A comparison of cordless tools

Is the Cheapest The Most Frugal?

by Rich Finzer

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It's a pleasant fact of modern life that battery-powered tools are quite capable of handling most routine construction, improvement, or home repair projects. The tools are available across a wide range of price points, but unfortunately the cheapest models are manufactured in that international bastion of quality, namely China. If used occasionally, the tools will hold up for years, but that's not how Chinese power tool makers earn the bulk of their money. Most of the money is made by selling batteries. And here's how this insidious practice plays out.

Wishing to prolong the life of my corded drill/driver, I intentionally purchased a Chinese-made model for $39.95. A NiCad (nickel - cadmium) battery and charger were included. To avoid periodic stoppages to recharge my battery, I purchased a second one at a price of $19.95. Building my horse's stable and feed locker involved drilling pilot holes and driving over 2000 screws. And predictably, the tool failed shortly after the project was finished. "Well okay," I thought,"At least I still have the charger and the batteries." So I purchased another battery-powered drill/driver that also included a battery and charger for $34.99 (it was on sale). That's when the cabal of battery tyranny became obvious.

  • My original charger would not charge the new battery.
  • The new charger would not charge my two older batteries.
  • Eventually, my two older batteries stopped holding a charge anyway.
  • My older charger was now useless as were my two older batteries.
  • The only solution was purchasing another new spare battery for $19.95.

So let's add up the numbers. My original $60 purchase was history. My second purchase of $55 is about to become history as well. The driver itself is on its last legs and its batteries will only hold a charge for an hour or two. And history is about to repeat itself! Here's what I've done to avoid this rigmarole in the future.

I purchased a burly U.S. made cordless drill/driver from a reputable tool retailer and the almost mandatory second battery for a total price of $149. That sounds expensive and it is until you realize my two original tool purchases totaled $115 and I have nothing left to show from either of those cash outlays. So here's the teachable moment.

  • The U.S. made tool has a five-year warranty and the batteries can be recharged at least twice as many times.
  • The Chinese made tools had 90-day warranties.
  • The owner's manual of the U.S. made tool states that the battery design will not be altered.
  • The U.S. made tool manufacturer drives its sales by building quality products designed for the long haul.
  • The Chinese sales strategy is planned obsolescense, poor quality, and frequent battery modifications/alterations. And what good is a perfectly useful tool if battery tyranny robs you of its use?

If you are acquiring battery-powered tools, you can think of the acquisition as either an expense or an investment. Don't make the same mistakes I did.

Rich Finzer resides in upstate New York. During his 40+ years as a writer, he has published over 1,200 newspaper, magazine and Internet articles. His award-winning book; Maple on Tap is available through his publisher, Acres USA. His enovels Taking the Tracks, Dawn Toward Daylight, and Julie & Me are available through Amazon Kindle.

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