Cheap tools are often the ones consumers overlook in favor of the sought-after high-end brands DIYers and pros alike have come to know and love. While there’s nothing wrong with splurging on these premium tools, unless you’re a pro in the construction field it often doesn’t make good financial sense to do so. These tools are designed (and priced) to endure the rigors and high demands of daily use at a pro construction site.
For the rest of us, there’s a whole untapped trove of quality hand and power tools that will meet our project needs without burning a hole through our bank accounts. While these tools may not hail from the most revered brands in the tool market, they come from names we know and can trust. Ahead, we’ll review what factors are vital to consider when shopping for budget-priced tools while reviewing some of the best power tools and best hand tools for the money.
- BEST OVERALL: SKIL 15-Amp 7-1/4-in Corded Circular Saw
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: HART 20-Volt Cordless Drill and Impact Driver
- BEST SAW: Ryobi 10 in. Compound Miter Saw
- BEST JIGSAW: BLACK+DECKER Jig Saw
- BEST CORDLESS DRILL: BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Cordless Drill
- BEST HAMMER: Kobalt 16-oz Smooth Fiberglass Claw Hammer
- BEST SCREWDRIVER: CRAFTSMAN Screwdriver Set
- BEST SOCKET SET: EPAuto 40 Pieces Socket Set
- BEST MEASURING TAPE: Stanley 30 ft. PowerLock Tape Measure
- BEST POWER TOOL SET: Ryobi ONE+ 18V Cordless 12-Tool Combo Kit
There are bargain-priced hand tools as well as power tools. Both of these types also come in sets of multiple tools. Ahead, learn more about the different types of tools.
There are dozens if not hundreds of different types of power tools. Among those are a dozen or so that every DIYer should have at his or her disposal. No home workshop is complete without a cordless drill, circular saw, and jigsaw. Beyond that, there are a few nice-to-haves, with impact drivers and miter saws topping that list.
Since power tools require a power source, one of the most important factors to consider is the motor size, if the power tool is corded, or battery size if the power tool uses a battery. A corded power tool is rated in amps, while cordless power tools are rated in volts. While amps range from 5 to 16 for corded power tools (depending on the type of tool), the best cordless models run off of 18-volt or 20-volt batteries.
The most common hand tools include screwdrivers, hammers, pliers, and tape measures. Though hand tools are significantly cheaper than their power tool counterparts, they can vary significantly in price based largely on build quality and brand reputation. For example, a high-quality hammer should consist of either a single piece of heat-treated steel or a steel head with a lightweight ergonomic handle, whereas a set of screwdrivers should be made with a steel alloy that can endure repeated metal-on-metal contact.
All hand tools should have ergonomic handles with compressive grips that make them easy to hold firmly and comfortably. A hammer handle, for example, should have a grip that insulates against shock while allowing the operator to hold it firmly in their hand. A screwdriver should have a handle the user can hold firmly enough to create a significant amount of torque.
The best way to save money on hand tools or power tools is to purchase them in sets. Sets of screwdrivers, wrenches, or socket sets with ratchets of varying sizes are far more affordable when purchased in a set versus purchased individually. These sets also often come with matching tools and storage cases, which make them easier to organize and store.
When purchased as a set, power tools can be as much as 30 percent cheaper than purchasing the tools individually. And since cordless power tools from the same brand typically use batteries that are interchangeable from tool to tool, one can often save money by not having to purchase multiple chargers and batteries.
While price is crucial to consider when shopping for cheap tools, it’s vital to look at the tool’s design and construction as well as its brand reputation. Ahead, learn more about these and other crucial factors of tools.
When evaluating a power tool, one should consider its design. Whether it’s a power tool or a hand tool, the weight should be manageable enough for the user to hold without struggling. For example, a hammer with a fiberglass handle will be lighter and easier to swing than one with a heavier wooden or steel handle. The tool should also have an ergonomic padded grip that makes it comfortable to hold and operate, helping to insulate shocks and vibrations while allowing the user to maintain a comfortable grip without wearing out the hand during extended use. Tools should also include user-friendly features, such as LED lights that illuminate the work space, quick-change blades, and lasers that serve as guides for more accurate cutting.
