When choosing the power tool brand to commit to, handymen – especially professional ones – often end up with two brands at the top of their list: Festool and Milwaukee.
In this article, I will take a detailed look at the two brands’ histories, quality, and product portfolios to help you choose the better one for your needs.
A Brief History of Festool and Milwaukee
Milwaukee Tools is an American brand that was started in 1924 by A. F. Siebert in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Milwaukee has focused on innovative power tools such as the Hole-Shooter, which became a must-have for workers in the automobile and metalworking industries.
Their tools grew in popularity during World War II due to them meeting US Navy standards, and the company getting large orders from the military. Milwaukee continued to innovate in the power tools sector and are now known for their M12 and M18 cordless systems, accessories, and hand tools.
Milwaukee Tools is owned by Techtronic Industries, which also owns brands such as Ryobi, Hoover and Dirt Devil.
Festool, on the other hand, started out as Fezel & Stoll in 1925, just a year after Milwaukee was founded. They manufactured the world’s first portable chainsaw in 1927. The power tools division of the company was spun off into the Festool company in 2000 and has remained privately owned by the family of the original co-founder Gottlieb Stoll.
The company is based in Wendlingen in Germany and is a subsidiary of the TTS Tooltechnic Systems holding company. Festool operates subsidiaries in 26 countries and opened its first North American production line in Lebanon, Indiana in 2017.
Festool vs. Milwaukee: Which Offers Better Quality?
Both Milwaukee and Festool manufacture excellent tools that are both durable and perform well. That said, there are some differences in terms of where their tools are made and what their warranty is.
Customer reviews for Milwaukee tools are overwhelmingly positive, with many customers praising their robustness, battery life, and effectiveness in getting the work done. Where Milwaukee really shines, though, is in their after-sales service and repairs, which can be a big concern for tool owners.
Festool is considerably costlier than many other brands, including Milwaukee. But the reason for this higher price is justified due to their exceptional build quality, great warranty and customer service.
All Festool tools are designed in Germany and many remain built in Europe.
Which Offers a Better Warranty?
Milwaukee offers various limited warranties with periods ranging from one year for jobsite radios, two years for battery packs, three years warranty on impact wrenches, and up to a limited five-year warranty on its portable power tools.
Remember that many power tools need regular parts replacement to keep in running condition, and replacement parts aren’t always covered in the warranty under normal wear and tear.
Festool offers a comprehensive three-year warranty coverage including free shipping to and from the Festool service department. They also have a one-month money-back guarantee and a 10-year spare parts availability guarantee.
They promise to repair their product within two days of receiving it at the service center.
Festool vs. Milwaukee: Which Has a Better Product Portfolio?
Both Milwaukee and Festool have a large catalog of tools and accessories which should be enough for most customers. Milwaukee has almost 150 products in its flagship M18 battery system, with another 50+ in its M12 battery system category, and about a dozen in its M28 battery system.
It manufactures tools for fastening, drilling, metalworking, drain cleaning, woodworking, and more. It is best known for its Hackzall and Sawzall reciprocating saws, hammer drills, and impact drivers.
Festool is well known for its DOMINO joiners, sanders, dust extractors, jigsaws, and other woodworking equipment.
Within the cordless category, Festool has a decent selection of cordless hammer drills, portable saws, sanders, and so on. The selection is much smaller than that of Milwaukee or other popular brands, though.
If you need a larger selection to choose from, Milwaukee is a better choice.
Which Brand Offers a Better Selection of Impact Drivers?
Festool has one 18V impact driver while Milwaukee has six different impact drivers in its M18 line, so Milwaukee has the edge in this category. Festool has four driver/drill options in the 18V category, while Milwaukee has 12 driver/drills in its M8 product line.
Festool’s latest rotary hammer drill has the best power to weight ratio in its class and is designed for one-handed use for extended periods. It outputs up to 221 inch-pounds of torque in steel and up to 31,500 beats per minute.
Meanwhile, Milwaukee’s top offering can produce 1,200 inch-pounds of torque and 2,000 RPM providing fast drilling through demanding applications. It offers the ONE-KEY system that lets users customize, track, and manage their tools.
If the tool is ever lost or stolen, the owner can lock it out.
Overall, Milwaukee has the edge over Festool in both driver/drills and impact drivers, and it offers industry-leading overcharging, overheating protection as well as optimal performance based on driving load.
Both offer high-tech tool management options but these will only be useful for a handful of casual users since they’re aimed at industrial users or professionals.
Which of the Two Brands Should You Choose?
While both Milwaukee and Festool are renowned tool makers, one is better than the other for specific types of tool buyers.
If you are a professional who makes his living through power tools and needs only the best quality, customer support, warranties, long-lasting and reliable tools, and if you are willing to pay a premium for those, Festool is the right option.
If you won’t be requiring the exceptional level of robustness that Festool offers, but want a wide range of tools with great build quality, then Milwaukee is the better option.
All in all, there is zero doubt that Festool is an excellent tool brand. That said, it is also considerably more expensive (oftentimes more than two or three times) than Milwaukee or most of the other top power tool brands.
Because of that, in the vast majority of situations, I would recommend going with Milwaukee. While perhaps not as well-performing as Festool, they are still more than good enough in most situations and are way cheaper.
If you have the budget and want the best possible tools, though, then certainly opt for Festool.