When it comes to buying power tools, the most important question – after knowing what tools you need – is to choose the brand. That’s especially the case with cordless power tools where switching brands can be very costly.
To help you with making the decision before you buy your first tool, I put together a list of the best power tool brands by region (United States, Japan, and Europe) including a brief overview of each of them.
One thing to keep in mind is that just because a brand is for a particular country, it is not worth getting in another (e.g. buying a Japanese-brand drill in the United States). Another thing to keep in mind before you continue is that just because a brand is from a certain country, it doesn’t mean it’s also manufactured in that country.
6 Best American Power Tool Brands
The most popular – and some of the best – American power tool brands include DeWalt, Milwaukee, Black & Decker, Craftsman, Ridgid, and Kobalt. While some of those are designed for pros, others are perfect for homeowners and hobbyists. I look at the six in more detail below.
Having originally been started by the inventor of the radial arm saw, Raymond E. DeWalt, in 1923, DeWalt is one of the oldest and best-known tool makers in the world.
The company was acquired by Black & Decker in 1960. Initially struggling to gain popularity among professionals who saw Black & Decker as an “amateur brand,” the company embarked on what became a very successful rebrand. That took place in the early 1990s and positioned DeWalt as the brand of choice for professionals. Today, it is one of the flagship brands of Stanley Black & Decker, a Fortune 500 company.
DeWalt’s product portfolio includes hundreds of power tools, both wired and wireless. Those include multiple models of drills and impact drivers, different types of saws, laser levels, sanders, angle grinders and so on.
Besides that, there is also a wide variety of DeWalt accessories like drill bits, miter saw stands, toolboxes, and even hardware. The company also offers yard equipment like lawnmowers, and things like jobsite radios and fans.
Its cordless tools belong to a variety of platforms including the standard 18V, 12V MAX for compact tools, 20V MAX, and 40V MAX for outdoor equipment. The most interesting one, though, is FLEXVOLT which automatically switches between 20V and 60V depending on the tool it is placed in. As such, it is able to power the company’s 20V, 60V, and 120V tools.
Milwaukee has come a long way since the company was established in Wisconsin in 1924. The company has gone through multiple ownership changes, most recently being acquired by Techtronic Industries – the Hong Kongese owner of Ryobi and Hoover US brands among others – in 2005.
Initially, the company’s recognition grew thanks to its Hole Shooter – world’s first lightweight, one-handed drill with a 1/4-inch chuck. Today, though, the company offers dozens of different construction tools and outdoor equipment. Perhaps most notably, Milwaukee’s Sawzall brand became synonymous with the reciprocating saw tool in general.
In addition to corded and gas-powered tools, Milwaukee offers cordless battery-powered tools across three platforms – M12 System (12 volts), M18 System (18 volts), and MX FUEL (72 volts). Many of its tools are compatible with One-Key, a platform that Milwaukee developed to help companies manage their power tool inventory and maintenance.
Just like DeWalt, Milwaukee is a brand that is very popular with professional contractors and that is – in most cases – suitable even for the most rugged conditions.
3. Black & Decker
Another American power tool brand you have no doubt heard about – even if you are not a professional contractor – is Black & Decker. The company, having been started in 1910, is more than a hundred years old. It caught the world’s attention in 1917 when it invented the portable electric drill.
In 1960, as mentioned earlier, it acquired De Walt, a brand which it decided to target at pros. The Black & Decker brand, on the other hand, went the consumer route. In terms of power tools, it focuses on manufacturing those that are most commonly used by homeowners – mainly drills, sanders, and screwdrivers.
That said, the company also has some routers and other more specialized tools in its portfolio. It also manufactures accessories and some hand tools.
In fact, expanding its consumer-oriented concept, Black & Decker also ventured outside the power tools and outdoor equipment – like lawnmowers and hedge trimmers – industry. Today, it also sells cleaning devices like vacuums and even home appliances like toasters and slow cookers.
Considering that Craftsman is another company within the Stanley Black & Decker portfolio, it’s safe to say that its parent rules the power tool world in the United States. The company was first started in 1927 by the retailer Sears.
Craftsman changed ownership back in 2017 when a deal with a fairly complicated structure was closed. While it allowed Stanley Black & Decker to take the brand over, it also gave Sears the right to continue using its existing suppliers to manufacture the tools and market them in their own stores for the next fifteen years. The company was sold for $900 million.
Like other companies on this list, Craftsman offers a significant portfolio of corded, battery- and gas-powered tools and outdoor equipment. One of it’s better-known products are its string trimmers sold under the Weedwacker brand which became synonymous with the tool in general.
The company also offers a variety of hand tools and accessories including its Versa System – a system for organizing tools within a workshop.
