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Which is the BEST cordless power tool brand? Dewalt? Milwaukee? Ryobi? This seems like a simple question, but the answer isn’t.
I last attempted to tackle this question in early 2021, and there have been enough developments and changes in the 2-1/2 years since then to justify an update.
Here is the question that started it all:
If you had to stick to one brand for most of your tools which would it be? Taking into consideration tool reliability, power, ergonomics, batteries and number of cordless tools.
Just one brand?! Dewalt. Wait, no – Milwaukee. Metabo HPT?
Most cordless power tool brands have their distinct innovations and selling points, and tool brands continuously and fiercely compete for a spot in your tool box.
Whether the question is about the best cordless power tool brand overall, or even which one brand I would stick with, the answer depends on the user.
Are you an electrician? Plumber? Carpenter? Deck builder? DIYer? Every user’s needs are different, and there’s really no singular best brand overall.
The real question to answer is this one – which is the best cordless tool brand for you?
Instead of simply answering the title question, I will offer my opinions on each particular tool brand to help you make your own determinations.
As always, readers’ opinions are extremely valuable. What would you say to anyone looking to buy into a cordless power tool system?
The brands below are listed in alphabetical order.
Table of Contents
Benefits: Good performance and reliability.
Downsides: Historically, Bosch has not kept up with competitors in the USA, and some innovations are released here later than in Europe or not at all.
What I Said in 2021: Bosch makes some spectacular tools. Looking at the greater picture, their 12V and 18V platforms aren’t as compelling as competing platforms. While I was impressed with some of their past releases, there are fewer reasons to buy into either of Bosch’s cordless power tool systems today.
What’s Changed? Bosch recently launched AmpShare, where their 18V battery will soon power a range of tools from numerous partnered brands. They have been releasing new tools at a faster pace, and also seem to have abandoned the somewhat silly names given to certain tools, such as “the Freak.”
Bosch still has holes in their cordless lineup, but they’ve been filling some of the more glaring ones. I anticipate that AmpShare will greatly help with this.
Benefits: Affordable price points for DIYers.
Downsides: Limited selection.
What I Said in 2021: Craftsman has been slow to expand their V20/20V Max cordless power tool lineup, but there are some interesting entries, such as a cordless air compressor.
What’s Changed? Craftsman has steadily been expanding their line of V20 cordless power tools, but still not at anywhere close to the pace of their top competitor. Their Brushless RP tools offer higher performance.
Benefits: Excellent tools, expansive selection, comfortable ergonomics, great reliability. Dewalt has been continually expanding their 20V Max cordless power tool lineup, as well as their FlexVolt lineup, and they have also been actively expanding their 12V Max Xtreme Subcompact line.
Downsides: Sorting through some of their core options can be a little confusing. For instance, you can now choose between 20V Max brushless, 20V Max Power Detect, FlexVolt 60V Max, and 20V Max FlexVolt advantage saws.
What I Said in 2021: Dewalt continues to have a lot of “firsts.” They’re no longer playing catch-up and are once again pushing boundaries.
Quite simply put, you cannot go wrong with Dewalt cordless power tools. Dewalt’s cordless platforms continue to have a lot of strengths, and few weaknesses.
If I had to choose a “Best Cordless Power Tool Brand Overall” winner, Dewalt would face off against Milwaukee in a battle too close to easily call.
What’s Changed? Dewalt has entered the automotive tool market with new ratchets, and recently launched new rivet tools. They’ve been filling noticeable holes. Dewalt’s PowerStack batteries provide numerous benefits over older technologies.
Notable Products: Power Detect and FlexVolt Advantage lines bridge the gap between 20V Max and FlexVolt 60V Max platforms. Even so, FlexVolt still provides a power benefit that most other 18V/20V Max systems struggle to match.
Benefits: Unique tools, such as hybrid corded-cordless sanders, good quality, brand reputation.
Downsides: Very limited product selection, very high pricing.
What I Said in 2021: If you want a Festool power tool, and you want it to be cordless, you have some options. Festool made a push in 2020 to consolidate some of their cordless power tools into combo kits aimed at contractors and remodelers.
Festool’s cordless platforms are limited, presumably because they are more of a finish and fine work brand. The brand is not focused on the broader needs of users involved in construction or the trades.
Additionally, Festool’s high pricing can make the tools inaccessible to many individual users.
What’s Changed? Festool has made some questionable design choices, such as launching a cordless dust collector vacuum that can only be used with smaller low capacity batteries. There’s also a new cordless reciprocating saw, which fills a hole in their cordless lineup, but doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of the brand’s core competency – fine finishing tools.
Benefits: Competitive performance (at least), next-gen Stacked Lithium batteries, numerous innovations and tools with distinct user benefits.
Downsides: As a relatively new brand, Flex is going to be playing catch-up for a few years, in terms of product selection and market share. Their 24V battery is going to be slightly larger than 18V batteries, but not without positive traits (such as in power delivery).
Overall: Flex has expanded their line of 24V Max brushless cordless power tools at a rapid pace. The brand recently launched new compact core tools, and a strong selection of specialty tools, such as a cordless router, sander, and band saws.
