Last Updated on August 9, 2023 by Barry Gray
Which company out of Ryobi and Milwaukee manufactures the best power tools?
I always feel this is a tricky question to answer, and it’s because it involves two giant companies that have indeed managed to establish themselves within the industry. Also, when you have two companies producing such a wide range of power tools, it’s easy to see how you may have no idea where to even begin.
But don’t worry because I’ve spent time unpicking both companies to then look at drawing some sorts of comparisons. I aim to make your life much easier when deciding on the brand name you wish to purchase.
However, let me make one thing clear from the outset. I’m not going to compare individual products between the two brands. Instead, I intend to give you some background information on each company followed by reasons why their products are so good.
Oh, and I’ll also tell you more about what to expect from the tools to help you decide if they are the perfect fit.
The History of Ryobi
First is the history of Ryobi. This Japanese company was launched in 1943 under the name Ryobi Seisakusho Co. Ltd.
But here is something that may surprise you. They didn’t start off life as a company that manufactured power tools.
Instead, they started making die-cast products, and it wasn’t until 1968 that they began producing power tools. That was after a short-lived trip into the world of making fishing tackle.
But even then, Ryobi only sought to manufacture and sell power tools within Japan. They had no intention of venturing outside the country until just after 2000, when they finally opted to push into other countries.
That is why people in the West think that Ryobi has only recently started to manufacture power tools. However, that’s not the case. They may not have as long a history as the likes of Milwaukee, but they certainly know what they are doing in manufacturing these tools.
The Parent Company of Ryobi
But as is the norm with these companies and brands, a bigger name that you may never have even heard of actually owns them. In this instance, the picture gets a bit confusing.
The reason why it’s confusing is that the power tools that we see on the market in countries such as the United States or the UK refer to a company called Ryobi Power Tools or even Ryobi Outdoor Power Equipment.
But here’s the thing. These names are operated by a company called Techtonic Industries, which owns many companies within the tools industry. (Spoiler alert: it also includes Milwaukee)
Having a company that owns so many brands does mean Ryobi at least has the might and power to push out its tools. That’s one reason their name plays such a prominent role in the industry.
The History of Milwaukee
Milwaukee was first launched in 1922, but after a fire in 1923 wiped everything out, they were relaunched in the format we know them as in 1924.
But as a company, they were involved in developing power tools right from the outset. They were even responsible for producing a portable power drill back in 1922, and that was a rare thing since it was the early days of power tools.
In the early years, Milwaukee focused on manufacturing a tool known as the Hole-Shooter, while a considerable part of their business also dealt with repairing tools. In a way, that meant they could begin to understand what people were doing wrong with tools or what they would like them to do.
In 1930, they produced an electric drill, and things really did start to take off for them from that point on. This was followed by an electric hammer in 1935, which you could then convert to a drill, and other tools would follow.
However, 1951 would prove to be a big year for the company, launching their Sawzall reciprocating saw. If you know anything about Milwaukee, chances are it will be that Sawzall name, and I know I was surprised when I discovered just how long it has been on the market.
Now, Milwaukee has a vast number of tools and accessories tied to its name, but I’ll talk more about that later.
The Parent Company of Milwaukee
As I mentioned earlier, Techtonic Industries is the name behind Milwaukee since they bought the name back in 2005. It means they fall under the same company as Ryobi and various others you may have heard of.
Companies such as VAX, Hoover, and Dirt Devils are also owned by this huge company, but they certainly see Milwaukee as one of their more premium brands.
Ryobi is perhaps best known for its cordless tools with the ability to use one battery between their different tools. However, they do produce some corded tools as well.
The History of Their Cordless Tools
So many power tool companies had tried to create a range whereby one battery could become interchangeable with different tools, but it was Ryobi that successfully created this back in 2008. That would change everything for the company, and I know it’s the reason why I became aware of the brand several years ago.
The Manufacturing Process
Ryobi tools are actually manufactured in different locations around the world. This does include plants in the United States, but this is truly a global company. So, I cannot turn to you and tell you where individual tools are manufactured as the picture is far too complex.
But often, this is what happens with the tools you can purchase in the United States.
Ryobi will manufacture individual components and parts in different countries. They will then ship those parts to the United States where it’s all put together like a puzzle. They then test and even design new tools in the US before putting them out on the market.
