Which is the BEST cordless power tool brand? This seems like a simple question, but the answer isn’t cut and dried.
The last time I attempted to tackle this question was back in June 2017, more than 3-1/2 years ago, and that was an update to a late-2014 post about the same topic.
The simplicity of the title question betrays the complexity of what is actually being asked.
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.
This question is also as difficult to answer today as it was a few years ago. There have been a lot of cordless power tool innovations, and tool brands continue to 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.
We’re not talking about the best cordless drill or best combo kit here, we’re talking about the best cordless tool brand, which really means 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 your input is 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: Bosch has not kept up with competitors in the USA, and some innovations are released here later than in Europe or not at all.
Overall: 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.
Notable Products: Inductive battery charging system, select drills with anti-kickback protection, hybrid impact driver/wrench “FREAK” tools.
See More: Bosch 12V Max Tools, Bosch 18V Tools
Benefits: Affordable price points for DIYers.
Downsides: Limited selection.
Overall: 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.
See More: Craftsman V20 Cordless Power Tools
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 developing their 12V Max Xtreme Subcompact line.
Downsides: Dewalt has been slow to push into certain product categories, such as automotive tools. Their 12V Max lineup is still middling, but it seems they’re working on it.
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.
Overall: 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.
Notable Products: It’s interesting that Power Detect and FlexVolt Advantage lines are bridging 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.
See More: Dewalt 12V Max, Dewalt 20V Max, Dewalt FlexVolt
Benefits: Unique tools, such as hybrid corded-cordless sanders, good quality, brand reputation.
Downsides: Very limited product selection.
Overall: 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.
See Also: Festool 18V Expansion, Festool 18V
Overall: 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.
Hercules (Harbor Freight)
Benefits: Better cordless tools for Harbor Freight shoppers.
Downsides: Limited selection, young brand reputation, still Harbor Freight.
Overall: 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.
See More: Harbor Freight Hercules Tool News
Benefits: Strong reputation, gimmick-free solutions.
Downsides: Limited retail availability.
Overall: 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.
Benefits: Brushless motors, shockingly inexpensive pricing on spare/replacement batteries.
Downsides: Limited selection.
Overall: 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.
Notable Products: Kobalt’s 24V Max XTR cordless power tools set a new benchmark for DIYer-grade tools.
See More: Kobalt 24V Max Cordless Power Tools
Benefits: Broad 18V cordless power tool system, revamped (but somewhat stagnant) 12V Max system, steady stream of innovations, strong reputation, good reliability.
Downsides: Makita can be slow to adapt to industry trends, and some product types have a lot of redundancy in the form of unnecessarily excessive options.
Overall: Makita’s 18V LXT cordless platform is very competitive, and their 18V X2 platform gives users a number of unique and higher-powered options. The Makita XGT 40V Max platform is due to launch in the USA at some point, but the XGT 40V system won’t be compatible with the 18V cordless system.
Notable Products: Makita’s most premium 18V brushless impact drivers tend to lead the industry with respect to features. The brand has a lot going on, and has also upped their game with respect to holiday season “special buy” and combo kit competitiveness, making their tech more accessible to a broader range of user types.
See More: Makita 12V, Makita 18V, Makita 18V X2, Makita XGT 40V
Benefits: Great quality, performance, and reliability, plus a strong reputation. Metabo often pushes boundaries and takes cordless power tool tech to new levels.
Downsides: Limited selection, less market availability and visibility compared to other pro-grade brands,
Overall: 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.
Notable Products: Metabo is particularly well-known for their grinders, but their drilling and fastening tech is also top-notch. They have quite a few unique cordless tool offerings aimed at fabrication and metalworking industries.
See Also: Metabo 18V, Metabo 12V
Metabo HPT (Formerly Hitachi Power Tools)
Benefits: Metabo HPT offers a number of 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.
Overall: 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.
Notable Products: Metabo HPT’s 18V Triple Hammer impact driver remains a personal favorite.
See More: Metabo HPT, Hitachi Power Tools
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.
Overall: 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.
Notable Products: Milwaukee’s M12 Fuel and M18 Fuel brushless power tools are often considered the gold standard. They also now have a system of MX Fuel equipment that redefines what can be done with a cordless battery.
See Also: Milwaukee M12, Milwaukee M18, Milwaukee MX Fuel
Downsides: Limited selection, limited availability.
Overall: Stanley Black & Decker ceased all Porter Cable social media and promotional activities a few years ago. 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.
You can still buy Porter Cable cordless power tools at some online retailers, but why should you? There might be some entry-priced options if all you’re looking for is a single tool or two, but most of Porter Cable’s core offerings are long in the tooth and the brand isn’t being actively developed or promoted anymore.
The brand doesn’t appear to be investing any time, effort, or resources into their cordless platform. If you’re looking to buy into a cordless power tool system, this isn’t it.
See More: Porter Cable Tool News
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).
Overall: 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.
Notable Products: Ridgid’s SubCompact cordless power tools is a more recent expansion into compact and lightweight territory.
See More: Ridgid 18V Cordless System Tool News
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.
Overall: 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.
Notable Products: Ryobi’s newest line of 18V One+ HP brushless cordless power tools might deserve a closer look.
See More: Ryobi 18V One+ Tool News
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.
Overall: 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.
Notable Products: I really liked the Skil PwrCore 12 brushless drill/driver, which I found to greatly outperform comparably priced 18V/20V-class offerings.
See More: Skil 12V Max, Skil 20V Max
How Things Changed Over the Years
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?