Flex aspires to be a major player in the professional cordless power tool industry, and so far it seems they’re doing everything right to get there.
What I Said in 2021: Hart is a Walmart-exclusive brand that offers entry-priced cordless power tools that are similar to Ryobi’s most basic offerings. If you’re shopping for the lowest cost cordless power tools on the market, I’d go with Hart (or any of these other brands) over the no-name stuff on Amazon and other online marketplaces.
What’s Changed? Hart doesn’t share product news, but it looks like they added a couple of new tools since I last checked. Hart still looks to be an entry-level cordless brand aimed at beginners or Walmart shoppers buying on impulse.
Hercules (Harbor Freight)
Benefits: Better cordless tools for Harbor Freight shoppers.
Downsides: Limited selection, young brand reputation, still Harbor Freight.
What I Said in 2021: Harbor Freight launched the Hercules cordless power tool platforms with name-brand competitors in sight. I purchased earlier samples, and while respectable, the tools lacked the fit and finish I would expect from true professional-grade cordless power tool brands.
Harbor Freight and their Hercules line have potential, but it seems they are still striving to make cheaper tools. With new brushless tools on the way, it’s possible they are trying to walk down a different path, at least as far as the Hercules lines are concerned.
Harbor Freight has the potential to disrupt the core cordless power tools market, but they still have to prove they can deliver quality.
What’s Changed? Harbor Freight has been steadily expanding their Hercules lineup of “professional” tools. The quality seems to have improved – from pretty good to almost great – and the tools now boast a 5 year limited warranty.
Harbor Freight has been bouncing between different marketing strategies, and with the latest changes they’ve been following examples set by major industry players.
The tools are not quite on even ground with those from the tool brands Harbor Freight claims Hercules compares to, but they are inching closer.
Benefits: Strong reputation, gimmick-free solutions.
Downsides: Limited retail availability, limited tool selection, high prices.
What I Said in 2021: Hilti tends to target commercial users, rather than individuals. They have a strong focus on masonry tools, but also some exceptionally capable tools for working with wood, metal, and other common construction and fabrication materials.
What’s Changed? Hilti launched Nuron, a new line of 22V cordless power tools. While not as comprehensive as competing professional tool brands’ lineups, Hilti quickly converted over dozens of tools from the outgoing tool system. There are still a lot of holes that need to be filled.
Hilti still needs to do a better job at appealing to individual tool users.
Benefits: Brushless motors, inexpensive pricing on spare/replacement batteries.
Downsides: Limited selection.
What I Said in 2021: Lowe’s Kobalt 24V max cordless power tool platform focuses on brushless-motor tools, and with reasonable and competitive pricing.
There’s not much compromise when it comes to performance, and the newer XTR tools take things to another level with respect to power and features.
What’s Changed? Kobalt launched all-new core cordless power tools. They seemed to have all but dropped the XTR performance line of tools, except during holiday shopping seasons when the combos make a quick reappearance.
Lowe’s never seems to have a clear direction in mind for their exclusive tool brand.
Benefits: Broad 18V cordless power tool system.
Downsides: Makita has been slow to adapt to industry trends, and certain product categories are difficult to sort out with an excessive number of options. The 18V line hasn’t kept up with competing tool systems, and the new XGT line is very limited and expensive. Their revamped 12V Max cordless system has been stagnant.
What I Said in 2021: Some of Makita’s 18V LXT cordless tools are competitive, but the system has hit its limits. The new Makita XGT 40V Max platform is due to launch in the USA at some point, but the new system is not backwards compatible with their 18V cordless system.
What’s Changed? Makita has finally brought a couple of tools from the XGT line to the LXT line, but many premium features remain XGT exclusives, such as cordless drill anti-kickback tech.
Makita launched Outdoor Adventure in the USA, a new line of existing 18V tools but in an olive green color.
They have two main cordless systems – 18V LXT and 36V/40V Max XGT, and aren’t throwing their full weight behind either one.
Makita USA recently cut jobs company-wide, following their third price increase in just over a year.
Benefits: Great quality, performance, and reliability, and a strong reputation. Metabo offers more specialty tools that cater to fabrication and metalworking industries.
Downsides: Limited selection, less market availability and visibility compared to other pro-grade brands,
What I Said in 2021: Metabo has a lot of great cordless power tools, and has been expanding steadily. Its 18V cordless platform is more expansive in Europe, but an increasing number of tools have launched in the USA as well.
Metabo has embarked on a mission towards enabling a truly cordless jobsite, and each year they move closer and closer to that goal.
What’s Changed? Metabo used to do their part in driving the industry forward, but lately it seems like they’ve been falling behind. Where’s the cordless table saw, dust collection systems, air compressor, or other tools needed for the “cordless jobsite” they talked so much about over the years?
Benefits: Metabo HPT offers many excellent-quality 18V and MultiVolt cordless power tools, and occasionally innovates with unique offerings.
