I’m a big fan of the “buy it for life” movement. We hire products for specific jobs. If I can hire the product once and get the job done for the rest of my life, I’m in favor.
Not every product can or should last forever. And many products that you don’t expect to last forever actually may. I’ll try not to give specific recommendations here. It’s up to you to find the version of these products that will last. I recommend my rules for buying products for tips on identifying quality.
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I’ll also note that these are suggestions for most people with an average use case for each product. A good chef’s knife should last me and my family a lifetime. A professional cook making hundreds of meals a night might wear through that same knife in a year. Use case matters.
The following is my list of great products with buy it for life potential.
You’ll see a lot of tools on here, whether they be for the kitchen, the lawn or the home. The nature of tools (and the wear and tear they need to be designed for) makes them good candidates for this list.
I’m not advocating you go out and buy everything on this list. My hope is that you start exploring the practice of hiring your products once. If you do, I think this list is a good place to to start.
Kitchen and cooking
Carbon steel pan
Cast iron pan
Fully clad stainless steel cookware
Mortar and pestle
Garage, tools and yard
Garden tool set
Set of wood and metal files
Swiss army knife
Home, office and electronics
Washer and dryer
Clothing, wardrobe and travel
Canvas tote bag
Cedar clothes hangers
Cedar shoe trees
Kitchen and cooking
A professional-grade blender used in a commercial kitchen goes through a lot of abuse. One of the good ones can definitely handle whatever you put it through at home.
2. Bottle opener
Bottle openers are a dime a dozen these days and strapped onto everything from USB drives to flip flops. Get one that opens bottles and nothing else. Mine’s a little chunk of cast iron shaped like a lobster. I keep it in my bar cabinet. I plan to open bottles of Pacifico for the rest of my life with it.
3. Butcher block
A butcher block is not just a big cutting board. I’ll repeat, a butcher block is not just a big cutting board. End grain cutting boards point the fibers of the wood running up and down so you’re cutting into the grain and not slicing across it. With regular cleaning and oil these will last a lifetime.
4. Can opener
There’s nothing special about a can opener. But a good one that stays operational and works well is worth the cost. Get a quality one and wipe it dry so it won’t rust.
5. Carbon steel pan
The secret restaurant tool is a great carbon steel pan. Similar to cast iron in heat retention and durability. Lighter and easier to handle.
6. Cast iron pan
One of my all time favorite products. A beast in cooking quality and durability. Read my take on why cast iron is one of the best product’s available.
7. Chef’s knife
If you invest in only one great kitchen tool, make it an 8 inch chef’s knife. Get something stainless steel with a good handle. You don’t need to spend more than $200. You don’t need an 18-piece knife set. You need a good chef’s knife that you keep sharp.
8. China dinnerware
The wedding registry staple. Store it somewhere safe and break it out on the holidays.
9. Coffee grinder
Great coffee starts with the beans. A well made burr grinder (either manual or electric) should do its job for years with the right upkeep. You may have to change the blades a few times.
10. Coffee maker
A cheap drip coffee maker is designed to be replaced. Something professional grade and electric can handle years of use. Better yet, try something non-electric, like a French press or pour over setup.
There’s a ton of solutionism happening in the corkscrew market. Gizmos that twist and twirl and electronically massage your cork with high frequency dolphin songs. Unless you’re a major wine enthusiast, (you are not a major wine enthusiast) just get something simple and well made. Next time you’re in a restaurant that has a sommelier, ask what kind they use. I promise it looks more like this than something out of SkyMall. That person opens more bottles in a night than you do in a year.
12. Dutch oven
Just like screaming hot pans are the difference-maker in professional kitchens, a nice heavy dutch oven another secret weapon for home cooking. It’s great for soups, braises and anything long and slow on a Sunday. When your home is an archeological site they’ll find yours in the rubble.
13. Food processor
Maybe you consider it a wedding registry cliche. But these things come in handy once you really start cooking at home. Even the cheap ones seem to hold up nicely.
14. Fully clad stainless steel cookware
These are what you should really be using almost every time you reach for that nonstick pan. Look for fully clad instead of disk bottoms, which can warp and fall off.
15. Glass bakeware
In the late 19th century, scientists unlocked new and exciting ways to build glass products with strong resistance to thermal shock. This meant glass that wouldn’t shatter at high temperatures. It’s still a great product opportunity for home cooks. Look for ones made of borosilicate glass. And keep an eye out for vintage pieces, too.
