I purchased two cordless drill kits at retail pricing – a Makita XFD13 brushless kit, and Harbor Freight HC91K1 kit.
This isn’t an apples to apples comparison, but let’s see how two ~$99 kits (at the time of purchase) compare against each other. The Makita has a brushless motor, the Harbor Freight Hercules has a brushed motor. Both are advertised as being professional cordless power tool systems.
Which is better, Makita or Hercules? Let’s take a look at some features and specs.
(NOTE: This is all tongue-in-cheek.)
Makita: 0-500 & 0-1,900 RPM
Harbor Freight Hercules: 0-600/0-2000 RPM
Winner: Harbor Freight Hercules
Makita: 440 in-lbs
Harbor Freight Hercules: 576 in-lbs
Winner: Harbor Freight Hercules
Makita: 60 minutes
Harbor Freight Hercules: 60 minutes
Charging time is for Makita 3.0Ah battery and Hercules 2.5Ah battery according to the respective brands’ specs.
Size and Weight
Makita: 6-5/8″ length, ~9-3/4″ height, weighs 3.6 lbs
Harbor Freight Hercules: 7-3/8″ length, ~8-3/4″ height, weighs 3.6 lbs
Keyless Drill Chuck
Makita: Plastic sleeve
Harbor Freight Hercules: metal sleeve
And the overall winner is…
What, did you think I was serious here?
The Hercules is more compact overall. It’s slightly longer length-wise, but shorter with respect to height. The Makita comes with a 3Ah battery, the Hercules was bundled at the time with a 2.5Ah battery.
So with the Makita, it’s taller and a little bulkier, with 20% more battery charge capacity.
The Makita is an 18V tool, and the Hercules a 20V Max tool, which is the same thing.
Maybe at the time the Hercules setup was $89 and the Makita $99, I don’t recall exactly. I purchased both and can look at my records, but it’s a moot point because the Makita is mainly only available during the holiday shopping shopping seasons, and the Harbor Freight is no longer available as a kit.
The Point of This Post
Some of you responded aggressively to my recent comment about not associating Makita with fine woodworking tools, or considering the brand “okay” in general, with many of you referencing older tools and decades-long experiences.
Like yours, my opinions are the result of very many different experiences over time.
I was a little taken aback by the couple of you that suggested my opinions are wrong. I prefer thin crust pizza, maybe you like deep dish. Pepsi vs. Coke. Vodka vs. rum. Football vs. soccer.
I still come across people who are surprised to hear that the Craftsman brand is under different ownership and that they don’t make any tools in the USA anymore.
It’s not constructive to argue about opinions being wrong. Instead, elaborate on your own experiences. “You know, I had been using several sanders, and a coworker lent me their X-brand model and I found it had more uniform material removal and also better dust collection.” That works better than “you’re wrong because my 25 year-old tools are top-notch and carpenters I know would agree with me.”
I’m sorry, but I rely on my insights, opinions, and experiences. That has and will always be true. There will inevitably be those of you who disagree with me, drawing on your own decisions, investments, preferences, or brand loyalties. Aren’t I entitled to my own perspective?
I am open to talking things over, and if I’m being honest, I want you to disagree with me. If I only hear from those in agreement, what will I ever learn? Opposition is as valuable as validation.
I hope you realize this “comparison” post is intended in a friendly and tongue-in-cheek manner, although I know there’s a risk you don’t find it very endearing.
Truthfully, I was about to abandon the idea when I looked at the compared the specs and found the on-paper figures to be interesting.
In a true comparison, I would have to conduct side by side tests and look at application speed and runtime, as opposed to drawing from prior usage experiences with both tools.
Frankly, I was surprised that the Harbor Freight Hercules beats the Makita on specs. The speed ratings can practically be ignored, but there’s a substantial difference in max torque ratings – on paper. I haven’t tested both tools’ maxed-out performance levels side by side yet.
Is anyone interesting in a comparison between these two tools for their own purchasing decisions? I assume that if you’re reading this, it’s for the entertainment (or for another opportunity to tell me how much you disagree with my preferences and brand-tool associations).
Let’s look at the basic specs.
Brand A: 0-500 & 0-1,900 RPM
Brand B: 0-600/0-2000 RPM
Brand A: 440 in-lbs
Brand B: 576 in-lbs
Size and Weight
Brand A: 6-5/8″ length, ~9-3/4″ height, weighs 3.6 lbs
Brand B: 7-3/8″ length, ~8-3/4″ height, weighs 3.6 lbs
Just looking at these on-paper specs alone, which of these tools are better?
Normally, I won’t do a comparison like this, and why I instead focus on differentiation and the strengths one brand or model might have over another.
In this case, there are some objective benefits to both brands and models, and also subjective ones.
In the case of these two cordless drills, on paper, Harbor Freight Hercules has advantages over Makita. In use, there are some advantages to the Makita, but it also depends on the angle.
In really comparing the two here, my subjective leanings would go towards the Makita, independent of what ANY test results would show. It’s a more developed system, and even though this is their entry-level model, and it’s kitted with just one battery instead of two, you get a 3Ah battery. The Hercules battery is a compact 2.5Ah pack, but other pro brands in this pricing category often kit their entry-priced drills with 1.3Ah or 1.5Ah batteries.
Often, my opinions on a brand or product are relevant to the topic. Other times, they’re better left unsaid, but I let them shine through anyway. That way you KNOW where I stand.
I figure it’s a form of transparency to make my subjectivities clear, rather than potentially allow them to go unnoticed. I try very hard to avoid letting my preferences steer my objectivity, but in case there’s a risk of this happening subconsciously, the more that’s visible to you, the more at ease I feel. Does that make sense? That, and I apparently learn best through arguments. If I’m wrong about something, you can’t just tell me, you have to show me.
Some of my opinions are built on top of years of personal, professional, and external anecdotal experiences, and it’s not easy or fitting to provide all that “data” where it doesn’t fit. But, that’s also what the comments section is for, so that you can provide differing opinions.
Every now and then I’ll put everything down to paper, as in this recent post:
That post explicitly discusses my current top brand proclivities, and if you want to know more, just ask.
At the time of this posting, there are 160,619 reader comments, 16,388 belonging to me. All of these comments and conversations have absolutely contributed to my knowledge, insights, and even preferences at times when I give your suggestions and recommendations a try. I am stubborn, and opinionated, but also very open-minded.
Which Would I Pick – Makita or Harbor Freight?
Even though this comparison was originally intended tongue-in-cheek, I was surprised at how seriously I was looking at how the two brands’ tools compared against each other.
I bought both for ToolGuyd-related reasons, because I needed hands-on time to know if Harbor Freight is blowing smoke with their Hercules line claims (they’re not), and if Makita’s is a compromised DIYer-friendly model specially designed for the holiday shopping season (as with most brands it kind of is, but this one proved to be recommendable).
For personal use, I’d go in a different direction with respect to cordless systems.
The Makita drill kit is presently $119 at Amazon, and the Hercules is $50 for the drill + $30 for the charger + $35 for the battery – $25 bundle discount, or $90 at Harbor Freight stores. That’s a $30 difference.
Arguments against Harbor Freight and their Hercules tools aren’t so much about the quality of their tools, but about Harbor Freight’s history and the reputation they built up over time. If you’re reading this post and saying “Hercules? – never!!,” why? Have you ever tried Hercules tools? This tool?
Anyway, hands-down, I’d go with…