Several people wrote in recently, asking about brands that our Best Cordless Power Tool Brand post didn’t cover. Almost a year and a half has passed since I wrote that post, and it made sense to write a quick supplemental, rather than a full update.
Since most of the questions mentioned a DIYer context, this post will focus on brands targeted towards such users. For pro-grade brands, please refer back to the earlier discussion.
With two big brands launching/relaunching new cordless power tool platforms in Q4 2018, with more expansion in 2019, there’s going to be a lot of activity in the market. Expect to see a lot from these brands, and from other brands as they respond.
The cordless power tool brands discussed in this post are:
- Craftsman (owned by Stanley Black & Decker)
- Skil (owned by Chervon)
- Ryobi (owned by TTI
- Ridgid (developed and produced by TTI under a licensing agreement)
- Kobalt (owned by Lowes, usually produced by Chervon)
Which brand is BEST? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for.
As always your input is extremely valuable. What would you say to a DIYer looking to buy into a cordless power tool system on a budget?
Benefits: Craftsman, now under Stanley Black & Decker ownership, launched a new line of V20 cordless power tools, with modern designs, and competitive pricing. There are signs that they’ll do the same with a V12 lineup.
Stanley Black & Decker acquired the brand for a lot of money, and will surely seek strong returns on the investment. What this means to me is that they are highly incentivized to advance and expand the new Craftsman cordless platforms, to make the line competitive and a potentially favored choice among DIYers, howeowners, and other such users.
Downsides: Being newly relaunched, selection is limited compared to the more mature platforms, and from what as we’ve heard from some readers, some of the new tools are not yet widely available. It’s uncertain as to whether – or when – Craftsman will be able to satisfy more specialized user needs or wants.
Overall: Despite V20 being a new battery platform, Craftsman’s cordless power tools draw from Stanley Black & Decker’s sizable pool of industry experience. Additionally, although some criticize the new Craftsman tools for being heavily inspired or adapted from existing Stanley Black & Decker products, the practice should allow for an accelerated product launch schedule.
The Craftsman cordless product families are small, now, but there is huge potential for growth. For consumers, this means the potential for wide product selection at competitive and even aggressive prices as Stanley Black & Decker seeks market share.
Notable Products: Craftsman’s V20 brushless drill and impact driver punch above their class.
Availability: As of the time of this posting, the new Craftsman V20 cordless power tools are only available at Lowes.
Benefits: Skil, also under new ownership, is launching their own brand new cordless power tools. They’re aiming to meet modern DIYer needs with modern cordless technologies. And, like Craftsman, Skil is going to work hard to gain market share. Expect for an aggressive push forward. Skil’s parent company grew EGO into a very popular leader in cordless outdoor power tools. It stands reasonable that they can the same for Skil in the cordless power tool market.
I’ve started testing a couple of PWRCore 12 tools, and I think that they’ll fill a void in the industry. I like what I’ve seen so far.
Downsides: Expansion of the new cordless platforms will take time.
Overall: Skil boasts about its PWRCore tools: The Future of DIY Has Arrived. They just might be right. It’ll take time to see which direction the brand heads in, but for the time being we’re extremely optimistic.
Notable Products: The PWRCore 12 brushless drill/driver has been impressing me with what it can do.
Availability: As of the time of this posting, the new Skil PWRCore cordless tools are only available at Amazon.
Benefits: Ryobi has a very mature 18V One+ cordless power tool product family, full of core tools, specialty tools, and also unique tools and accessories. Ryobi recognizes that DIYers want to use their cordless tools for years and years, and won’t readily do anything to jeopardize the loyalty of their huge fanbase. Ryobi seems to be just as loyal and supportive of their users as their users are of them.
Downsides: The design and ergonomics of some Ryobi tools are a little dated. Ryobi is among the last brands to use a stem-style battery pack; most brands have moved to slide-style batteries.
