spouse make a purchase too. But for a big ticket purchase it was great. It was the rare occasion when you can get $150 off one of the big US General tool chests.

Read the fine print on the percent-off coupons. Some have exclusions and some don’t, but all of them have limitations. Whatever the limitations, it’s possible to get good deals within them, but you may have to time it to get the deal you’re looking for. The 30% off coupon on cheap items doesn’t help you with that tool chest, but you can use it on organizers or drawer liners. The key to saving money at Harbor Freight is figuring out how to best utilize whatever coupons are available this week.

Secrets of the Inside Track membership

Harbor Freight is really pushing its Inside Track membership. For $30, you get additional savings for a 12-month period. This means 20 percent off instead of 10 percent off on the coupon, and lower prices on sale items. If you spend more than about $300 a year at Harbor Freight, the Inside Track membership can save you a bundle.

There are two ways to save even more. If you buy a two-year membership, the price is $45. So you get your second year at half price. And if you buy your membership online, you get a $10 gift card in the mail, cutting the price to $35 for two years.

Inside Track members are eligible for about 200 deals per year. They vary, and obviously you won’t be interested in all of them.

How to get an additional 10 percent off your entire purchase

There’s one more trick to saving a fortune at Harbor Freight–with a catch. Sometimes when they’re running another sale, they run a promotion on their credit card. During these promotions, if you open a Harbor Freight credit card, you can get 10 percent off your entire purchase, and usually that’s above and beyond whatever other discounts you snagged. The catch, of course, is that you’ll have to remember to pay off that credit card before the interest rate kicks in. But if you’re making a large purchase, and can remember to watch for the bill and pay it quickly, the Harbor Freight credit card is a good way to do it. And that also usually doesn’t have exclusions, so this is one of the few reliable ways to get a discount on one of the coveted tool chests.

Watch for this promotion in the e-mail sale bills Harbor Freight sends you.

Keep a list

I have a list of items I don’t need right away, but want to get sooner rather than later. I keep them on a spreadsheet on my computer with the item name and the expected price. If enough of the items on my list go on sale to justify a trip, I go, especially if there’s a percent-off coupon that I can use on another item.

Shop on weekends

Harbor Freight loves its weekend sales. They’ll run a weekend, Friday-Sunday, or Friday-Monday sale for almost any reason, like any holiday weekend, or the weekend before or after a holiday, or because of Super Bowl weekend. Or for no real reason at all on months that don’t have any holidays. Some months, they have a sale going on three weekends out of four.

The best promotions are almost always going on over the weekend, and often on holiday weekends. While the in-store price drops are usually good during the week too, the coupons are more likely to be good on the weekends than during the week. So there’s more opportunity to save on the weekends than on, say, Tuesday.

Parking lot sales

Harbor Freight used to have parking lot sales several times a year, where they mark down various merchandise, and try to liquidate overstocks and any damaged goods they have on hand. COVID-19 put an end to those, but once we get on the other side of the pandemic, you can expect these to come back. Frequently the prices aren’t much better than what you can get with a coupon, but if what you need is on sale, that’s another opportunity to buy it at a discount.

If you’re thinking about waiting for a parking lot sale and then stacking a 20% off coupon on top of that, nice try. The 20% off coupon almost always excludes items that have already been marked down.

When a deal isn’t a deal

One thing to remember: Don’t buy something just because you have a coupon or because it’s on sale. If you won’t use it, you didn’t really save anything. That’s one of the biggest secrets of coupons. While the $9-with-coupon sawhorse is a good deal, I already have two sets of sawhorses. So there’s no reason for me to buy a third set. One of the reasons for discounting is to get us to spend more, so be careful.

I always go to Harbor Freight with a list, and I buy things based on what I need for my next project or two. If I see a smokin’ deal on something, I might buy it before I have immediate need for it, but it has to be a significant savings that doesn’t come along very often. This helps me build up my tool collection while keeping costs under control.

What’s free at Harbor Freight?

Harbor Freight used to have a lot of coupons for items that were free with purchase. At one point there were 18 of them. As of 2021, these are much less common. But here are the items that Harbor Freight has a history of running free-with-purchase coupons on:

  • Worklight/flashlight
  • Tape measure
  • Tarp
  • Pickup and reach tool
  • Multimeter
  • 4-pack of microfiber cloths
  • Magnetic tool holder
  • Magnetic parts holder
  • 6-pack of stretch cords
  • 100-pack of cable ties
  • Heavy duty scissors
  • Pack of AA or AAA heavy duty batteries
  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • 6-piece screwdriver set
  • Headlamp
  • Moving blanket
  • Flashlight
  • Utility knife

Most of these are items with a list price of around $4-$5, and they frequently go on sale, sometimes for $1 or less. Watch for these on sale, even if there isn’t a freebie coupon active at the time. There used to always be at least four of these active at any given time. Today it’s more like there’s a selection of them once a quarter. They still happen, but they’re much less common.