If you’re trying to decide which brand to choose when buying your next tool, you have a lot of options at your disposal. Two very popular choices are Kobalt and Craftsman, each with its own set of advantages and drawbacks.
While Craftsman offers better quality power tools, Kobalt provides a better selection in the hand tool department. Keep on reading to learn more about these two brands.
A Brief History of Kobalt and Craftsman
Regarding brands that produce power tools, Kobalt is a baby compared to so many others. This line of hand and mechanic tools, as well as power tools, did not come into existence until 1998, making it a true infant in the industry.
The company was launched in 1998 by J.H. Williams, the manufacturing partner of Lowe’s. Lowe’s, the American chain of home improvement stores, remains the current owner of the Kobalt brand name.
Kobalt was introduced to the market and was intended to be a direct competitor for Sears (Craftsman) and The Home Depot (Husky). This is the so-called house brand of power tools for Lowe’s in the USA, as well as for their joint venture with the Australian Masters Home Improvement (which is now defunct).
As mentioned above, Kobalt was designed to be a direct competitor to Craftsman, the other brand name that we are looking at today.
Because Kobalt hasn’t been around for nearly as long, they’ve yet to catch up to Craftsman in terms of quality and product lineup. Although Kobalt still offers great quality tools, Craftsman has been prominent in the industry for much longer, and it shows.
Craftsman was originally established as the house brand of power tools for the retailer Sears, and they were first sold way back in 1927 through the Sears catalog.
Sears eventually merged with Kmart, at which point the tools were also sold by this retailer.
However, in early 2017, Sears sold the brand to Stanley Black & Decker, which at this point is the owner of the brand. What is really interesting to note is that although Kobalt is the house brand of Lowe’s and was designed to compete with Craftsman, at this point in time, Craftsman tools can also be found in Lowe’s.
Kobalt vs. Craftsman: Which Offers Better Quality?
Of course, when you go to purchase any sort of power tool, you want to buy one that is going to perform as intended and last for years to come. So, which brand offers better quality, Kobalt, or Craftsman?
Let’s start off by looking at where the tools are made. When it comes to Kobalt, the mechanic’s tools are made in the USA (Nevada to be specific), while most of the power tools are made in either Germany or China, with most of the new additions to the power tool line-up being made in China.
However, for the most part, people seem to be very happy with the quality of Kobalt tools in general.
It is also worth noting that the brand’s product quality seems to have greatly increased since they started selling their tools at Lowe’s. All in all, although Kobalt is not regarded as the best in the world for quality, it’s still up there with the best of them, especially when it comes to consumer brands.
As for Craftsman, it is regarded as one of the highest-quality power tool companies in the world. Not too long ago, the brand received the highest scores possible from the Harris Interactive Poll for both Trust and Brand Expectations.
Shortly after, the readers of Popular Mechanics voted Craftsman to be the best brand for hand tools. Also, Craftsman is the official tool brand of both the DIY Network and NASCAR. Yes, you read that right, the official tool brand of NASCAR, and that’s saying something. At the end of the day, Craftsman’s reputation is that of a high-quality tool brand.
Which Offers a Better Warranty?
Generally speaking, both of these brands come with pretty strong warranties, with Kobalt appearing to be just a little bit better than Craftsman in this sense. Kobalt has lifetime warranties on many of its tools and toolsets.
While Craftsman does also have good warranties, with some being several years in length, they don’t have as many lifetime warranties. Moreover, some warranties from Craftsman may still be the responsibility of Sears (which no longer owns it), which can cause issues.
Which Offers Better Prices?
In order to get an accurate sense of the pricing between these two competitors, we created the Handyman’s World Power Tool Brand Price Index, which takes a look at a basket of three basic tools – a cordless drill, an angle grinder, and a circular saw – and indexes its price against the average of what we consider to be the 15 best power tool brands.
As you can see below, in the 2023 version of our index, Craftsman scored 0.63 while Kobalt ended up scoring 0.84, making Craftsman the slightly cheaper option. That said, both brands are considerably cheaper than the average.
Kobalt vs. Craftsman: Which Has a Better Product Portfolio?
