When it comes to quality tool brands, two of the most recognizable are Craftsman and Milwaukee. Whether you’re a DIYer who only picks up your tools on an occasional weekend, or a professional who uses your tools on a daily basis, choosing the right brand is key.
Both of these brands have strong reputations for producing quality tools that are built to last. They also both have rich histories of manufacturing tools in the USA, although this has changed somewhat in recent years.
Let’s take a closer look at Craftsman vs Milwaukee, including their respective tool lineups, warranties, quality, and performance.
Craftsman vs Milwaukee: A Brief History
The Craftsman brand traces its history back to 1927 when Sears sought to create a superior line of tools to sell through its catalog and brick-and-mortar stores. The head of their tools department, Arthur Burrows, paid $500 for the Craftsman brand name from the Marion-Craftsman Tool Company.
At the time Sears had a three-tier pricing structure, with Craftsman being positioned as the middle-tier brand. Competing brands at this price tier were Kobalt, Husky, and Napa.
Fast forward to modern times and the Sears Company began running into financial troubles in the mid-2000’s. Increased competition from brick-and-mortar rivals like Walmart as well as a failure to compete effectively in the e-commerce space lead to Sears selling the Craftsman brand to Stanley Black & Decker in 2017.
Stanley Black & Decker relaunched the Craftsman brand with a rollout at major retailers Lowe’s and Ace Hardware. The updated brand seeks to greatly expand the product offering, as well as return a good portion of manufacturing back to the US.
Milwaukee traces its origins back to the early 20th century when Henry Ford was looking for a fabricator willing to produce a compact and lightweight 1/4-inch capacity power drill. A young manufacturer named A.H. Peterson accepted the commission and built a remarkable 5-pound drill that became known as the “Hole-Shooter”
In 1922, Peterson teamed up with business partner Albert F. Siebert and founded the A.H. Peterson Company. Two years later, after a fire that nearly wiped out the business, Siebert reopened the company as the Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation.
The company’s next major innovation was the 3/4-inch hammer drill that also had the ability to work as a standard drill.
Then in 1951 Milwaukee introduced perhaps its most well-known product to this day – the iconic reciprocating saw known as the Sawzall. The Sawzall was the first portable hacksaw with a reciprocating mechanism, and many people still refer to reciprocating saws as ‘Sawzalls’.Over the next few decades, Milwaukee greatly expanded its lineup as well as manufacturing capabilities, building major factories across the US.
More recently, Milwaukee has developed their extensive M18 and M12 cordless lineups, which sport some of the best cordless tools at any price point.
Craftsman vs Milwaukee Comparison
Both brands are positioned in somewhat different market segments, although there is some degree of overlap.
Craftsman is a solidly mid-tier brand, both in terms of pricing and the target user. They offer reasonably priced tools suitable for the average DIYer or homeowner.
Other brands competing in this segment would be Ryobi, Porter-Cable, and Skil. Noticeably absent from this list is Milwaukee.
Milwaukee is positioned one tier above, in the so-called professional/tradesman market segment. Tools at this tier are intended for heavy-duty professional use, meaning daily usage from contractors, carpenters, electricians, and the like.
Other brands competing in this higher tier are DeWalt, Makita, and Bosch. Of course, this market segment comes at a higher price than the DIYer tier, so you can expect to pay more for most Milwaukee tools than similar offerings from Craftsman.
Also, keep in mind these market segments are somewhat fluid and have large degrees of overlap. While professional/tradesman tier tools are designed to withstand daily use, a lot of these tools are actually marketed and sold to homeowners rather than professional users.
Taking a look at the lineups of Craftsman vs Milwaukee will give us a better idea of how they stack up against one another.
A quick look at Milwaukee’s tool lineup and you’ll be impressed with the sheer number of different tools they offer. They appear to have a tool for just about every task you could think of, including three different power tool segments: M12, M18, and MX FUEL.The overall lineup is clearly geared towards the professional user, with an impressive array of heavy-duty cordless contractor tools in the MX FUEL lineup including cut off saws, demolition hammers, core drilling machines, concrete vibrators, and more. They also offer large-capacity batteries bundled with many of their M18 cordless tool kits.
In addition to its extensive power tool lineup, Milwaukee offers a wide array of hand tools, lawn and garden equipment, work apparel, contractor instruments, storage solutions, and accessories.
Craftsman’s tool lineup is nowhere near as extensive as Milwaukee’s, but this is to be expected as they’re more focused on the casual user than the pro. They offer a good selection of 20V cordless tools, corded power tools, hand tools, automotive tools, lawn and garden tools, and storage solutions.
The lineup is less broad than Milwaukee’s in terms of the variety of tools available. For example, if we look at basic cordless drill/drivers, Milwaukee has an impressive 10 different options versus 4 for Craftsman.
When it comes to pricing, Milwaukee tools tend towards the higher end of the price spectrum, while Craftsman’s offerings are priced more affordably. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, given their respective brand positioning.
Another thing to consider when it comes to price is the variation within the brand itself. As Milwaukee has such an extensive tool offering, you can often find multiple price tiers within the same tool type.
For example, if we look at their bare impact drivers we can see they have a cheaper light-duty ¼” M12 impact driver for $50, a medium-priced M18 ¼” impact driver for $69, and a top of the line M18 FUEL ¼” impact driver for $130.
Both tool brands have a strong reputation for manufacturing quality tools that are built to last. That said, Milwaukee tools are generally built to a higher standard than homeowner/DIY-focused Craftsman tools.
Both brands are owned by much larger parent companies, Stanley Black & Decker in the case of Craftsman, and Techtronic Industries (TTI) in the case of Milwaukee. As such, neither brand manufactures the bulk of its tools in the US at this time.The origin of much of both brands’ offerings is still China and Taiwan, although both brands are making welcome efforts to bring back manufacturing to the United States.
In the case of Milwaukee, they’ve opened up significant manufacturing facilities in Mississippi and Wisconsin, and currently manufacture their bi-metal and carbide Hole Dozer hole saws, Sawzall reciprocating saw blades, and step drill bits in the USA.
When Craftsman was sold to Stanley Black & Decker, they made a point to focus renewed effort on US manufacturing. The company has opened a number of manufacturing facilities across the country, and currently makes a portion of their V20 lineup, hand tools, lawn and garden equipment, and storage in the US.
Both brands offer lifetime warranties on hand tools and mechanics hand tools.
Milwaukee offers an impressive 5-year limited warranty on most of their power tools and pneumatic tools, while Craftsman offers 3-year limited warranties on most power tools, wet/dry vacuums, and pneumatic tools.
Milwaukee offers a 3-year limited warranty on their outdoor power equipment, while Craftsman outdoor tools have either a 1 year or 3-year limited warranty.
As you can see, Milwaukee’s warranties tend to be more generous than Craftsman’s.
Which Brand is best for me?
When it comes to Craftsman vs Milwaukee, choosing the right brand for you will depend a lot on your personal preferences and habits.
Generally, if you’re looking for tools for occasional DIY and homeowner use, then Craftsman has exactly what you need. If however, you plan to tackle more complex projects or plan to use your tools in any sort of professional capacity, then Milwaukee tools are the better option.
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