Kobalt vs Craftsman (Which is Better?)

For several decades, a debate has raged among DIY enthusiasts and home improvement specialists alike. This debate has centered around whether Kobalt or Craftsman is the better of the big box-store tool brands. With Craftsman serving as Sears’ long-standing house brand, and Kobalt playing the same role for Lowe’s, there is much to compare in this regard.

This argument is especially compelling, considering the fact that Craftsman and Kobalt tools are now often sold on the same shelf since Sears has largely fallen to bankruptcy-related hardships. As such, many consumers are left questioning how best to spend their hard-earned money.

For this reason, we have compiled the following guide, which compares Craftsman and Kobalt in a side-by-side fashion, in regards to numerous characteristics of concern. This will provide consumers with the necessary information to make an informed buying decision, based upon their personal preferences and particular needs.

History 

While Craftsman has been around for far longer than Kobalt, the latter brand’s history is no less rich in scope or detail. The following is a brief summary of Kobalt and Craftsman’s rise to prominence within the domestic tool industry.

About Kobalt Tools

Kobalt Tools logo

Kobalt is relatively new to the world of power and hand tools. The brand began serving as the house tool brand for Lowe’s home improvement stores in 1998. To begin with, Kobalt offered only hand tools, aiming to compete directly with Home Depot’s and Sears’ house brands. 

During Kobalt’s earliest years, their tools were produced by J.H. Williams manufacturing, which had been in business since the 1880s. This partnership between Lowe’s and J.H. Williams continued until 2002, at which time the Snap-On tool company acquired J.H. Williams.

Following J.H. Williams’ acquisition by Snap-On, the production of Kobalt Tools was then taken over by Danaher Corporation. Danaher was based out of Washington, D.C., and also produced products for many other iconic tool brands, such as Matco. The company’s involvement with Kobalt continued until 2011.

J.S. Products Inc., whose home is based in Las Vegas, has now taken the manufacturing of all of Kobalt’s hand tools except for the brand’s screwdrivers, which are produced by Great Neck. In an ironic twist, Craftsman tools have now also become a main player in Lowe’s product lineup, putting them in direct competition with Kobalt tools. 

Recently, Kobalt has joined the ranks of many other tools companies with the introduction of its lineup of battery-operated power tools. The majority of these power tools are manufactured by Chervon Tools, which is based out of China. The Chervon company is actually one of the ten largest producers of handheld power tools in the world.

See Also: Kobalt vs DeWalt Comparison

About Craftsman Tools

Craftsman logo

The history of Craftsman tools dates back to 1927 when retail giant Sears decided to launch their own line of quality hand tools. Sears, Roebuck, and Co., Craftsman’s parent entity, itself, had been in business since 1892. This decision came in response to a perceived change in the way that American consumers approached the purchasing of tools.

In the mid-1920s, Sears tasked Tom Dunlap with restructuring their hardware department. Dunlap, who was innately familiar with the trades, and automotive culture as a whole, realized that mechanics and DIY enthusiasts alike prided themselves in the ownership of premium tools and equipment.

In order to appeal to this sentiment, Barrows eliminated Sears’ stock of bulky and dated tools, instead opting to produce his own “in-house’ line of hand tools.

Over the years, Craftsman tools were produced for Sears by a number of independent manufacturers. Today, it is often difficult to trace the exact lineage of a particular Craftsman tool, due to the fact that many manufacturers refrained from using their own production marks during the manufacturing process.

However, companies such as S&K, New Britain, and J.H. Williams were all known to have produced early Craftsman hand tools.

With time, Craftsman’s product line expanded significantly, eventually growing to include ratchets, sockets, wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers, saws, and a host of specialty tools.

Power tools have also served as a growing staple of Craftsman’s product catalog. Many of these particular tools were manufactured for Craftsman, by the likes of Emerson Electric, DeWalt, and Techtronic Industries.

Today, Craftsman Tools is owned by Stanley Black and Decker, and is no longer offered exclusively by Sears. In fact, Craftsman tools are now widely available in Lowe’s, Ace Hardware, and Costco stores, among others.

Read Also: Craftsman vs Ryobi

Manufacturing     

It is only natural to question the origins of any product in which we place our faith and hard-earned money. This is why many consumers wish to know more about the manufacturing processes of their favorite tool company.

