What makes a tool brand rank among the best tool brands? It’s not an easy question to answer. DIY users generally want a capable, reliable tool at a reasonable price. Professionals who depend on tools for their livelihood will generally spend a little more for a tool that will withstand the often harsh environment of the job site while maximizing performance.
Different people might have different ideas of what they consider the best tool brands. Nevertheless, certain brands are consistently at the top of independent tool reviews. Time and again, they fulfill the criteria buyers expect from them.
We’ve taken a closer look at a wide range of well-known tool brands by delving into their backgrounds. For each brand, we’ve also selected a tool that we feel is typical of the brand’s high standards.
About the Brand: A high-quality power tool brand that’s often innovative and has a particularly strong cordless range. Price Range: $$$ to $$$$
The impact of Japanese brands on tool markets has been relatively recent, so it’s easy to think of them as young businesses. However, Makita has been around since 1915. The company is now a manufacturing giant, with factories in 10 countries covering the Far East, the Middle East, Europe, South and Central America, and the U.S.
Makita started as a motor repair company, introducing its first power tool (a hand-held planer) in 1958 and its first cordless tool (a drill) as far back as 1978. The company has since grown to become one of the undoubted leaders in the cordless market with an extensive collection of workshop, job site, and garden tools. These tools are not the best options for DIY users on a budget, but pricing is competitive with other professional-standard tools.
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About the Brand: Bosch has a strong German engineering background, producing an enormously diverse range of well-designed tools known for their reliability. Price Range: $$ to $$$
Robert Bosch founded his engineering company in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1886. The company now operates in markets as diverse as automotive, energy, home appliances, and, of course, power tools. Unusually, 92 percent of Bosch is owned by a charitable institution, which uses profits for a range of cultural, social, and scientific projects.
Bosch is credited with introducing the first hammer drill in 1932, and that tradition of invention continues with the company boasting the development of at least 100 new products every year. High manufacturing standards make them among the most reliable tools available. While undoubtedly a premium brand, many Bosch tools are within the price range of keen DIY enthusiasts.
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About the Brand: DeWalt’s extensive range of high-performance power tools have long been one of the top choices of contractors and tradespeople. Price Range: $$ to $$$$
Back in 1924, Pennsylvania craftsman Raymond E. DeWalt took a standard chop saw and made the first radial arm saw, a tool that gained immense popularity in pro woodworking shops. DeWalt Inc. was formed in 1947. The company now has factories in a number of countries and seven manufacturing facilities in the U.S. In 2010, DeWalt became part of the Stanley Black & Decker Group.Advertisement
A combination of power and durability has long made DeWalt tools among contractors’ favorites. These are definitely tools that focus on the professional user, and the prices reflect that fact. However, DeWalt’s reputation for reliability is such that these tools are also popular with DIY users who see the value as a long-term investment.
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About the Brand: Craftsman hand and power tools are a DIY favorite, offering great value for the price. Price Range: $ to $$
Sears created the Craftsman tool brand in 1927, which was initially only available through Sears and later Kmart. The company soon expanded its production of hand tools and now also offers power tools, gardening equipment, work clothing, and footwear.
Long considered one of the great home-grown American tool brands, Craftsman manufacturing now occurs mostly in Taiwan, though automotive tool production remains in the U.S. In 2017, Stanley Black & Decker acquired the brand, though Sears retained certain rights and still sells Craftsman tools. Though critics suggest quality control is not always what it used to be, Craftsman tools still represent good value for the DIY user.
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About the Brand: Stanley Works is one of the world’s best-known hand tool brands, and Black & Decker is a leader in affordable power tools. While the tool brand is now called Black & Decker, the company name represents the two companies as Stanley Black & Decker. Price Range: $ to $$
Frederick Trent Stanley started making door hardware back in 1843. Then, cousin Henry Stanley founded the Stanley Rule and Level company in 1857. Both companies were based in New Britain, Connecticut, merging into Stanley Works in 1920.
