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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

8 Models Considered
1 Experts Interviewed
174 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best oscillating multi-tools

Last Updated July 2019

An oscillating multi-tool is one of those devices you didn't know you needed, but once you get one, you wonder how you ever managed without it. This go-to tool provides a superb solution for hundreds of awkward tasks, from replacing cracked tile to lifting old flooring to cleaning out grout.

You can select from cordless and corded models, and there are many task-specific blades and sanding accessories to choose from.

Read our oscillating multi-tool buying guide to look at these versatile devices in more detail. Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast or a pro, there’s something here for you.

Whether you're undercutting door posts to fit flooring, trimming protruding pipe work, or taking on any other flush-cutting task, nothing does the job as easily as an oscillating multi-tool.

How an oscillating multi-tool works

The motor of an oscillating multi-tool drives the tool head in a rapid side-to-side motion, just a few degrees each time. This may not sound like much, but it's actually ideal for a wide variety of sawing, cutting, scraping, and sanding tasks.

The blade of an oscillating multi-tool can be attached at a variety of angles. This means you can work in spaces where other tools wouldn't be able to reach. Multi-tool blades have teeth on the leading edge, so when used horizontally, the blade can cut flush, right down to floor level. This is ideal for trimming door frames or skirting; no other tool can perform this task with the same efficiency.

Power considerations

As with many power tools, one of your big decisions when buying an oscillating multi-tool is whether to go corded or cordless.

Cordless oscillating multi-tools have either 12 volts or 18 volts of power. You'll see some that quote 20 volts, but that's peak performance at start-up with no load; they actually run at 18 volts. For occasional DIY tasks, 12 volts may be sufficient, but run times can be as short as 10 to 15 minutes. You’ll get a much more impressive performance with a tool of 18/20 volts, with run times of up to an hour.

Corded oscillating multi-tools motors are rated in amps. A tool with three or four amps is common, but some have up to 5.5 amps. That's pretty awesome for a relatively small handheld tool. And unlike cordless tools, a corded tool will maintain the same level of performance all day.

Corded tools generally have brush motors, the main reason being they are cheap to produce. Cordless multi-tools can have brush or brushless motors. The latter costs more, but it will maintain a consistent performance for considerably longer.

A comprehensive solution

If you're looking for flexibility, productivity, and durability, you can't do better than the DeWalt 20V XR. The high-efficiency brushless motor produces plenty of power, giving performance that matches corded tools. The quick-detach accessory system makes for fast blade changes. Variable height and a two-speed trigger add versatility. The kit is packed with useful extras, and the whole lot comes in a tough, smart-looking bag. It's not cheap, but this is the pro's choice.

Oscillating multi-tool features

Angle of oscillation

The angle of oscillation (the number of degrees back and forth) varies from one multi-tool to another. Some have a sweep of just a couple of degrees; some have up to five degrees of sweep. In general, small movements provide greater precision for detailed work. A larger sweep provides faster, more aggressive cutting. Although uncommon, there are one or two multi-tools that offer switchable angles, thus providing improved flexibility.

Speed

Speed is rated in oscillations per minute (OPM) and can be up to 20,000. More important than a maximum OPM is variability, so you can adjust speed to suit your task. Some oscillating multi-tools rely on trigger pressure; others have dials which allow for more precise setting. The best motors have feedback circuits that can compensate for increased load and maintain power delivery.

Lighting

Some tools are fitted with a small LED lamp on the front. This is particularly useful when you're working in dark corners.

Battery charge indicator

The batteries on cordless tools sometimes have charge indicators. However, it's difficult to know with any accuracy how long the charge will last. The reason: a greater load will run the battery down faster.

Battery size

Some oscillating multi-tool batteries are very slim. Others are quite chunky. Not everyone likes bulk at the back of the tool, so keep battery size in mind as you shop.

Power cord length

Power cords can be as little as three of four feet long. Often, the better models offer a dozen feet more than this — though you'll still probably want to keep an extension cord handy.

Weight and length

These are by no means heavy tools, but weight might be a consideration if you have to use the multi-tool all day. Length may or may not have a bearing, depending on the jobs you have in mind. However, because you can change blade angle, length is seldom a problem.

