Last week, Don sent us an email, asking for our thoughts on Craftsman’s C3 line of 19.2V cordless power tools. He bought a combo kit 4 years ago and recently added an impact driver and compact Li-ion battery, but says he’s now feeling a bit of buyer’s remorse.
Don has noticed that the C3 selection and availability is not what it used to be and is wondering if Sears and Craftsman are going to keep the line going, or if he just made an investment in a soon-obsolete cordless platform.
And with newer 12V compact tools capable of fulfilling most DIYer needs, would that have been a better investment?
Craftsman C3 is here to stay. Let’s face it, Craftsman is a brand that everyone recognizes. Even most beginner DIYers that are not yet in-the-know are familiar with Craftsman. Craftsman designed the C3 line to meet DIY needs at attractive prices, and because of this, the C3 line is guaranteed a long and steady future. Consumers are either unaware that many C3 tools are a bit dated, or they just don’t care as long as the price is right.
Decreasing selection and availability may be dependent on individual stores, but it would make sense that add-ons that don’t sell well may be dropped at some point. But with Craftsman boasting that the C3 lineup has 30+ tools, it is unlikely that they will eliminate any models without a strong incentive.
Taking a look at the newest Sears/Craftsman tool catalog, Sears devotes more than two full pages towards promoting the C3 lineup.
Craftsman C3 offers no-frills DIY performance. A couple of years ago, I was looking to upgrade my cordless drill and purchased a Craftsman C3 combo. The kit included a regular pistol-grip drill/driver and right angle drill/driver. While the tools performed alright and were a good value, I returned them two weeks later and went with a Hitachi model instead. The Hitachi was smaller, lighter, more powerful, and more comfortable to hold and use, but it was also more expensive. For a tool I planned to use a lot, the C3 drill just did not cut it.
The C3 tools are mid-range designs meant for DIY usage. Many advanced users buy into the C3 line as well, looking for maximum value. There’s nothing wrong with that, as the C3 tools provide reasonably good performance. But the designs and features are held back a bit in order to maintain consumer-friendly pricing.
Aware that consumers look at price before all else, Craftsman probably won’t discontinue the NiCd batteries anytime soon. Eventually Craftsman might try to push Li-ion more strongly, but many consumers are bent on getting the most for their money for tools they will only use a handful of times a year, and don’t care that NiCd is not as good as Li-ion.
12V vs. 18V/19.2V/20V? Yes, 12V tools can handle many of the tasks that higher-voltage tools are used for. But when you need extra power, 12V tools can fall short, depending on the job. I definitely do believe in and often recommend 12V tools, but I consider the drills and saws more as complementary tools and not as substitutes. If you can only own one drill and one saw, they should not be 12V models.
So what should Don do? My recommendation is to at least keep the new C3 Li-ion battery he just bought. He said that he got a lot of use out of his combo kit, and so the Li-ion battery will benefit the tools he already owns. And if Don chooses to upgrade his most used tool or tools from the combo, he will still have the improved functionality of the other C3 tools.
It may be worth considering for Don to return the impact driver and instead buy a 12V model, or better, a 12V drill and impact driver kit. Because Sears has a generous return window, he has time to think things through and look for a good deal before being forced to decide. As long as he kept the product packaging, that is. Still, since Don already has other C3 tools and just bought a new Li-ion battery, sticking with the C3 impact driver offers a better value and allows him to save funds for future upgrades or add-on tools.
What do you think about the Craftsman C3 line?