Choosing a cordless power tool platform

As I wrote in my article about air compressors, cordless power tools have matured, thanks to brushless motors and Lithium batteries. As a result, for most smaller workshops, cordless tools like drills, impact wrenches, and many others, are a better choice than a big noisy compressor and air tools. To get the most out of them (and to keep costs down, since the better brands let you buy tools without batteries included), it makes sense to use a common battery platform for all of your tools. This means limiting your tool choices to a single brand and probably voltage (18V in most cases).

Here are some most popular brands (at least where I live), with each of them having a battery platform that can be used for a wide range of tools:

  • DeWalt – popular brand especially in the US, six different platforms, ranging from 7.2V to 54V.
  • Milwaukee – well-known for automotive applications, two main platforms (M12 and M18), but also 14.4 and 28V.
  • Bosch Professional (blue) – four platforms from 10.8V to 36V
  • Festool – household name in woodworking, less so in the automotive world, 18V platform.
  • Makita – several platforms, most common is the 18V LXT range. Makita does not clearly distinguish between pro and hobby grade tools, and often offers several tools of the same type (e.g. impact drivers) from hobby to pro specs. There’s also a G range of DIY 18V tools, so be careful.
  • Hikoki – 10 platforms from 3.6V to 36V
  • Bosch DIY (green) – 12V and 18V, but also a 36V platform for gardening tools, the 3.6V IXO series, and the USB-charged YOUseries.
  • Metabo – several platforms from 10.8V to 36V.
  • Ryobi – several platforms from 4V to 36V, with the 18V ONE+ range being the most common.

As you can see, most brands have at least a 12V and an 18V range, and often a 36V range for more power-hungry tools.Your choice will depend on your application and the amount of money you want to spend. If you’re on a budget, Ryobi and Bosch green probably have you covered. If you’re into automotive stuff, Milwaukee might be your thing, whereas a woodworking professional might choose Festool. I would try to avoid the “in-between” voltages like 10.4V and 14.4V.

My personal choice is Makita and their 18V LXT range, for the following reasons:

  • Makita has tools for all applications, including woodworking, automotive, and gardening.
  • They often have the same tool at different price points, with different specifications, and are often a bit cheaper than the other A brands.
  • They make a 1,000Nm impact wrench (Bosch e.g. doesn’t).
  • Their lawnmowers do not use a dedicated 36V platform, but two 18V batteries instead – this saves me a lot of money, as I can buy a lawnmower without batteries and charger.

The other range I might consider in the future is Milwaukee’s M12 range, as I’ve heard good things about their underhood light, or the Makita CXT 12V range – either have electric ratchets.

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