Cordless Tool Kits
How to go cordless for less
Do the math on cordless combo kits—you can get a drill, circular saw, recip saw, and handy flashlight for a little more than half of what you'd pay if you bought each separately. Plus, kits eliminate redundancy—they share the same bag, batteries, and charger—and allow you to upgrade to the latest technology in one fell swoop. Some high-tech chargers even work with older batteries, so you can expand your existing collection without sacrificing compatibility.
Ryobi's "Renovator" package gives a homeowner a fine power tool
starter set. You get a reciprocating saw, a circular saw, a flashlight, a
detail sander, a jigsaw, a drill/driver, and a hand vacuum colorfully called
the "Tuff Sucker." In addition, you buy into Ryobi's "One+" system—a
25-member family of 18-volt cordless tools that can all operate on the same
batteries and charger. about $230, ryobitools.com.
by Harry Sawyers
This combo kit is worth the cost just to get one of Skil's reliable
full-size 7-1/4-inch circular saws—but the company's thrown in a
reciprocating saw, drill/driver and a stud finder just in case you weren't
convinced. The drill is well-balanced and comfortable to use, thanks in part
to an unusual two-finger trigger. about $190, skiltools.com.
This 19.2-volt combo kit is designed with loyal Porter-Cable
customers in mind—its one-hour battery charger works with the company's
earlier generation 9.6, 12, and 14.4-volt NiCad cells. The kit includes a
hammer drill/driver, reciprocating saw, flashlight, and a circular saw. The
circular saw has a nice dust collection port, which either hooks directly to
a shop vac or blows up and away from the work piece via a tailpipe-style
attachment. about $500, portercable.com.
We prefer hard plastic cases over canvas bags for combo kits,
because they keep the tools organized and jostle-free—something you come to
appreciate when you've invested in Metabo's new 18-volt lithium-ion kit.
Featuring a drill/driver, reciprocating saw, circular saw, and flashlight,
Metabo's lineup pairs adequate performance with a clean, ergonomic design.
about $700, metabousa.com.
While most companies' combo kits offer between three and six
tools, Craftsman blows them out of the workshop with an 11-piece 19.2-volt
set. It includes an impact driver, a detail sander, a flashlight, a
fluorescent lamp, a right-angle driver, a drill/driver, a recip saw, a jig
saw, a 5-1/2-inch circular saw, a rotary cutting tool, three batteries, and
a hand vacuum (not pictured). Everything stores in a cooler-sized wheeled
cart and the bulk-buying discount translates to less than $50 per tool.
about $499, sears.com.
Contractors build their businesses around tools such as these, but
that doesn't mean you shouldn't use them to make short work of your next
weekend project. New lithium-ion batteries supply a generous 24 volts to
this reciprocating saw, circular saw, hammer drill/driver and flashlight.
The battery looks a bit bulky, but it balances the circular saw and drill
perfectly—and it also has a gauge to show you how much juice it's got left
(usually plenty). about $600, ridgid.com.
Combo kits offer customers a handful of the most popular cordless
tools on the market, but if you're shopping for something different, the
standard lineup can get redundant. Makita's kit, however, is the only one
we've found to offer an angle grinder, in addition to an impact driver,
circular saw, drill/driver, reciprocating saw, and the ubiquitous
flashlight. It's plenty of power for a homeowner from a manufacturer known
for rugged industrial tools. about $650, makita.com.
Hitachi's three-piece combination kit is powered by 18-volt lithium ion batteries, which have two to three times the life span and half the weight of older nickel cadmium (NiCd) packs. They're also compatible with Hitachi's entire seven-tool (and expanding) Li-Ion family and six of its newer 18-volt NiCd tools. A 4.9-pound drill with a hammer setting for drilling in masonry and a whopping 570 inch-pounds of torque, for muscling big bits and boring deep holes. The recip saw has a tool-free blade change and runs quieter than the competition, and the light operates either as a fluorescent lantern or LED beam. about $400; hitachipowertools.com.
Lithium ion batteries get all the buzz, but manufacturers are still producing perfectly capable nickel cadmium tools, like this 18-volt array from Bosch. In this kit, you get five tools and a flashlight for under $600. It's a steal compared with the $1,200 you'd spend if you bought each tool individually. The kit includes a 6.7-pound drill with an optional hammer setting and 550 inch-pounds of torque; a jigsaw with tool-free blade release to quickly change out hot or broken blades; a recip saw with a blade-stroke length that adjusts from a controlled 3/4 inch to an aggressive 11/4 inches; a circular saw that has a 6 1/2-inch blade and weighs 8.6 pounds; and a planer with cloth chip bag. about $550. boschtools.com.
These three sluggers from DeWalt pack a punch on par with their corded cousins, thanks to a 36-volt lithium ion battery that goes twice as long between charges as an 18-volt NiCd. More volts means the drill makes holes 22 percent faster than an 8-amp plug-in, and also weighs 28 percent more. The kit includes a flashlight with a flexible neck and bright xenon bulb; a hard case to keep tools safe from jostling; a drill/driver with three speeds, 22 chuck settings, and hammer action; a recip saw with 4-position keyless blade clamp; a 10-pound circular saw that spins a full-size 7 1/4-inch blade, instead of the 6 1/2-inchers found on most cordless saws. about $800; dewalt.com
A battery that gets too hot, whether from baking in the sun or simply from heavy use, is a short-lived battery. Charging also generates heat, which is why the state-of-the-art "smart" chargers in these kits have temperature-sensing circuitry and fans to cool things down, as well as computer chips programmed to precisely meter the recharge rate.
Bosch's two-bay charger will bring both new 18-volt and older 9.6-volt battery packs back from the dead in just half an hour.
Like a mother hen, DeWalt's charger keeps constant track of a battery's status; you can see just how much energy is in the cells and how far it is from full recovery.
Hitachi's lithium ion charger monitors each cell in the pack individually so none are ever overcharged. It can also juice some of Hitachi's newer NiCd batteries.