The following is a brief description of Kobalt and Craftsman’s current manufacturing practices.

Where Are Kobalt Tools Made?

Chervon factory for Kobalt tools

Kobalt’s hand tools are produced by J.S. Products Inc., which is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. Although J.S. Products is an American-based brand, the company actually outsources much of its production to China and Taiwan.

The majority of Kobalt branded power tools are made by Chervon Tools in China.

See Also: Kobalt Tools vs Ryobi Tools

Where Are Craftsman Tools Made?

Craftsman tools factory

Up until 2010, virtually all Craftsman tools were manufactured in the United States. However, this is not the case today.

Most Craftsman power and hand tools are now produced in China and Taiwan, though a limited number of offerings are produced elsewhere. Any Craftsman tools still produced in the United States are marked to represent this fact on their packaging.

See Also: Craftsman vs Milwaukee (Tool Comparison)

Product Line     

Kobalt and Craftsman each offer a comprehensive lineup of premium hand and power tools. However, a number of consumers find additional value in the various offerings of one particular brand, over the next.

Therefore, we have compiled brief summaries of each brand’s current product offering, allowing you, the consumer, to decide for yourself.

Kobalt

Kobalt hammer drill

Kobalt’s line of mechanics and household tools have been known to be top-notch and in much demand, throughout the years. The versatility and convenience of their drivers and sockets, along with the variation of kits containing them is an all-around favorite, while their wrenches and screwdrivers are much sought out also.

Lowe’s has begun to scale back their inventory of such handheld tools in favor of the newer battery-operated lawn and garden tools, such as weed eaters and leaf blowers that Kobalt is now producing. 

Kobalt offers a very popular line of 24V brushless power tools. Originally Kobalt’s main focus in the 24V line was quality drills and impact drivers, but their line has expanded to include more variety such as circular saws, reciprocating saws, and jig saws.

Kobalt’s line of 24V power tools has been a mainstay line for the company and continues to be top sellers. 

Although Kobalt is best known for its 24V brushless power tools, they have also made a name for itself with its line of tool storage and garage organization. Kobalt not only has a line of storage units for your garage, but also manufactures a variety of toolboxes, tool chests, and even truck toolboxes. Whatever your storage needs are, Kobalt has you covered.

See Also: Kobalt vs EGO

Craftsman

Craftsman power tools

Throughout the years, Craftsman has offered a substantial number of individual power tools. However, the company has recently begun to focus its efforts on the production of quality power tools of a portable nature. This most notably includes Craftsman’s new lineup of V20 Brushless RP power tools. 

Tools within this lineup feature 20-volt lithium-ion batteries, designed to provide ample power and longevity, to handle any task. The V20 line has now grown to include drills, impact drivers, saws, grinders, sanders, blowers, vacuums, and lights. Craftsmen also increases offerings within this lineup on an annual basis.

Additionally, Craftsman offers a number of corded power tools as well, including numerous bench-top sanders and saws, intent on tackling any home improvement project. Many of these tools are available at a highly economical price point, thereby appealing to consumers on any budget.

See Also: Craftsman vs DeWalt Tools

Technology 

Kobalt and Craftsman have each exhibited a tendency to spearhead innovation, wherever it may arise. This, in part, has served as the catalyst to both of these iconic brands’ success.

The following are several high points, pertaining to the technical innovations of both Kobalt and Craftsman.

Kobalt

Kobalt battery

24V Brushless Technology

Kobalt’s latest claim to fame, in innovative technology, has come in the form of the company’s 24V brushless technology.

Kobalt now manufactures a number of handheld power tools that utilize this technology, including an assortment of impact drivers, saws, and drills. Tools featuring this design are now capable of producing additional power, while also conserving battery life.

Industry Leading Torque

Many of Kobalt’s power tools have been manufactured to perform in the roughest environments, conquering the toughest jobs. The company’s line of impact drivers has acquired a reputation for being some of the best on the market.

The brand’s 1/4 “ impact driver is rated to produce up to 1,800 in-lbs of torque, making it one of the stoutest impact drivers in its size range. Consumers often find success with their Kobalt’s impact drivers whereas other brands fail to succeed in the job. 

