Few topics are as polarizing to power tool fans as Dewalt vs Milwaukee. This hotly debated topic makes sense since Dewalt and Milwaukee are the two most popular power tool brands, offering deep lineups of comparable high-quality tools.
We offer a unique perspective when choosing between Dewalt or Milwaukee since our in-house power tool tests are standardized for apples-to-apples comparisons across brands. Be gone anecdotal evidence and baked-in biases. Only performance in practical tests and robust feature sets truly determine which brand is better.
So, let’s get started. The guide below provides critical insights to help you choose Milwaukee vs Dewalt based on critical factors, such as category depth, battery technologies, performance, price, and warranties.
Dewalt and Milwaukee are the two most popular power tool brands with homeowners, DIYers, and professionals. While Dewalt power tools generally are cheaper when considering all-in costs of the tools, batteries, and chargers, Milwaukee has the edge in most categories regarding performance in the most demanding tasks. Both manufacturers offer exceptionally deep lineups and have advanced battery technologies, but Milwaukee power tools tend to have longer warranties.
Like most markets, the power tools industry has experienced a multi-decades-long consolidation trend, with several key conglomerates now running the show. So, it’s not surprising that Dewalt and Milwaukee are owned by large companies that operate numerous popular brands. Stanley Black & Decker owns Dewalt, which is headquartered in the U.S. Techtronic Industries, or TTI, owns Milwaukee and is headquartered in China.
Other brands under the Stanley Black & Decker umbrella include Craftsman, Irwin, Porter Cable, Stanley, Black & Decker, Troy-Bilt, Cub Cadet, and Lenox, among others.
TTI owns and licenses several popular brands, including Ryobi, Ridgid, Dirt Devil, Hoover, Empire, and Hart, among others.
Power tool lineup depth
Dewalt takes the podium position for having the most power tools across its 12V and 20V platforms. However, the difference primarily results from offering more models than Milwaukee in a given category, not covering more types of power tools.
Regardless of the total number of power tools offered, Dewalt and Milwaukee have some of the deepest lineups available.
There are over 300 power tools in Dewalt’s 20V ecosystem, including impact drivers, drills, impact wrenches, grinders, nailers, lasers, saws, and more. Dewalt doesn’t advertise the number of tools in its 12V Xtreme ecosystem, though the number is significantly lower.
Milwaukee offers over 175 tools on the popular M18 platform and over 150 on its compact M12 platform. Milwaukee offers equal coverage across a range of drilling, fastening, grinding, saw, and other power tool categories.
Dewalt vs Milwaukee platforms
Dewalt and Milwaukee share a common approach to building their power tool platforms but use different branding.
Milwaukee M12, M18, and Fuel
Milwaukee offers a deep lineup of 12V and 18V cordless power tools branded with M12 and M18 product names. Within the M12 and M18 lineups, Milwaukee offers a selection of Fuel-branded models, comprising its highest-performing brushless power tools, mostly designed for prosumers and professionals.
Milwaukee power tools, not including the Fuel branding, are a mix of models with brushed and brushless motors at mid-range and lower price points. There are typically few true budget-focused Milwaukee power tools since its products are priced at a premium.
Dewalt 12V, 20V Max/Max XR, and Atomic
Dewalt also offers a deep lineup of 12V and 20V power tools and a growing Flexvolt 60V Max power tools lineup. It’s worth noting that Dewalt’s 20V power tools are no more powerful voltage-wise than Milwaukee’s. Dewalt chooses to market the maximum voltage produced in ideal conditions, not the nominal voltage (18V) generated in normal conditions.
This approach explains why Dewalt’s 20V lineup always includes “Max” branding and an asterisk typically located in close proximity.
Dewalt’s 12V Xtreme lineup is highly compact and primarily includes an array of fastening, drilling, and cutting power tools.
Dewalt’s 20V lineup consists of three lines of power tools: Max, Max XR, and Atomic models. Dewalt’s Max tools are mostly budget-focused models with brushless motors.
Dewalt’s Max XR lineup includes its most powerful power tools with brushless motors, hence the “XR” branding signifying its Extended Run Time models.
The Atomic lineup includes compact 20V power tools that offer less performance but better agility and lighter weights than the Max XR models.
Dewalt Max XR vs Milwaukee Fuel
Many power tool users diving into brand performance and feature sets are likely reviewing Dewalt and Milwaukee’s high-end power tools, such as Dewalt’s Max XR models and Milwaukee’s Fuel offerings. So, let’s dedicate a deeper discussion to deciding between the two lineups.
While both are popular with homeowners valuing competitive pricing and professionals demanding performance, the Milwaukee Fuel lineup has a clear performance edge in all categories we’ve tested.
