Help me choose a new 18-20V tool platform!

Alright, I’ve decided to step up to a new tool platform and I’m looking for input. I’m an avid DIY, and I’ve got a good amount of experience with all sorts of home projects. I bought my first house about 5 years ago and picked up a Craftsman Bolt-On kit because it was cheap and the modularity intrigued me. It’s actually worked out pretty well and I now have 2 drill bodies and at least 1 of each accessories. But I’m in need of a full size circular saw and I’ve decided to use this as a good excuse to step up to a more pro-sumer level of hardware.

I’m currently deciding between DeWalt XR, Milwuakee FUEL, and Ridgid 5X. They each have, or will have appealing bundles this season. In fact I jumped on the $599 DeWalt combo, and plan to get the Ridgid limited edition one as well. Thanks to HD’s return policy I can get a feel for each of them in case I’m still on the fence. I’ll try to put my thoughts together on each one below, and would appreciate input.

DeWalt: One of the biggest variety of tools, but I don’t see myself need in anything really beyond what’s in the 6-tool kit mentioned above. Generally a very good reputation. I’m not really interested in FlexVolt but I guess it’s a bonus. Their warranty is a bit short at only 3 years. Small nit pick, but I’m not a fan of the yellow, lol.

Milwuakee: Even larger variety, many are so specialized that I’d never use them. Again, good reputation. The XC batteries are nice (AvE did a great comparison). 5 year warranty is a plus. Love the red, lol.

Ridgid: Smaller variety, but I think it covers all my bases. I’ve always had positive experiences with their stuff and I think this website has generally reinforced that. LSA (even with the issues people have with it) could be a gamechanger for my use. Price point is better than the other two as well. Like the orange more than yellow, but less than red.

Does all this make sense to you? I honestly feel like I’m starting to lean Ridgid. Assuming I can get that limited edition bundle. Thanks!

Can’t go wrong with any of them. My brother-in-law(we work together) uses Ridgid and as such I have used his quite frequently, excellent tools my only gripe is they all feel big and heavy. That DeWalt kit is by far the best deal going right now, I’ve never seen such a good kit package deal, though I’d suggest a couple more batteries and another charger. For what it’s worth I’m a DeWalt user and feed my family with their tools.

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Don’t discount Ryobi either. I know it’s nice to say you have dewalt or Milwaukee or whatever and ryobi is still “lesser”, but particularly with their new brushless tools, they’re doing amazing things for the value. I’d encourage anybody to try their new brushless stuff if possible (HD can do demos if you ask), it’s surprised a lot of people, including some of my naysayer buddies.

I’m sure you’ve seen discussed here brand differences, with Milwaukee being trade oriented to plumbers, electricians, HVAC, …, and DeWalt more to construction. For core tools like what it seems you’re looking for, any brand will serve almost equally well.

When I was choosing a line to really buy into (I started with some DIY level white makita tools, which I still have and like), my criteria was nearly 100% which line had the “auxiliary” tools I wanted. Lighting I decided was most important, and Milwaukee won me over on that. Their expansive 12V offerings, and some of the specialty tools like the M12 soldering iron now and the M18 handheld canister vac continue to keep the scales tipped for me personally.

I do really like the FlexVolt stuff, it’s an awesome technology. If you need a meaty cordless circular saw, FlexVolt is where to go, other than maybe makita 36V… If I had to buy new large tools like miter and table saws and the like, I’d consider buying into FlexVolt for those, particularly for the 120V hybrid tools. My reasoning there is I can take the FlexVolt ones to friends houses or habitat for humanity or similar and not worry about having to plug them in, just drag them out, use them, and put them up. If you’re staying at-home type DIY though, corded will always give you better value. Even for circular saws, I bite the bullet and haul out my corded makita usually just because it powers through strange cuts better than anything cordless, including the FlexVolt I was able to try. And it was only $100. That said, I use my little M12 Fuel circular all the time when I’m out and about, because although it lacks a tiny bit in power, it’s small and light, just more fun to use than the 7.5” 18V circular. So it isn’t always all about the power either. The FlexVolt compressor has me 90% sold on buying in to FlexVolt, if Milwaukee doesn’t come up with one in the next 6 months, I’ll probably add DeWalt as yet another battery line.

