The Best Utility Knives of 2022

Find the safe and sturdy utility knife that's right for your needs with our top tips and roundup of favorites.

By Michelle Ullman and Glenda Taylor | Updated Mar 7, 2022 12:31 PM

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The Best Utility Knife Options

Photo: Glenda Taylor

Though sometimes called a box cutter, the term “utility knife” is much more apt for this multipurpose hand tool. A good utility knife serves a wide range of cutting needs, from slicing through the tape on shipping cartons to scoring drywall, stripping wires, even harvesting a sprig of fresh herbs. Considering the importance of utility knives, we decided to find out if the most popular models lived up to the hype by putting them through their paces. We used them to cut a broad variety of materials and awarded points based on quality, durability, ease of use—and above all—safety.

Today’s utility knives are designed to suit a range of users—so it pays to choose the right one for your specific needs. Ahead, learn what to look for when shopping for the best utility knife, discover how the following knives fared in our hands-on tests, and find out the pros and cons of each model.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Gerber Gear EAB Lite Pocket Knife
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Pacific Handy Cutter S4R Safety Cutter Retractable
  3. BEST HEAVY-DUTY: FC Folding Pocket Utility Knife
  4. BEST FAST-ACCESS: Milwaukee FASTBACK Compact Folding Utility Knife
  5. BEST PURSE-CARRY: FANTASTICAR Folding Utility Knife Gift Box Cutter
  6. BEST KNUCKLE GUARD: Home Planet Box Cutter Retractable Utility Knife
  7. BEST BLADE STORAGE: WORKPRO Retractable Utility Knife
  8. BEST COMBO SET: REXBETI 2-Pack Utility Knife Heavy Duty
The Best Utility Knife Options

Photo: Glenda Taylor

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Utility Knife

Unlike the blade in pocket knives, utility knives feature interchangeable razor blades that provide sharp, precise cutting. However, razor-sharp blades are dangerous, so the best utility knives are designed to mitigate the risks.

Types of Blades

The blade is the most crucial aspect of a utility knife. It can be attached to the handle in one of three ways: fixed, retractable, or folding. While we’ll explain how fixed-blade utility knives function, we do not recommend them, nor did any fixed-blade models make the cut for our lineup of the best utility knives.

Fixed utility knives are sturdy but present a risk of injury.

When the blade is fixed in position, the user cannot slide it in or out of the handle or adjust it to a different angle. That means the blade is constantly exposed, increasing the chance of accidental injury if the user forgets to recap it after use. However, because the blade is firmly attached, without the potential weakness of a spring or other retraction mechanism, fixed utility knives tend to be very sturdy and robust, with less likelihood of blade “wiggle” during use.

Folding utility knives are handy and compact.

With folding utility knives, the blade cannot be retracted or extended to adjust its position, but the entire blade neatly folds back into the knife handle. This means the user can safely carry the knife in a pocket or tool pouch without worrying about accidental injuries when reaching for the knife.

Folding models are quickly earning a top spot among the best on the market today, and they’re offering advanced features, such as locking blades, optional string and wire cutters, and the ability to open the knife quickly with just a flick of the wrist. Some of today’s top tool manufacturers are getting into the game of producing folding utility knives.

Retractable utility knives sheath the blade in the handle when not in use.

Another popular option in the workshop or carpenter’s tool box, these knives have a button or slider the user manipulates with a thumb to expose and retract the blade. The most basic versions slide out and then lock into place, but others let you decide how much blade to expose.

Historically, retractable utility knives could be pretty wobbly, but quality has come a long way in the past decade. Now, top-end retractable utility knives have very little wiggle or side-to-side play. Some blade movement may still be present but usually not enough to affect the accuracy of the cuts.

Breakaway knives are handy but don’t qualify as utility knives.

Unlike the traditional single blades used in other utility knives, breakaway blades feature scored segments that can be snapped off as the blade’s tip dulls. This gives the user access to a sharper section of the blade. While some refer to these lightweight knives as utility knives, they don’t officially fall into that category. They won’t cut thick or rigid materials, and the pressure required to cut through carpet backing usually ends up breaking off the blades. Rather than lump these in with utility knives, we view these in the craft knife category.