Their Range of Tools and Accessories
I think that Ryobi has an impressive array of tools available on the market, with the main focus being on their 18V ONE+ line. This line uses their Lithium-ion battery, and you have over 250 different tools to choose from within that line.
I feel that this line covers almost every eventuality you care to imagine, and I know I have too many options to choose from. Also, they do have a number of tools within a 40V range, but they are fewer in number at only just over 40 different tools.
When it comes to accessories, I admit that Ryobi is not the best. Sure they do have them, but they tend to focus more on the production of the actual tool rather than various bits and blades to attach to them.
That’s not me saying they don’t have them. They most certainly do, but don’t expect there to be hundreds of options available to you. It’s just not going to work out like that.
Who Do They Sell to?
Now the big question that I know everyone is waiting for me to answer is which market is the main focus for Ryobi?
I see Ryobi as aiming at the enthusiastic DIY’er, where they want a robust tool that can perform exceptionally well, but there’s no need for a heavy-duty tool. Also, they have targeted a market where cost is a potential issue, and they have managed to achieve this thanks to their Lithium-ion battery.
Only having to purchase one battery, which can then be used across the entire range, does mean the individual tool is not expensive. That lower price tag, in my opinion, will draw people in but I’ll talk more about the cost and compare it to Milwaukee later.
So, while it’s not viewed as a brand that focuses on the professional market, its tools are still used by people that know and understand how to use them and get the most out of the tool itself.
Why I Think You Should Purchase Ryobi Tools
When I spend time checking out different Ryobi tools, certain things tend to leap out.
The first thing is the cost. I know you have to purchase a battery and the charger at the outset, but this could be a one-off charge with you using one single battery all the time. Well, I wouldn’t recommend this. Instead, I would suggest getting two batteries to allow one to charge while you use the other.
But that aside, I do see Ryobi tools as then becoming budget-friendly. For many, that’s a huge reason to go ahead and purchase their tools, as you can work at building your collection of tools without it burning a massive hole in your pocket.
But while the price is a real advantage, I don’t see that as the main reason you want to purchase a Ryobi tool. For me, it’s the balance between affordability and quality of the tool.
I see Ryobi as manufacturing high-quality tools that certainly feel as if they will last for some time. The battery slides into any tool within the range with absolute ease, and that’s fantastic. After that, they are easy to operate, so anybody can take advantage of the power that comes with these tools and get the results they were looking for.
Milwaukee tools are a whole other brand to contend with in this industry, and they certainly have a strong name attached to them. People see them as the tool for the professional, and I do have to agree with that sentiment.
The Manufacturing Process
Milwaukee tools are manufactured at three different plants in the United States, and they tend to make a big deal about the fact they are an American company. That’s something that hasn’t changed, even though they are now owned by a company based in Hong Kong.
But I can say with a reasonable amount of certainty that Milwaukee tools are indeed designed, manufactured, and tested in the United States.
Their Range of Tools and Accessories
In my opinion, Milwaukee does go over the top when it comes to both the range of tools and the number of accessories.
Their M18 line is their most popular, and it currently has over 200 tools available. However, that’s not all that Milwaukee produces.
They also have a 12V line, and even though this is a smaller range, I see they still have over 100 tools with the 12V battery.
But Milwaukee is still not finished.
They have also launched their MX Fuel line. They don’t have too many tools in this range, so I wouldn’t pay much attention to it. You certainly do not have the same range of options available in the MX Fuel range as you do with the M18.
And then you have the accessories. Honestly, I just look at the array of accessories under the Milwaukee brand, and I feel swamped. You see, they have over 3,500 different accessories, so you can see why it’s overwhelming.
Who Do They Sell to?
It’s easy for me to tell you who Milwaukee sells to as they have long been viewed as focusing on the professionals, and that’s because of the quality of the tools they produce.
I know Milwaukee tools are built to last and have a lot of power and torque. They market almost exclusively to professionals who need a rugged tool that will last a long time and still work to the high standards that professionals expect.
However, I’m not saying you should avoid buying Milwaukee tools if you are not a professional. That’s not the case.
Why I Think You Should Purchase Milwaukee Tools
I have several reasons why I think you should seriously consider buying Milwaukee tools.
They are Heavy-Duty
First, there’s no doubt that these tools are heavy-duty. They are built to last, and their robust look and feel are no accident.