The original Black & Decker company was a machine shop founded in Baltimore, coincidentally also in 1920. It grew to become one of the world’s leading makers of affordable power tools for home and garden use.
In 2010, Stanley Works and Black & Decker merged and have gone on to acquire many of the best tool brands around the world, including Bostitch, Craftsman, DeWalt, Irwin Tools, and Porter Cable. However, each still retains a separate identity with its own brand values. Stanley’s core strength is still hand tools; Black & Decker’s strength is value for money for the DIY market.
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About the Brand: Although RIDGID Tools manufactures an increasingly diverse range of products, it is perhaps best known for tough tools for plumbing and construction trades. Price Range: $ to $$Advertisement
RIDGID Tools began in North Ridgeville, Ohio, in 1923 and moved to its current base in Elyria, Ohio, in 1943. Since 1966, the company has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Emerson Electric.
The brand’s core products have always been durable hand tools for the construction, electrical, HVAC, and plumbing trades. RIDGID Tools also produces associated inspection devices. Most of these tools are manufactured in its U.S. facility. Additionally, the company offers a range of professionally focused power tools, though these are largely manufactured in Hong Kong.
RIDGID Tools is perhaps one of the lesser-known tool brands outside the professional market. While pricing is competitive at that level, it puts the company’s products beyond the budget of many DIY users.
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About the Brand: Kobalt is the house brand of Lowe’s and offers competitively priced tools for the midrange so-called “prosumer” market. Price Range: $ to $$$
Lowe’s introduced Kobalt tools in 1998 to compete with rival “house” brands from Sears and The Home Depot. Kobalt tools are made for Lowe’s by a number of different suppliers. While some manufacturing occurs in Taiwan, some production is based in the home market. The company wholly manufactures its hand tools in the U.S. and assembles some of its power tool product line in the U.S. from components sourced worldwide.Advertisement
While Kobalt’s reputation perhaps isn’t at the same level as the best tool brands like Bosch, DeWalt, and Makita, it is still considered a high-quality tool producer that sits above the run-of-the-mill budget market. The term “prosumer” specifies the middle ground between DIYer and professional, and it suits Kobalt tools well.
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About the Brand: Though its range of tools is now extensive, many consumers will recognize Skil for the Skilsaw, the powered circular saw that became so popular it has been called “the saw that built America.” Price Range: $ to $$$
Skil was founded in 1926 in Naperville, Illinois, where its U.S. headquarters is still based today. The company’s first product, the worm-drive circular saw, was incredibly popular on construction sites despite being very expensive for the time. This saw set the foundation for Skil becoming known as “the” saw company for decades, though the range now includes many different tools. Company ownership has been somewhat volatile, passing from the Skil Corporation to Emerson Electric in 1979, to Bosch in 1996, and to Chervon of China in 2016, where the company now manufactures most products.Advertisement
Though it can be slightly confusing for consumers, Skil uses two brand names to differentiate target markets. Skil tools are intended for the DIY user, while those branded Skilsaw are for more professional use in construction and other trades. Specifications and prices reflect this difference.
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About the Brand: Husky Tools is the house brand of The Home Depot, focusing on hand tools, pneumatic tools, and a wide variety of tool storage solutions. Price Range: $$ to $$$
“Husky” is sometimes used as a shortened version of Husqvarna, the well-known garden equipment manufacturer. However, Husky Tools is a completely unrelated company, originally Husky Wrench of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, founded in 1924. The brand went through various ownerships until Stanley Tool acquired it in 1986. The company then struck an exclusive deal to supply The Home Depot, which now owns the rights to the brand name.
The Home Depot has decided not to compete in the crowded power tools market, focusing instead on hand tools, compressor-driven pneumatic tools, and a wide range of cabinets and tool chests. Like Kobalt, Husky Tools satisfies the needs of the prosumer market with quality equipment that offers savings over the leading tool brands.
