“Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through these links.”
You don’t need to be a remodeling contractor or professional woodworker to appreciate the many benefits of power tools. A trusty cordless drill will help you speed through a range of projects, from hanging shelves to assembling furniture. A high-powered pressure washer can blast away stains from decks and driveways in a fraction of the time it takes to tackle them manually with a scrub brush and elbow grease. And a capable circular saw is the only way to cut through large pieces of lumber, short of sweating for hours over a handsaw.
No wonder home centers and hardware stores have aisle after aisle of power tools. That raises the question: Which brand is right for you? Having tested hundreds of tools over the last decade from all the major players, our experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute‘s Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab are here to steer you in the right direction. For good measure, we also gathered insights from Roy Berendsohn, senior home editor at Popular Mechanics, our partner publication, as well as other experts in the field.
Based on those inputs, below are the 10 brands to consider as you build out your arsenal of power tools. We divided the list into brands geared toward DIYers and those aimed at professionals. Once you’ve perused our picks, read on for more expert advice on shopping for power tools.
Great for DIYers
If you shop at Home Depot, you’ve probably seen this manufacturer’s products, with their signature yellow-and-black branding. Ryobi is one of two Home Depot–exclusive power tool brands, along with Ridgid. Our experts like the incredible breadth of Ryobi’s battery platform, which allows the same battery pack to be used across multiple tools. (The brand’s 18V ONE+ line has more than 280 products in all, and the 40V line has close to 100.)
“This is one of my top choices for DIYers,” says home improvement and lifestyle expert Kathryn Emery of Be The Best Home. “It’s nice knowing that the same battery that powers my cordless drill will also work for my leaf blower or the inflator for my kid’s bike tires.”
Lab pick: Although many Ryobi tools make our lists of winners, our experts were particularly impressed with the ONE+ HP 18V Brushless Drill and Impact Driver Kit, enough to make it a winner in Good Housekeeping’s 2023 Home Renovation Awards. “The drill has plenty of power for drilling into drywall and dimensional lumber, and the driver’s extra speed and torque is great for removing large lag bolts,” noted one tester.
Lowe’s customers should check out Craftsman, since the big-box giant is one of the brand’s biggest retailers. After Craftsman was bought by Stanley Black & Decker in 2017, our experts have seen serious improvements to the legacy tool brand, which still offers some of the best prices around.
“You might even see professional contractors walking out with a Craftsman,” Berendsohn says, noting that its tools sometimes perform as well as their professional-grade competitors in Popular Mechanics tests. Although the bulk of Craftsman’s offerings are battery-powered, it also carries many corded electric tools, especially heavy-duty products, such as chop saws and grinders.
Lab pick: Combo kits let you build up a collection of power tools without overspending. Craftsman’s V20 4-Tool kit, another winner in our Home Renovation Awards, features a cordless drill, an impact driver, a reciprocating saw and a flashlight, as well as two 20-volt batteries and a charger. The drill doubles as an effective power screwdriver, and the reciprocating saw handles the kinds of cuts through construction lumber that DIYers are likely to tackle.
Another legend of the power tool industry, Black+Decker has been a trusted brand among our experts for decades. Although its small appliances — everything from toasters to coffeepots — have been in and out of the Labs the most, we’ve also been impressed by the brand’s power tools, especially given the affordable price tags.
“Approachable and easy to use, right out of the box,” Emery says, an estimation we’ve agreed with more often than not. That said, while brands like Craftsman and Ryobi can hold their own on a construction site (or at least with hard-core DIYers), Black+Decker tools are best reserved for light-duty projects, like drilling into drywall or refinishing furniture.
Lab pick: Our experts are most familiar with Black+Decker’s cooking and cleaning appliances, like the Spillbuster Cordless Spill + Spot Cleaner, one of our top-rated portable carpet cleaners. The brand’s tools and accessories have earned praise over the years at Popular Mechanics, as you’ll see in this fun article, Why the Black & Decker Workmate Belongs in the Tools Hall of Fame.
Skil is the DIY spin-off of Skilsaw, a popular brand aimed squarely at professionals. Even though Skil power tools are competitively priced, they retain many features of their beefier brand mates’. That’s especially true when it comes to handheld circular saws, which Skilsaw invented in the 1920s. (For a long time, the name “Skilsaw” was synonymous with the tool, like Kleenex and tissue or Q-tip and cotton swab.)
To drive home those points, Berendsohn notes that “Skil’s $50, 15-amp circular saw was one of the best in our tests. If you’re only going to pull it out a few times a year and you plan to hire out heavier-duty projects, there’s no need to spend four or five times as much on an industrial-grade model.”