Just because a tool is inexpensive doesn’t mean it should be cheaply made. A poorly made tool won’t last as long as a more expensive well-made tool, costing one more money in the long run. When shopping for hand tools, only consider those made with chromium alloy steel. This steel alloy is hard enough to resist bending under pressure while remaining ductile enough to resist breaking.
While metal construction is also important with power tools, expect cheaper-priced power tools to have more plastic construction than pricier top brands. While build is certainly important, don’t balk at purchasing a tool with more plastic construction. A power tool that lives in a home workshop likely won’t face the same perils as one used at a pro construction site and therefore doesn’t require certain parts to be metal. A bargain-priced tool with more plastic parts may also be notably lighter than a heavy-duty tool, making it easier to use.
When shopping for budget-priced power tools, it’s important to consider what kind of use the tool will see. For tools intended for regular use in a professional setting, it’s best to spend more to ensure the tool will be able to hold up to the wear and tear of daily use and the rigors of a construction site. However, for tools that will see infrequent use in a home workshop, it’s a waste of money to spend the extra money on a tool designed for a construction site. Many tools at the lower end of the price spectrum have more than enough power and durability to handle the demand of the average DIYer.
Brand has always been key when shopping for tools with such names as DeWalt, Makita, Bosch, and Milwaukee dominating the industry’s high-end. While many consumers have a tendency to lean toward elite brands, it’s often unnecessary. Some of the high price tags that come with these tools are due to design, power output, and build intended to suit the needs of carpenters, contractors, and other construction professionals. There are many second-tier brands such as Ryobi, Kobalt, Stanley, Black & Decker, and Craftsman that offer more than enough performance and durability to suit the light-duty demands of a home workshop.
Our Top Picks
The list below includes some of the best cheap models available for the most commonly used power tools. These tools include hand tools and power tools and come as individual tools or in sets.
There’s a good reason many DIYers often refer to the circular saw as a “Skil” saw regardless of what brand it is. For years Skil has had a solid reputation for making quality circular saws for a low price. Yet, despite being the Kleenex of circular saws, Skil still manages to keep its version of this essential power tool among the most affordable models on the market.
It boasts a 15-amp motor and 7¼-inch blade, yet it sells for a fraction of the price of other circular saws with comparable power. And, though it may not include all the bells and whistles of those higher-priced saws, it has the additional features that truly count, including a single-beam laser that makes it easier to cut with precision and a blower that keeps sawdust out of the operator’s line of sight.
- Power: 15 amps
- Weight: 7 pounds
- Brand: Skil
- Excellent power
- Standard 7¼-inch blade
- Reputable brand
- More steel than plastic in construction
- Lacks some features of higher-end circular saws
Hart Tools, which was launched as Walmart’s premium tools brand 2 years ago, may lack brand recognition, but it doesn’t lack power and quality, and this combo is a great example of that. It includes two workhorses of the home workshop—the cordless drill and the impact driver—at half the price of comparable models from other manufacturers with little compromise.
Both members of this budget-priced dynamic duo are well supported by a 20-volt battery that gives the drill an impressive 1,600 RPMs and the impact driver up to 1,700 pounds of torque. Both feature helpful extras including integrated LED work lights and cushioned ergonomic handles. And, if that’s not enough to convince, note that Hart Tools’ sister company is high-end tool manufacturer Milwaukee.
- Power: 20-volt
- Weight: 3 pounds (each)
- Brand: Hart
- Powerful 20-volt batteries
- Integrated LED lights
- High RPM and torque output
- Includes only one battery
Once added to a home workshop, the compound miter saw takes the lion’s share of cutting duties, making it an integral part of most projects. However, adding one of these powerful saws is usually a major investment. Not so with his model from Ryobi, Home Depot’s signature line of power tools that target mainly DIYers.
This miter saw puts out ample power and cutting ability with a 14-amp motor that powers a 10-inch blade, which is large enough to cut a 4×4 post in a single pass. It’s capable of making miter cuts at 47 degrees to the left or right as well as compound miter cuts by beveling up to 45 degrees. And with useful additional features typically found on higher-end models, including an LED cutline and an electric brake stop that stops the blade in seconds, it’s hard to pass on this miter saw from Ryobi.