EXPERT TIP

If you're looking for a cordless oscillating multi-tool, keep in mind that a brushless motor makes far more efficient use of the power available than a brush motor.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

It's possible to save money by buying a bare tool if you already have cordless equipment (and thus batteries) from the same manufacturer. However, it's vital that you first check battery compatibility. Depending on the age of your tools, they may not fit.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Bi-metal blades will cut both wood and steel, but they are really designed for the latter. Small teeth clog easily and could potentially scorch timber. Therefore, it’s better to buy specific blades for each material you plan to cut.


Staff  | BestReviews

Oscillating multi-tool prices

You can find entry-level corded oscillating multi-tools for $35 to $40, and if you only need it for occasional use, this may be adequate. Notably, the vibration can be a bit harsh with some tools in this price tier.

For $70 to $120, it’s easier to find quality corded multi-tool. You’ll find a few 12-volt cordless tools in this range, as well as some “bare” tools with 18 to 20 volts. However, by the time you’ve paid for a battery and charger for the cordless tool, the overall price could rise up to around $200.

The most expensive oscillating multi-tools may reach the $400 mark. For that money, you should expect a superb device with a truly comprehensive range of accessories.

Top performance, bargain price

You might expect to pay a premium for a tool that's as well-conceived as this one. There's tool-free blade changing, universal fit that really does take into account almost every alternative, twin speeds, and two different oscillating angles so you can tune the tool to suit the task. It also comes with a half-dozen blades, a sanding pad, and a neat case to keep everything in. All in all, this is quite a remarkable value.

Tips

  • Always use the appropriate blade for the material you’re working with. Don't try to “make do” with a metal-cutting blade on tile, for example. Performance would be poor, and you’d likely ruin the blade — as well as the tile.

  • Avoid cheap accessories for your multi-tool. Often, these low-cost options are poorly made and wear out quickly. In the long run, that's false economy. You don't necessarily have to buy from the manufacturer of your tool, but you should always invest in quality components.

  • Overheating blades don't cut well, and they wear out more quickly. Don't force the tool. Gentle pressure allows the teeth to cut more efficiently.

  • Never underestimate the power of your oscillating multi-tool. Take the same safety precautions as you would for any other power tool. In particular, always wear protective safety glasses.

Other products we considered

If you're on a tight budget, it's worth taking a look at the WEN 2312 Variable Speed Multifunction Oscillating Tool. WEN tools are often basic, but they're popular because they're tough and reliable. That's underlined by the two-year warranty.

The Milwaukee 2426-20 12-Volt Cordless Multi-Tool will be of interest to those who don't need massive power but want to add the versatility of this go-anywhere gadget to their tool kit. Unfortunately, the low price includes neither battery nor charger, so you'll need to take that into account.

Those who want just about every conceivable option in the same kit should check out the Bosch GOP-36C2 StarlockMax Oscillating Multi-Tool Kit. The 5.5-amp motor is one of the most powerful on the market, delivering variable speed up to 20,000 OPM and tremendous torque. It comes with more than a dozen blades and other accessories, all in a smart case.

An oscillating multi-tool with tool-free blade and accessory changing is common, and it’s a product feature that makes the work much easier.

FAQ

Q. Is there much difference between an oscillating multi-tool and a rotary tool?

A. Both are extremely versatile and a valuable addition to any tool bag. The main difference is the tasks they're designed to undertake, and this has an impact on their physical size.

Most rotary tools are extremely compact and designed for highly detailed work. As the name suggests, they have a rotary action particularly suited to drilling, polishing, and engraving.

While by no means bulky, an oscillating tool is somewhat larger. The oscillating action makes it an ideal tool for general-purpose cutting, sanding, and scraping jobs.

Q. Can I buy an oscillating multi-tool instead of separate circular saw, disk sander, etc.?

A. It's really a question of having the right tool for the job. An oscillating multi-tool is superb when you need to cut a hole in drywall for a light fitting, sand around stair rails, or take the corner off a floor tile. But they're not high-productivity tools, and if you've got to saw a load of decking or sand oak flooring, it's quicker and more efficient to use individual tools designed to do those jobs.

Q. Are oscillating multi-tool blades universal?

A. Some manufacturers call their blades “universal,” and there is a lot of interchangeability, but there are many different manufacturers, so it's always worth checking before you order. Some manufacturers do provide adapters, so you can use blades that might not otherwise fit.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bob
    Bob
    Writer
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Samantha
    Samantha
    Writer

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