Makita vs Milwaukee : How do these two power tool brands compare?
If you’re serious about your power tools, the question of Makita vs Milwaukee must have crossed your mind at some point. It’s possible that DeWalt could also feature in this debate. But, for now, let’s not over complicate things. Both Makita and Milwaukee are a formidable force in the power tool world. Everyone from DIY enthusiasts, to contractors and large scale manufacturers depend on these brands to deliver top performance and ultimate durability.
Makita vs Milwaukee
It’s understandable that many will have trouble choosing between these two power tool giants. With Makita being considerably cheaper, one may wonder if it’s worth paying extra for Milwaukee tools. Is Milwaukee actually the better brand?
Most American tool aficionados will say, without hesitation, that Milwaukee is the true leader in this race. Though, I can’t help thinking that this has a lot to do with patriotism. Milwaukee is a US brand with a long and proud history. The brand is as proudly American as Ford. In fact, Milwaukee and Ford have a common thread from their early history. But more about that later, when I discuss and compare the two brands.
Being a Japanese company, Makita tends to play second fiddle in the minds of many. It took a few decades for US consumers to accept Japanese manufacturers as worthy equals to established US and European brands. So, by the time Makita started earning recognition as a true competitor in the high-end tool market, Milwaukee was already at the top of their game in the US. This places Makita at a historical disadvantage. You got to give the underdog his dues.
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Personally, I’m a huge fan of Makita tools. Although not the most expensive, Makita tools are by no means cheap. I place them alongside DeWalt. The two brands seem to compete head on when it comes to pricing, quality, and engineering brilliance. I really don’t feel that the money you’re paying for Milwaukee is quite justified, when Makita tools are, for the most part, just as good. In some cases, I’d say that Makita tools may even be better than Milwaukee. Though this is just my opinion and the rivalry between Milwaukee die-hards and their Makita counterparts will probably never end.
Putting my personal views aside, I’m going to attempt an objective comparison of the two brands. There can’t really be a right or wrong answer to the Makita vs Milwaukee question. So, I’m merely going to discuss their respective histories and touch on some of their highlights and achievements. I’ll then leave it up to you to make a decision as to which is the better brand.
Makita didn’t start out as a power tool manufacturer. Originally, Makita Electric Works sold and repaired electric equipment. This was back in 1915, when the Japanese manufacturing industry was in its infancy. In 1935, Makita started exporting generators and motors to the Soviet Union.
Makita made their first entry into the power tool market in 1958, selling electric planers in Japan. The following year (1959), the company made the decision to establish themselves as a power tool manufacturer. A new Makita manufacturing plant was opened a year later, in 1959.
In 1969, Makita became the first power tool manufacturer to develop a rechargeable battery-powered tool. The Makita 6500D may seem, by today’s standards, an archaic and primitive battery-powered drill. Battery technology was very basic back then and the user had to carry a large battery pack connected by a cord to the drill. Both the drill and battery were much heavier than the portable cordless tools that are now commonplace. Though, for it’s time, this was highly innovative and the Makita 6500D was a sought after drill in industries like mining, where battery power proved to be the best solution. In 1978, Makita introduced the 6010D, the first cordless drill to use a nickel cadmium battery. In 1997, Makita were once again the first to produce a nickel hydride battery tool, the 6213D.
In the 1990s a new battery technology emerged, lithium ion. Originally developed as a compact, lightweight power source for cell phones, lithium ion batteries went on to change the way people saw portable cordless devices. Power tool manufacturers soon caught onto this new innovation and in 2005, both Makita and Milwaukee were amongst the first to introduce lithium ion battery-powered tools. At this time, both brands were leaders in the field of cordless power tools. Though many tool users (myself included) considered the Makita LXT battery tools and chargers to be the best. As time went on, DeWalt overtook Makita and Milwaukee as the top cordless tool manufacturer, but these brands remain amongst world leaders.
While Makita has been on forefront of battery-powered tool development, this not the only area where the brand has excelled. Today, several Makita saws, grinders, drills, and air compressors are the preferred choice for many contractors and home users. Makita tools are known for extreme durability, lightweight design, and highly competitive performance.