If you don’t know how to cook, you don’t know how to grill. I hate this trope of the macho dad who never makes dinner but somehow knows when a pork chop is done if he’s standing outside at the grill. That’s stupid. And that guy’s pork chops suck. For those who do cook, get a well-made grill, like a Weber kettle. Clean it after using. Disassemble and deep clean a few times a year. Keep it dry and covered. That’s the last grill you’ll ever buy.
17. Measuring cups
Stainless steel for dry ingredients. Borosilicate glass for wet. Store them dry after cleaning. Stainless steel isn’t rustless steel.
18. Mixing bowls
You probably have too many mixing bowls. Department stores will lure you into a 20-piece Russian nesting doll monstrosity. You’ll regret it when they go spilling everywhere every time you just need a medium-sized bowl (which is like 90 percent of the time). A set of three, maybe four, will do the trick.
19. Mortar and pestle
Seems exotic. But master a simple guacamole and you’ll use this more than you realize. Also useful for grinding spices. Plus it’s pretty obvious that two chunks of rock are going to last you a while.
20. Paring knife
If you can have one knife in your kitchen, get a chef’s knife. If you can have two, get a paring knife. Same rules apply as the chef’s knife in terms of quality. This is the tool you’ll use for finer cuts on smaller and more delicate ingredients.
A little controversy here, but I stand buy the notion that you can still find a refrigerator that will last forever. Get something with simple aesthetics and as little feature creep as possible. And for the love of god don’t get a smart fridge.
Real silver flatware definitely isn’t practical for your everyday use. Even for special occasion stuff. Upkeep on real silver is no joke. In fact it’s an outright chore. Get a set of 18/10 stainless steel flatware.
23. Stand mixer
This piece belongs in the product hall of fame. I’m consistently amazed at how a 20-pound baking appliance became the centerpiece of every millennial’s wedding registry. In 2012, KitchenAid announced it was cranking out 2 million of these units per year. Some swear by models produced before 1986, when Whirlpool acquired the brand.
24. Tea kettle
A nice stovetop kettle can last generations. Even a good electric model will take a beating.
Chances are your parents have a green Stanley vacuum thermos somewhere that’s older than you. Kudos to Stanley for keeping the tradition alive.
Most toasters cost less than $20 and might last a few years. Some, like a Dualit, are built like a tank and could last forever with some maintenance. Of course you could get a $20 toaster every 3 years and spend over $1,000 throughout your life.
I always check out the kitchen items at an estate sale. And I always see classic Tupperware. You’ll never wear it out. You’re more likely to lose it when your friends take potato salad leftovers home from your cookout.
$16: Rubbermaid Brilliance Food Storage Container, 10-Piece Set from Amazon
$36: Tupperware Wonderlier Bowl Set 3 in New Colors from Amazon
$58: Snapware Pyrex Glass Food Keeper Set from Amazon
28. Waffle iron
A really nice electric waffle iron could last your lifetime. Just look at the abuse they take in continental breakfast lines. A cast iron or cast aluminum stovetop model will last for generations. It’s not as hands-off as an electric model, but it’s going to be easier to clean when you can just toss it in the sink.
29. Wine glasses
Practically any glassware will outlast you if it isn’t dropped or chipped. Good wine glasses that you wash by hand and dry gently will stick around. The real danger to the glass is yourself once you pop that third bottle of Riesling.
30. Wine rack
It’s best to store your wine sideways, so the inside of the cork is in constant contact with the wine. Otherwise the cork could dry out, shrink, and lose the airtight seal, allowing oxygen and other funky stuff into your wine. A plain wine rack will keep your wine sideways until you’re ready for it.
Garage, tools and yard
31. Car jack
The cheap jack that comes with your car is fine in a pinch on the side of the road. I bent one in half once though, so know I only trust these. At least get something better for your garage.
32. Garden tool set
Grow some vegetables. Get a few tools so you aren’t shoving your fingers in the dirt.
33. Hand planes
Hand planes are like cast iron pans. You can find great one 100 years old in grandpa’s basement. After an afternoon of cleaning and sharpening it’s better than anything you can get new. Though you can still get some great ones new.
34. Hand tools
I could put every last variety of hammer, screwdriver and wrench on this list. The fact is, all hand tools need to be tough. And simple. Things that are built tough and simple stick around.
I like a manual reel mower. With two conditions. 1: You don’t have a very large lawn. 2. You’re good about cutting regularly. Otherwise, get a nice gas mower and take care of it like a classic car.