Handle Options

To use a utility knife safely and effectively, it should have a handle that suits your tasks and working style.

  • Metal or fiberglass handles are the sturdiest. Cheapies from the dollar store are likely to have flimsy plastic handles best suited to light tasks, such as cutting the tape on wrapped gifts.
  • Handle shape makes a difference. Knives with fixed blades generally have fairly straight handles, while retractable knives often have ergonomically shaped handles for comfort during long work sessions. The safest knives come with a protrusion or indentation between the exposed blade and the handle to keep fingers from sliding forward onto the blade.
  • Blade storage adds convenience. A storage compartment in the handle for extra blades allows users to pop open the compartment to access a new one when a blade change is due. This space is also great for holding used blades to keep them safe.
  • A quick-change mechanism makes changing blades easy. Old-school utility knives require you to unscrew and separate the two halves of the handle to change the blade, and many fixed knives still need this. Today you’ll find utility knives, especially retractable and folding designs, with a quick-change button that makes swapping out an old blade for a new one as easy as pushing the release button, pulling out the worn blade, and sliding a new blade into place.
  • Specialty blades? No problem! Along with the standard utility razor, some handles accommodate specialty blades for cutting carpet or linoleum and scoring grooves in plastic or wood, as well as hooked blades and even rounded-tip blades for pressing through thick materials.

Additional Features

Several other design features elevate a really good utility knife above the rest of the pack. While cutting is the primary function of a utility knife, the following features can make the tool handier.

  • A hanging hole lets you carry the knife on a cord or hang it up for storage.
  • Cord/wire cutters are small slits on the knife case that quickly cut twine or string without opening the knife to access the blade.
  • An added safety shield provides a little more protection between the user’s hand and the blade.
  • A belt clip will keep the utility knife right at hand.

Our Top Picks

To qualify for a spot in this lineup, the following models had to live up to our high standards for being strong and resilient. They also had to be straightforward to use and reasonably safe. All utility knives come with some risk since they feature an exposed razor blade, but we tested every function on the following models, and they all proved to be safe when used as intended. They differ in style and form, but they are all among today’s top options for the best utility knife.

Best Overall

The Best Utility Knife Option: Gerber Gear EAB Lite Pocket Knife
Photo: amazon.com

As an all-around utility knife, it’s tough to beat the compactness, durability, and innovative design of the Gerber EAB Lite Pocket Knife. At first glance, we didn’t think much of this sleek-looking knife. It was smaller than others tested and looked more like a money clip than a utility knife. Well, it can double as a money clip, but that’s where the similarities end. The Gerber knife is made from smooth brushed stainless steel, and it features a fold-open blade—just grab the top of the blade section and fold it out.

The open blade locks firmly in place, and there’s no side-to-side play in the knife. We used it to cut through cardboard, tape, plastic zip ties, plastic blister packs, and cords. It sliced right through with ease. It has an all-steel grip that fits nicely in hand, and Gerber has provided an additional blade guard in front of the handle, an asset to a user with larger hands. The solid quality makes this utility knife akin to that of a high-end pocket knife.

This Gerber model weighs in at a mere 2.5 ounces and is 5.1 inches long when extended. In its folded state, it’s just 2.8 inches long. A flat-head screwdriver is necessary for changing the blade.

Product Specs

  • Type: Folding
  • Added features: Clip (for belt, pocket, or to hold bills)
  • Blade storage: No

Pros

  • Great-looking
  • Smooth stainless steel construction
  • Durable and functional

Cons

  • No onboard blade storage
  • Blade change requires a flat-head screwdriver
  • Slightly small—not for industrial work

Get the Gerber Gear EAB Lite Pocket Knife on Amazon, at The Home Depot, or at Walmart.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Utility Knife Option: Pacific Handy Cutter S4R Safety Cutter Retractable
Photo: amazon.com

Enjoy the cutting power of a utility knife without spending a lot of cash. The Pacific Handy Cutter Utility Knife doesn’t have many bells and whistles, but it’s functional and safe. It features a durable molded-plastic handle and an adjustable, retractable blade that’s controlled by a side slide.

