There are many power tools available from the general purpose to the highly specialised. Almost every DIY shop will not only stock a selection of well known brands, they will often offer their own range of “own brand” tools, and prices for a similar looking tool may vary by a factor of ten (or more). The choice is bewildering.

Understanding the way in which these different ranges of tools are marketed and distributed can go a long way to help understanding this large range.

Different brands

Some examples of tools from the different categories:

Budget tools

Mid-range tools

High-end tools

  • NuTool
  • Budget
  • Kinzo
  • Challenge
  • JCB
  • Many DIY shop “own brand tools”
  • Power Devil
  • Ferm
  • Bosch (green bodied)
  • Wolf (new)
  • Rexon
  • Axminster (white range)
  • Dremel
  • Black & Decker
  • Skil
  • Wicks own brand (grey bodied)
  • Freud
  • PPPro (B&Q)
  • Ryobi
  • Makita
  • Trend
  • Bosch (blue bodied)
  • Hitachi
  • Festool
  • Fein
  • Lamello
  • Freud
  • Elu
  • Metabo
  • DeWalt
  • Atlas-Copco/Milwaukee
  • Panasonic

What to expect

Badge engineering

Some brands of tool you will find are just that, “brands”. Typically manufactured in the far-east and then “branded” for the eventual retailer. This also explains why you can find exactly the same tool available under several different “brands” where the only difference is the label, and the colour of the plastic.

With badged tools of this type, getting spares or any kind of after sales service can be difficult or impossible.

The budget tool

Examples of all the popular tools can be found in a budget form, typically costing £30 or less. These include some brands that specialise in this market (see above), and many DIY shop own-brands. Almost exclusively, these tools will be of the “badge engineered” type.

To compensate for the lack of spares or after sales service the retailer will often offer extended warranty terms and operate a blanket replacement policy. So, if a tool breaks during its warranty period, then the retailer will simply replace it. If it breaks after this time you bin it.

Although a long warranty may seem attractive, remember that you may need to factor in the cost of your time should a trip to the shop be needed to acquire a warranty replacement. Note, also, that it does not help if all you want is a spare part, and not a whole tool.

If you find you are frequently needing a warranty replacement for a tool, it might indicate that you are demanding more from the tool that it was designed to give.

Mid-range tools

The mid-range is the most confusing area since it can encompass tools from the “edges” of both the budget and high-end categories – often with the range of tools available under one brand spanning a good proportion quality and price range available. It is also an area with a large number of suppliers, sellers, and advertisers, each competing for your money. Mid-range tools will probably be nicer to use, last longer, and do a better job. Spares are usually available as may be a repair service.

High-end tools

At the high-end, tools are often built and assembled in factories owned by the brand maker, or built for them by OEMs to the brands own specification and quality standards. There will be a service and support network that will enable tools to be repaired, and spare parts obtained. The quality and endurance of the tool will be high since these tools are designed to satisfy the needs of the professional who will expect continuous use, day in and day out. Needless to say, this quality and the backup and support network has to be paid for in higher tool prices.

How do I tell?

Identifying which of the above groups a tool belongs to is not always straight forward. Many people will not even agree which is which. Some brands may make tools in several distinct categories. For example Bosch make mid-range and high-end tools. They typically indicate which is which, not only in their numbering, but also by producing all mid-range tools with green cases, and the high-end tools with blue cases. They also own the mid-range brand Skil.

In recent years many of the big name makers have acquired smaller brands so as to be able to compete in several different ranges without confusing their customers as to which market they are aiming for. So, for example, B&D make a vast range of mid-range tools, but also own the high-end marques Elu and DeWalt. High-end tool maker Makita also sell some mid-range tools under the Maktec brand.