It can be a pain to run out to the garage or basement every time you need to quickly tighten a screw. Throw a good multitool in your junk drawer, glove box or office desk. You’ll save money on misplaced pliers and screwdrivers. And the little scissors are perfect for a getting at a loose thread on your clothes.
Many people get cheap brushes and buy a new set every time they have a painting project to do. For the average homeowner who paints once every few years, get a decent brush set and store them clean and dry.
38. Picnic table
Most outdoor furniture is way overpriced and falls apart in a few years. A solid wood picnic table isn’t going anywhere.
Even if you just open your Amazon boxes with it.
40. Set of wood and metal files
Even if you aren’t a serious woodworker or metal craftsman, it’s good to sand the rough edges off of things.
Not rocket science here. A basic round point digging shovel will last a lifetime. You probably already have one that will. If not, look for one with the blade welded to the shaft.
42. Swiss army knife
More features than your pocket knife, more portable than your multitool.
43. Table saw
If you have the space and budget, a really heavy cabinet table saw is an outstanding piece of machinery. They’re often more than 600 pounds, built of metal and extend to the floor. Heady duty means less vibration, which makes for more accurate cuts.
$1,836: Shop Fox 10-Inch Table Saw with Riving Knife from Amazon
$2,650: Delta Unisaw, 52-Inch Fence from Amazon
44. Tire gauge
Every glove box should have a tire gauge. Even your built-in electronic tire sensors can flake out on you. Spend $20 a on a nice, accurate gauge.
45. Tool belt
You don’t need to be a carpenter to have a tool belt. The secret problem during any weekend project around the house is spending half your time running back and forth to get hardware and tools. Practice a little Mise en place on your weekend warrior battles by strapping on a tool belt.
For the average person, wear and tear isn’t the real threat to your tools. It’s losing them. People don’t replace hammers because they wore them out, they replace them because they lost them. Toolboxes are harder to lose and give your tools a home.
47. Work gloves
A good pair of leather work gloves should last a lifetime. Your paws will thank you.
A heavy wooden workbench only gets better with age. Every scratch and splotch of paint tells a story. Even if it’s the story of a birdhouse you gave up on finishing.
49. Zippo lighter
Even if you’re not a smoker, a Zippo is a classic and comes in handy.
Home, office and electronics
Most entry-level DSLRs are rated for 100,000 shutter actuations. Some report going past 300,000 on a mid- to high-end camera body. This should satisfy most hobby photographers. Otherwise, update your firmware, lenses and accessories and you’re in good shape for a long time.
Coasters protect your nice furniture (more on that soon). They’re also a cool aesthetic opportunity. Flimsy dirty cardboard coasters are sad. Get something big and heavy and fun to look at. Like a big gnarly chunk of marble.
52. File cabinet
I don’t care how digital you get, every family needs a file cabinet. You still have papers to hold on to.
53. Fireproof safe
House deeds, birth certificates, passports, family heirlooms, photographs. Some things you can’t afford to lose in a fire. Get a great fireproof safe and put it by your filing cabinet.
54. Fountain pen
You probably won’t get daily use out of a fountain pen. Most of us probably don’t get daily use out of any sort of pen. But a basic fountain pen has heirloom potential. Keep it somewhere safe, sign the big important papers with it.
55. Hardwood furniture
Hardwood furniture won’t just last your lifetime, it will last several generations. Dining sets, bedroom sets, tables, cabinets. Your grandkids will be fighting over it.
Listening to headphones at home, through your stereo, is pretty great. Get something with a long cord, keep them at home and take good care of them. Get some other pairs for the airport and the gym.
$137: Sony MDR-7510 Professional Studio Headphones from Amazon
$185: Sennheiser HD 599 from Amazon
57. Label maker
A label maker keeps your physical world organized and accessible. And they last a long time.
You’ll be amazed at the things you find to laminate once you get one of these. Thank me when y
Scotch PRO Thermal Laminatorour social security card doesn’t rip in half.
59. Musical instrument
Pro musicians put their gear through hell. No matter what your instrument of choice is, it will do just fine in your den for a long, long time.
Scissors are a common wrong-tool-for-the-job tool. The threat to scissors isn’t wearing out, so much as it is getting damaged because you used it for the wrong job. Keep a few utility knives and pocket knives around to prolong the life of your scissors.
Look for one built of metal with a die cast base. Just don’t let your boss steal it and put your desk in the basement.
$13: Swingline Stapler from Amazon
$13: Swingline Stapler, Commercial Desk Stapler from Amazon
62. Storage bins
The secret to a well-organized garage, basement or attic is a set of durable storage bins. Stackable with a good handle and latching lid. Some people like the transparent ones so you can see what’s inside. I just use a label maker.