We couldn’t see the benefit of the metal thumb shield near the point of the blade—until we tried it. This feature allowed us to choke up on the knife, holding it closer to the blade without the risk of cutting a thumb. The shield isn’t necessary for all cutting tasks, but when we tried cutting along a straight line, it came in handy by allowing us to slide our hand forward, which increased precision control. The knife cut easily through all our test materials.

The Pacific Handy Cutter weighs just 1.76 ounces and measures 5.75 inches long. It features onboard blade storage: Just slip a fingernail in the slot along the back edge and pull upward to reveal the extra blade space. The only downside we noticed was when we retracted the blade, we had to be careful to retract it all the way—otherwise, it stopped in a spot where the tip of the blade still stuck out enough to cut a finger if the user failed to pay close attention. By pressing a button on the bottom of the knife, we could access and change blades.

Product Specs

  • Type: Retractable
  • Added features: Thumb shield, onboard blade storage
  • Blade storage: Yes

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Durable molded plastic
  • Safety thumb shield
  • Easy blade change

Cons

  • Retractable slide stops before blade is completely retracted

Get the Pacific Handy Cutter S4R Safety Cutter on Amazon or at Walmart.

Best Heavy-Duty

The Best Utility Knife Option: FC Folding Pocket Utility Knife
Photo: amazon.com

One of the nicest-looking knives we tested, the FC Folding Pocket Utility Knife impresses right out of the package. It features an eye-catching red aluminum body with a stainless steel blade. When folded, the blade locks in place and cannot be opened without pressing a safety button near the hinge of the knife. When we folded the blade out, it also locked into place, and when we applied pressure to the back of the blade, the lock held firmly.

This FC model is substantial, weighing in at a hefty 4.8 ounces and measuring 4.5 inches long when the blade is extended, and it had no issues cutting through any of the test materials. It features a solid stainless steel clip that can be attached to a belt or pocket if desired. It also comes with a canvas carry pouch with a belt loop on the back side.

The FC knife features quick-blade-change capability. When we pressed the blade-release button located near the tip of the blade, the old blade slid right out. Inserting a new blade was just as easy. The only downside to this FC knife is that it doesn’t have onboard blade storage.

Product Specs

  • Type: Folding
  • Added features: Secure blade lock, quick blade change, carry pouch, clip
  • Blade storage: No

Pros

  • High-quality construction
  • Blade locks when closed and opened
  • Carry pouch
  • Sleek and attractive

Cons

  • No onboard blade storage

Get the FC Folding Pocket Utility Knife on Amazon, at Walmart, or at Kmart.

Best Fast-Access

The Best Utility Knife Option: Milwaukee FASTBACK Compact Folding Utility Knife
Photo: homedepot.com

Those in the market for a high-quality utility knife that’s easy to open with just one hand need look no further than Milwaukee’s FASTBACK Compact Folding Utility Knife. We were impressed by the ease of use: Simply pressing the lock-release button and giving the knife a quick flick with the wrist snaps the blade out and locks it into a fully open position. The blade can also be opened slowly and safely by hand if desired.

Once open, the Milwaukee utility knife is a formidable tool—it measures 6.15 inches long and weighs in at 4 ounces—and we weren’t surprised by how well it held up to all our testing materials. The underside of the knife is ergonomically designed for fingers to grip, and we found it very comfortable. It comes with a strong wire clip for carrying convenience on a belt or pocket.
At first, we missed the onboard blade storage; then we spotted a slim black strip on the underside of the open knife. Pulling downward, a nifty blade storage compartment was revealed! The knife also features quick blade changing via a blade-release button near the tip of the blade, making it simple to slide the old blade out and a new one in.

Milwaukee included a cord/wire cutter as an additional perk. When the blade is folded safely away, a small bit of the blade is available in a groove on the back side of the knife. We pulled a thin cord through the groove and it cut with ease. This is beneficial for cutting small cords or wires without opening the knife.

Product Specs

  • Type: Folding
  • Added features: blade storage, cord cutter, clip for belt or pocket
  • Blade storage: Yes

Pros

  • Fast flip-open access
  • Blade locks securely when closed and open
  • Cuts cords without opening knife
  • High-quality construction

Cons

  • Very slight side-to-side play in the blade when open

Get the Milwaukee FASTBACK Compact Folding Utility Knife at The Home Depot, on Amazon, or at Walmart.