- Power: 14 amps
- Weight: 28 pounds
- Brand: Ryobi
- Excellent power
- 10-inch blade
- Reputable brand
- Compound capability
- Lacks some features of higher-end miter saws
The days of Black & Decker products being found at a professional construction site may have long since ended, but that doesn’t mean its power tools, such as this jigsaw, don’t have a place in home workshops. In fact, for those who are willing to part ways with elite brands designed (and priced) for pros, this Black & Decker jigsaw is more than enough for the DIYer.
Its 5-amp motor puts it on par with the big boys and it includes user-friendly features weekend warriors will appreciate, such as tool-free blade exchange and Black & Decker’s intuitive Curve Control technology, which automatically adjusts blade speed to make cutting curves easier. And, although Black & Decker’s jigsaw may not have as much steel construction as the elite brands, it’s notably lighter at less than 5 pounds.
- Power: 5 amps
- Weight: 4.6 pounds
- Brand: Black & Decker
- Comparable power to elite brands
- User-friendly additional features
- Lacks durability of elite brands
No home workshop is complete without a cordless drill, by far the most-used power tool in any DIYer’s arsenal. That fact alone may make it tempting to splurge on an expensive cordless drill one would find at a pro work site. Resist the urge. This affordably priced option from Black & Decker is likely all the drilling power weekend home improvement warriors need.
Its 20-volt battery delivers just as much power as most high-end brands, and it boasts comparable features, such as 11 torque settings on the chuck, an ergonomic grip, and an LED light that conveniently illuminates the work area.
- Power: 20-volt
- Weight: 3.4 pounds
- Brand: Black & Decker
- Powerful 20-volt battery
- 11 torque settings
- LED work light
No tool is more essential to a workshop or tool box than a 1-pound hammer. And while it’s possible to drop $30 or more on a hammer, there’s really no need to spend even half that much. This model from Kobalt, one of the signature brands of Lowe’s home improvement stores, checks all the boxes for what one should get out of a hammer.
It features a 16-ounce heat-treated steel head with rim tempering that prevents chipping. The lightweight fiberglass handle makes it just as easy to wield as higher-end hammers while a thick rubber grip that covers its bottom half provides ample cushioning and grip.
- Power: Hand tool
- Weight: 1.5 pounds
- Brand: Kobalt
- Durable heat-treated steel head
- Lightweight fiberglass handle
- Ample grip
- Slightly smaller head than other hammers
Screwdrivers are a necessity for any workshop. And while they can be purchased individually, it’s almost always a better deal to buy a complete set. Craftsman may not dominate the market for tools as it once did, but little has changed regarding the quality of its tools. Today, that quality is available at rock-bottom prices in such tools as this set of 12 screwdrivers.
The grips of this set’s handles retain the manufacturer’s old-school translucent handle design as well as its ridged, albeit hard, grip for transferring substantial torque to its durable alloy steel blades. Handy additional features include a magnetizer for the screwdriver tips and a mini-tool for turning flat head or Phillips-head screws that don’t have clearance for a full-size screwdriver.
- Power: Hand tool
- Weight: 1.72 pounds (set)
- Brand: Craftsman
- Sturdy old-school grips
- Steel ends
- Useful additional features
- Broad range of sizes
- Grips aren’t as comfortable to use as other types
Few garage workshops are complete without a ratchet and socket set. And, while socket sets can range into the hundreds of dollars, this 40-piece set from EPAuto offers great quality at a fraction of that price. What sets this set apart from similarly priced options is the thoughtful selection of sockets it offers.
It includes a mix of commonly used standard and metric sockets, making these sockets compatible with most nuts and bolts the home auto mechanic will encounter. It also includes three eight-point sockets for better grip on certain types of nuts as well as a useful collection of drive adapters, extenders, and a reversible ratchet. All of these pieces fit into a handy carrying case.