63. Storage shelving
Your storage bins need a home. Most of these can be adjusted to different heights. Look for thick plastic or metal construction.
64. Vacuum cleaner
So there are vacuum cleaners and there are vacuum cleaners. If you wan’t one that can truly last a lifetime, you’re going to need something like a Miele. It’s going to cost you at least a few hundred bucks but it will be the last vacuum you ever buy.
65. Washer and dryer
Washing machines and dryers are another product that aren’t technically supposed to last a lifetime, but I’ve seen it happen. Get something simple and stay away from exotic extra features.
66. Wood-burning stove
It’s hard to match the joy of heating up a home with a fire you built yourself. If these don’t last several lifetimes, you’re doing something very, very wrong.
67. Wool blanket
If the label says dry clean only, please don’t throw it in the washer. Otherwise care for it with a good lint brush or nylon-bristled clothes brush. If you store it, get a bag designed for storing linens and keeping moths out.
A proper stereo is one my all-time favorite products. I’m not talking about a bluetooth speaker or the latest integrated smart gadget. That tech will come and go. I mean a stereo. Two speakers and a receiver. That’s a stereo. It’s a formula that’s been around for almost 100 years and isn’t leaving anytime soon. Plug in the inputs from the audio sources of your choice. I use Google’s Chromecast to send Spotify tunes right from my wifi to the receiver. You can add a turntable if vinyl’s your thing. or just plug in your phone/mp3 player directly. Or whatever else you want. Upgrade the various parts as you grow into it. Or don’t. Just please play it loud.
Sports and outdoors
69. Baseball bat
Everyone sleeps better with a Louisville Slugger under their bed.
Cycling enthusiast will want to upgrade to new tech every handful of years. For the rest of us, one simple and really well-made bike will be the last bike we need. Find a local bike shop in your town that’s been around forever. Buy it there and take it in annually for a tune up. Replace and fix parts as they wear down.
I have a cheap pair of binoculars that I absolutely love. There’s something thrilling about taking them on a hike or camping trip. I plan to upgrade to a nicer set soon.
$117: Carson VP from Amazon
$289: Athlon Optics, Midas, Binocular, 8 x 42 ED Roof from Amazon
A canoe or kayak is a great and fairly simple way to get out and reflect on life. Almost any kind of watercraft will last a lifetime with proper storage and maintenance.
Yes, your phone has one. Your car and maybe even your watch has one. But you can get a military-grade compass for less than $20. Toss one in your car and one with your camping gear. If you ever get in a pinch and do actually need it, it could save your life.
Coolers are the latest and biggest example of building lifestyle brands into everyday functional items. If it can happen to wristwatches and personal computers, I suppose it can happen to coolers. The fact is, coolers are great buy it for life products. I’m sure the $400 ones are great, but even the mid-range ones are pretty great. If your cooler needs are more day at the beach than week-long Elk hunting expedition in the Yukon, spend less than $100. Keep it dry and clean when you get home and the thing will last you a long time.
75. Fishing pole
Fishing poles are another product like bicycles; the real pros will want to upgrade and evolve their setup every few years. For us casual anglers, a nice fishing rig should never need replacing.
People get pretty serious about their flashlights. If you want to dive in, there are a ton of great blogs and YouTube reviews dedicated to flashlights.
A nice hatchet or ax is a work of art. Not only will a decent one last forever, it will look great. Chopping your own fire wood is satisfying and easy. Let the suckers keep buying bundles from that guy on the side of the road.
Obviously this isn’t for everyone. But any well-made firearm has family heirloom potential. Please take a safety class and store your guns and ammo safely.
A cheap tent will last a couple camping trips. A great one will last your lifetime. The real danger is moths and mold from storing it improperly.
80. Water bottle
A simple stainless steel water bottle has no reason to break. Gaskets and seals on the lid can deteriorate, so see about replacing those.
Clothing, wardrobe and travel
Buy it for life forums are filled with photos of 30- and 40-year-old JanSport backpacks. I had an off-brand backpack that easily got me through four years of high school and four years of college.
82. Beach towel
Unless you’re one of the guys from Endless Summer, beach towels don’t get nearly the wear and tear of a bathroom towel. My 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics towel is still going strong. Again, mold and moths are the real danger here. Dry out and properly store your beach towel. When in doubt on design, go for this classic striped pattern.
