Last Updated on March 28, 2023 by Barry Gray
Even though both Porter-Cable and DeWalt are well-known brands, they represent entirely different approaches regarding the power tool market. That is why I feel it’s interesting to compare the two brands to see their differences and if they share any similarities.
You see, I firmly believe that you should spend some time getting to know more about the brand of power tool you plan on purchasing before spending any money. Knowing they have the tools, accessories, and even their general reputation can give additional confidence in using their tools.
So that is what I plan on doing here. How do Porter-Cable and DeWalt match up against one another? Also, which brand comes out on top in direct competition between the two, and why would you go ahead and purchase one brand over the other?
With all of that, there’s a lot to get through. But first, a brief recap of the history of each company.
Which One is Best?
So which brand do I think is best out of Porter-Cable and DeWalt? The problem I have here is that both brands target two distinctively different markets.
That means I need to answer the question like this.
If you are a professional searching for a new power tool, I would suggest going for DeWalt. These tools have a lot of power and torque to help you in those tight spots. They also tend to be relatively light and can perform a whole host of additional functions that only experienced DIY’ers or professionals would really need.
But it changes if you are a beginner or someone looking to own a basic power tool for the occasional project.
If that sounds like you, then tools manufactured by Porter-Cable would certainly suffice. Their tools are still manufactured to a high level, even though they do not have the same heavy-duty capabilities that you get with other brands.
But once again, if you know the limitations of the power tool in advance, then it won’t come as a surprise when the tool just cannot do specific jobs.
So it all comes down to your own individual needs and the projects you plan to work on. Both tools perform well for their own market and won’t let you down with their respective limitations or capabilities.
The History of Porter-Cable
Porter-Cable has what can only be described as an extensive history. Launched in 1906, the company started off focusing on producing standard tools. It wasn’t until 1914 that they turned their attention to the potential development of power tools.
The name is also interesting, and it reflects their origins. Based in Syracuse, they launched in the F.E Cable and Porter Brothers machine shop, hence the name.
As a company, they managed to establish themselves as one of the go-to names during the 1920s when it came to power tools. Their first foray into the industry focused on the development of both electric sanders and also a handheld circular saw. Those machines led to them gaining a significant foothold in the industry.
By 1960, the company was sold to Rockwell, who decided to push the brand in a new direction. As a result, they opted to remove the Porter-Cable trademark and cut prices to try to help the brand compete against another big name, Black & Decker.
That was something that didn’t manage to work quite as well as the company hoped. However, Porter-Cable did then have something of a resurgence in the 1980s when the company was taken over by Delta Machinery. At that point, the Porter-Cable trademark reappeared and also improved the quality of the tools considerably.
The Parent Company of Porter-Cable
In what is really an ironic twist, Porter-Cable is now owned by Stanley Black & Decker, the very brand that Rockwell decided to try to compete against in 1960. However, it seems that Stanley Black & Decker is quite content to have this brand under their organization as they know it certainly has its place in the power tool market.
The History of DeWalt
Out of the two companies, DeWalt is the younger one since it was launched in 1924 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Created by Ray DeWalt, they quickly established themselves in the tools industry thanks to the development of a radial arm saw that became popular almost overnight.
But even though they had early success, which included the development of several other power tools over the years, they did turn their attention to the production of tools for the war effort. After that, they went through a slight rebranding by becoming DeWalt Incorporated in 1947 and resuming their focus on tools for both professionals and the home market.
Eventually, the company was sold to Stanley Black & Decker in 1960, and they remain the owners to this day.
The Parent Company of DeWalt
DeWalt has had a relationship with Stanley Black & Decker for over 60 years. However, they manage to maintain their own identity even though it means they benefit from having the backing and support of one of the biggest names in the power tool industry.
Porter-Cable does have a precise approach when it comes to its tools. While the likes of DeWalt is always seeking to become innovative and introduce new things to the tools market, that’s not what Porter-Cable is all about.
Instead, their focus remains on producing tools that are easy to work with and where they target a market where there’s less of a need for innovation and more of a need for practicality.
However, I feel that several reasons exist why people should be interested in what Porter-Cable has to offer.
When it launched, Porter-Cable clearly manufactured all its tools in the United States. However, that’s no longer the case.
Now, most of their tools are manufactured in plants based in either Mexico or China in an attempt to keep costs low. But that’s not all.
They source parts from even more locations worldwide before all of the individual components are shipped to the relevant plant in either of those countries. That’s where everything is finally put together, and the tool is then sent to the United States or other countries ready for sale.
Porter-Cable does have an impressive list of products available to buy. However, you may find some limitations as their range is not as extensive as with companies like DeWalt. That being said, I find their product range to be enough for people new to using power tools or where they only carry out the occasional DIY project.
Why Buy Porter-Cable Tools?
I think the main reasons you would go ahead and buy Porter-Cable tools would include the following.
Porter-Cable tools are well designed; I do love how they manage to make sure that their tools feel comfortable in your hand. I think that, for a budget range, the design of the tools is impressive enough, and as long as you know they won’t be as robust as other brands, then you shouldn’t run into too many problems.
For the market they target, the performance of Porter-Cable tools is impressive. However, don’t expect them to be capable of performing to the same heights as tools by brands such as DeWalt. It’s just not going to happen.
These tools are designed to perform adequately for most of your average DIY’er projects. Thankfully, it’s something they manage to do with ease.
Porter-Cable power tools are also straightforward to use, partly because they focus primarily on covering the basics and ensuring you can do them well.
These tools are designed so that any individual can use them. You basically take them out of the box, and you are good to go. They don’t overcomplicate matters by incorporating things into the tool your average person doesn’t need.
So, if you want a straightforward power tool to use, then Porter-Cable is certainly one brand to consider.
