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5 Power Tools That Every Home Should Have

Put a cordless drill on your "desert island" list, but maybe leave off the rotary hammer.
Published
Man Sanding

So you have work to do around the house, and you know you need power tools. But which ones are the most essential? We're here to tell you which tools will make your DIY life easier.

3 Quick Tips for Buying Power Tools

Before we get to the must-have tools, here are a few tips on how to shop smart when you're looking for power tools.

Pick One Brand of Cordless Tool

For most DIYers — and an increasing number of professionals — cordless tools provide more than enough oomph and longevity to get the job done. But batteries don't swap between brands, so once you buy one tool, it's expensive to switch brands. Buy with intention.

Batteries don't swap between brands, so once you buy one tool, it's expensive to switch brands.

Know That Premium Tools May Last Longer

The nature of power tools means you're unlikely to hand them down to your kids, but that's no reason to buy into planned obsolescence. Store-brand combo deals might be tempting — they whisper, "Buy me and you get a flashlight, too!" But you get what you pay for, and power tools are no exception. Spend a little more and keep your tools for years. A few professional-grade brands include Hitachi, Milwaukee, Bosch, and Makita.

Consider 'Bare Tools'

Walk away from the big box stores. A mechanic told us how he buys premium tools for a fraction of the big box price — and sometimes for less than their store-brand tools. So what do you do? Buy on-brand chargers and well-reviewed, off-brand batteries on Amazon, and then look to eBay for "bare tools" — tools sold without batteries.

SEE ALSO: Everything You Need to Know About Buying Secondhand Tools

The amount you save varies, depending on the specific tool you're buying and the specials the big boxes are running. Our research suggests you'll always save at least a couple of bucks — but sometimes as much as 50%.

5 Essential Power Tools to Own

Enough with the preamble. Here are the essential power tools every home should have, in the order we think you need them.

Cordless Drill

Cordless Drill

Why You Need It
You probably know the drill/driver by its common name: "a drill." It lets you drill holes and turn bolts and screws, and that's about it — but that's a lot of the work you do around the house.

Go with a brushless drill/driver if you think you'll mostly drill into wood, drywall, or other relatively soft materials.

Need to put shelves up? You'll want this tool. Need to take the cover off your HVAC unit? You'll encounter what seems like 18,000 screws, and you can loosen them all by hand — or take them off in a few seconds with the magic of electrics. Getting into Kreg Jig woodworking? You'll need this.

Which to Buy
Two sorts of drill/drivers are available: brushless drill/drivers and hammer drills. Hammer drills don't just spin, they also hammer — and thus are suitable for drilling into brick and masonry. If you anticipate mostly drilling into wood, drywall, or other relatively soft materials, you don't need to spend the extra money.


Handheld Rotary Tool

Handheld Rotary Tool

Why You Need It
There are so many different uses for rotary tools. You can drill tiny holes, sand/buff/polish, cut pipes, etch glass — and if you run out of ideas, Pinterest has you covered. Rotary tools are handy for everything from automotive field repair to DIY projects.

Which to Buy
Dremel may have name recognition, but check out the Wen 2305. It comes with a flex shaft, and can sell for a quarter or half of the price of a Dremel on Amazon. More than 2,700 5-star Amazon reviews probably aren't wrong. (Bonus: It's compatible with Dremel accessories, so you can buy accessories locally if you need something right away.)


Cordless Circular Saw

Cordless Circular Saw

Why You Need It
If you need wood to be shorter, you probably need a circular saw — especially if you don't have room in your house for a table saw (and who does?). Whether you use it to cut long sheets of plywood, cut boards for shelves, or cut two-by-fours down to size, the circular saw is your friend.

SEE ALSO: The Beginner's Guide to Saws

Which to Buy
Circular saws come in a variety of sizes. The most popular size for cordless saws is 6 ½", and it's the size you should buy. Useful options include laser guides (see what you're about to cut) and electric brakes (stops the blade faster after you release the trigger). Note: Circular saws chew through batteries, so bring spares and a charger for big jobs.


Palm Sander

Palm Sander

Why You Need It
Random orbital sanders measuring 5" and smaller are typically referred to as palm sanders, but you can call them elbow savers. If you need to sand any amount of material, you're going to need one of these. It'll replace hours of scrubbing and sore elbows with a tool that's almost fun to use.

Which to Buy
You can get cordless palm sanders, but it adds weight and bulk to a relatively small tool. We recommend corded versions; handle a few and see which you prefer. Buy more sandpaper than you think you'll need.


wet dry vac

Wet/Dry Vacuum

Why You Need It
This might not fit the definition of a traditional power tool, but try sucking up water from a burst pipe with your cute bagless vacuum — and then check out our vacuum cleaner deals, because you're about to buy a new one. A quality wet/dry vac will handle all the messes you make with your other power tools, plus multi-gallon liquid spills and stain dilution.

Which to Buy
Shop-Vac is the iconic brand, but Armor All has released a 2.5 gallon wet/dry vac that's getting rave reviews, and it tends to sell for less than the Shop-Vac vacuums. If you don't mind emptying the wet/dry vac every 2.5 gallons, it seems like a good deal to us.

What do you think, readers? What power tools have you found indispensable for your DIY projects? Let us know in the comments!


Contributing Writer

Sean is a freelance writer and photojournalist working in the Hampton Roads region. He has been a writer, adventure motorcyclist, drag racer, data nerd, shade-tree mechanic, and tornado chaser. Recommend good beers to him on Twitter at @wxgeek.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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4 comments
zinimusprime
Dremels are amazing and EVERY house should have at least a corded one along with the drill and shop vac. The palm sander and circular saw are nice to own but if you don't like building or fixing things, there isn't as much need for it.
Rick240
The blade on the circular saw is backwards. Also don't find the Dremel useful.
BlueOak
Mostly OK advice but "Every home?"

No way does a cordless circular saw belong in "every home".

Not even a corded circular saw belongs in "every home".

And for occasional use a corded circular saw makes more sense.

As to power tools not being hand me downs - no way. If you buy solid (corded) power tools there is no reason they can't last a couple generations.

For cordless power tools consider Ridgid. Highly rated. And do it in a kit that includes the tools you need. They tend to include two large capacity batteries and sometimes promo another couple batteries free. (Unlike the other tool brands where you are lucky to get even one large battery in a kit.)

The lifetime warranty on Ridgid cordless tools *and* batteries in a kit seals the deal!
CinciShopper
I agree with the battery thing. It's always nice to have a set of batteries that will work across a line of tools but it's not always possible. I personally use the Black and Decker 20v line of stuff. It's not Makita but it's fine for the average Joe and there are lots of tools that will work with this battery and the clone batteries are dirt cheap on eBay. I also agree with having a cordless drill. Everyone should have one to use as a drill and/or a powered screwdriver.

I'm not sure about the importance of a dremel. You can use a cordless drill for many of the same tasks. I personally haven't taken my dremel out in years.

You might check on your palm sander comment. Palm sanders are seldom random orbital. They are 2 different things.

6 1/2 inch cordless saws are ok for doing trim work but are mostly a disappointment. They don't have the power to get thru even the most mundane tasks of cutting up 4x8 sheets of plywood and I don't think the blade is big enough to cut 2x4's.