All power tools have performance tradeoffs, excelling in some tasks but not others. The tradeoff that Milwaukee consistently makes with its Fuel lineup is trading performance at the low end for best-in-class performance in the most demanding tasks. This is the right design call since most 18V/20V tools are powerful enough to breeze through light-duty jobs.
That said, the performance advantages offered with the Fuel lineup don’t significantly outclass Dewalt’s competing Max XR power tools. Let’s review an example to highlight this outcome.
The Dewalt 20V Max XR DCF887 and Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2953-20 are competing flagship impact drivers. In our speed tests driving GRK RSS fasteners, the Milwaukee 2953-20 yielded the fastest results in our summer 2023 test fleet, finishing five GRKs in 11.2 seconds.
The Dewalt DCF887 was second in line in our test fleet and finished five GRKs in 14.7 seconds, or a difference of 0.7 seconds per fastener. That difference in practice is negligible and may not hold much value for some, but it consistently highlights how Milwaukee’s Fuel power tools tend to outperform Dewalt’s Max XR models.
Dewalt vs Milwaukee battery technologies
Dewalt and Milwaukee offer a mix of standard and advanced battery technologies in their power tools.
Dewalt lithium-ion and Powerstack batteries
Dewalt’s 12V Xtreme batteries are interchangeable with all Xtreme power tools and chargers and include standard lithium-ion cell designs.
Jumping to the 20V platform provides several battery technology options. Dewalt’s 20 Max and 20V Max XR batteries are interchangeable with all 20V Max Dewalt power tools and are designed with typical standard lithium-ion cells.
The Max XR branding is used predominantly on its 2Ah and higher battery capacities, whereas Max branding is used most frequently on its 1.5Ah batteries found in lower-priced kits.
Dewalt’s most advanced Powerstack batteries utilize newer pouch-cell designs, which help to reduce weight and size, provide additional power, and last longer.
Dewalt’s 1.7Ah Powerstack battery is impressive according to manufacturer claims, providing 50% more power in a 25% more compact design, all with 2X the lifetime compared to equivalent 20V Max XR batteries. Importantly, Powerstack batteries work with all Dewalt 20V power tools and chargers.
Dewalt Flexvolt is an innovative battery technology that adjusts the voltage output based on the tool used. Flexvolt is primarily useful for professionals who own an array of 20V Max and 60V Max power tools but want to get the most performance out of each with a single battery. In short, Dewalt’s Flexvolt technology automatically adjusts the voltage to 20V or 60V, depending on the tool used.
20V Max tools with small brushless motors, such as impact drivers and drills, will run at a 20V maximum to extend run time. 60V Max power tools drawing more power automatically run at a 60V maximum to deliver more power.
Milwaukee lithium-ion and Forge batteries
Milwaukee utilizes a similar approach as Dewalt regarding its battery technologies. Milwaukee M12 and M18 Red Lithium batteries work with all tools in each voltage ecosystem and utilize standard lithium-ion cell designs.
Milwaukee M18 Red Lithium Forge batteries are the manufacturer’s competing pouch-cell battery designs that promise similar lofty improvements in size and performance. Forge batteries are currently only available in a 6.0Ah capacity, whereas Dewalt’s Powerstack batteries come in 1.7Ah and 5Ah versions.
Battery Ah capacities
Milwaukee offers more ah-capacity batteries in its M12 lineup than Dewalt in the 12V Xtreme lineup, which is limited to 2Ah and 5Ah capacities.
Moving into the Milwaukee M18 and Dewalt 20V battery lineups, there is little differentiation. Both manufacturers offer a range of Ah-capacities ranging from 1.5Ah to more than 10Ah.
As mentioned, Dewalt offers a 1.7Ah and 5.0Ah pouch-cell Powerstack battery, whereas Milwaukee only has a 6.0Ah pouch-cell Forge Red Lithium battery.
Dewalt vs Milwaukee pros and cons
While Dewalt and Milwaukee offer a wide range of quality power tools, some consistent advantages and differences exist between the two most popular brands. Let’s discuss a few common themes.
One advantage of choosing Dewalt over Milwaukee tools is Dewalt’s lower all-in costs. While many Dewalt and Milwaukee bare power tools are priced similarly, Dewalt is slightly cheaper when considering its kits and total costs when adding batteries and a charger.
This pricing approach explains why Dewalt power tools have become popular with two important mass markets, homeowners and professionals on the jobsite.
Another advantage of Dewalt power tools is a wider range of models in varying sizes in each power tool category. While the number of models in each category is dizzying, nearly all Dewalt power tool categories include at least 12V, 20V compact, budget, and 20V flagship offerings. Milwaukee has M12 and M18 versions of most of its power tools but doesn’t always offer a compact or budget-priced model in every category.
