Updated on April 28, 2022
For the DIY enthusiast or devoted tradesman, quality power tools are worth their weight in gold. Tools of this nature prove key to expediting any project, and eliminate a substantial amount of unnecessary hassle. However, it is often difficult for those with even the most discerning eye to choose between the various brands of power tools currently available.
Two such brands often compared by frugal consumers are Ryobi and Kobalt. Each of these brands have quite the reputation for providing consumers with substantial value, and have been praised for adhering to high quality standards.
For this reason, many are left pondering between these two brands, when contemplating how best to spend their hard earned money.
The following guide has been assembled to assist in answering this question, by providing a wealth of helpful information. Contained within, are side-by-side comparisons of Ryobi and Kobalt, as they pertain to a number of key characteristics. This allows you, the consumer, to make an educated and informed purchasing decision, between these two brands.
Although Ryobi and Kobalt have very different histories, they both have become a mainstay in the world of tools. From their earliest days, each of these manufacturers has strived to produce and offer nothing but the most premium of products.
The following is a brief summary of Ryobi and Kobalt’s rise to popularity.
About Ryobi Tools
In 1943, the Japanese company, Ryobi Seisakusho Co., Ltd was founded. This company later became known as Ryobi Limited. Early in the company’s history, Ryobi manufactured metal die-cast products.
In 1954, Ryobi added producing plastic die-cast products to its company’s line. Over the years, Ryobi Limited has manufactured many products including printing presses and fishing tackle.
In 1968, Ryobi ventured into the world of producing power tools. Consumers’ growing interest in home improvement projects helped Ryobi find great success quickly in this market. Yet regardless of this success, Ryobi continued to manufacture an array of other products such as golf clubs.
Ryobi’s focus continued to remain focused on their other manufacturing endeavors regardless of how profitable its power tool line was becoming. Eventually, Ryobi allowed licensing of their brand to be turned over to other manufacturers, who began producing the power tools under their company’s name.
Ryobi sold off its position in the American power tool market in 2000, and over the next few years continued selling more of its divisions. In 2018, the last of its power tool holdings were sold to the Kyocera Group.
Today Techtronic Industries produces all power tools for North American distribution. Techtronic Industries is the parent company for several well-known brands including Milwaukee Tools.
Related: Ryobi vs Craftsman Tools
About Kobalt Tools
In terms of tool brands/manufacturers, Kobalt is a relative newcomer. The brand burst onto the scenes in 1998, serving as the house tool brand for Lowe’s home improvement stores. Initially, Kobalt offered only hand tools, aiming to compete directly with Sears’ Craftsman and Home Depot’s Husky lines.
During the earliest portion of the brand’s history, Kobalt tools were produced by J.H. Williams manufacturing, which itself, had been in business since the 1880s. This partnership between Lowe’s and J.H. Williams continued until 2002, at which time J.H. Williams was acquired by Snap-On.
Following J.H. Williams’ acquisition by Snap-On, the production of Kobalt Tools was spearheaded by Danaher Corporation. Danaher, based out of Washington, D.C., also produced products for many other iconic tool brands, such as Matco. The company’s involvement with Kobalt continued until 2011.
Las Vegas based J.S. Products Inc. has since taken over the production of all Kobalt hand tools, with the exception of the brand’s screwdrivers, which are manufactured by Great Neck. Nonetheless, Craftsman Tools have now also become a staple of Lowe’s product catalog, directly competing with similar Kobalt products.
In recent years, Kobalt has introduced its own line of battery-operated power tools. The bulk of these power tools is manufactured by Chervon Tools, which itself is based out of China. The company actually serves as one of the 10 largest producers of handheld power tools globally.
See Also: Kobalt vs Craftsman
Many consumers place much emphasis on the origin of their purchases. The origin of where their purchase is manufactured has as much influence on their decision-making as does the product itself.
The following is a breakdown of Ryobi and Kobalt’s current production practices.
Where Are Ryobi Tools Made?
