Is the Harbor Freight Winch Brand Badlands Any Good?

/ / Car Accessories
Badland ZXR 9500 winch

If you like to go off-roading, chances are you’ve gotten yourself stuck in the mud or sand at some point. When this happens, you have a few options: you can rely on another vehicle to pull you out, you can use a shovel and traction boards to get yourself unstuck, or if there’s something sturdy nearby to anchor to, you can winch yourself out. 

We’ve already highlighted some of the most highly-rated winches currently on the market, but they can be awfully pricey. For example, the Warn 9.5XP-S has a price tag of more than $2,000. Harbor Freight has been a source for discount tools and automotive supplies since 1977, and since 2017 has sold an array of ATV, truck, and marine winches under the Badland brand with capacities ranging up to 12,000 pounds.

The closest Badland model to the Warn 9.5XP-S is the ZXR 9,500-pound winch. This winch has the same capacity but comes with a steel rope instead of a synthetic rope and retails for just $339.99 at Harbor Freight’s website. With such a price difference between the two products, you might be wondering who makes Badland winches and if they are durable enough to count on to get you out of trouble when you’re on the trail.

Badland winches have a solid reputation

Badland Apex 12,000 lb winch

The entire Badland line of winches enjoys a mostly favorable reputation from owners, including yours truly. I bought a Jeep CJ7 with a Badland ZXR 12,000-pound winch installed on it and used it several times during the four years I owned the Jeep. Usually, it was to free other vehicles or take a boat out of the water, but I used it once to remove a tree stump and another time to help demolish a shed. On every occasion, the Badland winch performed flawlessly, although the steel cable required some attention to spool smoothly, which is common with many winches.

Badland winches are designed in California and manufactured in China by two companies, Ningbo Antai and Ningbo Lianda.

A Jeep owner named Jeff posted to JL Wrangler Forums detailing his experience with the premium series Badland Apex 12,000-pound winch, saying he had no issues after one year of frequent use. Jeff also said he previously owned the same ZXR 12,000-pound winch that I did and had no problems with that model, even after using both winches underwater. Jeff also shared a chart comparing the Apex favorably to the Warn Zeon 12-S, which costs more than three times as much.

Offroad forums are full of kudos for Badland winches, including a comment on Overland Bound that pointed out that professional recovery services in Utah, like Matt’s Off-Road Recovery and Moab Motorsports TrailMater Recovery, use Badland winches.

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