You just know in an instant that these tools will last for a long time. They will also cope with any situation or working conditions, so these tools will work no matter what’s going on.
The battery with the M18 range of Milwaukee tools is exceptional. What I love about the battery is how it seeks to deliver that constant power up until the point where the battery runs out of charge.
I love this because it means the tool does not get these surges of power and then die on you. It means you can trust the process and that the tool in question will have your back.
Again you can see why professionals would love this, but I think anybody should want this to happen with their power tools.
Another thing I love about Milwaukee power tools is the fact they come with brushless motors. I’ll quickly explain if you have no idea of the difference that makes.
Without brushes, it means the motors are far more efficient and less likely to break down. Older motors that use brushes would see the brushes wearing down in next to no time, and then the entire motor would seize up.
That’s not the case here, so you can work Milwaukee power tools harder and know they won’t simply quit on you.
Ryobi Vs. Milwaukee – Reputation
If I were to compare the reputation of both brands, I would say it’s a close-run thing to decide if one is better than the other. The main issue is the fact they deal with two different markets.
If you look at Ryobi, then it has a reputation for producing quality tools at a budget price. Milwaukee has the reputation of delivering professional tools for heavy-duty use with a higher price tag.
But here is an important thing.
Both brands excel within their own market. The overlap between their markets remains slight, but the one thing you can guarantee is the quality of the tool you will get, no matter which brand you choose.
Ryobi Vs. Milwaukee – Cost
If we turn to cost, Ryobi would walk away with the prize if we simply went by what you would pay without considering other things. You see, I do find that the basic Ryobi tool can work out to be half the price of the Milwaukee tool, but you must remember what you get for your money.
For example, Ryobi tools will come with less power and torque. Think of Milwaukee tools, but everything dialed back to a certain extent. That means you won’t get the same results when dealing with anything that requires more power.
And then there are the accessories. Remember that Milwaukee has over 3,500 accessories, and that’s a considerable number. Is there any point in purchasing Ryobi tools if you struggle to get the bits or blades you really need to complete the project?
What I’m saying is you need to look beyond the basic cost of the tool. You need to line it up with what you want out of your tool and your project needs.
So while Ryobi will always beat Milwaukee regarding that basic cost, there’s a whole lot more to it than that.
Ryobi Vs. Milwaukee – Warranty
Another thing to consider when comparing the two is the warranty you get when you purchase one of their tools. I would always push for you to take the warranty if you plan on using your tools regularly. You just never know when something may go wrong.
When looking at Ryobi, you typically receive a 3-year warranty, and I see that as pretty standard. However, if you purchase a 40V tool, your warranty increases to 5 years, so that’s cool.
For Milwaukee, the majority of their tools do come with a 5-year warranty, and I think that’s impressive. But there’s one thing to be aware of. The 5-year warranty applies to their corded tools. If you plan on using the cordless versions, then the warranty drops down to a 3-year warranty.
But seriously, there’s little between them when it comes to warranty.
Which One Would I Choose?
So now we can get down to the crunch here, which one would I choose? Honestly, I can see why people struggle to decide. Both brands have their advantages and issues. It’s simply a case of weighing up the important things to you.
I can see Ryobi tools’ appeal after you bought the battery and charger. They make their range of power tools very accessible, and I think that’s excellent. It means you can get a quality tool without worrying about spending a fortune.
But I see that their tools are lacking in what they can do for anybody looking to carry out large-scale projects. That’s where Milwaukee undoubtedly wins between the two.
Also, while Ryobi tools are well made, they cannot reach the same heights as the heavy-duty nature of Milwaukee tools. You feel you can throw anything at them, and their tools will still perform beyond the call of duty.
Ultimately, I would choose Milwaukee simply because of the types of projects I do. However, I certainly would not feel unhappy about using Ryobi tools for smaller projects.
Finally, if I was in your position and trying to choose between these two brands, I would look at several points.
- How often do I use the tools?
- What are my likely projects?
- How important is maximum power?
- What’s my own skill level?
- How important are accessories?
Answering those questions should help push you toward a specific brand and make life easier.
Ultimately, it’s all up to your individual needs and your budget. However, with both Ryobi and Milwaukee, you will find yourself covered no matter what you need from your power tools.