Ryobi also has a name in the additional tools space, things like their cordless sanders, glue gun, some of their lighting solutions, the new 6 gallon shop vac, the dual inflator compressor that goes with me everywhere, I had no qualms about adding them on top of my Milwaukee. Their new brushless hammer drill, sawzall, and impact are right up there with the dewalt and Milwaukee level tools, and I wouldn’t hesitate to make them my main platform for primarily DIY if I were to start over. Being able to get bare tools easily for ryobi is also a plus, dewalt and Milwaukee rarely run deals on only bare tools, it’s usually a starter kit of some kind and add some bare tools free.

Makita also is good, I like many of their tools, they also have a cordless sander and trim router which Milwaukee does not. Their 36V tools are brilliant, good on them for adopting that approach and sticking with it for higher power tools. Makita comes up right behind Milwaukee for 12V tool lineup, and their subcompact 18V tools pretty much can replace 12V size. They aren’t as easily available maybe as other brands, my HD over the years has rotated between carrying lots of makita and very little, but right now it’s plenty good for the basic stuff. Makita also has a good OPE lineup, and a lot of it is available as 18Vx2, so no special batteries. Bosch is widely praised and falls with makita in breadth I think, but availability in the states at brick and mortar is lackluster. Porter cable I’ve pretty much written off, they have a few good things, and a few not so good things, I think Ryobi or Ridgid would be a better buy for cordless tools over PC. Same for Kobalt to an extent, though their cheap batteries are a draw, the lack of consistency in their tools is a turn off for me. Hilti is too expensive and not widely available enough, and all of the other brands seem to have some sort of shortcomings.

Ridgid didn’t do it for me here because while their core tools are great, the warranty is great, they lack breadth over anybody else. They do have a cordless compressor, and are expanding quite a bit now that I think they all but abandoned their 12V stuff. If you aren’t really looking past core tools, these are a notch above Ryobi, but don’t set you back like DeWalt or Milwaukee. Availability is good, though their deals are somewhat limited compared to DeWalt or Milwaukee.

My suggestion, boil down what tools you think you will need over the next several years. As you mention, if you don’t have anything on the list that DeWalt or Milwaukee makes that Ridgid doesn’t, Ridgid would be my recommendation of what you list. Consider OPE if that’s on your radar at all, DeWalt over Ridgid and Milwaukee has an 18V OPE presence. I’d throw makita on the list, take a look at their subcompact set, I really like the ergonomics and power for the size, and I might put it just a step above Ridgid for that set specifically just for the size and ergonomics aspects. Try out anything you can, in as real of settings as you can, and see what’s most comfortable to use, and has the power you need.


Since deciding to upgrade I’ve read a number of reviews now and yes, the Ridgid’s tend to be heavy. Looks like they’re good performers in general, but not standouts in anyway. Perhaps I’ll just stick with the DeWalt, it does seem to be a smokin’ deal.

Thanks for the awesome reply! I’ve got nothing against Ryobi, I think they do a great job for their market and talk about variety… But their tools are a compromise. DeWalt/Milwuakee may be a bit overkill but at this point I’d prefer to err on that side. The more I look into all this the more I’m leaning toward keeping the DeWalt combo. I’m going to keep an eye out for other deals but I don’t think I can go wrong with it.

Dewalt constantly ranks above the others for ergonomics. That combo set is an awesome deal, those tools will do you well for a good long while! Definitely a good choice and good timing getting in on it!

If you are looking for a full size circular saw, are you looking at corded ones as well? Then you don’t have to stay with one brand. For a corded circ saw, I love the makita higher end saws. My small kit cordless circ saw uses batteries like crazy. (I also have a kobalt cordless circ saw that’s much better and cheaper batteries, but am not recommending the whole line. It doesn’t have much variety or history).

When I was working - we used mostly Makita 18V LXT tools in our remodeling and general contracting business. One exception was a Dewalt 36V sidewinder saw that we bought mostly for work on roof cutouts:

We had found our Makita cordless saws to be too wimpy.

If I were buying today - I think this might be my choice:

But I might look at this one too:

I’m specifically looking for cordless. I have an old 10A B&D Woodhawk that’s been on loan from my dad. It’s in great shape, but underpowered, and most annoying of all it’s corded. I know a corded one would be cheaper, lighter, and more powerful but I’m willing to go cordless for the flexibility it affords.