Best Purse-Carry

The Best Utility Knife Option: FANTASTICAR Folding Utility Knife Gift Box Cutter
Photo: amazon.com

Who said a utility knife has to be boring? The pink polished body of the FANTASTICAR Folding Utility Knife looked too pretty to test, but it performed impressively well, cutting through all our test materials. Unlike other knives that all came in plastic blister packs, the FANTASTICAR knife arrived in an attractive box suitable for gift-giving.

The well-designed FANTASTICAR knife features a blade that locks in place, both when extended and shut, and users must depress the lock-release button to open and close the blade. This model features quick blade change via a button release near the blade’s tip.

The only notable downside is a lack of onboard blade storage. It weighs in at 4 ounces and though just over 6.5 inches when open, it’s only 4 inches long when closed, making it compact enough for tucking into a purse, backpack, or glove compartment. And if pink isn’t a favorite color, the FANTASTICAR knife is available in a spectrum of other shades.

Product Specs

  • Type: Folding
  • Added features: Securely locks in both open and closed positions, quick blade change
  • Blade storage: No

Pros

  • Sleek and attractive
  • High-quality construction
  • Quick blade change

Cons

  • No onboard blade storage

Get the FANTASTICAR Folding Utility Knife on Amazon, at Sears, or at Walmart.

Best Knuckle Guard

The Best Utility Knife Option: Home Planet Box Cutter Retractable Utility Knife
Photo: amazon.com

Anyone who’s cut carpet from the back side knows what happens if the knife slips—it can result in knuckles rubbing against the rough backing, leading to irritating scrapes. When we picked up the Home Planet Box Cutter, we knew exactly what the smooth, round guard was designed to do—protect knuckles. And it does that very well.

This retractable utility knife features an ergonomic, nonslip grip for comfort, and we found it comfortable to grasp the knife firmly. The Home Planet Box Cutter is weightier than the other utility knives we tested, coming in at nearly half a pound. However, its design alleviates pressure on the fingers, transferring it to the whole hand, so we didn’t feel hand fatigue after cutting with it for a while. It’s also longer than some, measuring 7 inches with the blade extended.

A slight downside—and it’s debatable—is that it may be more difficult to make precision cuts with a fist-grip like the one on this knife. It’s straightforward to change blades via a blade-release button. Another button opens the underside of the case to reveal onboard blade storage.

Product Specs

  • Type: Retractable
  • Added features: Knuckle guard, ergonomic fist grip
  • Blade storage: Yes

Pros

  • Easy to grasp
  • Knuckle guard prevents scraped knuckles
  • Easy blade change and blade storage

Cons

  • Slightly less precision
  • Some may find it bulky

Get the Home Planet Box Cutter Retractable Utility Knife on Amazon.

Best Blade Storage

The Best Utility Knife Option: WORKPRO Retractable Utility Knife
Photo: amazon.com

Retrieving stored blades can be tricky with some utility knives if the compartment is challenging to open. That’s not an issue with the Workpro Quick-Open Utility Knife. A slight ridge just below the top of the Workpro is easy to locate by feel, and a firm pull reveals the knife’s onboard blade storage. It definitely has the easiest-to-access blade storage of all the knives we tested. Blade-change is simple by pressing the blade release lock near the tip of the knife—sliding the old blade out and the new one in.

This retractable knife features a push-out lever on the top of the handle that’s convenient for extending the blade or pulling it back in. It features an added wire/cord cutter near the tip that can be used whether the blade is extended or retracted. The Workpro is a heavy-duty knife, measuring 6.7 inches and weighing in at a hefty 10.6 ounces—it had no problem cutting through our test materials. It comes with a nonslip grip, but we detected slight side-to-side play in the blade when cutting through thick materials, such as dense packing foam.

Product Specs

  • Type: Retractable
  • Added features: Wire/cord cutter, rubberized nonslip grip
  • Blade storage: Yes—and very easy-to-access

Pros

  • Easy-access blade storage
  • Extra wire/cord cutter
  • Ergonomic grip

Cons

  • Slight side-to-side play in the blade
  • On the heavy side

Get the Workpro Retractable Utility Knife on Amazon or at Walmart.