One thing that there is no doubt about is the fact that Craftsman has a way bigger product portfolio across the board. Remember that this brand was introduced to the world in 1927, whereas Kobalt only came around 70 years later.
This has given Craftsman a big leg up in terms of creating a much larger product portfolio. Not taking separate types of tools into account, Craftsman has a much larger selection across the board, and this applies to power tools, automotive tools, lawn care and outdoor tools, and more.
Which Brand Offers a Better Selection of Power Tools?
When it comes to the selection of power tools, Craftsman definitely comes out on top.
For example, Craftsman has over three times as many drills for sale as Kobalt. The same applies to grinders, saws, air tools, and more. Generally speaking, the brand has a much larger selection of power tools, and this applies to virtually all categories and types.
If you’re looking at revamping your power tool arsenal, consider checking out the Craftsman V20 8-Tool 20-volt MAX Power Tool Combo Kit, which includes a drill/driver, impact driver, reciprocating saw, oscillating tool, grinder, circular saw, and task light, as well as storage bags and batteries with chargers.
Or, if you find yourself leaning more towards Kobalt, you may want to look into the Kobalt 24-volt MAX 4-Tool Brushless Motor Combo Kit, which comes equipped with a drill/driver, impact driver, reciprocating saw, and work light.
Which Brand Offers a Better Selection of Hand Tools?
One area where Kobalt may actually excel past, or at least match, Craftsman in terms of the product portfolio, is in the hand tool department. For instance, at this time, Craftsman has six models of hand saws available, whereas Kobalt has nine.
In terms of hammers, they both have roughly the same amount of models in their catalogs. On the other hand, Craftsman has way more pliers for sale than Kobalt.
When it comes to hand tools, it really depends on exactly what you need. It appears as though both brands are fairly even in this regard, with each brand excelling in their own respective hand tool categories.
Which Brand Offers a Better Selection of Lawn and Garden Tools?
In terms of lawn and garden tools, Craftsman undoubtedly comes out on top. The brand offers a wide array of outdoor tools and accessories, including gas and battery-powered push mowers, riding mowers, leaf blowers, gas and electric edgers, and much more.
This isn’t to say that Kobalt is bad, as this manufacturer still offers a wide selection of tools for your outdoor needs, including a variety of electric push mowers, chainsaws, edgers, and trimmers. The brand is still a great choice, especially if you’re looking for a battery-powered option.
However, compared to Craftsman, Kobalt’s product selection is lacking, especially when it comes to gas-powered tools.
If you’re looking for a great battery-powered lawn mower, check out the Kobalt 20-inch 40-Volt Brushless Push Lawn Mower, and if you’re in search of a gas-powered option, consider the Craftsman 21-inch 140-cc Push Gas Lawn Mower.
Kobalt vs. Craftsman: Latest Developments
In order to stay up to date, we also wanted to go over some of the latest developments from both of these brands.
In 2023, Crafstman returned as the Title Sponsor for the NASCAR Truck Series. Additionally, in 2022 the company released and expanded its new V20 Brushless RP Lineup, with the new Variable Speed Cordless Jig Saw and 23GA Pin Nailer.
Kobalt, on the other hand, released a new wheelbarrow in early 2023, as well as a line of Next Generation 24V Brushless Tools in 2022, which includes a new Gen-3 lineup across a wide spectrum of power tools, from their electric blower to their new cordless circular saw.
Kobalt vs. Craftsman: Which Is Better?
Coming to a decision in terms of which tool brand you should go with is not easy, as both brands have some clear benefits.
If you are looking for hand tools, both companies have a good selection, although Craftsman definitely has way more power tools. In terms of quality, Craftsman tools will probably last a bit longer than Kobalt, although both are high in quality. When it comes to the warranties, it’s Kobalt that is the clear winner.
The bottom line is that, while both Kobalt and Craftsman are very fine brands to choose from and cater to a DIY demographic, a lot of it comes down to the specific needs of the consumer. However, just make sure you’re certain about your decision before committing to a brand, as it can become quite difficult to switch, especially since the brands’ batteries are not interchangeable.