Last Updated on August 28, 2022 by Barry Gray
While I often find it tempting to look at costly tools, you don’t always need to go down the road of spending a lot of money to get something that works well.
Look at planers as a prime example. There’s no doubt that a good planer will make a massive difference to various projects, but is there a need to go ahead and spend a fortune on one?
I don’t think so, and certainly not with some of the wonderful budget planers on the market.
And that’s what I’m going to focus on here. What you will find below are five of the best planers on the market that will not make a huge hole in your pocket. Oh, and I promise they will still be more than capable of producing the sort of end results you hoped to get from this tool.
How I Made My Decision
To find the five best budget planers, I had to consider price a significant factor. I didn’t want to come up with planers that were just slightly cheaper than the more expensive models. That just wouldn’t do it for me.
So I admit that I did focus on price, but that wasn’t the only thing.
I also looked at how well each tool functioned and whether or not it was indeed capable of producing the results we all want. Reliability and ease of use are clearly important, but I also spent time checking out what people were saying that had already gone out and bought each tool.
In the end, I was left with these five. I really believe you will find the perfect tool for you out of this list.
Best Overall Budget Planer – WEN PL1326
- Power: 15 Amp
- Width Capacity: 13-inch
- Max Cut Depth: 3/32”
Even though it was a tough decision, I ultimately went for the WEN PL1326 as my favorite overall budget planer. Not only was it kind from a financial point of view, but it was still capable of delivering a fantastic end result at the same time.
This model allows you to pass 6-inch boards through the planer without any problems. While that’s average, it shows how a price drop does not have to relate to a decline in capability.
However, a quick word of warning. This model will only take around 3/32” off on a single pass. That does mean you may need several passes to really get the end result you want.
But the table is the one thing I love best with this model. It’s made of granite, making life so much easier with sliding the wood through. It does so without any friction leading to a smoother end result as well.
It only works with a two-blade system, but you can reverse them to extend their lifespan. While that means it works more slowly than a three-blade version, as long as you are willing to take some time over your project, it shouldn’t hold you back too much.
Overall, I see this WEN planer as offering value for money while also providing you with everything you need from a planer. It works with sizeable wood, and that granite table is brilliant.
- The granite table works exceptionally well
- The planer performs well without costing a fortune
- The blades are reversible
- It comes with a fan-assisted dust port
- It has a heavy base, so it is very stable
- It is slower than several models
- Being able to plane off a bit more on a single pass would help
Best Compact Budget Planer – Porter-Cable PC305TP
- Power: 15 Amp
- Width Capacity: 12.5 inches
- Max Cut Depth: ⅛”
Porter-Cable has been around for over a century, even though they are now owned by Black & Decker. However, the one thing you do get is an impressive planer with ample cutting power without taking up too much physical space.
That does mean I feel this is the ideal tool for anybody with restricted room in their workshop.
It comes with the standard 15 Amp motor delivering enough power through its cutter to allow it to deal with 12.5” wide boards up to 6” deep. That means it’s bigger than what you will get with the likes of Makita, but the overall machine is still not too large.
Per pass, you are looking at it taking ⅛” off every time, but the speed it does it at does mean other machines are faster. However, I don’t see this as an issue if you don’t intend to rush things.
Overall, this machine does not do anything too elaborate, but it planes well and is also very easy to control. I also find the machine to be relatively quiet, but this is due to the slower speed.
- It can work practically out of the box
- It focuses on doing the simple things
- It takes an ample amount off per pass
- It’s very quiet compared to other machines
- It takes up little physical space
- It’s slower than a lot of machines
- It has thinner housing materials leading to the lower price
Best Value Budget Planer – WEN PL1303 Planer
- Power: 15 Amp
- Width Capacity: 13 inches
- Max Cut Depth: ⅛”
I just love WEN as a brand name, and it’s all thanks to the quality of tools they produce on a regular basis. The PL1303 planer is a perfect example, and this planer costs significantly less than most other brands on the market.
This model has also been updated; the main difference is the inclusion of a third blade. So, it does make short work of dealing with that material.
I think this represents a fantastic upgrade. It means you get a smoother end result, as opposed to an almost choppy appearance in the previous version. I would suggest you double-check that you are getting the three-blade version due to this one single change.
It comes equipped with a 15 Amp motor, and that’s pretty standard for these budget planers. The width capacity and cutting depth are also standard, but that’s not why it stands out to me.
Instead, I do love the depth cut indicator with this model. It makes it so much easier to gauge the depth with some absolute precision. Also, you know the model will stick to that depth, making using this planer very simple, even for a beginner.
Overall, WEN has a reputation for producing high-quality machines at affordable prices, and this model is no different. It’s one of my favorites, and I feel it just delivers real value for money.
- The depth cut indicator is a fantastic addition
- The machine is very easy to set up and use
- The addition of a third blade makes for a smoother end result
- The machine is high-quality but a value price
- It has a fan-assisted dust port to keep things as clean as possible
- It’s perhaps not as sturdy as more expensive models
Best Portable Budget Planer – Craftsman CMEW320 12-Inch Planer
- Power: 15 Amp
- Width Capacity: 12-inch
- Max Cut Depth: ⅛”
Craftsman tends to produce budget machines still capable of performing to a high standard, so I had to include one in my list. I opted for the CMEW320 12-inch planer, and I just feel it’s an excellent tool for the price.