Best Combo Set

The Best Utility Knife Option: REXBETI 2-Pack Utility Knife Heavy Duty
Photo: amazon.com

For ultimate versatility, the REXBETI 2-Pack Utility Knife set includes both a folding and a retractable knife. When the folding model is fully extended, it’s identical in configuration and size to the retractable model. That’s a good thing because the retractable REXBETI is ergonomically designed and easy to grasp.

Both knives measure 7 inches long with blades extended, and both weigh in at just over 10.5 ounces. The most notable difference is that the retractable knife features a rubberized grip, and the folding knife comes with a smooth, molded plastic finish. During testing, we noticed a small amount of side-to-side play in the retractable knife that wasn’t present in the folding model.

Both knives include a cord/wire cutter. On the retractable knife, this feature is accessible when the blade is not extended. On the folded model, the cord cutter is only available when the blade is folded out, which kind of defeats the purpose since the main blade is right next to it.

Both knives have onboard blade storage located along the top of the handle, but the cover on the retractable knife’s storage compartment didn’t close tightly, which allowed the extra blades to fall out. Probably just a fluke on the model we tested since the cover on the folding knife stayed closed. The blades on both knives lock in both open and closed positions.

All in all, this is a nice set of utility knives—the retractable one is well suited to a toolbox, while the folding model (our favorite of the two) can be carried in a pocket or glove compartment.

Product Specs

  • Type: Folding and retractable
  • Added features: Cord/wire cutters
  • Blade storage: Yes—for both

Pros

  • Durable molded plastic
  • Cord/wire cutters
  • Onboard blade storage

Cons

  • Blade storage cover on retractable model was loose

Get the REXBETI 2-Pack Utility Knife set on Amazon.

Our Verdict

Any of the utility knives in the above lineup would suit a range of everyday cutting needs, including scoring drywall, cutting carpeting and cardboard, and more. Our Best Overall pick, the Gerber Gear EAB Lite knife, corners the market on both quality and presentation—it’s functional yet sleek and attractive. When shopping for a budget-friendly utility knife, the Pacific Handy Cutter is a top option. It provides a durable case and comes with a protective thumb shield for precision cutting.

How We Tested the Best Utility Knives

Utility knives are straightforward tools that don’t feature a lot of extras, so we focused on determining how solid, safe, and durable the tool was—and whether it was easy to use and comfortable in hand.

Right off the bat, we excluded fixed utility knives, which are more dangerous because the blade is constantly exposed; they also require disassembling to change the blade. We also excluded retractable snap-off craft-type knives because, while they have their place, they don’t hold up to the rigorous cutting standards of a utility knife.

We valued well-known brand names (manufacturers such as Milwaukee have a national reputation for making quality tools) but didn’t exclude new brands and niche manufacturers if their products proved worthy.

We inspected each tool to determine the quality of the materials and design—and then we put them to the cutting test. Each knife was tested for its ability to score drywall and then cut through dense foam, cardboard, vinyl, and the back of carpeting. Each of the knives in the above lineup passed those tests with flying colors.

The next part of our testing focused on the overall safety of the tool, how comfortable it was to hold, and how easy it was to change blades. We awarded points for onboard blade storage, but we didn’t exclude models that didn’t store blades if the rest of the knife performed well in our cutting and safety tests.

FAQs

Utility knives serve various cutting needs, from opening shipping cartons and cutting away plastic zip ties to scoring drywall to make precise breaks. Today’s models are sturdy and safe, and some offer added onboard blade storage and cord/wire cutters. Still, those looking to invest in a utility knife likely have a few questions.

Q. What is the difference between an EDC knife and a utility knife?

An everyday carry (EDC) knife features an attached knife blade and may have added functions, such as a bottle opener or a corkscrew. A utility knife uses changeable razor blades and is designed more for work than leisure.

Q. What is the difference between a box cutter and a utility knife?

The terms are used interchangeably, although some refer only to old-style (fixed-blade) utility knives as box cutters.

Q. What is the best length for a utility knife blade?

Utility knives accept standard utility razor blades that measure 2.4 inches across and 0.75 inches high. Only the outer ¼ inch of the blade protrudes from the utility knife casing when in use. The rest of the blade is secured in the knife case for stability.