A leather belt will develop a nice patina and start looking and feeling better over time. Couple that with a simple metal buckle and your belt’s only real threat over time is your eating habits.
Start with quality Goodyear welted leather boots. Be sure the size is right. Brush off debris and keep them in a cedar shoe tree when you aren’t wearing them. Don’t wear them more than one day in a row. Condition the leather a few times a year. Have a cobbler replace the heel and sole every few years as they wear down. That’s your recipe for boots that last forever.
85. Canvas tote bag
Canvas doesn’t get the buy it for life love that leather does, but it’s right up there in my list of favorite materials. Consider the abuse sailboat sails go through. That stuff is going to do just fine carrying your Kindle around.
86. Cedar clothes hangers
I sometimes see photos of beautiful, roomy walk-in closets with cheap plastic hangers and just think: why? Cedar hangers keep the shape of your clothes and work as a natural air freshener and moisture defender. I’ll take a small closet with good hangers any day.
87. Cedar shoe trees
One of the biggest enemies to keeping your products in good shape isn’t how you use it, it’s how you store it. Nice leather shoes crease and lose their shape without a foot in them. They also hold moisture, which causes all sort of problems. Please keep your leather shoes in a cedar shoe tree.
88. Clothes Iron
One of the heavy German ones should be the last iron you need to buy.
89. Clothes steamer
Quicker than an iron, less aggressive on your clothes.
90. Duffel bag
For any trips involving air travel I like my wheeled carry-on. For all the rest, it’s the duffel bag. Anything with good zippers and clasps should last a lifetime. Brands like L.L. Bean do a great job replacing bags as they wear.
$70: L.L. Bean Adventure Duffle, Large
$159: The North Face Base Camp Duffel Bag — Large from Amazon
91. Hair dryer
Another tough one to recommend, but I’ve seen decades-old hair dryers at estate sales that run good as new. Look for established brands that can help with repairs down the road.
92. Ironing board
Ironing boards are an afterthought. Until you iron on a good one. Plus, do you really want the thing you press screaming hot metal on to be flimsy and cheap?
93. Leather jacket
I so badly wish I could pull off the leather jacket look. For those who can, go buy a Schott 613 or 618.
$758: Schott 613 from Schott.
94. Luggage tags
Another afterthought. But do you want the risk of never seeing your luggage again hanging by a cheap plastic thread? Get a nice luggage tag.
95. Money clip
I know, who uses money clips? Isn’t this a wedding registry cliche? The fact is they’re an easy and unobtrusive heirloom piece. Slip it in your pocket for a wedding or other dress-nice occasion.
96. Nail clippers
Like I said about the ironing board, you don’t care about a good one until you use it. Nail clippers are the same way.
97. Passport wallet
The United States passport has been roughly the same size and shape since 1926. Unlike iPhone cases, your Passport wallet won’t be obsolete in two years.
Depending on where you live, good rain gear is a great way to protect the rest of your clothes.
99. Rolling luggage
Rolling luggage was the catch-22 invention of the luggage industry. On one hand, we dramatically improved the user experience by no longer making folks carry heavy bags through the airport. But doing this meant adding delicate moving parts to the product: wheels and a retractable handle. These are the things that break when you get cheap luggage. These are the quality parts good luggage makers invest in, which will keep your rolling luggage lasting as long as grandpa’s old suitcase.
100. Safety razor
I’ve written before that I’ve stopped using a safety razor for everyday shaving. But that doesn’t make it any less great of a product. I’ll hang onto mine for occasional touchups.
101. Sewing machine
Chances are someone in your family has one that still works.
$149: Brother CS6000i Feature-Rich Sewing Machine from Amazon
$650: Janome DC5100 from Amazon
102. Sun-blocking hat
Long before sunglasses were a thing, cowboys wore hats. Something with a brim that goes all the way around is great protection for a day of yard work. Even if your horse is a riding lawn mower.
Two prongs you can pinch together. It’s one of the simplest grooming tools. Get a few because they’re more likely to get lost than wear out.
A great umbrella just feels better. It almost makes it OK that it’s raining because you get to carry this cool club around.
A leather wallet only looks better over time. Try for full grain or top grain leather. It will feel stiff and clunky at first, but break in so beautifully.
Unlike watch snobs, I’m not prejudiced against a good quartz movement. Seiko changed the game when they debuted the quartz movement wristwatch in 1969. And a lot of those are still ticking (with a few battery changes of course). Whether you go quartz or mechanical, find a reputable service shop to do cleanings and repairs and you’ll either be buried in it or pass it down to your kids.
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