Thanks Fred, but those are all way overkill for my DIY needs. The XR and FUEL lines seem to hit the sweet spot for me.

Update: So the kit came in! I picked up a few Milwuakee kits, but even with the best deals I can find round the web the equivalent set in red would cost more than $800! I definitely like the red saw more. The shoe is clearly much higher quality. But I can’t justify the price difference, so DeWalt it is!

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Congrats! That set looks awesome!

FYI, the kit actually comes in two boxes (even though it’s listed as one in HD’s system). It’s the 6-tool DCK694P2 (list price $799) and the angle grinder DCG413B (list price $125 bare tool).

Home depot lists the kit value @ $968, but the prices above add up to $924 and they don’t even seem to sell the grinder by itself. It must have an MSRP of $169 officially.


I started off with the 4 tool 20V DeWalt kit 4 or 5 years ago (drill, impact, sawzall, flashlight) and have had no issues with them. They have gone through a lot on construction sites but performed very well. I picked up additional 4.0 amp batteries too (can never have enough batteries). I also more recently bought the DeWalt Flexvolt circular saw with 2 60V batteries and a charger on Amazon Prime Day (for $280!!!) and I have to say, that thing is a beast! It will run all day while doing framing. The best part is that the 60V batteries are compatible with 20V systems. Can’t go wrong with any of the systems but I have had considerable success with DeWalt so far.

The new Makita 36v rear handle saw is a beast!! Tremendous power, well balanced and smooth cuts

Great choice. The guys over at Pro Tools just tackled the question of which brand.

Of course you all know I am proudly biased towards Makita!! :wink:

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I would go for Milwaukee.

I recently jumped from 18V Ni-Cd Dewalt tools to 20V dewalt tools. The main reason was that my 2013 Dewalt drill’s clutch AND speed selector switch broke recently with only a few hours of total use.

I started by getting Dewalt’s new 20v brushless drill. These no longer come in hard box cases but eh that was okay. However I had a hard time finding a 20v Dewalt Circular saw who’s shoe was not warped or misaligned from the factory. Moreover the design was a 99% copy of their 18V circular saw that I have had for 8 years. No innovation at all.

So I took a chance on 12v Milwaukee circular saw and WOW that thing is amazing even with the smaller 5.5" blade. built in LED light, but more importantly a perfectly machined shoe that is perfectly aligned out of the box. The build quality of the Milwaukee circular saw (12v fuel version) just BLEW Dewalt out of the water.

I have owned Dewalt, Bosch and Ryobi tools for over 10 years. The new Ryobi tools are really well built compared to their 2007 counterparts, whereas the 2017 Dewalts are built more cheaply compared to their 2007 Dewalt. My 2005 Dewalt 18v drill can not only drill holes but it would serve as a decent sledgehammer in a pinch. :slight_smile:

The Milwaukee tools bring me the same smile I used to get with Dewalt tools. Works every time.

The other thing is Milwaukee has a crazy amount of options in both 18v and 12v models so I can just keep expanding forever and ever.

If you are ONLY going to do rough work then Dewalt is fine. I build furniture so there was no way I could use the Dewalt Circular saw.

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Thanks for the input gafotiby! I actually have the DeWalt combo, Ridgid LE combo, and Milwaukee saw still in my garage.

You’re right about the shoe on the Milwaukee, it’s beautiful. The DeWalt is a poorly blanked sheet of aluminum, the edges are even a bit rough! I’ve been going back and forth about this decision for two weeks now. Every comparison review I read says that the performance of these 3 brands is very comparable. The Fuel’s win the top spot for the most part, DeWalts close behind, and Ridgid’s tend to have good performance for the value they offer.

Even though I prefer the Milwaukee saw, I’m leaning toward keeping the DeWalt kit. It’s a great value and negates Ridgid’s price competition (although the LSA is still tempting). After going to a few stores I also prefer the DeWalt ergonomics. I think a number of the M18 tools aren’t as comfortable (oscillating tool is a great example). I’ve been less than impressed with a few design choices uncovered in AvE’s teardowns of the red and yellow stuff, but that’s to be expected I guess.