Lab pick: In addition to that $50 circular saw Berendsohn mentioned, our experts liked the brand’s PWR Core 40 leaf blower, calling it the best value on the market (and that’s out of our entire list of best cordless leaf blowers). “For the price, this leaf blower is solidly built, including its brushless motor, a design that our tests have found to be durable over time,” says Rachel Rothman, chief technologist and executive technical director at the Good Housekeeping Institute.
Like Ryobi, Ridgid is a Home Depot exclusive aimed at DIYers, though its impressive performance across many categories makes it a good fit for “prosumers,” or homeowners who like to tackle big projects such as, say, building a deck or replacing their asphalt-shingle roof. “There’s going to be some gray area with all tool brands,” Berendsohn explains. “With Ridgid, the gray area is between prosumers and professionals, whereas a brand like Black+Decker leans more clearly toward DIYers.”
As with products from Ryobi, Ridgid’s tools are backed by Home Depot, which offers a Ridgid Lifetime Service Agreement on registered products, meaning power tools that break due to normal wear and tear will be replaced.
Lab pick: In our latest roundup of best shop vacs, we gave props to Ridgid for making the best heavy-duty option on the market: its 12-gallon model. The five-horsepower motor is capable of moving air at a rate of 140 cubic feet per minute — twice the flow rate of other shop vacs. Plus, the comfort-grip handle and 360-degree casters allow for easy maneuverability.
Most big-box stores have at least one exclusive power tool brand. For Walmart, it’s Hart, which the retailer began carrying in 2019. Walmart might not be the first place you think of for power tools, but “we’ve found decent value and performance in the models we’ve tested,” Berendsohn says.
Hart is 100% battery-powered, and its lineup is a bit more limited than other brands, especially those aimed at pros and prosumers. But if you’re looking for a capable cordless drill for light-duty projects or a sander kit for hobby projects, the brand is worth a look.
Lab pick: Among the Hart tools that Berendsohn and the rest of the testing team at Popular Mechanics liked is the 40-Volt Cordless Chainsaw, which was able to cut 46 hardwood discs. “To give you some perspective,” Berendsohn wrote in a Popular Mechanics article, “that’s as many as the DeWalt DCCS670 cut, even if that saw is twice as fast and built far more robustly.”
A relative newcomer to the category, Worx has been around since 2007. It’s best known for its lawn and garden equipment, but it also offers a robust line of power tools, many of which have performed well in our tests. We like that Worx is big-box store agnostic, meaning you’ll find it at Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart and other major retailers. And we highly rate the ergonomics of many of its tools.
“Worx is a good fit for people who might succumb to arm fatigue when handling heavy-duty equipment,” Rachel notes. From paint sprayers to reciprocating saws, Worx tools push the DIY limits without being too intimidating.
Lab pick: Speaking of ergonomics, Worx’s Nitro 20V WORXSAW, a top pick in our best circular saws roundup, is a comfortable fit that provides excellent maneuverability across a range of lightweight cutting tasks. “Between its compact design and 20-volt motor, this Worx offers a great balance of convenience and power, especially for first-time circular saw users,” Rachel says.
Geared Toward Professionals
Walk onto a construction site anywhere in the country and you’re likely to see a few Milwaukee power tools. “The brand is particularly popular with the metalworking trades, like plumbers and electricians, because its heavy-duty tools are great at boring holes and cutting through metal,” Berendsohn explains.
Milwaukee is another pioneer in the field, having invented the reciprocating saw (a.k.a. the Sawzall) in 1951. Today, the brand carries a full line of premium-priced power tools, both battery-powered and corded electric, that can handle the toughest tasks.
Lab pick: The Milwaukee brand is all over Popular Mechanics’ roundups of top-rated tools. Consider Milwaukee’s M18 Fuel 1/2-Inch Impact Wrench, which PM gave best overall honors in its best cordless impact wrenches category. “The M18 impact wrench is an effective tool for seriously big jobs like heavy equipment repair, industrial maintenance and repair applications, or any other task with big, tough nuts and bolts,” testers noted.
Here’s another brand that’s popular with pros, especially carpenters and remodeling contractors, who stand by the performance and reliability of DeWalt’s drills and cutting tools. “The gray area with DeWalt is between pros and prosumers,” Berendsohn says. “A lot of homeowners who want the best and have the money to spend gravitate toward DeWalt.” And why not? Given the durability and reliability that our tests have consistently seen with the brand over the years, the next DeWalt drill or circular saw or, heck, impact wrench with hog ring anvil kit, could well be your last.
Though DeWalt still has a robust offering of corded electric power tools, it continues to expand it battery platform, including its FLEXVOLT line, which lets you toggle between 20 volts for lighter-duty tasks and 60 volts for maximum power.
Lab pick: In the competitive 20-volt cordless drill category, our experts tapped DeWalt’s 20V MAX drill as the best overall cordless drill on the strength of the tool’s comfortable grip, lightweight design and compact size.