- Power: Hand tool
- Weight: 3 pounds (set)
- Brand: EPAuto
- Broad collection of metric and imperial sizes
- Extenders and adapters add versatility
- Handy carrying case
- Box must be opened a certain way to prevent spilling
Stanley, which acquired Black & Decker years ago, is the hand tool half of this due. The tool manufacturer, which is more than 175 years old, is known for quality and value, and its PowerLock measuring tape is a great example of that. The simple design and chrome finish of this measuring tape hasn’t changed in decades, and that’s just fine.
It does what a tape measure should do: stays locked when it’s supposed to (and is there anything worse than a tape measure that unexpectedly retracts?) and returns quickly and smoothly to its case when released. In addition to their reliable operation, Stanley tape measures are also one of the more durable models on the market, thanks to a Mylar coating on the measuring blade that protects it from scuffs and scratches.
- Power: Hand tool
- Weight: 1 pound
- Brand: Stanley
- Reliable locking mechanism
- Mylar coating adds durability to measuring blade
- Durable outer case
- Boxy case not as ergonomic as other rounded models
Building out one’s arsenal of tools typically takes years. Those not willing to wait can speed up that process (and save hundreds) with Ryobi’s 12-tool combo kit. It includes all the core power tools everyone needs in their workshop—circular saw, cordless drill, jigsaw—along with a whole host of nice-to-haves, such as an impact driver, angle grinder, and power sander. It even includes a 7¼-inch miter saw.
With the exception of the miter saw, the tools are cordless. Ryobi includes three 18-volt batteries and a charger to power the tools. Combined, these tools come at a fraction of the price of what it would cost to purchase each individually, making it one of the best ways to instantly outfit a workshop.
- Power: Three 18-volt batteries
- Weight: N/A
- Brand: Ryobi
- A comprehensive set of tools at a bargain price
- 18-volt cordless power for most tools
- Handy carrying bags
- Some specialized tools may not see much use
Circular saws are one of the core tools of any workshop. The quality and value offered by the SKIL Corded Circular Saw are tough to match, making it one of the best affordable tools you can buy. If you’re looking to add a good cordless drill to your contingent of tools, consider doubling down by purchasing Hart Tools 20-Volt Cordless Drill and Impact Driver from Walmart’s top signature tool brand.
How We Chose the Best Cheap Tools
When it comes to tools, more often than not consumers are drawn to the one that gives them the most power, durability, and features. The problem with that approach is that those tools come with the biggest price tags. Since many are designed for pro settings, it often doesn’t make sense to splurge on a top-end tool for a home workshop. What one should really be doing is purchasing the right tool to suit their needs, which is what we did when selecting tools for our list.
We looked for bargain-priced tools that offered sufficient power output and build along with additional features that most DIYers would find useful. In many cases, the tools we selected matched pro-level tools in power output. While most lack the full complement of features their premium counterparts possess, many have specific functions that most DIYers would find valuable such as laser guides, ergonomic handles, and quick-change blades. Our picks also may not be as durable as higher-priced tools designed for a more rugged environment, but all are tough enough to handle home use. Furthermore, since these tools have more plastic parts than their pricier heavy-duty models, they are lighter in weight and therefore easier to handle.
If you’re wondering which tool brand offers the best cheap tools or how purchasing tools in a set can save you money, then read on for answers to these and other commonly asked questions about cheap tools.
Q. What is the best value tool brand?
Craftsman, with its durably built tools and lifetime warranty, makes some of the best value-priced hand tools on the market, while Ryobi, The Home Depot’s signature tool brand, makes some of the most affordable quality power tools.
Q. Is it cheaper to buy tools in a set?
Whether it’s power tools or hand tools, the cost is usually significantly cheaper when purchasing a set of tools versus purchasing them individually. In fact, you can spend up to 30 percent less on tools by purchasing them in sets.
Q. What should every tool box have?
Every tool box should have these essential hand tools: a hammer, a tape measure, a pair of pliers, a utility knife, a socket set, an adjustable wrench, and screwdrivers. While it may not fit inside the tool box, a cordless drill is also a necessity.
Q. What is the most versatile tool?
With its ability to drill holes, drive in fasteners, and even grind or sand (with the right attachment), the cordless drill is one of the most versatile tools in a workshop.