Kobalt vs Craftsman: Which brand makes better tools?
So, here you are: in need of wrenches, ratchets, sockets…You know, all those fundamental DIY buddies helping you get some proper work done.
Some people prefer buying their tools separately. Others go for those gigantic 200+ item kits that cover everything under the sun.
I don’t know which of these options suits you better. All I know is that you’re guaranteed to wonder whether Kobalt or Craftsman provide a better bang for your buck.
Craftsman’s best value set is this 230-piece monster.
Kobalt strike back with a 227-piece mechanic’s toolkit that’s more than decent.
Let’s talk about those two brands and the quality of their tools. Is one better than the other?
Craftsman vs Kobalt:
I’ve mentioned it in many of my previous tool ramblings, but the first thing you need to concern yourself about is manufacture.
Sadly, over the past years this has become the weak point of some Craftsman tools. It’s not only me – other DIY enthusiasts or contractors have noticed it too.
A decade or so ago, the brand had all of their manufacture in the US. Since then, most Craftsman tools have been outsourced to cheaper Chinese factories.
With Sears being in deep financial trouble, the brand got acquired by Black & Decker. B&D seem to want to return to American soil, but still a lot of the circulating Craftsman is typical Made in China.
Kobalt rely on Taiwanese factories for most of their manufacture. Now, I’m not sure about you, but my impressions is that Made in Taiwan is two steps above your standard Chinese quality.
A notable, premium quality exception is Craftman’s new line of thin profile ratchets made in Taiwan. Honestly, they’re superior to Kobalt counterparts.
In other words, Kobalt sockets and wrenches generally have a slightly better manufacture. This also applies to the 227-piece set.
Other notable differences
The good thing about Craftsman is the variety of tools they usually include in their bigger kits. Including the 230-set, you’ll find more versatility than comparable kits from other brands.
In this case, the 230-piece mechanic’s tool set sticks to this agenda.
The tool box (case) you get from Craftsman is also better quality than the Kobalt.
The Kobalt set I’m looking at here has plenty of wrenches/sockets. However, other Kobalt kits are rather scarce on them. Usually Craftsman does that better.
Socket differences: If it’s about sockets quality, however, Kobalt win.
The socket retention system (detents) they use is superior to Craftsman. Detents match better and allow for easier, more convenient operation.
Ratchet differences: Craftsman thin-profile ratchets are a winner.
Unlike the brand’s standard ones, these are produced in Taiwan. The construction is better, and the thin-profile allows for stellar work in tighter spaces.
For standard ratchets, however, I wouldn’t advise getting Craftsman stuff. The 3/8″ ratchet is pretty decent, but the 1/2″ and 1/4″ are lackluster. Kobalt do it better.
If it’s about ratchets, though, consider other brands like Tekton and Gearwrench. I have a comparison between their 3/8″ ratchets that applies to other sizes too.
Keep in mind I’m talking about isolated ratchets here. If you’re looking for value kits, Kobalt and Craftsman tend to have better offers.
Another important factor:
Warranty & support
That said, one other thing you have to consider is the warranty.
Kobalt have a great warranty, and most of their tool sets are covered by their lifetime warranty.
Craftsman warranty can get trickier, so do your due diligence. After getting acquired by Black & Decker, Sears still can continue production of Craftsman tools via their existing product facilities.
In other words, you might get a Sears-made Craftsman and the warranty/support there might be more confusing.
As I’ve mentioned in my Kobalt vs Dewalt comparison, the former have a very enjoyable customer support. No issues whatsoever.
I still feel Kobalt is a better overall deal, at least until Black & Decker don’t overhaul the current state of the Craftsman brand.
Aside from the better thin-profile ratchets, Craftsman loses in terms of quality manufacture.
Not saying that it’s garbage – in fact, both brands can be pretty great for DIY beginners or simple to intermediate usage. It just seems that Kobalt offers a better bang for your buck overall.