Makita subcompact line for homeowner/light wood projects/community garden?


Based on research for my needs - and desire for lightweight, size - I have been leaning toward getting into the Makita subcompact 18V line. It seems like ergonomics and size/weight are widely praised along with its power. In addition to drill, I’ll need a saw. I have an old chicken coop I made a few years ago that needs replacing, so I’ll be cutting through 2x4s and some plywood.

I’m no pro - just like to play around and make things that look “ok”, but are sturdy.I also must say that while I have never been trained, I think I am actually pretty good with my hands, measuring, etc. Is a reciprocating, jig- or circular saw the best for my use? I had used a circular saw last time but am open to suggestions.

I want cordless. I know from reading that corded circ saws are easy to find, etc, but I’m interesting in investing in a kit in stuff I will use anywhere, in the backyard, in my community garden where there’s no power (and I have no car, so I’ll bike 5-10 miles with tools), etc.

Thanks for any advice or help - especially with a kit or set that may be the best introductory price. I had thought about the CX300RB set, but it has a recip saw which I’ve never used and don’t know how useful for the kinds of things that I do. Cheers all.


First as to brand - while their are fans and/or fanatics for many tool brands - it is hard to go too far astray with any of the big 3 (Dewalt. Makita, Milwaukee.)
For building projects like a chicken coop - you will probably have more flexibility with a 18V cordless platform - gaining some performance/strength compared to the more compact 12V tools.
I would think a cordless drill and circular saw would be your starting point - but the saw might not run adequately on a compact battery. Adding an impact driver would add efficiency for driving screws. Adding a reciprocating saw would be useful for demolition work - and with the right blade you might find it handy for tree pruning.

Home Depot has a drill driver kit from Makita that might be worth a look:

A low-end Makita cordless saw will add another $120

HD has two Milwaukee kits for $399 - but with a lesser (OK) battery and a few tools (grinder and flashlight) you may not want or need

HD has some Dewalt kits too that might be appealing:

One for $249 that seems like it might meet all your needs - but has 2 x 2Ah batteries:

or one for $299 that adds a recip saw and gives you 1 2Ah and 1 4Ah battery

Usually these HD special buys do not include the latest and greatest models from the manufacturers and sometimes they come with lower capacity batteries


Keep an eye on eBay. They have been offering coupon codes, typically only available for the day which can be applied towards brands normally excluded from promotions like makita.

Makita is a good choice, but I agree with Fred, it sounds like a 6.5” brushless circular saw with 5ah batteries should be on the list. So either get a drill and impact driver kit with those batteries and add a tool only saw (probably the cheapest option), or get the subcompact kit and get a circular saw kit that has the larger batteries as well.

The jigsaw would not be on my list of first tools unless you had a specific need to cut curves.


I probably should have mentioned that their are cordless power tool brands that are positioned to sometimes sell at prices below what Dewalt, Makita and Milwaukee kits will cost.
Home Depot sells Ryobi - marketed for DIY work and Ridgid marketed for DIY and trades sometimes at a lower price point. Both product lines come from TTI that also makes Milwaukee tools
If I recall correctly, some of the cheap Ryobi kits come with rather low capacity (1.3Ah) batteries and older chargers.
Lowes sells Porter-Cable and their house brand Kobalt - sometimes priced below Dewalt
Some of the Porter Cable kits come with a small (5.5 inch dia.) circular saw - better suited for plywood cutting than for use on 2x4’s

I did not mention some other well-regarded brands like Bosch, Fein, Hitachi, and Metabo - because my take is that their cordless combination kits come in fewer options at higher price points. I also did not mention - nor can I recommend - cordless tools from Harbor Freight. Their Chicago (made in China) Electric brand has a very spotty reputation. They’ve introduced some new brands like Hercules and Bauer that they are trying to position as higher-end tools - but time will tell


You mention that you will want to transport these via bike. I have the Makita subcompact drill and driver in that set you mention and use it with smaller batteries with excellent runtime. I have more powerful drills/drivers, but this is my go-to set for most things. The smaller batteries will be lighter. Go to Home depot and look at them in person. They are surprisingly powerful for the small size. The drill and driver are some of my favorite tools.

From what you’re describing, a recip saw doesn’t seem too useful since it doesn’t have the accuracy to be able to build things, but Fred is right about using it to cut small tree branches, which I do on my Ryobi recip with a pruning blade, and it’s very handy. For a circular saw, I’d recommend a brushless one as well, but should opt for a larger battery. They use much more power than the drills. I have an older version of a brushed small Makita saw from a kit and it does eat batteries. The small ones go very quickly. For cutting through 2x4’s you want to look at depth of cut with any cordless circular saw.

On the other hand, a jigsaw can be more accurate and lighter to carry on a bike. Also, you can get a longer blade to cut a 2x4" I’m not familiar with any Makita cordless jigsaw, not sure how it would be with battery life. If you want a straight cut with a jigsaw you can use an edge guide, though the Circular saw with an edge guide will have better results.

