A reader wrote in, asking for help in selecting his first cordless power tool combo kit. He has a sizable budget, no brand loyalty, and simple needs.
Buy a cordless combo kit means buying into a power tool battery platform, which is one of the toughest purchasing decisions you could make these days.
I’m looking to buy my first power tool combo kit and have been looking at Rigid, Makita and Bosch. Was wondering if you had any suggestions or reviews on any of those three brands. I will be buying multiple different tools of that brand. It will be used for homeowner remodeling and commercial use.
In my initial response, I told him that if all you need is a drill, maybe an impact driver, circular saw, and reciprocating saw, any of the brands will serve you well.
Right now, Milwaukee and Dewalt seem to be the leading the pack of power tool brands in the USA. I have an affinity for Bosch, but don’t know if I would go with them if shopping for a cordless combo kit. Ridgid might be the most economical, Makita tends to be pricier from what I’ve seen.
I asked Taylor a couple of questions, and he provided some more details about his budget and needs. He has a $400-$800 budget, and wants to buy:
- Drill or Hammer Drill
- Impact Driver
- 1/2″ Impact Wrench
- Circular Saw
- Reciprocating Saw
- Jig Saw
The tools will be used to restore 80+ year old homes, and for some DIY and shop work.
Our Thoughts & Considerations
This time of year, there are LOTS of deals, but one has to tread cautiously when talking about combo kits. Is the combo kit a lower priced one, or does it come with the regular “premium” versions of tools.
Dewalt’s 20V Max circular saw is my editor’s pick in our Best Cordless Circular Saws recommendations. But unless you buy a “premium” kit or a bare tool, or standalone circular saw kit, you most often get a cheaper version that has a lesser base.
The same goes with their reciprocating saw.
Do you want brushless? Brushless tools offer a combination of more power and higher efficiency, and also have higher-end features, such as multiple electronic speed and torque controls when it comes to impact drivers and impact wrenches.
But brushless tools command a higher price than brushed motor ones.
You can find the above list of tools by most if not all power tool brands I can think of. Some are better than others, but I can’t think of a single brand that takes top honors when it comes to every single one of those tools.
If I were buying into a cordless power tool brand for the first time, and had a couple of hundred dollars to spend, I would go with Milwaukee. I would buy into either their M18 compact brushless or M18 Fuel line for the drill and multi-speed impact driver, and for the brushless saws.
Milwaukee has excellent holiday promos at Home Depot, and year-round “free tool with purchase” promos that can save you a lot of money.
But, I also like that Milwaukee’s M18 multi-voltage battery chargers can also handle M12 battery packs. That way, you only need one charger to support 2 battery platforms.
Because of that multi-voltage charger compatibility, I would more comfortably mix in M12 and M18 tools. I would go M18 compact brushless for the drill/driver (or hammer drill), M12 Fuel for the 2-speed impact driver, M18 for the impact wrench, M18 for the circular saw, and M12 or M18 for a compact reciprocating saw, perhaps corded for a full-size reciprocating saw, M18 for the jig saw, M12 for the Bluetooth speaker (or M18 for a radio), and M12 or M18 for an LED worklight or two (different types). I would also get one of their Rapid Chargers.
Instead of the Bluetooth speaker by itself for $69, I would buy the M12 drill/driver kit bundle for $89. $20 more for a drill and 2 batteries and extra M12 charger. Why not?
If I wasn’t into Milwaukee Tools for whatever reason, I would plan for a Dewalt premium combo purchase, and then add in those spare tools as needed.
When you’re talking about combo kits, you’re talking about a battery platform or ecosystem. When it comes to specific tools, the recommendations are easier because you’re comparing one tool’s merits and tradeoffs vs. another’s.
But with ecosystems, you have to look at everything as a whole, which is very difficult to do.
If I were buying into an 18V or 20V Max ecosystem (as a reminder, 18V and 20V Max is the same thing), Milwaukee M18 would be my top choice, followed very closely by Dewalt 20V Max.
I mentioned that Milwaukee M18 multi-voltage chargers can handle M12 batteries. Dewalt’s 20V Max chargers can also accept their 12V Max batteries, but – and not to mince words – their 12V Max is stagnant with few options and slow if not halted innovation.
I would also consider Ridgid’s Gen5X lineup, and some of their X4 add-on tools, such as their jig saw. But when you buy into Ridgid’s 18V lineup, you’re going to be limited when it comes to expandability, which might or might not be an important consideration for you. For instance, when it comes to impact wrenches, the only Ridgid 18V option is a 1/2″ model with 325 ft-lbs (3900 in-lbs) peak torque.
I guess my personal choices and recommendations would also be different based on frequency of use. If I bought into one brand and planned to buy that brand’s jig saw, I might go cordless. If I wanted to buy into another brand, rather than have to buy replacement batteries of 2 platforms every few years, I might go corded. Do you see why this is such a difficult question for me to answer – way too many possibilities to consider.
So, there you have it. My quick answer is that I would go with Milwaukee, which does offer a surprising number of combo options that include more than just the basic 4 tools a lot of combos are centered on.
What would you recommend as far as combo kits go? Hold on to your answers about brand ecosystems, that post is coming up separately.