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8 Best Utility Knives (2023 Buying Guide)

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Almost every DIY, construction, or repair project requires cutting or slicing something. While a pocket knife might do the trick, the first nail along the way will dull the blade. Instead, a trusty utility knife with replaceable blades makes a much better choice. The best utility knives are sturdy, lightweight, and compact; every DIYer needs one.

But there are a lot of inferior utility knives on the market, and it’s hard to determine which are the best and which are worthless. This guide will help, as we tested several of the best utility knives available so you don’t have to.

How to pick the best utility knife

There are a few points to consider when choosing a utility knife, whether it’s blade changeability, style, or other features. The following are some of the most important considerations.

Retractable vs non-retractable vs folding

While there are many different types of utility knives, they boil down to three main styles: Retractable, non-retractable, and folding. 

Retractable blades are great for DIYers that wear tool belts or keep their knives in a toolbox. The blade pops out quickly and stores safely away just as easily. The downside is that these tools have moving parts that can wear over time.

Non-retractable blades work well for workshop use, as the user can place them safely in plain sight on a workbench or shelf. There’s always a risk of cutting oneself, but non-retractable blades have fewer parts that will fail, making them long-lasting.

Folding knives are similar to pocket knives. They’re compact in their folded position but flip open to provide a functional knife. The issue is that the handles are often smaller than a traditional utility knife.

Quick-change blades

For most traditional utility knives, when the blade becomes dull, the user has to remove a screw from the knife body, separate the halves, and change the blade. This can be a headache, and losing that little screw can sap workflow.

Many utility knives have quick-change functions that allow the user to slide an old blade out, flip it around, and reinsert it without taking the knife apart. This can save the user much time and frustration over traditional utility knives. 

Replaceable vs breakable blades

Utility knife shoppers will have two blade choices: replaceable and breakable. Which to choose is largely a matter of preference.

Replaceable blades are short, stout, and typically have two sides. The user can install the blade, use it until it becomes dull, and then swap the blade around to get a new, clean edge. 

Breakable blades are longer and feature breakable sections. When the tip dulls, the user can snap the dull section off with pliers, revealing a new edge. The blades are great for cutting thick foam or insulation, but they’re not nearly as sturdy as replaceable blades.

DIY Gear Review’s best utility knives 

Best folding utility knife
Milwaukee Fastback Folding Utility Knife
Pros:
  • In-handle blade storage
  • Removable pocket clip
  • Built-in gut hook and wire strippers
  • Quick-release blade changes
Cons:
  • One position for pocket clip
Check Price

There can be a lot of value in a sturdy folding utility knife, and this model from Milwaukee checks many boxes. This Fastback model features a folding design, a quick-release blade change button, and in-handle blade storage for up to four blades.

One of the largest benefits of the Fastback from Milwaukee is its removable pocket clip. This allows users to rely on it for DIY work and EDC carry. The Fastback has a built-in gut hook that can double as a seatbelt cutter and wire strippers. While the pocket clip is nice, it isn’t multi-positional.

Best retractable utility knife
Lenox Tools Quick-Change Retractable Utility Knife
Pros:
  • Ergonomic design
  • Heavy-duty construction
  • Quick-change blades
  • Hinged halves for quick assembly and disassembly
Cons:
  • Expensive
Check Price

Those looking for a quality retractable utility knife won’t have to look any further than the Lenox Tools Gold utility knife. This knife features a retractable blade, a quick-change blade release, and one-piece construction that makes accessing the in-handle blade storage frustration-free.

This knife’s a favorite among pros, mainly due to its heavy-duty construction and ergonomic design. The forward-sloped blade angle allows users to apply a lot of pressure while the curved handle fits well in hand. While it is a bit more expensive than a standard utility knife, the extra features and design are worth it. 

Best folding compact
Milwaukee Fastback Folding Utility Knife
Pros:
  • In-handle blade storage
  • Removable pocket clip
  • Built-in gut hook and wire strippers
  • Quick-release blade changes
Cons:
  • One position for pocket clip
Check Price

For those who want a streamlined folding utility knife with a small footprint, Milwaukee Fastback Compact Folding Utility Knife delivers. This knife folds to create a small package but reaches 6 inches overall when open. 