Downsides: Limited selection, Hitachi to Metabo HPT name-change has resulted in quite a bit of confusion. There’s added confusion between Metabo HPT and Metabo, as there is zero compatibility between the two brands’ cordless platforms.
What I Said in 2021: As a system, Metabo HPT offers a much smaller selection of cordless power tools than other brands. They have quite a few competitive and compelling tools, making the brand a potentially good choice if their strengths align with particular user needs and wants.
What’s Changed? Metabo HPT has been releasing new tools at a steady base. Their MultiVolt cordless platform is excellent, and remains a very competitive choice. The brand needs greater market visibility; select tools are available at Lowe’s, but the retailer has done little to promote the brand or drive consumer awareness.
Notable Products: Metabo HPT’s 18V Triple Hammer impact driver remains a personal favorite.
Benefits: Great quality, reliability, and performance. Fantastic M18 (18V/20V-class) cordless power tool system and unmatched M12 (12V-class) tool selection. Milwaukee Tool is a very active innovator.
Downsides: M12 tools have a stem-style battery that inserts into the hand grip, resulting in a chunkier grip than some other brands can accomplish with slide-style batteries.
What I Said in 2021: Milwaukee seeks to be a “solutions provider,” and they charge into new markets with a disruptive ferocity. Their philosophy for the M12 cordless system has been to provide user-friendly alternatives to hand tools, and their expanding M18 system offers all the core tools pros and demanding users might need, plus many trade-specific options.
Milwaukee Tool cordless power tools can carry premium pricing, but they regularly offer very aggressive promotions in the form of free tool or battery bonus bundles.
While not the market-leader in every category, Milwaukee is an easy recommendation. Quite simply put, you can’t go wrong with Milwaukee cordless power tools.
If I absolutely had to choose a “Best Cordless Power Tool Brand Overall” winner, Milwaukee would face off against Dewalt in a battle too close to easily call.
What’s Changed? Milwaukee has continued to innovate and push forward in recent years. I expect to see the brand shake up the entire industry once they launch – and heavily advertise – next-gen power tool batteries built with pouch-style Li-ion cells.
The MX Fuel line of cordless equipment redefined what can be powered with a cordless battery, and still holds untapped potential.
Notable Products: Milwaukee’s M12 Fuel and M18 Fuel brushless power tools are often considered the gold standard.
Downsides: Limited selection, limited availability.
What I Said in 2021: Porter Cable was effectively pushed out of Lowe’s when Craftsman (also a Stanley Black & Decker brand) came along, and out of Walmart after TTI launched their exclusive Hart tool brand there.
Porter Cable announced a new partnership with Tractor Supply in late-2021. No new tools or developments have been announced since then.
The brand doesn’t appear to be investing any time, effort, or resources into their cordless platform.
What’s Changed? Nothing.
Benefits: Ridgid has a strong selection of core 18V cordless power tools, and some unique and innovative tools sprinkled in. The brand offers a good balance between performance and price.
The Limited Lifetime Service Agreement covers parts, service, and batteries – with some restrictions.
Downsides: Smaller selection of 18V tools compared to other brands, 12V system has been abandoned (although you can still buy replacement batteries or chargers).
What I Said in 2021: Ridgid is a good brand and they have continued to expand and enhance their 18V cordless power tool system over the years. Some of their tools offer innovations not found in other cordless systems, giving some users reason to choose Ridgid as their primary or secondary brand.
What’s Changed? Ridgid has continued to launch new 18V cordless power tools. They haven’t been as innovative as in recent years, but are still going strong. Ridgid’s 18V line continues to be exclusive to Home Depot.
Benefits: Ryobi’s 18V One+ platform is huge, and satisfies a broad range of user needs, from beginner DIYer to value-minded pros.
Downsides: Ryobi’s commitment to DIYer users (a great thing) also means they haven’t updated their battery system to a slide-style form factor yet. Lower-priced tools have compromised features or performance.
What I Said in 2021: Ryobi is a very customer-centric brand that is well-liked and well-regarded among their many loyal DIYer users. Some pros will use certain Ryobi tools as well, especially for specialty tasks where a tool might not see frequent use.
What’s Changed? Ryobi has expanded their line of compact brushless 18V One+ HP tools, and added new home, hobby, and lifestyle tools, including from a new USB Lithium line of 4V-class tools and accessories.
Ryobi tools remains exclusive to Home Depot.
Benefits: Skil’s new cordless power tool platforms offer very high bang for the buck – competitive performance and above-average features for what you pay.
Downsides: Limited selection.
What I Said in 2021: Under new ownership, Skil has refreshed their branding and launched all-new cordless power tool lineups. They’re definitely worth a chance for DIYers looking to get modern features at affordable pricing.
What’s Changed? Skil has launched more tools and updated their core 12V and 20V class offerings. They have also expanded their cordless outdoor power tool offerings. With respect to core offerings – drills, drivers, and saws – Skil tools in many cases outperform competing products while also being more affordable.
Skil is definitely worth paying attention to.
Which cordless power tool lineup(s) did you go with? What would you recommend to someone looking to buy into a new cordless power tool system?