In any case, I’d go for brushless, since you get more runtime/power per charge, which makes it better for working where there’s no power.


Thanks all for the really helpful advice! Indeed I recognize that there is a spectrum between power and weight, and I want something right at the “sweet spot” for somebody who isn’t building houses but can ALSO do some work in a pinch. And yep, the transport-ability is key.

Looks a circular saw is in order. So, if I get the basic Makita subcompact drill (would it be better, you reckon, to get a driver/drill or impact driver as my “primary” drill?) and then the circular saw ( would that be a good starter to build on later? As I understand the Makit subcompact uses the same 18V that the larger tools use. Thanks again fellows (and ladies?) for any help.


While an impact driver can drill holes - using hex shank drill bits - it is not my favorite tool for doing so. A cordless drill can also be used to drive screws - but not as efficiently as an impact driver. So it comes down to which task you think that you will do more.

You could buy this drill kit for $143:

or this driver kit for $159

Both are newer brushless models and come with a 3Ah battery - which might be a bit wimpy for a circular saw - but might do for a brushless model:

Together this will cost you about as much as some of those $349 bundles that provide extra tools


Drills and impact drivers are typically packaged in bundles with a charger and batteries. It may only cost you a few bucks more to get the kit. A drill is the more multipurpose tool, however the impact driver is better when driving screws through wood. It generates more force via a series of impacts or hard hits and it produces far fewer reactionary forces on your wrist as it does this. Even these sub compact drills can generate some wrist twisting forces when a screw bottoms out.

Just to confuse the issue, price out the 12v Milwaukee line. They just released their second gen brushless drills and drivers (models beginning with 25XX). Their first generation models (24XX) have been steeply discounted. Look for a kit that has a 4ah or 6ah battery. Add a fuel 2530 5 3/8” saw to the mix. It’s very portable and it’s primary design intent was cutting 2x4’s and 3/4” sheet goods. With a 4ah or 6ah battery it should do well, of course all the 12v tools can interchange batteries. This set up gets you drills that are about the same size as the Makita subcompact, a smaller saw and smaller batteries, but it should serve your needs well.


I agree with RKA about the kits. For the month of July, CPO has a free 2Ah battery with the $229 subcompact drill and driver kit and some other kits as well.

Using a driver for drilling doesn’t work well, if at all. But you can always use a drill/driver for both. It will have different settings for the different uses. Love the dedicated driver for lots of things, but never use it for driving screws in furniture making, too risky with hardwood and delicate pieces that may have hours of work in them. For this, I use a Black and Decker gyro driver (electric screwdriver), which can be controlled better than even a drill. No longer made.


+1 for what RKA and Ktash said.
Thinking about your question the thing that makes the recommendation difficult IMO - is the need for a circular saw - for both 2x4’s and plywood. For that tool I think you would be happier with a brushless motor model - with at least a 6-1/2 inch blade and a beefier battery (4Ah or more). Generally with a saw - you are resting the tool on the work piece so the added weight is not as big an issue as it might be with a drill
If you were only buying one other tool then a drill is the best choice - but there is great appeal of the combo drill and impact driver sets that may not cost you much more. Your ergonomics and weight issues - do suggest a 12V or compact 18V (with 1.5 or 2Ah battery) - but a circular saw coupled to those batteries would be limiting as you might not get through very many cuts before needing to recharge or swap out your battery.
I think that the best compromise might be to buy a compact 18V drill and impact driver set - and a brushless circular saw with an extra larger battery. That way you stay with only one battery platform and a single charger - but match the batteries that you have to the tools,


Yikes, I looked at the Makita cordless jigsaw and it’s way too expensive, so I’d go with a brushless circular saw and a larger battery. One thing to do is to wait for a sale/special like a %off coupon. Not sure if any are coming up, but it’s worth a try if you need to stretch your budget.

I just took a look at the Milwaukee 12v system at Home Depot. I don’t own Milwaukee 12v (or 18v) tools, so I’ll leave comments up to those who do. Maybe there will be some great bargains in their clearance section soon if they are discontinuing a line.


I did a little shopping and found the following:
Milwaukee Fuel 12v impact driver and drill kit (current generation), with 2.0ah, 4ah, and bonus 6ah batteries on sale for $199 less 10% using the sitewide coupon until 7/4 at

And a 2530-20 Fuel 12v 5 3/8” saw on eBay from CPO tools for $149 less 20% using the code partyinusa until 7/3.

So net $300 shipped, 3 tools, one compact battery, two extended capacity batteries and the charger.


OK the M12 line is quite nice. Its what I grab most often for drilling. But the M12 5-3/8 saw blade can only cut a 2x4 or 2x8 at 90 degrees. Sometimes a project (like building a raised garden bed) would be dressed up with a miter cut - 45 degrees to the face of the stock. For that task you need to go to a 6-1/2 inch diameter saw.


Interesting stuff. Yes I believe I need a circ saw that can go 6.5 or more. I will keep poking aroud here, thanks!