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About the Brand: IRWIN is known for a vast range of high-quality hand tools, plus accurate measuring and marking devices. Price Range: $ to $$
Irwin Industrial Tools began in Martinsville, Ohio, in 1885 when Charles Irwin started manufacturing auger bits. The company still manufactures a wide range of drill bits, in addition to saws, chisels, hammers, pliers, wrenches, snips, screwdrivers, knives, levels, and squares. Today, IRWIN is a part of Stanley Black & Decker.
Initially, IRWIN’s primary markets were professional carpenters and associated trades, and the American-made tools always had a reputation for durability and precision. Production now occurs mostly in China, and while there are critics, it seems that, in general, IRWIN has preserved its reputation. These are certainly not cheap tools, but they remain a contractor standard and are popular among DIY users prepared to pay for above-average quality.
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About the Brand: RYOBI is considered an excellent innovator and particularly strong at developing cordless power tools. Price Range: $ to $$
RYOBI is a diverse company. Founded near Hiroshima, Japan, in 1943, it initially made die-cast products. In 1961, it added printing presses and then began manufacturing power tools in 1968. The company is still involved in each market and has production facilities in six countries, including the U.S. Now Techtronic Industries owns RYOBI, with the headquarters in Hong Kong.
The company’s recent U.S. and European operations seem to have focused on the cordless market in the areas of power tools and lawn and garden equipment. RYOBI manufactures well-designed products with competitive performance aimed at the upper end of the home user market. Part of the company’s popularity is undoubtedly due to the fact that while it has made significant improvements in battery technology, the battery packs themselves offer backward compatibility and will still fit tools made as far back as 1996.
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About the Brand: Milwaukee makes a range of power tools and electrical equipment and has a reputation for durability in tough job site environments. Price Range: $$$ to $$$$
Milwaukee was originally called the A.H. Petersen Tool Company and was founded in 1918 by A.H. Petersen and Albert F. Seibert. When the factory was destroyed by fire, Seibert bought the assets and formed the Milwaukee Electric Tool Company in 1924. The company always maintained high standards, and Milwaukee soon became a registered supplier to the U.S. Navy.Advertisement
Milwaukee was the first company to manufacture a hammer drill that worked as an ordinary drill and introduced the reciprocating saw, or Sawzall. From the mid-1970s to 2005, the company went through various ownerships and is now part of Techtronic Industries.
Milwaukee has always been a leading electric power tool brand, only recently moving into hand tools, workwear, and storage. In terms of product quality and reliability, the brand is often compared with DeWalt. These are premium-priced tools for professional users and are also popular with DIYers looking for something more than budget brands.
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About the Brand: Metabo makes tough, powerful tools for pros and is a leader in battery technology. Price Range: $$ to $$$$
Founded in 1923 in Germany, Metabo became very successful in Europe. In 2016, Hitachi purchased the company, then two years later sold its power tools business to investment firm KKR. The company is now officially known as Metabo HPT.
Although not as well-known in the U.S., the Metabo range continues to expand. Cordless models offer competitive performance thanks to lithium-ion high-density (LiHD) technology that claims to deliver up to 30 percent more power than standard power tool batteries.Advertisement
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About the Brand: WEN makes low-cost tools primarily for home users, though professionals value their reliability. Price Range: $ to $$
Headquartered in Elgin, Illinois, WEN has been in business since 1951. Design, research, and development are centered in the U.S., while production is based in the Far East.
The large WEN range includes power tools, generators, and garden equipment. Though its products sometimes lack the latest innovations, WEN uses proven technologies, and its power tools are invariably durable and reliable. Among independent reviewers, WEN is often valued as the best tool brand for the money.
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There is a lot to consider when choosing the best tool brand. Selecting a brand is an important decision for DIYers and professionals, as it’s easier to use a suite of tools from one brand than spending time juggling various batteries and chargers from multiple brands. With this in mind, we carefully reviewed many of the popular tool brands.
When searching for brands to include in our list of the best tool brands, we evaluated each on its reputation for quality, availability from easy-to-find retailers, range of tool selection, and history of innovation. As not every tool user is a professional, we included brands that also offered affordable tools to meet the budgets of users who do not use tools professionally.Advertisement