Trim Router vs Plunge Router: Battle of the Woodworking Giants

If you’re dipping your toes into the world of routers, you’re probably ready to take your woodworking game from amateur to semi-pro. These versatile tools are perhaps the most useful tool in a worker’s lineup after basic saws and a power drill/driver.

There’s a lot to consider when picking out a router, and without a doubt, one question that will pop up is whether to go with the trim router vs the plunge router.

Trim routers derive their name from their primary purpose, which is to edge a piece of trim. They’re useful for a lot more than just edging, however, and are essentially a scaled-down version of a full-sized router.

Plunge routers get their name from the ability to ‘plunge’ the router bit into a work surface by applying pressure to the tool. This means there’s no need to predrill a hole for the router bit or start the cut from the edge of the workpiece.

Let’s take a closer look at the trim router vs the plunge router, so you can find the ideal one to complete whatever woodworking task you’re trying to accomplish.

Trim Routers

Trim routers – sometimes called palm routers – are smaller handheld routers with small bases and small cutting radiuses. They’re small enough that you can use them single-handed, which is a major advantage when working on delicate tasks.

Trim routers are primarily designed to create edges in veneers and laminates as well as wood trim, but can also be used as fully functional mini routers. They have smaller motors, making them ideal for more delicate work like creating mortises for door hinges, rounding edges, and cleaning up veneer.

They’re not the ideal choice for cutting joinery, but can be used with great effectiveness when you need to fashion quick, simple joints. Small rabbets, dadoes, and shallow mortises can all be cut effectively with a trim router.

Plunge Routers

Plunge routers are routers with spring-loaded bases that allow the motor housing to ride up and down on a pair of posts affixed to the base. These routers have the unique ability to plunge the router bit into a workpiece to a preset depth from above.

This is ideal when using a variety of jigs, performing delicate inlay work, cutting mortises as well as rabbets, dovetails, and dadoes.

plunge router in use
Plunge router in use. [Image source]
Many plunge routers feature micro-adjustment knobs, which allow you to fine-tune the bit depth precisely. This is not the case with many trim routers which can be more challenging to fine-tune.

Keep in mind the category of ‘plunge routers’ is fairly broad. You can find routers with plunge bases in a variety of sizes and motor sizes, although they tend towards the larger end.

Additionally, plunge routers are often sold with interchangeable bases, so you can swap out the plunge base for a fixed base if needed.

Trim Router vs Plunge Router – Differences

Trim Router Plunge Router
Design Single-handed Two-handed
Application Simple, shallow routing Intricate, difficult, and deep cuts
Power 1 to 1.5 hp 2 to 3.5 hp
Weight 4 to 8 lbs. 10 to 20 lbs.
Price $ $$


Trim routers are designed for single-handed use, and when used with a straight bit, they feel like an extension of your hand. They have open-ended bases, so you can swap between different bases depending on what routing task you’re working on.

Plunge routers are considerably larger and more robust and will require both hands to operate. The plunge base has two rounded handles on either side of the base, giving you a high degree of control over the plunge function as well as guiding the bit.

The spring-loaded plunge base enables fast and convenient moving of the base manually, which gives you a high degree of control over the bit height.


As mentioned previously, trim routers are primarily designed for light-duty work where the bit only needs to go ½” deep or so. The depth of cut for trim routers is generally limited to about ½”, so don’t expect to make deep cuts with these lightweight units.

Plunge routers on the other hand can make deeper cuts with less of a need to make multiple passes. They have depths of cut between 2” and 3.5”, making flawless deep plunge cuts possible.

Another thing to consider is the router’s collet size. The collet refers to the sleeve that holds the router bit inside the router and connects it to the router shaft and motor.

Trim routers typically have ¼” sized collets, which means you’ll be limited to smaller router bits. Plunge routers on the other hand can have either ¼” or ½” sized routers, with some featuring interchangeable collets.

trim router and bits
Trim routers with bits and interchangeable collets. [Image source]


Trim routers have smaller motors in the 1 to 1.5 horsepower range. This is suitable for smaller tasks and light-duty work but not ideal for heavy, deep routing jobs.

These routers feature RPMs of between 8,000 and 35,000. Many have variable speed motors, allowing you to adjust the router bit speed to the material and job.

Plunge routers mostly feature larger motors in the 2 to 3.5 horsepower range. The RPMs are slightly lower in the 8,000 to 25,000 range.

These routers are better suited to heavy-duty work and can handle deep cuts and through cuts. They’re also less likely to produce kickback, as the powerful motor is beefy enough to muscle through tougher materials rather than being bogged down.


As you might expect, plunge routers weigh a good deal more than their smaller trim router cousins. Typical weights for trim routers are in the 4 to 8 pound range, which makes them fairly easy to operate single-handed.

Plunge routers are significantly heavier in the 10 to 20 pound range. This makes them two-handed tools and means they’re less maneuverable than smaller trim routers.

Plunge router’s extra weight also makes them more stable when doing delicate or complex tasks, but also can be difficult to fit in tight spaces.

Choosing between the two will largely depend on how you plan to use the router.

If you want a router that’s highly maneuverable and easy to fit inside hard-to-reach spots, then a trim router makes sense. On the other hand, if maximum precision and power are what you’re after, and portability is not a necessity, then a plunge router is the way to go.


When it comes to price, routers can run the gamut from basic cheap trim models to high-end plunge routers with multiple interchangeable bases and collets.

Trim routers range from about $50 to $150, while plunge routers can go for between $75 and $350 depending on the brand, features, and quality.

If this is your first router, then you’ll want to consider how much you’ll be using it as well as what sort of work you’ll be doing. Trim routers are more than adequate for simple and shallow routing tasks, while plunge routers are suited to more intricate work as well as for mounting to a routing table.

Denis Gardner

I've loved tinkering and fixing things for as long as I can remember. So, naturally, I gravitated towards DIY and home improvement when I bought my first home. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or messing around with my newest tool!

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