I’ve hesitated to mention this, but I have a Kobalt cordless, brushless circular saw. It’s Lowe’s house brand. I got it for $79, but it’s now $99, oops, just went up to $129, but is often $99, bare tool. The thing is, it has an excellent depth of cut, deeper than typical 6.5" saws, according to Kobalt, comparable to a 7 1/4" saw depth. The 24v batteries and charger are very low cost. The thing is, they don’t have compact drills. For Father’s day, they had this kit for $150, but $179 is still a reduced price, perhaps for the 4th of July?

Kobalt tools are in the same class as Ryobi, but I don’t think Ryobi has any good circular saws like this one, at least not the last time I checked. Kobalt has nowhere near the selection of 18v tools that Ryobi does. Kobalt batteries are the most affordable found anywhere and they have good ratings on the Lowe’s site, as does the saw. I don’t use it all the time, like my drills, but when I do, I like it.

In any case, I thought I’d put it out there.


Thanks ktash - very good for to consider everything. I confess I might be blinded by the “sexiness” of the subcompact line (and the Makita name) so maybe it has not made me consider alternatives.


Makita is my main 18v line of high quality tools and IMO can’t be beat because of the variety they offer. If a person is thinking of adding on over time, I think it’s the best of the top brands. Of course, Milwaukee, Dewalt, etc. have their advocates. But I tend to mix and match, which most people don’t do. They’re right, it adds to the clutter and confusion of having to charge different brands.

But I have three different places I work regularly, one in the country, where there’s more outdoor work, so I have these things spread around for best uses. Making trips back and forth for tools wastes time and gas, also could take much of the day, so a $79 brushless saw that cuts 7 1/4" makes economic sense. My Makitas live in my main shop with a few other specialized 18v tools and don’t go outside or to the other two places. Ryobi, the Kobalt saw, and 12v Bosch drills do. I’m a DIYer and woodworker, but if I had my tools in a van for a business, I’d likely pick one battery platform and stay with that.

Also, I’ve accumulated things based on ergonomics/price/sales, including battery cost, battery cost is why I like Kobalt and Ryobi.

It sounds like you have given careful thought to how you’ll use the tools and your interests, like gardening/biking. So for you, size/weight is a factor as well as battery life. If you decide to mix and match brands that might or might not work well for you. For instance if you found a great price on a 12v drill and driver kit (like Milwaukee or Bosch) and got a larger circ. saw that was 18 or 24 max volts at a great price, that might be workable, assuming you aren’t planning on carrying chargers on your bike, but just transporting only charged batteries. It’s complicated, no?


ktash makes some good observations

I too have 3 domiciles - with somewhat different needs. One’s a Condo on the beach in Florida, one’s in a somewhat rural area and the main residence with my shop is more suburban. Like you, I’ve spread my current selection of cordless tools (Makita 18V LXT, Milwaukee M12 and M18) out according to what I’m likely to need where. My wife also uses some Ryobi 18V tools like a glue gun.

When it was corded tools only - we would not be having this discussion - unless maybe you wondered what could do for your house in the US and winter place in the South of France - but then you might not be into using tools.

Beyond the clutter of having multiple battery platforms - there is the cost of the batteries and their life expectancy to consider. It looks like the current crop of LiIon batteries should last for a while - hopefully better than the old NiCad and NiMH batteries - but they may need replacement or upgrade before your ready to scrap your tools. I had an interest in several entities where we had need for cordless power tools. In one of these business we bought a few hundred Makita BL1830 batteries - some of the early ones failed prematurely.
Having adequate spares in the workout center helped us get beyond that. We took this approach - because there were cost savings associated with bulk buying - even considering the carrying costs of the inventory. But as a DIYer - its probably better to have only one or two spares - so you can have a battery in use, one on charge - and perhaps one fully charged spare. That still probably suggests sticking with a single battery platform unless cost is no object - and you already have that winter place in Antibes


Hi all - your thoughts - I have an opportunity to buy a driver-drill kit of the compact - not the sub-compact - for $75. is the link. Would this be a good starter deal to then build on? Thanks!


That seems like an excellent deal! It’s brushless. The battery alone would cost more than that, and it’s a 3ah battery, not the smallest one. I like the 3ah battery since it’s not too wimpy, but also not the heaviest. The compact is still pretty small, so I’d go for it if I were you. It will have more torque than the subcompact, and sometimes that comes in handy. It definitely seems like a good starter kit, perhaps better than starting with the subcompact due to the drill having more torque. You can use it a while and then decide what else you need. For example, if you decide to use pocket holes, this would be a better drill/driver.

Also, the reason I like all of the Makita drills is the ergonomics work best for me. Only Hitachi is better ergonomics, though not as good a brand in other ways. This counts for a lot when you are drilling a hundred or so holes, not uncommon.

You can always get the subcompact later if you feel you need it. Having more than one drill is not overkill, for example, many of my projects require using a countersink, or two different diameter drill bits for multiple holes. Or one to drill and one to drive, using the second drill as a driver for more delicate work where a driver might do damage, etc. A dedicated driver has lots of advantages, but doesn’t have the versatility of a second drill/driver.