Variable Speed Triggers

For the most part, Kobalt’s power tools now feature variable-speed triggers. These triggers provide a greater control over the power tool than those equipped with a standard trigger.

Kobalt’s variable trigger allows the tool’s motor to be slowed to a predetermined speed solely by the pressure on uses on the trigger. This makes these tools especially valuable when working on delicate projects.

Related: Kobalt Tools vs Ridgid Tools

Craftsman

Craftsman battery

V20 Technology

Craftsman has pioneered what they believe to be the perfect battery for their line of portable power tools. These 20-volt power packs carry the V20 name and are designed to provide extra power and longevity wherever, and whenever needed.

In fact, Craftsman specifies that their V20 battery packs provide 25-percent greater battery life than any other battery pack of similar construction.

RP-Brushless Power

Craftsman’s latest line of portable power tools now features brushless 20V motors, designed to withstand significant demand and stress. Craftsman’s “RP” designation stands for “Runtime” and “Performance”.

The manufacturer states that each tool featuring this technology is capable of outperforming and outlasting all of the competition.

Two-Speed Gearbox

Many Craftsman power tools, including newer drills, now feature unique two-speed gearboxes. This feature provides consumers with greater control when working in confined spaces, or with delicate materials.

With the use of this technology, one is also better able to prevent binding and the painful wrist torque that often comes as a result.

Warranty and Service

When buying tools of any nature, little is as important as a particular manufacturer’s customer service practices. In fact, a tool is of little value, if not covered by a solid warranty that works as hard as you do.

The following is a synopsis of Kobalt and Craftsman’s current warranty policies. 

Kobalt

Kobalt warranty

Most of Kobalt’s power tools are covered by a 1-year “Risk-Free” guarantee. This policy states that if you are dissatisfied with a product you may return it within 1-year of purchase and receive a replacement or a full refund. 

The majority of Kobalt’s handheld power tools are warrantied with a 5-year limited policy. This policy covers defects in their power tools caused by poor materials or workmanship. This warranty does not cover damage caused by normal wear and tear, repairs by unauthorized persons, or misuse. 

Kobalt also guarantees its power tool battery packs for a 3-year warranty period. If your Kobalt battery pack fails, simply return it to your local Lowe’s Home Improvement center within the first 3 years and receive a free replacement. 

Kobalt carries other specific warranty coverage as listed:

  • Garage and Tool Storage, 3-5 year warranty
  • Mechanic’s Tools, Lifetime Hassle-free warranty
  • Outdoor equipment, 5-year, batteries 3-years
  • Hand Tools, Lifetime Hassle-free warranty

Craftsman

Craftsman warranty

Craftsman has always been the recipient of significant notoriety, due to the brand’s unparalleled dedication to customer service. This is a legacy that continues to this day, as many consumers still lean heavily upon Craftsman’s industry-leading warranty policy.

All Craftsman power tools come backed by a 3-year limited warranty. This coverage protects against failure due to material or workmanship-related defects. If you should experience any issues of this nature, within the first three years of purchase, simply return your Craftsman power tool to your local retailer for free repair or replacement.

Additionally, all Craftsman hand tools are covered for life, against any and all defects resulting from regular use. You do not even need your original receipt to obtain coverage, should warranty repair or replacement be required. 

Kobalt vs Craftsman: And The Winner Is…

Craftsman logo

Kobalt and Craftsman are both iconic in their own regard. Each of these two storied brands has served as a cornerstone of the particular big-box retailers which they represent (Sears/ Lowe’s). Today, even though each of these two brands can be found side-by-side on store shelves, they each offer their own distinct and unique value.

However, for the sake of argument, we must pick only one of these brands as our “best of the best”. In this particular case, we feel that Craftsman is deserving of this honor. Not only are Craftsman tools built to withstand the test of time, but they are also reasonably priced, on any budget.

Furthermore, Craftsman tends to offer a far more substantial product catalog. In fact, many retailers, including Lowe’s, have begun phasing out select Kobalt tools, in favor of their Craftsman counterparts. This is true when speaking of both power tools and hand tools.

At the end of the day, Craftsman tools predate those offered by Kobalt, and appear as if they will still be around even after Kobalt has become an item of the past.

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