It comes with a standard 15 Amp motor capable of delivering some 8,000 RPM, so it’s not lacking in that department even though the price is kept low. There is certainly enough power for working with both hard and softwoods, so you will be surprised at how versatile this machine will be.
This model works with two knife blades, and it’s reasonably quick as well. The cutter is solid steel, and it’s also mounted on ball bearings. That should lead to it running relatively smoothly, which comes as a surprise when you consider it’s one of the cheapest models on the market.
For size, it can cope with wood up to six inches thick and 12 inches wide, and that’s quite reasonable.
Overall, I feel this planer represents real value for money. It might not attempt to do anything too elaborate, but it doesn’t have to. It gets the job done and does so without much hassle.
- The machine is very easy to set up
- It works reasonably fast even when pushed to its maximum limit
- It works on both hard and softwood
- It’s perfect for anyone new to a planer
- It has a lower RPM than some models, so it can struggle at times
- If you want a machine with a lot of features, this isn’t the one for you
Best Planer Under $500 – DeWalt DW734
- Power: 15 Amp
- Width Capacity: 12 ½”
- Max Cut Depth: ⅛”
I know the idea of having any DeWalt machine on a budget list doesn’t sound as if it’s possible, but it is, and this planer is a perfect example. The DW734 costs less than $500, while a number of their competitors will charge well north of that figure.
Of course, you know you will be getting that reliability and durability you always expect from them, and I promise this planer will not disappoint. The motor pushes this model up to a speed of 10,000 RPM, and that’s impressive. It also delivers 96 cuts per minute, making short work of your project.
This model comes with a three-blade cutting head, and it does give a relatively smooth finish. You would not be required to indulge in too much sanding after this.
One thing I do enjoy about this model is that the knives can be easily reversed. It makes you feel you can extend the lifespan of the blades making this even kinder to your budget.
Plus, DeWalt also provides you with extra long tables for both infeed and outfeed. They measure some 33 ½” in total, and that does help with balancing out the material.
Overall, this planer by DeWalt comes across as a bargain if you want to stick with a top name but not pay full price.
- It is exceptionally powerful
- You can set it up right out of the box
- The three blades give a smooth finish
- The feed tables really help you out
- It’s faster than you would expect
- It is more expensive than others on the list, but it’s an excellent machine
How to Choose the Right Budget Planer
With various planers available at different budgets, I know it’s tough to come to a conclusion as to which one to go for. So, I will give you a few tips on what to look out for when trying to decide.
Planers come in various sizes, but I suggest focusing on the width capacity over anything else. The width capacity refers to the maximum width of stock you can pass safely through the machine. Often, you will notice it’s either 12-inch or 13-inch, and while it may not sound like much of a difference, it does affect the projects you can work with.
I would usually be on the side of going bigger. It doesn’t make much difference to the machine’s overall size, so if you worry about space requirements, don’t stress.
Max Cut Depth
A planer aims to shave off thin strips of wood, so knowing the maximum cutting depth is another key component. The planers I’ve included above talk about fractions of an inch as the maximum depth, and I honestly would not really go above a maximum cut depth of ⅛ inch.
Keeping the cut depth low should mean you reduce the risk of removing too much wood at any given time. Considering the potential fine margins we are talking about with your project, that’s potentially important.
Pay attention to the power output of the planer. More power generally relates to the planer having less difficulty pulling the wood through and shaving off those fine margins.
I do think you should aim to get as much power as your budget allows. You may not believe that a fraction of horsepower will make a difference, but it certainly will when dealing with various projects.
However, when looking at budget models, you might struggle to see any real variation, but it’s still worth looking out for it.
The blades carve off those thin slices of wood, but you have more than one option in this department. Generally, you will have to choose between multiple knives or spiral heads. I feel spiral heads work better out of the two, but they can push the price up a bit, depending on the model.
Spiral heads involve small blades placed in a spiral design around the cutting head. This approach is viewed as the most accurate and professional, but that’s not to say the multiple knives approach doesn’t also work.
However, if I had to go for one option over the other, I would go for the spiral heads if my budget allowed it.
Support for the Material?
This isn’t something that always applies, especially with benchtop models, but do take a moment to check how the material is supported while going through the planer. Ideally, you want the material to be supported on both sides. It leads to a more level and even end result.
The final thing I want to mention is the importance of dust collection. A planer has the potential to throw up a lot of dust, and you don’t want that being thrown up into the air.
Having a budget planer does not mean you must miss out on a dust collection port. Check one is included because it is not only healthier for you when using the planer but also creates less mess.
Overall, I would suggest focusing on the planer’s physical capabilities before purchasing one. Know the types of projects you will tend to work on when using a planer, and then get a model that fits those requirements.
The budget models do not show too much variation, and you have a number to choose from, so I’m confident you can get one perfect for your needs.
Owning a quality planer need not cost you a fortune. I’ve shown this with just five examples, and each tool is built to an exceptional standard even though they are less expensive than others on the market.
I suggest thinking about how you plan on using your planer and then going through the different tips I included after the products. In the end, I am confident you will find it easy and straightforward to choose the best planer for your needs.
After that, you can look forward to using it on several projects, knowing you have not had to break the bank to own one.