Just like Black & Decker, rather than being targeted at professionals, the brand is mainly going after homeowners. That said, hobbyists and even some professionals might find its tools attractive.
Ridgid, unlike the other companies in this list, is primarily a manufacturer of tools for the plumbing and HVAC industries. Having been started in 1923 in Ohio, the best-known tools in its portfolio are its red pipe wrenches. Because of that, it’s not as widely used by handymen and construction workers as the other brands in this list.
All that said, Ridgid also offers a limited selection of power tools and so is worth mentioning here. The company makes the most widely used tools like drills, impact drivers, and saws. Many of those are produced by Techtronic Industries – the owner of Milwaukee and Ryobi.
Getting a Ridgid tool might not be the best idea if you need a wide variety of tools with interchangeable batteries. If you are only looking for the most basic power tools, the brand is a solid option, though.
Similar to Craftsman, Kobalt is a brand that was started by a retailer. Rather than a general one like Sears, though, it was started by the hardware store Lowe’s in 1998. In fact, the company still continues to own the Kobalt brand. The products themselves are manufactured by a variety of different companies.
Under the Kobalt brand, Lowe’s offers a variety of corded and battery-powered (mostly 24V) tools, as well as hand tools like screwdrivers and so on. Its sets of tools are a staple in many households and workshops.
On the spectrum of home-use to professional, Kobalt tools lie somewhere in the middle. They are cheap enough to be attractive to homeowners. They are also good enough to have a fan base among hobbyist woodworkers. It’s not too common you will see a professional handyman or contractor with a Kobalt tool, though.
Besides being sold, obviously, at Lowe’s, Kobalt tools can also be bought on Amazon and through other retailers.
3 Best Japanese Power Tool Brands
Known for their quality engineering, power tools made by Japanese brands are highly popular all over the world as well. Arguably, the three best of those are Makita, Metabo HPT (formerly Hitachi), and Ryobi, so let’s take a closer look at those.
While Hitachi might be better known overall, among professionals, Makita is definitely one of the best-known brands. It’s also the power tool brand that I personally use the most.
The company was started by Mosaburo Makita in 1915, however, it wasn’t until 1958 that it got into the power tool business. While it first started with a planer, it soon expanded into tools like drills. Now it offers all of the tools you might need at a construction site or in a workshop ranging from impact drivers and hammers through angle grinders, sanders and routers all the way to reciprocating and circular saws. It also has a good selection of yard equipment and pneumatic tools in its portfolio.
Even though the tools are now manufactured all over the world rather than just in Japan, they remain to be of very high quality.
Combined with their wide selection of not only tools but also other jobsite equipment like fans and radios, I can only recommend going with the Makita cordless platform. In particular, you should be looking at their 18V tools.
2. Metabo HPT (Hitachi)
Hitachi, like Black & Decker – just to a much larger extent – is involved in way more than manufacturing power tools. In fact, it’s a conglomerate that manufactures everything from batteries and screens through construction machinery all the way to aircraft components. Until recently, it also manufactured power tools but it sold off that division to the investment fund KKR back in 2018.
Since then, the company has been in the process of rebranding to Metabo HPT. The company offers all of the tools you would expect from a reputable manufacturer. It particularly excels in making angle grinders, cut-off saws, and other heavier-duty cutting equipment. That said, it also offers a good selection of more commonly used tools like impact drivers and drills.
Their tools are on the higher-end of the price spectrum and other brands like DeWalt and Makita offer better selection overall. In spite of that, though, if the main tool you need to use happens to be offered by Metabo HPT – and you happen to like it – there is no reason why you shouldn’t go with its platform.
The last Japanese brand that I’m going to talk about is Ryobi. Just like Milwaukee, the power tools and outdoor equipment divisions of the brand are owned by Techtronic Industries.
Unlike Milwaukee, though, Ryobi is mainly used by homeowners and hobbyists. That’s because while Ryobi’s signature bright green tools are really affordable, they are also not as rugged and robust as those made by pro-oriented brands are.
All that said, it is still a very good brand of power tools and unless you spend five days a week on a dusty construction site or similar, it should be high on your list of brands to consider. You will have a wide range of both corded and cordless tools to choose from, including impact drivers and circular saws.
4 Best European Power Tool Brands
Finally, with Europe – and especially Germany – being home to some quality power tool brands as well, let’s take a look at those. More specifically, let’s take a closer look at Festool, Bosch, Skil, and Hilti.
Festool is a German brand that is considered to be the best power tool brand by many. The company was founded in 1925 by Gottlieb Stoll and Albert Fezer as Fezer & Stoll. This company’s tool division was later spun off into what is today known as Festool.
While today, Festool manufactures a wide variety of tools and accessories like toolboxes, its first major achievement was developing the world’s first portable chainsaw in 1927. Nowadays, the company is best known for its track saws and other woodworking tools.