In 1970, Makita USA became the first international Makita subsidiary. This was a time when Japanese manufacturers started to emerge as global players, and locally listed Makita companies followed in many European countries and Australia. Other subsidiaries followed in South America and Asia
Makita started manufacturing tools in the USA in 1985. Over the years that followed, Makita invested heavily in developing tools for the US market. Their manufacturing facility in Buford, GA includes a training center. Here, engineers work closely with contractors to gain insight into how their tools are used. This provides information used for the development of new products and upgrades to existing products.
So, although Makita is originally a Japanese company and is majority Japanese owned, they have a global presence. Makita USA has the largest manufacturing and research facilities outside Japan.
Milwaukee is certainly a proudly American brand. Though, ironically, the brand is now owned by a Hong Kong company, Techtronic Industries. This is a tool manufacturer that has been making tools for US brands over many years. While Milwaukee retains much of their all-American heritage, with many of their manufacturing plants in the US, Milwaukee tools are also manufactured in China and Europe.
Milwaukee Tool company came into being out of a necessity for faster production. Henry Ford, the father of the modern production line, was obsessed with faster and more efficient production methods for his cars. In 1918, Ford approached a young manufacturer from Wisconsin, A. H. Petersen, to develop a lightweight portable ¼” electric drill. At the time, electric drills were large and heavy, even a ¼” drill had to be held with two hands. Petersen rose to the challenge, producing a drill that weighed only 5-pounds, powered by a Westinghouse electric motor. The product was a success and soon became known as the Hole Shooter.
This innovation led to the founding of the A H Petersen Company. A year later, their manufacturing facility was destroyed by fire. This ultimately led the company into financial ruin. Petersen resurrected the failed business in 1924, after purchasing the remaining assets at auction. The new company became Milwaukee Tool Corporation. Based on the potential of the Hole Shooter drill, Milwaukee went on to develop many great products.
In 1930, the Milwaukee lightweight ¾” drill gained much recognition. One of the best early innovations by the Milwaukee engineers had to be the spring clutch, which they fitted to their sanders and grinders in 1949. This system greatly reduced the recoil when starting the tool and is still implemented on most modern power tools.
Other innovations that made the brand famous are the Sawzall reciprocating saw (1951) and a number of specialized drills for the construction industry. Although, Milwaukee is now a global company, with majority foreign ownership, they still have their headquarters in Brookfield, Wisconsin. They moved here in 1965, from their original headquarters in Milwaukee.
Tool Comparison — Makita vs Milwaukee
Comparing tool brands by looking at their history and achievements is interesting, but it doesn’t answer the most important question. I think most of us are more concerned with how the tools perform. So, how do Makita tools compare to Milwaukee tools?
In my experience, both brands make tools that are virtually indestructible. I’m not going to compare every tool in the extensive lineup from both brands, but rather provide my observations and those that I’ve noted from other tool users.
One thing that can’t be ignored is that Makita tools are a lot cheaper. So, however better some Milwaukee tools may be, they need prove their value vs cheaper Makita options. Milwaukee has been the innovator of exceptional drills since the beginning of their history. They remain the preferred choice amongst contractors when it comes drill for construction. Comparing other tools in the range, isn’t that simple. I feel that Makita Big Bore air compressors are the very best of their kind. When it comes to circular saws and miter saws, they each have their merits and deciding which is best, can only be a matter of personal preference.
Battery-powered tools are probably the most popular these days. This makes a comparison between Milwaukee and Makita cordless tools and important one. When comparing battery-powered tools, it’s important to compare apples with apples. So, one needs to select tools with a similar voltage and ampere-hours to make a fair comparison. Fortunately, Both Makita and Milwaukee manufacture a comprehensive range of 18V cordless tools.
If we look at Makita 18V LXT tools vs Milwaukee 18V Fuel tools, the differences aren’t too apparent. Both brands have a full array of drills, saws, angle grinders and basically any type of power tool you want. Both brands display exemplary levels of build quality and are all lightweight easy to use tools. Though when it comes to using the tools, Milwaukee battery time and consistent power delivery seems to take top position. While Makita tools match their Milwaukee counterparts in the type of jobs they can perform, the Milwaukee 18V Fuel tools don’t strain as much under heavy load and generally provide better working time.
As a brand, Milwaukee does seem to have the edge on Makita when it comes superior batteries and battery management systems. Does this warrant a price tag that’s around 40% higher than a similar product from Makita? That’s for you to decide.