The Fastback compact has an ergonomically designed handle that allows the user to assume a comfortable grip when cutting or slicing. Also, it offers one-hand opening to allow the user to flip the knife open while holding the workpiece with the other hand. There is also a pocket clip and a built-in tape measure hook used for extending a tape without putting the knife down for fast and convenient scoring.

The downside to this knife’s features and compact design is that they don’t leave room for onboard blade storage.

Best EDC utility knife
Gerber Gear Prybrid Utility Pocket Knife
Pros:
  • Built-in pry bar, can opener, and more
  • Quick-change feature
  • Compact design for easy carry
Cons:
  • No blade storage
Check Price

Rocking a utility knife for EDC is a bold choice, but the Prybrid from Gerber Gear has the goods and is one of the best pocket utility knife options. This mini utility knife has a small footprint with a retractable blade, and it’s packed with many features.

This EDC utility knife features a pry bar, screwdrivers, a nail puller, a bottle opener, a wire stripper, and a cord-cutting notch. It also features a quick-change button in the retractable mechanism that allows the user to swap out dull blades but keeps them secure otherwise. 

Unfortunately, there isn’t any onboard blade storage, but this knife’s aim is to be a minimalist carry option that can otherwise do it all.

Best mini utility knife
Outdoor Edge SlideWinder Multitool
Pros:
  • Affordable
  • Compact design
  • Sturdy pocket clip
  • Built-in screwdrivers
Cons:
  • A bit small
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Outdoor enthusiasts that like to keep it light without sacrificing capability should check out the Slidewinder from Outdoor Edge. This adventure-designed knife is compact but really packs a lot of punch, including its sturdy pocket clip and built-in bottle opener. 

This retractable utility knife features an autolocking blade that snaps into place securely but also retracts automatically with the push of a button. Also, the Slidewinder features both flat and Phillips screwdrivers built into its stainless steel body.

Best breakable utility knife
Olfa Heavy-Duty Utility Knife
Pros:
  • High-quality Japanese tool steel
  • 18mm blade features 8 sections
  • Built-in screwdriver and can opener
Cons:
  • Long for pocket carry
Check Price

There’s something about having a fresh blade available at the snap of a finger (or pliers) that makes breakable utility knives like OLFA’s heavy-duty utility knife desirable. This retractable knife features an 18mm-long Japanese tool steel blade with 8 snappable sections, allowing users to get back to work quickly once their blade dulls.

Overall, this knife is a little long for pocket carry. However, it features a built-in screwdriver, prybar, and can opener, which account for some of the additional length. Also, this knife has an auto-lock function that keeps the blade securely in position when used or stored away.

Budget pick
Stanley QuickChange Retractable Utility Knife
Pros:
  • Affordable price point
  • Built-in cord-cutter
  • Three blade positions
Cons:
  • Dated design
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When saving a bit of money without losing functionality is a factor, Stanley’s QuickChange Retractable utility knife is a smart choice. This knife features the same overall design as Stanley’s classic utility knives but also features modern touches like swing-out blade storage and a quick-change blade release button. 

This retractable utility knife features three blade positions, allowing the user to lock the blade in at just the right depth for safe cuts. Also, a built-in cord-cutting notch is always available, regardless of the blade’s position. Remember that this is an update to Stanley’s older knives, so the Stanley QuickChange Retractable’s ergonomics might not be on par with today’s most advanced knives. 

Best utility knife blades
Stanley 100 Pack Utility Knife Blades & Dispenser
Pros:
  • Affordable
  • Comes with a dispenser
  • Fits most standard utility knives
Cons:
  • General-purpose blade might dull quickly in heavy-duty applications
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What good is a utility knife without the best utility knife blade? Stanley’s utility knife blades feature a precision-honed edge for general-purpose cutting. This 100-pack of blades also comes with its own dispenser, and DIYers won’t have to worry about the blades coming loose in their toolbox. 

These blades will fit most universal utility knives, whether retractable, non-retractable, or folding. While the general-purpose edges might not stay sharp through heavy-duty projects, their affordability allows for guilt-free swapping. 

