Here’s why someone will spend $30 more for that 24K gold plating.
Walk around or shop online at any Harbor Freight store, and you’ve probably noticed they sell a 24K gold-plated ratchet. Not only does Harbor Freight sell the exact same ratchet with the same specs at a cheaper price in a standard polished chrome finish, you can even get a comfort grip handle, so it’s arguably more functional.
Harbor Freight has a lot of good reasons to sell a gold ratchet, for reasons you wouldn’t expect.
First, let’s take a look at their infographic.
This 3/8 inch gold-plated ratchet is part of Harbor Freight’s ICON professional series of tools meant to compete with top of the line brands like Mac, Matco, Makita, and Snap-on for a fraction of the price.
Made from chrome vanadium with a 90-tooth gear-to-gear ratcheting mechanism, a low profile head, and a 4-degree arc swing, it’s certainly not bottom basement spec but not exactly top of the line either.
There are ratchets with even more gear teeth and tighter arc swing.
What sets this one apart from its regular finish twin is that “Genuine 24K gold plating.”
If you think there’s a lot of gold on these ratchets, think again. Sure, there’s actual 24K gold applied but, thanks to how gold is actually plated on through a process called electroplating, the gold thickness is often less than a few microns.
Gold Plating Services, based out of Utah, provides a handy guide on what exactly goes into gold plating metals and, more importantly, how much it costs.
“You can plate around 160 rings or pendants that have about one square inch of area for $110. In other words, it works out to be about $0.68 to gold plate a ring or pendant this size.”
Doing some seriously rough maths, there’s probably, at most, two dozen rings-worth of area on a ratchet which works out to less than $10 of actual gold on this Harbor Freight wrench.
At that thickness of gold plating, if you actually used this Harbor Freight Gold wrench, it would scratch very easily.
The only practical use for gold plating a $40 wrench is corrosion resistance. Then again, it’s made from chrome vanadium, an already corrosion resistant metal. The gold plating is redundant.
If the Gold Plating doesn’t actually add functionality, that only leaves two main reasons Harbor Freight makes a gold ratchet: for decorative purposes and because they can.
It is not uncommon in service related industries, like being a service tech at a dealership or a mechanic at a service yard, to receive a gold tool of some sort as an award for achieving a milestone or hitting an anniversary.
There’s even this Redditor’s case where a customer tipped the gold ratchet in question in recognition for a job well done.
You even have HF shoppers like this guy, who left a bittersweet comment on the actual tool listing page.
Whose cutting onions?
Finally, Harbor Freight sells a gold ratchet because they can.
Harbor Freight launched their Premium ICON tools lineup in 2018. Since then, ICON’s gained a reputation for being a professional-level quality tool at a fraction of the price of more established brands.
With a store within driving distance of most mechanics and handymen and, with that lifetime warranty, choosing ICON is often a no-brainer.
A gold Plated ratchet is Harbor Freight’s way to showboat a little, and rightfully so.
In less than four years, their ICON lineup of tools has enabled even the most cash strapped mechanic on a budget to deliver professional levels of work day in and day out without breaking the bank.
A gold ratchet is a reward for others and a pat on the back for themselves.