Kobalt is Lowe’s house brand for power tools and hand tools. As a house brand, they are less expensive than the big name brands. But are Kobalt power tools good? And who makes Kobalt power tools for Lowe’s? I did some digging to find out.
Kobalt power tools are made by Chervon, one of the 10 largest OEMs of power tools in the world. Chervon has been in business since 1993.
Who makes Kobalt power tools?
Lowe’s, of course, doesn’t make the Kobalt products themselves. The OEM for Kobalt power tools is a company called Chervon, not to be confused with the oil company. While you may not have heard of Chervon specifically, the company isn’t exactly a newcomer. It is one of the 10 largest power tool manufacturers in the world, and owns and manufactures some brands you may have heard of, such as Skil. Chervon also makes power tools for other stores, including Menards, and has made various Craftsman tools for Sears. Remember, of course, that the Craftsman tools at stores like Lowe’s aren’t the same as the ones at Sears anymore. Chervon also makes Flex, a higher-end brand also sold at Lowe’s.
Chervon is a newer company than TTI (makers of Milwaukee, Ridgid, and Ryobi) and Stanley Black and Decker (makers of DeWalt, Craftsman, and Black and Decker), but they were founded in 1993, more than 25 years ago. They aren’t an old company, but they aren’t an upstart either.
Are Kobalt power tools good?
Kobalt power tools are good tools for the money. While their quality won’t quite reach that of the best tools from Milwaukee or DeWalt, Kobalt’s tools fall in the prosumer category. They’ll rival the quality of the cheapest tools from DeWalt and Milwaukee. But they really compete more directly with midrange brands like Craftsman, Ridgid, and Porter Cable. And a quarter century is more than long enough to figure out how to make a power tool that hits a given price point with quality that rivals other brands at the same price.
The price on the tools themselves may not be much lower than their bigger-name rivals, but the batteries tend to be a bit cheaper. And in the long run, that’s where the cost comes from. The tool itself can last decades, but you’ll need new batteries every few years.
Lowe’s has de-emphasized Kobalt in recent years, since Stanley bought Craftsman and started pushing the brand aggressively. It was a way for Stanley and Lowe’s to take advantage of Sears’ missteps, as Craftsman is the more storied brand. Lowe’s hasn’t discontinued the Kobalt brand, but Craftsman now occupies a lot of the shelf space that used to go to Kobalt.
But if you find a good deal on Kobalt tools and live near a Lowe’s, there’s no reason not to buy Kobalt power tools. The key to power tools is to make sure you’re buying something of reasonable quality, and ideally, sold at a store near you. That way, if your batteries die in the middle of a project, you’re not driving an hour to get replacements.
Why does Lowe’s promote Craftsman over Kobalt?
In recent years, Craftsman pushed Kobalt into second-tier status on its own turf. The most logical explanation is that Lowe’s and Stanley made a deal. Stanley Black and Decker spent nearly $900 million buying the Craftsman brand, and pushing it aggressively at Lowe’s is a way to help recoup that investment. So, since about 2017, Kobalt has been the odd brand out. As Sears closes more and more locations, it’s been easy for Lowe’s to try to grab that old business.
How long that situation will last is anyone’s guess. It seems to be working well for both companies, from a financial standpoint. Both companies’ profits are noticeably higher today than they were in 2017.
Which should you buy? Look at the bottom line. Yours, not Lowe’s. It’s best to stick with one line of tools and one battery system. If you can get a deal on Kobalt, especially on a bundle deal during one of the big shopping holidays, go with Kobalt. If Craftsman has the better deal, there’s nothing wrong with that option either. And if you don’t want to tie yourself to a single retail store, Craftsman is a better choice, since both Ace and Amazon also sell Stanley Black and Decker-made Craftsman tools with compatible battery systems.
And for home use, you’re always better off buying a midrange tool like Kobalt and using higher-end blades in them than the other way around.