My subconscious definitely draws me to the Milwaukee (I love the red and have the Milwaukee tool chest), but the Ridgid LE combo tools actually look really cool. The black with anodized orange? Badass. Ridgid’s saw has a nice looking shoe too.

I’d consider myself an avid DIY’er. I like to fix/build stuff and I’ve got a good amount of experience. In looking at the full breadth of all 3 lineups honestly the Ridgid probably hits the most. I don’t see myself ever needing much of the specialized trade tools that Mil/DeW offer. I do a lot of my own car work, so M12 tempts me but keeping the DeWalt doesn’t preclude me from picking up the M12 platform too. So that’s where I’m at. Which is to say I’m still a bit undecided…

I’d stick with the DeWalt. You might consider returning just the circular if HD will let you since the kit is no longer in stock, saying it has an issue with the shoe. In my distant past experience, they were able to give store credit for the lowest recent price of the tool only when I had to return a part of a combo they no longer had in stock. They would have just swapped it, but didn’t have any of the bare tool in stock either, so that might also be an option for you. The other option might be to contact DeWalt about the problem, and see what they want to do for you to make it right.

As mentioned and as you found, a lot of people prefer DeWalt as more comfortable than Milwaukee. And for the base tools, the deal you got is as good as or better than any Milwaukee deal that comes to recent memory. You’ll still get just about anything you want to expand to with DeWalt, particularly as the years go on. Like this year we saw DeWalt pick up a lot of electrical and plumbing, for example. Milwaukee will hopefully pick up the compressor, maybe a table saw, and some innovations/improvements on things dewalt is doing better (the OMT does come to mind for me too). The specialty pieces continue to blur.

Also as you mention, you aren’t precluded from expanding into M12 (or Makita’s 12V lineup) if you want, and won’t have too much overlap. For example, the M12 circular even for a DIYer is kind of a different ballpark from any 18V saw in my view. Your dewalt can cut bevels through 2x lumber the M12 can’t, whether for want of power or blade size. But the M12 is an amazingly portable saw for smaller or specific jobs, where the 6.5 or 7.25 is overkill. Particularly overhead or vertical cuts, anything in place where you have to lift the saw around and hold it, the lightness of the M12 is amazing comparatively. The M12 jigsaw, although not brushless or orbital, is a pretty powerful tool, and barrel grip instead of D handle. My strong point on Milwaukee was lighting, and M12 even has great options, with the spotlight, lantern, and rover flood. The M12 soldering iron is super awesome, just got that today and already was putting it to good use. The M12 little Bluetooth speaker is even pretty darn good for its size.

Bottom line I think you’ll be happy with the dewalt, particularly for the value, so don’t lose any sleep over debating on Milwaukee. Each line has things they do better, and they’ll change what those are from time to time, so a disadvantage in one is made up for a disadvantage elsewhere in the other. I’m a Milwaukee guy, and having used plenty of DeWalt tools as well over the years, if I was starting a fresh kit, I wouldn’t have hesitated on that dewalt deal. Great tools, great price.

Some extra $0.02 on getting into M12 since I was thinking about that now, if you already have an 18V drill and impact type base and don’t want to repeat it…
A deal commonly comes up for the Bluetooth speaker for $79 instead of $69, but including a charger and 2Ah battery. If you wanted a power-tool-battery-based Bluetooth speaker anyway, that gets you the basics of the system, theoretically from there you could add whatever bare tools you want. Right now, Home Depot has a deal where you buy the lantern or spotlight (or a few other tools, the lantern and spotlight are the best if you ask me) and get a free 3Ah XC battery. (I’ll also note you can’t get the 3Ah compact or 6Ah batts in kits right now, AFAIK. So the 3Ah XC batteries, although old and pretty cheap value wise now, are still better than the 2 Ah, or if you want the larger pack to stand the tool on). You could also get a second charger and 4Ah battery by going for the fuel hackzall or fuel circular saw kits, both of which also currently come with a free tool (the hackzall is the better value over bare tool by far, $139 bare $169 kit vs $149 bare and $229 kit for the circular). A lot of kits, particularly non-fuel tools, still come with the 1.5Ah batteries I believe, like the jigsaw, non-fuel Hackzall, right angle drill and impact, non-fuel ratchets, etc. Those tools make more sense to get bare, and use the extra money to buy nicer batteries if you so need. But for the DIYer, you don’t need a plethora of batteries, so the XC kits or one of the free deals make the most sense.