Comparing the best utility knives

Utility KnifeKnife TypeBlade TypeFeatures
Milwaukee Fastback FoldingFoldingReplaceableIn-handle blade storage
Lenox Tools Quick-ChangeRetractableReplaceableQuick-release blade changes
One-piece hinged design
Ergonomic design
Milwaukee Fastback CompactFoldingReplaceableCompact, folding footprint
Built-in tape measure hook
One-hand opening
Gerber Gear PrybridRetractableReplaceableBuilt-in pry bar, screwdrivers, can opener, and more
Quick-release blade changes
Compact design
Outdoor Edge SlideWinderRetractableReplaceableCompact design
Sturdy pocket clip
Built-in screwdrivers
Olfa Heavy-Duty BreakableRetractableBreakableHigh-quality steel 18mm blade with 8 snappable sections
Built-in screwdriver and can opener
Stanley QuickChangeRetractableReplaceableSwing-out blade storage
Stanley 100 Pack Utility Knife Blades & DispenserUniversal FitReplaceableWall-mountable dispenser

What utility knife is right for you?

Sometimes, a knife might lend itself better to someone in a specific work or skill level. 

Pro and DIY builders

Pros and DIYers that spend most of their time building will prefer a heavy-duty knife for slicing open bundles of lumber or sharpening a carpenter’s pencil. For these folks, it’s hard to beat the durability of a Lenox Tools Quick-Change Retractable Utility Knife. We also suggest considering the Milwaukee Fastback Folding Utility Knife.

Woodworkers

Woodworkers who use their knives to make precision marks might prefer a knife with a one-handed opening. The Milwaukee Fastback Folding Utility Knife could be the way to go for these folks.

EDC enthusiasts

Anyone searching for a utility knife that doubles as a pocket knife (and many other tools) should check out Gerber Gear Prybrid Utility Pocket Knife. It has a built-in screwdriver, a pry bar, and other features, as well as a retractable utility blade. 

The Outdoor Edge SlideWinder Multitool is also worth considering with its pocketable size and versatility.

Other features to consider

The features above cover most of the bases, but there are some additional features that utility knife shoppers might want to look for when considering one of these hand tools.

Pocket clips

Many of the best folding utility knives feature pocket clips. Some folks will use them to secure the knife in a pocket or tool bet, while others might prefer to remove them altogether for a more streamlined grip.

Blade storage

Some knives feature onboard blade storage that users can access whenever a blade dulls. Some do so with swing-out trays that hold blades securely in place; others may have storage compartments inside the knife that require the user to open it for access.

Cord cutters and gut hooks

The frames of many mother utility knives feature slotted sections within which the blade’s edge is always visible. These are cord cutters or gut hooks, and they can be helpful when slicing wires, ropes, or even seatbelts. They can even help dress an animal on a hunting trip.

Utility knives that didn’t make the cut

The Craftsman Utility Knife 2-Pack isn’t a bad set of knives, but we found removing screws to access blades will hamper progress.

The WorkPro Folding Utility Knife had most of the features we look for, but we found the pocket clip to be a bit clunky, and we weren’t fans of the thumb disc.

The Stanley FatMax Retractable Utility Knife is a solid all-arounder that is slightly cheaper than our pick, the Lenox Tools Quick-Change Retractable Utility Knife. Spending the extra few dollars makes sense, particularly for better build quality and faster blade changing.

Realistically, there’s nothing wrong with the Greenlee Folding Utility Knife. It doesn’t offer as much value as some of the others (which cost significantly less).

How we picked the winners

Full disclosure: We love utility knives and had a lot of first-hand experience with most of these models long before this test. However, we did buy these and put them through hands-on testing.

First, we narrowed it down to 16 picks after poring over online user reviews and drawing upon our prior first-hand experience. The final list of picks we purchased for in-house testing were the ones that offered the best bang for the buck.

Once purchased, we got to in-house testing. We compared each knife for smooth operation, safety, ease of changing the blades, convenience, onboard storage, and durability. Finally, we cut cardboard, drywall, cordage, and many other materials to get an idea of how these utility knives feel. The end result was a well-rounded list of the best utility knives, each excelling in a specific area.

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