Besides operating a couple of factories in Germany, Festool also makes some of its tools in the Czech Republic. Additionally, the company also operates a factory in the United States. It only makes power tool accessories, especially guide rails, there, though.
After being founded by Robert Bosch in Stuttgart in 1886, the German brand Bosch has grown on to become a household name in engineering and technology. Before continuing to its power tool portfolio, a quick fun-fact worth noting: unlike the other companies on this list, more than 90% of the company is owned by Robert Bosch Stiftung, a charitable organization.
Bosch’s power tools are within its “home” division that also includes gardening tools and home appliances among others. As such, they are mainly targeted at homeowners and DIYers.
That said, being more expensive – and arguably higher quality – than brands like Kobalt and Craftsman, they are perfect for the serious amateurs or even lighter semi-pros or pros. The company has also been, rightfully, putting more effort into having its tools be accepted by the professional community.
In terms of tool selection, the company makes anything from impact drivers all the way to jigsaws. Most of those are based on its 18V platform, however, it also has some lighter 12V tools.
Originally started in 1926 in New Orleans, it could easily be argued that Skil should be on the “best American power tool brands” list above.
I decided to include it here, though, since it is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. That’s because the brand was – after a series of acquisitions and partnerships – fully acquired by Bosch in 1996. Today, the brand is owned by Chervon, a Chinese power tool manufacturer.
Without a doubt, Skil built a considerable part of its reputation through Skilsaw Model 77, a circular saw which it introduced in 1937 and that many say is “the saw that built America.” Since then, it has gone on to vastly expand its portfolio of tools and today it offers a selection comparable with all the other major manufacturers like DeWalt and Makita.
That said, it remains the strongest in the saws category – be it circular saws or table saws.
Tucked between Austria and Switzerland is a small German-speaking state Liechtenstein. Known as a tax haven within the financial community, it is also the home of Hilti, one of the world’s most reputable construction tool manufacturers.
Without a doubt, the tools that Hilti is known for the best are its electro-pneumatic rotary hammer drills. In fact, it was the first company to introduce the tool to the market with its TE 17 model back in 1967.
Even today, Hilti’s best-known product is its hammer drills that come in its signature red boxes. That said, its portfolio includes much more than that. Still, its mainly heavier-duty tools useful to professionals in the construction industry, though.
Which Power Tool Brand Is the Best?
The answer to this question is, of course, “it depends.” It depends on what the level of your work is, as well as what type of work you are primarily doing.
For example, if you are a professional that uses power tools almost daily, you will want to go with one of the heavier-duty brands like DeWalt or Makita. If you want to splurge, you might even want to consider Festool or Hilti. On the other hand, if you are a homeowner that needs to hang a picture every now and then or wants to do some lighter projects occasionally, then a brand like Black & Decker or Craftsman will work well.
In terms of the type of work, if you do a lot of what could be considered “general handyman work,” then choosing a brand with a wide portfolio of tools like DeWalt, Makita, or Black & Decker will be the best. If you do a lot of specialized work and need a quality hammer drill, for example, then you might want to go with a more specialized brand like Hilti.
Is It Better to Stick to One Power Tool Brand?
When it comes to cordless tools, then you should certainly stick to one brand as much as possible. That’s because batteries are as pricey – if not more – than the tools themselves. Sticking with one brand – and one platform (14.4V, 18V, etc.) will allow you to buy “bare-tools” without batteries and save money.
That said, batteries are still consumables, and so, you will have to buy new ones at one point or another.
In addition to that, by sticking with one cordless power tool brand, you will also be able to use the same charger for all your tools. In this case, some chargers even allow charging batteries of different voltages. So, you might be able to use a single charger to charge both a 14.4V and an 18V battery, for example.
Sticking to a single power tool brand is nowhere nearly as important when it comes to corded tools. All (regular) power outlets are the same after all. Even with that in mind, though, if you prefer consistency in style, color, etc., then you should try to stick to one brand.
With things like screwdriver bits, drill bits, and other attachments being universal, that doesn’t affect the answer to this question much.
When it comes to corded power tools, the cost of switching to a different brand is minimal. As such, you don’t have to worry too much about picking the right one – as long as the tool that you get gets the job done.
With cordless power tools, though, the cost of switching – i.e. buying new batteries, chargers, etc. – can be very high. As such, it’s important to think your decision through and make sure the brand you go with offers all the tools you might need in the near or even longer-term future.
In most cases, you cannot go wrong with a power tool maker with a wide portfolio like DeWalt and Makita if you’re a professional or Black & Decker and Ryobi if you’re a homeowner or a hobbyist. That said, for the right set of circumstances, each of the brands in this list is well-worth considering.