The free stapler finally showed up as a free tool combo with the fuel hackzall or fuel circular as well, I know some people have had their eye on that.

What I would get to expand on what you have, assuming you have pruning tasks or similar to justify a hackzall in addition to the XR recip:
M12 BT speaker, with 1 2Ah battery and charger - $79
M12 lantern with free 3Ah XC battery - $59
$138 gets you two batteries, a charger, and a light and a lantern. Not quite as good as the $99 drill + impact kits, but I’d argue more useful.
Add M12 Fuel Hackzall, includes 1 4Ah battery and charger, plus a free jig saw - $169
~310 and you have a 4 tool kit, hackzall, jig saw, speaker, and light, with three batteries and two chargers.
Goes to show how cheap it is to put in your most common tools, the drill and impact driver, vs. letting people get things other than those :).

If you want the circular, sub it for the hackzall, or add it on with a free rover light or stapler (great for crafts and not smart for Christmas lights, but people do it anyway). Watch out for deals like they’re having on the lantern and spotlight, those are already comparatively cheap, you’ll only get them as free to something else, getting something free with them is almost unheard of. Plus you’ll be in a good place to expand with bare tools, maybe pick up the newest 3Ah compact batteries separately.
Throw some of those in Acme too and a few let the 20 off $100 Milwaukee deal still work, so you can increase the value even more. But not all the free accompaniments are available there, so YMMV depending on what you’d choose. The promo code does work on the hackzall kit with the free rover light when I just tried (stapler and jig saw are not available at acme on the deal it seems), so I’d guess it would work on the other things as well. For some order padding for the speaker in a second order to get over $100, I might suggest the Milwaukee mega sawzall kit, which is down to $40 for 32 blades on Acme.
Anyway, I know you didn’t ask, but maybe some useful tidbits in there for other people that may be reading.

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I used to think that I would have to stick to a single brand. And I had a very strong loyalty to the Dewalt brand because I had purchased their old 18V drill over 10 years ago when they used to build to a much much higher standard.

But Dewalt’s quality is not what it used to be. :frowning:

What I ended up doing was investing in multiple brands.

There are some particular tools that are just waaaaay better with certain brands.
Ultimately, it was (for me) cheaper to buy into 3 brands rather than buy all the tools in one brand. I did take advantage of sales and bundle deals, free battery deals, etc.

Here’s what I have:

  1. Dewalt 20v drill (all the brands make good drills, this is just what I bought.)
  2. Dewalt 20v impact (all the brands make good impacts, this is just what I bought.)
  3. Dewalt 20v blower (all the brands make one, this is just what I bought.)
  4. Milwaukee 12v fuel driver (basically like an impact driver but without the impact mechanism. It takes 1/4 bits and has a clutch like a drill)
  5. Milwaukee 12v LED lantern/flood light (unique rotating LED setup, more versatile than dewalt’s version. )
  6. Roybi 18v tire inflator (nobody else makes one)
  7. Roybi 18v portable vacuum (waaaay cheaper than milwaukee and 1000% quieter than Dewalt’s)
  8. Milwaukee 12v fuel circular saw (Okay this one is more expensive than any Roybi saw and most Dewalt saws BUT it is extremely compact and cuts perfectly straight edges every time unlike Dewalt’s misaligned shoe)

On my wish list:
Milwaukee M12 soldering iron, the other companies do not make any.
Roybi cordless belt sander. Rigid is the only other company that makes one.
Milwaukee M12 jigsaw OR dewalt 20v jigsaw (whichever is on sale)

When my tools were 100% dewalt 18v, I had to keep about 6 Dewalt batteries around to have a battery inside every tool and have spares.
Now I have more than doubled the number of tools I use but only 9 batteries total (4 dewalt, 4 milwaukee, 1 roybi). The total cost is really not higher than my original Dewalt investment but I now have the best tools from each brand. Home Depot frequently has a deal for Milwaukee tools where they give you an extra battery for free.