The primary advantage of Milwaukee power tools is the better overall performance of the Fuel lineup, which is incredibly popular with prosumers and professionals.
Most Milwaukee power tools also include a three or five-year warranty, whereas most Dewalt models max out at three years.
Drills are most commonly the first power tools consumers buy, so it makes sense to start there when discussing Milwaukee vs Dewalt.
Almost all of the best cordless drills that Milwaukee and Dewalt offer come in a standard drill and hammer drill version. We recommend buying the hammer drill versions for the added versatility of driving cement more efficiently without needing to pay much more. Dewalt and Milwaukee also offer exceptional 12V drills, though Milwaukee’s M12 lineup is arguably better overall.
The Dewalt 20V Max XR DCD805 Hammer Drill and Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2904-20 Hammer Drill are comparable flagship drills that are exceptionally fast in demanding drilling tasks and full of torque. In our standardized speed and performance tests, these two drills were neck and neck.
The primary differences are user safety and light features. The Milwaukee 2904-20 includes an auxiliary arm in the box and kickback control technology to reduce the frequency of arm and wrist injuries.
The Dewalt DCD805 has a better work light with three positions, and it can be set to Spotlight mode when needing a flashlight. However, the Dewalt DCD805 doesn’t include an auxiliary arm, a letdown at this performance tier.
Our Dewalt vs Milwaukee drills guide dives deeper into comparing a wider range of Dewalt and Milwaukee drills across key specifications and in-house tests. Or compare the Dewalt DCD805 vs Milwaukee 2904-20 drills side by side.
Impact drivers comparison
Dewalt and Milwaukee offer some of the best impact drivers across price and performance tiers. Like cordless drills, Milwaukee’s M12 lineup is outstanding with highly compact designs that don’t overly sacrifice performance for a small footprint.
In the flagship performance class, the Dewalt 20V Max XR DCF887 and Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2953-20 go toe-to-toe. However, the Milwaukee 2953-20 is a modestly better overall pick. In our testing, it was faster driving long screws and lag bolts, packs in a more powerful torque punch, and is far more compact tip to tail.
Our upcoming Milwaukee vs Dewalt impact drivers guide compares a wider range of Dewalt and Milwaukee impact drivers, or check out our head-to-head Dewalt DCF887 vs Milwaukee 2953-20 guide to see how these flagship models compare side by side in key tests and feature sets.
Circular saws comparison
We plan to launch circular saw coverage in early 2024 and will reserve in-depth commentary on Dewalt vs Milwaukee circular saws until testing each model in-house. Stay tuned.
Dewalt is the brand to pick overall for a better balance of price and performance throughout its range of tools, even knowing the small pricing differences. Both brands are similarly priced at the flagship tier when reviewing their bare tools. To highlight the pricing trends, let’s review the cost as of publishing for equivalent bare tools across several popular categories.
Flagship drills (bare)
- Dewalt 20V Max XR DCD805 Hammer Drill: Average price $152
- Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2904-20 Hammer Drill: Average price $143
Mid-range/compact drills (bare)
Flagship impact drivers (bare)
Mid-range/compact impact drivers (bare)
- Dewalt 20V Max XR DCF845: Average price $134
- Dewalt 20V Atomic DCF850: Average price $149
- Milwaukee M18 2850-20: Average price $129
- Milwaukee M18 2656-20: Average price $85
Flagship circular saws (bare)
- Dewalt 20V Max Flexvolt 7-1/4” DCS573B: Average price $210
- Milwaukee M18 Fuel 7-1/4” 2732-20: $234
Mid-range/compact circular saws (bare)
- Dewalt 20V Max XR 7-1/4” DCS570B: Average price $212
- Milwaukee M18 7-1/4” 2731-20: $192
As demonstrated, there isn’t a substantial pricing difference for Milwaukee vs Dewalt when buying only a bare tool. The pricing gap widens minimally in Dewalt’s favor once considering the total cost of ownership and purchasing a tool, battery, and charger, or a combination kit.
Before diving into the differences in brand perceptions, let’s highlight commonly shared perceptions when considering Milwaukee vs Dewalt.
Dewalt and Milwaukee power tools offer excellent performance and are the two most popular brands with homeowners and professionals. This outcome directly results from the overall build quality and performance offered by both brands.
Our power tool brand preferences study uncovered that consumers more commonly associate Dewalt with being budget-friendly, DIY/homeowner-friendly, and performance-oriented.
Brand perceptions for Milwaukee were commonly centered around being performance-oriented and long-lasting with outstanding durability.
Milwaukee has a slight edge regarding its tool warranties but closely matches Dewalt’s battery warranties. In general, Milwaukee and Dewalt power tools include the following warranties.
|1 year free servicing
|Up to 5 years
|2 to 3 years, depending on model