Makita is also popular with pros across many trades, and our engineers know it as a trusted power tool brand with a time-tested reputation. Headquartered in California, Makita is especially common on West Coast job sites, but you’ll see the brand nationwide. In fact, it’s a favorite with the maintenance crew at the Good Housekeeping Institute in New York City, whom we often call on to fabricate platforms and other staging equipment for various product tests.
Though Makita is clearly geared toward professionals, its prices are often a bit lower than other pro-grade brands, making it a good option for the prosumer set.
Lab pick: Check out Makita’s 36V LXT 7 1/4-inch circular saw, deemed the best heavy-duty model in our latest roundup of best circular saws. It offers a superb combination of power and control; although, at 12.4 pounds, it’s a lot of tool to push, pull and carry.
How we choose the best power tool brands
To put together this list of top power tool brands, we focused on manufacturers with wide distribution and strong reputations for quality and reliability, based on decades of tool testing and reviews by our experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute, as well as insights from our colleagues at Popular Mechanics.
Our assessment of performance is based on tests specific to each tool — for example, how easily a drill can bore through lumber or how cleanly a circular saw can rip a sheet of plywood. We also evaluate ease of use, which includes overall ergonomics, assembly and available features. And we assess durability by putting tools through the wringer, like using a drop tester to see how well tools can withstand falling several feet onto a hard surface.
What to look for when choosing the best power tool brands
All the power tool brands picked by our experts make quality products, but some will serve you better than others. Here are three factors to help steer you in the right direction:
✔️ Battery vs. corded: There used to be a clear trade-off here, with battery-powered tools being easier to use than corded models but not as powerful. However, lithium-ion technology has become so good that battery-powered tools can go toe to toe with their corded electric counterparts in most categories. The only compromise is run time, since most battery packs need a recharge after a couple of hours. For pros who are on the go for eight or 10 hours a day, corded tools are still preferred in some situations.
If you go the battery-powered route, take into consideration the breadth of the platform. “This will end up saving you money, because as you expand your tool collection, instead of buying a new battery every time, you can just purchase the bare tool,” Emery says.
✔️ DIY vs. professional: This decision used to track closely with battery versus corded. But as we’ve shown, many pro-grade brands now have extensive battery platforms. So what do you gain by going professional? For starters, a more durable tool. “The more wear-resistant components can withstand the heat generated from friction and current flow,” Berendsohn says. “Durability also comes from tougher steels and more impact-resistant plastics.”
Pro-grade tools are also faster, thanks to their high-efficiency motors and battery cells, and circuitry that can better manage heat-generated current. “Speed is particularly important to professionals because output and efficiency directly affect their bottom line,” Berendsohn says. Pro tools also have better feedback, soaking up more of the vibration, for example, which is important if you’re operating it for hours on end.
The biggest downside of pro-grade power tools is that they cost two or three times as much as DIY models. They’re also heavier and harder for an amateur to handle. The features that make them desirable for a pro might not count as much to a homeowner.
✔️ Warranty/service agreement: As with any mechanical product, the warranty or service agreement’s terms are a good indication of overall quality. One-year coverage is the minimum we see with most power tools. Given the competitive marketplace, some have sweetened the deal with three- or five-year warranties covering the repair or replacement of any defective equipment. And a handful even offer lifetime service agreements, usually covering labor costs and replacement parts. “It really says something about a brand when they’re willing to stand behind a tool for its expected lifetime,” Emery says.
Why trust Good Housekeeping?
Dan DiClerico has covered power tools for more than two decades for brands like This Old House and Consumer Reports before joining the Good Housekeeping Institute in 2022. In his role as director of the Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab, he oversees the testing of all power equipment, working closely with our team of engineers and product analysts. Prior to writing about home improvement, Dan worked on various roofing and remodeling crews, where he spent all day, every day wielding impact drivers, pneumatic nailers and other heavy-duty equipment. He has also managed several remodeling projects, most recently the gut renovation of a 19th-century Brooklyn brownstone. Dan is a regular at trade shows, such as the National Hardware Show and the International Builders’ Show, where he keeps up with the latest innovations around power tools.
Roy Berendsohn has worked for more than 25 years at Popular Mechanics, writing about carpentry, masonry, painting, plumbing, electrical, woodworking, blacksmithing, welding, lawn care, chainsaw use and outdoor power equipment. When he’s not working on his own house, he volunteers with Sovereign Grace Church doing home repair for families in rural, suburban and urban locations throughout central and southern New Jersey.
You Might Also Like
- Home Improvement Retailers Are Still Winning With Analysts, to an Extent
- Why I Will Never Own Lowe's or Home Depot Stock
- If You Have This Piece of Home Decor, "Destroy" It, Officials Warn
- Downtown Oshkosh's iconic Exclusive Co. building to become a furniture store this fall
- After many twists over 25 years, a furniture store owner in the west metro decides to close