Ryobi operates twelve manufacturing facilities in over six countries. The majority of Ryobi tools are manufactured in China. Fuchu, Hiroshima, Japan is home to the Ryobi Tools headquarters.
The only manufacturing facility of Ryobi tools, located in the United States, is in Shelbyville, Indiana. This production site was established in 1985 and produces accessories and specialty parts for Ryobi. However, one of Ryobi’s financial offices is located in Chicago, Illinois.
Read Also: Ryobi Tools vs Ridgid Tools
Where Are Kobalt Tools Made?
Today, Kobalt hand tools are produced by J.S. Products Inc., based in Las Vegas, Nevada. However, though J.S. Products is an American based brand, the company outsources much of its manufacturing to China and Taiwan.
Likewise, the bulk of Kobalt’s power tools is also manufactured in China, through a long-standing agreement with Chervon Tools.
Read Also: Kobalt vs DeWalt (Comparison)
Ryobi and Kobalt have both worked hard to fulfill the needs of consumers, thereby offering comprehensive lines of both hand tools and premium power tools. Both of these manufacturers have plenty to offer the average consumer.
The following is a general overview of Ryobi and Kobalt’s product portfolios.
Ryobi has an extensive product line, which is especially true when researching Ryobi’s 18V One+ series of power tools. This massive series of tools is comprised of over 260 individual pieces which provide tools for almost any job. When matched with Ryobi’s 18V cordless lithium batteries, the One+ power tools are more productive and extremely versatile.
The Ryobi 18V One+ series of tools fill the needs of professional to amateur DIYers alike. This line includes various drills, grinders, impact guns, and saws suitable for any job site.
Also available are worksite companions such as lighting, radios, and fans. To complete the 18V One+ family, Ryobi offers a line of battery-operated outdoor equipment including mowers, trimmers, and chainsaws.
Besides the 18V line of tools, Ryobi also manufactures a line of heavy-duty 40V tools. This line of tools is powered by a 40V Lithium battery that is known for delivering outstanding power, runtime, and performance. Tillers, leaf blowers, and generators top the list of the most popular 40V line.
Read Also: Ryobi vs Porter Cable (Brand Comparison)
Throughout the years, Kobalt has offered a wide range of handheld power tools. However, Lowe’s has begun to scale back this lineup as of late. The company now focuses primarily on the production of handheld and battery-operated lawn/garden tools, such as leaf blowers, chainsaws, and weed eaters.
Nonetheless, Kobalt still offers its highly popular line of 24V brushless power tools. This lineup includes an assortment of premium quality drills and impact drivers. Tools within particular series have received a significant amount of fanfare, and continue to serve as top sellers.
Kobalt also markets numerous battery-operated saws as part of their current power tool lineup, many of which are also configured to adhere to the company’s current 24V format. The most notable of these additions include reciprocating saws, circular saws, and jig saws, among others.
See Also: Kobalt vs Ridgid
Ryobi and Kobalt have both kept pace with consumers’ needs in power tool design and production. This has allowed each to serve as innovators in their own right.
The following are several of Ryobi and Kobalt’s most renowned technical innovations.
Link Storage Solutions
One of Ryobi’s newest innovations is the Link Modular Storage System. The Link Modular storage offers a combination of shelves, totes, hangers, and bins that can be inter-combined to make multiple storage solutions.
This gives the consumer versatility, accessibility, and portability all in one system. All products feature universal locks that work with any Ryobi power tool.
Ryobi’s Whisper-series technology advanced its design of 40V series of outdoor power tools. Ryobi claims these tools to be 85% quieter than like gas-powered tools, thus creating a much quieter operating experience with the same power.
This line of outdoor lawn tools includes mowers, weed eaters, trimmers, and chainsaws. The whisper-series outdoor power tools allow the consumer the versatility to perform their outdoor yard work whenever is convenient for them without the worry of disturbing their neighborhood.