Overall: Ryobi is a tried and true brand with an extensive product selection, and they’re not resting on their laurels, they’re constantly pushing forward with new designs and technologies. It can take a little effort to differentiate their entry-level core tools from their mid-range and higher tiers, but it’s also beneficial that they can suit the needs of DIYers’ varying budgets.
Even if your main cordless power tools are from another brand, Ryobi makes some compelling problem-solvers.
Notable Products: Ryobi’s not afraid to experiment, here are some of the more interesting products they’ve launched in recent years. If I had to highlight just one, it would be their cordless wet/dry vacuum.
Availability: Home Depot
Benefits: Ridgid 18V Li-ion cordless power tools often provide higher-tier features and performance without being premium-priced. They also have a Lifetime Service Agreement, where you can receive free batteries, parts, and service, if you register your eligible tools within 90 days of purchase.
Downsides: Although Ridgid offers a selection of core tools and useful innovations, their selection is not as vast as other brands. Ridgid is sometimes first or at least early in releasing a new cordless tool or technology, but there are other product categories or styles that they might not explore at all.
Some products are not always available. I am occasionally asked “where/when can I buy Ridgid’s cordless miter saw?,” and I can’t answer that. Months ago, I was told it’s “temporarily out of stock,” but it remains absent (technically removed) from Home Depot’s product catalog.
Overall: Ridgid is a mid-to-high price point brand with capable tools and even problem-solving technologies. Ridgid’s 18V cordless power tools are usually a good choice that will save you money compared to similar pro brand products, if their current and announced tools suit your needs.
Notable Products: I recently reviewed Ridgid’s high-powered brushless hammer drill kit ($99), and it left me with a positive impression. It definitely breaks records when it comes to power for the money, Their Octane MegaMax modular tools are a neat innovation.
Availability: Home Depot
Benefits: Kobalt’s 24V Max lineup of brushless power tools offers a theoretical (and seemingly realized) bump-up in power, thanks to the higher voltage battery platform. Their Li-ion battery packs are also surprisingly inexpensive when compared to modern-day standards.
Downsides: Lowes is growing the Kobalt 24V product line, but at a slower rate than competing brands.
Overall: Our impression of Kobalt 24V Max tools has been positive, and we’re not alone in this. They deliver on power, runtime, and a positive user experience. But if you want more than “core tools,” you might be disappointed by the smaller selection of expansion tools.
Notable Products: Kobalt recently came out with a 4″ circular saw that can cut different materials, such as wood, metal, plastic, tile, brick, and concrete.
How do the brands generally compare to each other in different categories?
- Ridgid, Kobalt
- Craftsman, Ryobi
Although all of the brands have some higher-power offerings, Ridgid and Kobalt seem to be at the next level, with brushless saws and other brushless tools beyond drills and drivers.
Skil is left out until we can judge the performance of their 20V Max tools.
- Craftsman, Kobalt
Ryobi is king of the hill, and that won’t likely change any time soon.
- Ridgid, Ryobi
- Kobalt, Skil
It’s a close call between Ridgid and Ryobi, with both offering user-friendly features and capabilities. Ryobi’s cordless grinder, for instance, comes with two guard styles – one for grinding wheels, and one for cut-off wheels. Few brands do this, which makes the user-benefiting decision stand out. Ryobi tools are sometimes more compromised that Ridgid offerings, to allow for the lower pricing.
The other brands are closely behind and seem to be relatively evenly matched.
Value (Bang for the Buck)
- Craftsman, Ryobi
- Kobalt, Ridgid, Skil
All of these brands offer strong value, giving you “more tool for the money,” at least compared to pro brands’ offerings that can be more featured, more powerful, or more durable.
Skil and Craftsman are too new to really judge. When it comes down to Ryobi, Ridgid, or Kobalt, the brands fall into place with Ryobi being the more value-oriented brand, and Ridgid and Kobalt evenly matched for second place. So far, it looks like Craftsman is competitive against Ryobi offerings.