The question of 12V Max vs. 18V or 20V Max has come up a lot, and I’ve had different takes on the topic over the years. A good question came in, presenting a
I’m pretty new to power tools, only recently got out of the Army and I’m making a huge career change to organic farming, opening my own small scale farm over the next two years. Experience with new beehives, carpentry projects, and rain barrel spouting is demonstrating my need to rapidly expand my power tool arsenal beyond the handful of generic brand items passed down from my father.
Going by your site I’m guessing my skill level is pretty new and my projects are (and mostly will be) more of the DIY or generic domestic categories than anything specialized. I also recognize the point you make multiple times on different posts about buying into a brand to streamline compatibility. My serious questions are:
1) How do I identify the best class & brand of equipment for my needs, so that I’m not wasting money on 18V items when a 12V version would suffice or vice versa?
2) How do I identify the brand with the best durability & cost-effectiveness for my skill level, budget and needs?
Good luck, Matthew! And I hope my commentary and reader feedback still reaches you in time to make a difference. I’m sorry for the delaying in getting back to you on this.
How to Identify the Best Class and Brand of Tools for Your Needs
I have been more and more leaning towards recommending 18V and 20V Max cordless power tools, unless there are budgetary considerations or other factors that would result in 12V Max tool recommendations.
Consider this – when comparing 12V Max and 18V or 20V Max cordless power tools, the larger and more powerful tools can almost always do the jobs of the smaller tools, but the reverse is rarely true.
(As an aside, 18V and 20V Max is the same thing, with the difference being marketing language.)
18V and 20V Max tools present power, performance, and often runtime benefits. 12V Max tools present user experience benefits. Milwaukee’s M12 band saw can be used with one hand, and overhead. Their M12 Fuel rotary hammer is more lightweight and compact compared to full-sized models.
The best approach is to identify needs and plan accordingly, although it’s not always going to work out perfectly.
It also doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive. Some brands, such as Milwaukee, Dewalt, and now Bosch, have dual-voltage chargers, where you can recharge 12V and 18V class power tool batteries on the same charger. This makes it easier to have a mix of 12V and 18V class tools.
It’s a gamble.
But also consider that your business needs might change or evolve over time. A heavy duty 18V drill might power through all your heavy duty drilling tasks, but might be a burden for when you need to drill dozens or hundreds of small diameter holes. Or that 12V drill might be lightweight and compact, but might struggle to efficiently drill many medium-diameter holes. Or maybe the 3/8″ chuck is too small to handle larger hole saw arbors.
If in your shoes, I would start with 18V-class tools and then consider complementing them with 12V-class tools if or when clear benefits presented themselves.
How to Identify the Brand with the Best Durability & Cost-Effectiveness for My Skill Level, Budget and Needs?
This is a tougher one.
Most pro-grade brands have repair networks that can help you get a worn, damaged, or defective tool back to working condition. You could ask around to see which brands have good turnaround, but results might vary regionally. This is something to keep in mind, but I haven’t heard enough good or bad about any one brand to affect my own purchasing decisions.
To start off, you should do some research, if you hadn’t already, perhaps finding farm-related forums, and see what kinds of tools you might need but have not considered. Metal shears, for instance?
Make a list of the tools you need, and then try to think about what you might need in the next 5 years. Prioritize the tools if you can.
For me, a compact drill is the highest priority, followed by a multi-speed brushless impact driver. Who makes the best compact drill? (Dewalt, in my opinion.) The best multi-speed impact? (Hitachi.)
Do you want a quieter impact tool, such as the Milwaukee M18 Surge hydraulic driver? If so, then your options are limited. Dewalt and Bosch, for instance, don’t make anything similar.
Cost-effectiveness? Many pro brands are fiercely competitive when it comes to price. There are also premium brands that might cost more, but sometimes in return for giving you more or compromising less.
Yesterday when looking into rotary polishers, I came across the topic of general and universal manufacturing, and specialty manufacturing.
A tool that’s designed for general or universal applications might be versatile and capable of handling a wide range of tasks. Specially manufactured tools might be less versatile, but might be better for tackling specific tasks or applications.
Take the new Metabo sheet metal and pilot hole drill, for example. It’s a low torque and high speed drill designed for specific applications.
My recommendation would be that you start off with the brand that best fulfills your top needs, and to keep an open mind when it comes to future expansion. Since it sounds like you’ll be working out of a fixed location, as opposed to traveling around with a tool bag, it shouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience to buy into different brands’ cordless power tool platforms.
Yes, maintaining multiple cordless power tool platforms will cost more, but if you do it for the right reasons it’ll pay off in the form of saved time or effort.
On the subject of budget, there are different tiers of tool brands. Since you plan to use the tools for business, I would suggest sticking with a pro-grade brand, at least for your essential tools. That’s not to say that lower tiers of tools aren’t good, but I wouldn’t trust them as much for mission-critical work.
Shopping between different brands at the same tier, such as Dewalt vs. Milwaukee, is not going to be a huge difference when you factor in the cost of a couple of tools. Both brands have regular promos, so you’ll definitely want to look at those.
See – I meant it when I said this is a tough question. It’s tough when someone comes to me with a list of their tool needs and preferences, tougher when there are more unknowns.
What tools would you guys recommend for Matthew and his planned small farming needs?