USB Lithium Power Tools
Ryobi’s newest innovation is a line of USB Lithium charged power tools. This line contains a power cutter, power carver, and rotary tool. All tools are powered by a rechargeable USB Lithium battery making these tools compact and portable.
The battery features a USB-C charging port compatible with any USB-C cable and the onboard LED charging indicator readily allows the consumer to be apprised of the charging status.
See Also: Ryobi vs DeWalt
24V Brushless Technology
In terms of innovative tech, Kobalt’s latest claim to fame 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 saws, drills, and impact drivers. Tools featuring this design are now capable of producing additional power, while also conserving battery life.
Variable Speed Triggers
The vast majority of Kobalt power tools now feature variable-speed triggers, which provide far greater control than would otherwise be obtained through the use of a standard trigger.
Kobalt’s variable trigger makes it possible to actuate a tool’s motor at a predetermined speed, based upon the pressure that one exerts upon the tool’s trigger. This is inherently valuable when working on projects of a delicate nature.
Industry Leading Torque
Many of Kobalt’s power tools have begun to acquire a reputation for displaying brutish strength when called upon to conquer tough tasks.
This is quite evident when studying the brand’s ¼” impact driver, which is rated to produce up to 1,800 in-lbs of torque, making it one of the stoutest impact drivers within its respective size range. Because of this, one can call upon their Kobalt impact drivers to complete tasks that other drivers simply fail to tackle.
Warranty and Service
Few characteristics are of more value when purchasing a tool than the warranty and customer service that stands behind said tool. With the demands that consumers exert upon their tools, at home and the job site, they must have confidence in the warranty that backs their purchase.
Below are the most critical details surrounding Ryobi and Kobalt’s warranty policies.
Ryobi stands by its reputation for producing durable, high-quality tools by backing the majority of its 18V power tool lineup with a 3-year limited warranty. Any product to be found defective in workmanship or material will be replaced or repaired without charge to the consumer.
All Ryobi backs their 40V Lithium-Ion battery-operated outdoor tools with a similar 5-year warranty. However, this warranty only covers defects in material or workmanship, not damage due to handling. Their 40V Lithium batteries and chargers carry a 3-year limited warranty.
Ryobi’s Link Modular System features a limited lifetime warranty, as does their hand tools. While the USB Lithium battery power tools carry a 3-year limited warranty.
Kobalt has gained quite a reputation for providing next-level customer service. This is clearly illustrated through the company’s issuance of a 5-year limited warranty on the bulk of their handheld power tools. This policy protects against material or workmanship-related defects of most any type.
Furthermore, Kobalt’s power tool battery packs are backed by a 3-year warranty policy. If at any time, a Kobalt battery pack fails within three years of purchase, simply return it to your local Lowe’s home improvement center, to receive a free replacement.
Additionally, the vast majority of Kobalt’s power tools also sport a 1-year “Risk-Free” guarantee. This policy stipulates that you can return any Kobalt power tool within 1-year of purchase and receive a full refund or replacement if you are dissatisfied for any reason.
Ryobi vs Kobalt: And The Winner Is…
Any comparison between Ryobi and Kobalt is quite interesting when placed in context. Both brands offer immense value to consumers who are in search of quality power tools, at a more than reasonable price point. As such, there is plenty to like about both Ryobi and Kobalt.
However, at the end of the day, we cannot help but feel as if Ryobi carries a slight advantage over Kobalt, in several regards. This is most evident when comparing the range of each brand’s product inventory.
Though Kobalt’s power tool portfolio used to be somewhat larger than it is today, it has dwindled in recent years. Meanwhile, Ryobi continues to pioneer new and innovative technology, on par with that of many industry giants.
Not to be overlooked, Ryobi also offers a more comprehensive warranty policy, when purchasing any of its power tools through Home Depot.
When making a purchase in this manner, all Ryobi power tools come backed by a comprehensive lifetime guarantee, making it hard to not find favor in the brand over various competitors, such as Kobalt.