If you are looking for a variety of tools, the best that your money can buy, chances are that one of your main selection criteria is the brand. Of course, there are many different ones that make tools, whether it be hand tools, power tools, outdoor equipment, or anything in between.
One popular brand is Porter-Cable. Today, we are here to do an in-depth review of it, so you know exactly what you are getting into.
Porter-Cable is quite the old brand, as it was founded well over 100 years ago, back in 1906. It was founded by a group of three men, two brothers and their friend to be exact, named R.E. Porter, G.G. Porter, and F.E. Cable, hence the name of the brand. The company was founded in Syracuse, New York, USA.
The three of them started out by investing just a couple of thousand dollars into a jobbing machine and a small tool shop that they ran out of a garage. In 1914, the main focus of Porter-Cable became power tools, and in 1917, bought a small production plant. By 1926, the brand began developing quite a solid niche in the world of portable electric power tools, at which time the chief engineer invented the first portable electric belt sander, followed shortly by the invention of the helical drive saw.
In 1960, a company named Rockwell International purchased Porter-Cable, at which time it scrapped the original name and began making far lower end tools to compete with Black & Decker, which is ironic. This shift to lower-end tools did not serve the company well. You will see the irony shortly. In 1981, the Pentair Tool Group (AKA Pentair INC), purchased Porter-Cable, at which time the brand started producing higher-end tools, ones generally marketed towards professionals. By this time, the headquarters of the company had been moved to Jackson, Tennessee, USA.
So, here comes the ironic part. Even though in 1960 the brand started producing lower-end tools to compete with Black & Decker, in 2004, the Pentair Tool Group, which at the time owned Porter-Cable, was purchased by… You guessed it, Stanley Black & Decker. This ownership structure is still in place today.
At this time, Porter-Cable is not a massive company, but also not one of the small players either. It is estimated that in the last fiscal year, Porter-Cable had roughly 100 million dollars in revenue, with about 3,000 people under its employ.
Porter-Cable Tool Quality Overview
Porter-Cable is indeed quite a popular and well-known brand, which is definitely true among homeowners, DIYers, and even among small-time repairmen and in other similar professions. Although Porter-Cable has done its best to market its products as fairly high-end tools, the result has not been quite in line with this strategy.
One of the reasons why homeowners and DIYers enjoy Porter-Cable tools is due to their low prices. When compared to many other brands out there, the prices of various Porter-Cable tools are fairly low. Of course, this is ideal for people who just need some basic tools for occasional use and light work, particularly when a tight budget is in question.
Moreover, based on copious research and reviews, it is quite clear that Porter-Cable tools are decent or just around average. People seem to agree that these tools are reasonably functional, they are ergonomically designed and easy to hold, and they generally work well at their intended purposes.
That said, what people can also agree on is that Porter-Cable tools, many of them at least, lack durability and longevity. No, it’s not like they will break as soon as you use them, but they probably won’t last more than a few months or over a year if they are being used for heavy-duty or really tough tasks, particularly if they are used on a daily basis. So, in essence, while PC tools work just fine, they might just not last that long.
Personally, this is why we would recommend Porter-Cable tools for basic and lightweight use, particularly if you don’t want to spend too much cash. However, we might recommend a slightly higher-end brand if you are a professional or tradesman who needs heavy-duty tools that can last for years to come even with daily use and plenty of punishment.
The reason why Porter-Cable tools come in at fairly low prices and have around average levels of quality is that the vast majority of products are manufactured either in China or Mexico.
Porter-Cable used to make more of its tools and other products in the USA, particularly in Tennessee, but this production has gradually moved overseas, with only a select few accessories still being made in the USA.
From what we have gathered, Porter-Cable offers okay warranties, although not fantastic, which is honestly exactly what we would expect from tools with this particular level of quality. Most of the tools and products come with a one-year limited warranty.
For the first year, if the tool in question breaks due to an underlying fault, Porter-Cable will perform free service on it for a full year after the date of purchase.
A select few of the tools, particularly the more expensive and larger machines may come with a limited three-year warranty.
Finally, if you are not completely satisfied with your Porter-Cable tool, the brand does offer a 90-day money-back guarantee.
Porter-Cable Product Portfolio Overview
Something important to note about Porter-Cable is that this brand focuses almost exclusively on power tools. Yes, this brand produces lots of power tools, but that’s it (for the most part). At this time, it appears as though Porter-Cable does not produce any hand tools or outdoor equipment of any sort.
In terms of what the intended purpose of these tools are, they are generally divided into two sections including woodworking tools and metalworking tools. Let’s take a closer look at the Porter-Cable product portfolio in reference to some specific categories.
Corded Power Tools
First off, Porter-Cable does produce quite a few corded power tools, although their line of cordless tools is larger and more diverse. This brand produces all of the basic tools that you would expect to be corded.
For instance, on its website site, there are two corded drills available. This applies to many power tool categories including hammer drills, jigsaws, and more.
From what we have gathered, Porter-Cable produces a fairly small variety of small corded power tools, but that said, there aren’t too many large stationary tools available, such as large table saws, for instance. This brand does seem to focus more on the smaller things.
Cordless Power Tools
As mentioned above, Porter-Cable does focus heavily on cordless power tools. For instance, whereas there are two corded drills available for purchase on its site, there are four cordless models. This really applies across all product categories. For every single corded tool that Porter-Cable offers, you can expect at least two or three cordless ones, and this is true for their saws, drills, and much more.
Now, one of the more impressive aspects here is Porter-Cable’s 20V MAX Cordless battery system. This is a special 20V battery that is compatible with a wide variety of cordless power tools including a variety of combo kits, impact drivers, impact wrenches, drills, small saws, nailers and staplers, some oscillating tools, and more.
Porter-Cable does also have a good deal of brushless and cordless power tools, with brushless motors being fairly good and longer-lasting than basic tool motors.
Vacuums, Lights, and More
The other thing worth mentioning here is that Porter-Cable does also produce some other things, including a small selection of dust extraction vacuums, a few jobsite lights, some jobsite radios, and of course, a large variety of accessories for their tools.
Is Porter-Cable a Good Brand?
All in all, we would say that Porter-Cable is quite a good brand to consider. No, it is not the number one brand in the world, but not the most expensive either. This is the kind of brand to go with if you need lightweight and functional power tools for light-duty and occasional use.
This is especially the case if you need smaller power tools that are cordless, with the 20V MAX lineup of cordless tools being exceptionally good. If you are a homeowner or DIYer, then Porter-Cable is an inexpensive and fairly reliable brand to go with, particularly for things like drills, drivers, impact tools, nailers, combo kits, and other such things.
To sum it up, the brand offers:
- Great tools if you are working on a tight budget
- Reasonable choice if you need corded power tools
- Impressive line-up of cordless power tools sharing the same 20V MAX battery system
That said, it is not an ideal brand for outdoor equipment, large power tools like stationary saws, or hand tools.
How Does Porter-Cable Compare with Other Brands?
If you are not convinced Porter-Cable is the right brand for you, make sure to also read my detailed comparison putting it side by side with other popular brands:
The bottom line is that Porter-Cable is a brand that we recommend for anybody who needs decent corded and cordless power tools that are not overly expensive.