Only Buy It Once: Craftsman Tools
I always think of this scene from Gran Torino whenever I'm trying to fix something at my apartment and need tools. Oh, duct tape, vice grips, and WD-40 will fix half of my household chores, Mr. Eastwood? Nonsense. Never once has any of those three things been sufficient in fixing a door handle, putting together an IKEA puzzle, or rigging up an elaborate system to get a beer from your fridge while sitting on the couch.
These jobs require TOOLS. Like Tim Taylor tools. Your grandfather's tools. Tools that built America—tools that fix America when it breaks. And going strong for the better part of a century, Craftsman tools are still the only ones your garage has ever needed.
Craftsman dates back to 1927 when a Sears (yes, that Sears, nothing fancy here) executive liked the name and bought the rights from Marion-Craftsman Tool Company for $500. For many years after, farmers were Craftsman's typical customers until Americans gradually embraced the automobile.
Craftsman's lifetime warranty is legendarily liberal—if you find a broken socket wrench from 1930 at the dump, you can take that right in and exchange it for whatever the contemporary model is. Of course, that means that you should buy up every $2 piece of junk at a yard sale if it has Craftsman written on the side and hit up the nearest Sears.
The full text of its policy:
If for any reason your Craftsman hand tool ever fails to provide complete satisfaction, return it to any Sears store or other Craftsman outlet in the United States for free repair or replacement. This warranty gives you specific legal rights and you may also have other rights which vary from state to state.
It's refreshing to browse a brand's site and see that its most popular items are all affordable. But if you can trade in your grandfather's broken tools for free, they'd still be affordable even if they were twice as expensive.
Nearly all Craftsman's power tools are under $100. Years ago (like in junior high while trying to build a bunk bed with my mom) it seemed the only Craftsman power tools worth their salt came equipped with cords attached—the cordless ones would die immediately. This is no longer the case. The cordless power tools have a "long lifespan" (their words) and can fully charge in 30 minutes.
(Power tools are covered for a year.)
I'd recommend starting with a solid set of classic hand tools—think pliers, needle-nose, vicegrips, screwdrivers, and adjustable wrenches. Then you should probably invest in a set of sockets and socket wrenches. You'll be set for life to take apart pretty much anything and put it back together again.