As a brand, DeWalt is known for producing professional-level power tools capable of dealing with a lot of punishment. However, there’s much more to these tools than simply being designed and built with professionals in mind.
Like Porter-Cable, DeWalt used to manufacture all of its tools within the United States. To this day, they still maintain several plants across the country even though various aspects of their power tools are now made elsewhere in the world.
What tends to happen with DeWalt is that various components are manufactured in multiple countries before those components are shipped to US plants. The tools are then put together in the United States, so they can state that the finished product is made in the US but with global components.
DeWalt has a vast product range with well over 200 tools available on their 20V range and over 800 accessories. That means you should have no problem finding the perfect tool for you and then changing bits or blades to get the tool to operate precisely as you want.
I see this as a massive advantage for DeWalt. They know their market and how their customers will often need a very specific tool for a particular job. So, they have made sure they supply them with those parts.
Why Buy DeWalt Tools?
Owning DeWalt tools does come with several significant benefits, and I see various reasons as to why any individual would want to go ahead and purchase one if their budget allows.
I know from a personal perspective just how reliable DeWalt tools are because they can last for years no matter how hard you push them. They tend to come with brushless motors, making a considerable difference as motors last longer and require less maintenance.
I also feel the battery performs better on DeWalt than most brands. It means you can produce a greater number of cuts or drill harder and longer before you have to think about recharging things.
Once again, you can see how that would appeal to people using their power tools regularly.
Versatility is another substantial positive with DeWalt, and it’s thanks to those accessories. The way you can change blades or bits or use other accessories to make a project easier to complete does make a vast difference.
I also find DeWalt tools to be easy to handle, and it’s not all because they feel so light in your hand. Instead, their tools are ergonomically designed, so they naturally sit better and are easier to handle.
I feel this then reduces fatigue, which is further helped by the fact that DeWalt tools are lightweight, so you always feel you can use these tools for longer than you expected.
DeWalt tools may be more complex thanks to the range of functions compared to Porter-Cable, but I still believe their usability makes them an impressive tool.
It’s the number of ways in which you can use the tool that impresses me. The sheer power that comes with these tools opens up new doors and ways you can use them. Add in all those accessory options, and I always feel that DeWalt tools can almost become multi-functional.
Comparing Porter-Cable and DeWalt
Porter-Cable and DeWalt target two completely different markets reflected in their tools’ capabilities.
DeWalt has always been about the professionals or serious DIY’er. Their tools are designed to provide better functionality and to do so with more heavy-duty tasks.
On the other hand, Porter-Cable knows their target is your weekend DIY project, where people carry out various tasks around their homes. They know their requirements are not the same as professionals, and once again, that’s reflected in the tool’s capabilities.
When it comes to price, there’s no comparison. Porter-Cable tools are significantly less expensive than DeWalt, but then that also reflects their limitations when it comes to capabilities.
But one thing I don’t want you to think is that it means Porter-Cable tools are of much poorer quality as a result. The build quality is still there, and it’s primarily down to reduced capabilities regarding power, torque, and even the tool’s weight.
By dialing back on what the tools can do, as heavy-duty tools for larger projects require more capabilities, they can reduce the cost thanks to simply not requiring the same technology. For me, that’s the main difference and is the reason why Porter-Cable tools are indeed less expensive.
No matter the actual price of the power tool, I always tell people to take out the warranty. Of course, the modern-day power tool is generally more reliable than those from a couple of decades ago as technology has improved. However, you never know when something could go wrong, so the warranty is essential.
For Porter-Cable, you need to pay close attention to their warranty. Some tools come with a 1-year, while others offer you a 3-year warranty, and I know which one I prefer.
However, they also have limitations regarding what’s covered in the warranty. They won’t replace or repair if it’s down to the tool being abused in some way, such as throwing it around or general wear and tear.
Instead, the warranty applies only if there is some manufacturing defect, so they have many ways to ensure their warranty does not cover any issues.
But DeWalt is slightly different.
You will typically receive a 3-year warranty with their power tools, but some can extend up to 7 years, which is impressive. However, they also state the same type of thing regarding what they will cover with the warranty, so you need to look into this.
But you will also notice that DeWalt offers a limited time period where a money-back guarantee applies. That’s something I like, and I also love how they provide you with a 1-year service cover where they will repair and replace parts of the tool over those first 12 months.
I just think that DeWalt offers a better warranty, but then some argue their tools are designed for more punishment, so a better warranty is required. But do just make sure you check the small print when it comes to these warranties, or you may find out you do not have the same level of cover as expected.
I also feel that another important area is how a company helps you out when in need, so comparing each company’s customer service helps with that.
Generally speaking, the customer service at Porter-Cable would be slightly above average. Some people complain that they struggle to get through or that the company uses some loopholes regarding the warranty, but that’s not too different from most companies.
But other people report that Porter-Cable customer service manages to deal with any problems they have, so it may be slightly hit-and-miss.
For DeWalt, then the major complaint is still focused on the warranty. The main issue is how they use the term ‘abuse’ regarding power tools. Nobody seems to know what that means, and it does provide them with an opportunity to make their warranty effectively null and void.
Also, people complain that it can take too long for tools to be repaired which, for professionals, is not something you want to encounter. However, they do honor their money-back guarantee, and they do so without too many problems, so they get some bonus points there.
Overall, the main problem is surrounding the warranty, but both companies appear guilty of the same issues.
Both Porter-Cable and DeWalt produce fantastic tools, and they offer enough variety and options for their own market to make them an interesting purchase.
Comparing the two brands is challenging because of their clear differences and how they target a very different market with entirely different needs.
I suggest you think carefully about what you want from your power tools and then decide. I’m confident that if you do this, you will end up with the perfect power tool from either of these brands just as long as it fits your needs.