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How Makita Made It To The Top

Walk down the power tool aisle at your local home improvement store, and you’ll be met with a rainbow of alluring options. From orange Rigid drills to acid-green Ryobi sanders and more, the whole spectrum of colors is on display. This might make for a colorful shopping experience, but it can also be a little overwhelming. So where is the professional mechanic or DIY gearhead to turn when only the best will do? The primary colors are never a bad place to start. With their unmistakable red, yellow, and blue cases, Milwaukee, DeWalt, and Mikita power tools tend to be some of the best-reviewed—and most trusted—power tools for those serious about quality.

Regularly found at the top of power tool ranking lists, these three brands have carved out a reputation for heavy-duty performance that’s made them a staple at job sites, auto shops and home workbenches worldwide. While these Big Three tend to rank pretty comparably, one name tends to find its way to the top of the power rankings time and again—Makita. Founded in 1913, the Japanese tool brand has been a pioneering force in the automotive industry since its earliest days. So what makes Makita’s tools so respected, and which line is right for you? We’ll explore all that and more as we dive into all things Makita.

Finding A Niche

While many popular tool brands started out producing hand tools and early power tools, Makita took a slightly more circuitous route to the top. Founded in 1913 as Makita Electric Works in Nagoya City, Japan, Makita was initially focused on selling and repairing lighting equipment, motors, and transformers. Eventually, Makita started producing its own electric motors, which it began exporting to buyers around the world in 1935. Makita concentrated on perfecting and expanding its line of electric motors for the next few decades but made a major pivot in 1958 when it introduced its first power tool—the Model 1000 120mm Electric Hand Planer.

While expanding into the world of power tools might seem a bit arbitrary to some, it makes a lot of sense when you consider the company’s history. Given its familiarity with electric motors, Makita was uniquely positioned for success in the power tool industry. Makita knew electric motors inside and out, which gave the company a significant advantage over its competitors. The Model 1000 Electric Hand Planer proved to be a major success for the company. After exporting more than 1,300 planers to Australia, Makita decided to shift its focus and devote itself to power tools. The company followed up the planer with a wall chaser, an electric circular saw, and a drill in 1962, the same year it became a publicly traded company on the Nagoya Stock Exchange.

While the electric planer might have been the impetus for Makita’s expansion, it was a 1969 creation that set the stage for the company’s ongoing success. The 6500D wasn’t just a drill; it was a battery-powered drill, making it one of the first rechargeable power tools to hit the market. This cordless drill was far more portable than its cord-bound predecessors, making it an instant hit among construction pros who might not always have access to a nearby electrical outlet.

Makita improved on the concept in the late ‘70s with the Model 6010D 10 mm Rechargeable Drill, which was one of the first to employ a nickel-cadmium battery. This new battery provided more power and a longer charge than previous offerings, which made the 6010D an increasingly practical choice for those seeking portable power. A strong company culture and a reputation for quality thrust Makita into the spotlight, prompting the brand to go global in the early 1970s. Makita expanded its market to the US in 1970, but the country was soon joined by France, the UK, Australia, and a host of European countries throughout the decade.

A Better Battery

Makita’s next major innovation was the most game-changing to date, as the Japanese brand unveiled a 7.2-volt battery in 1978. After years of research and development, this new battery platform would set a new bar in the power tool segment, allowing users to enjoy higher power, longer operating times, and shorter charging cycles. Best of all, it was interchangeable, powering 15 different tools with the same battery and charger.

This approach soon became the new standard in the industry, proving once again that Makita was well ahead of its time. This reputation for cutting-edge technology extended into the 2000s when Makita launched the LXT (Lithium-Ion Xtreme Technology) platform—the industry’s first professional-grade tools powered by lithium-ion batteries. Until this innovation, pros usually opted for more powerful, corded products, but the advent of lithium-ion allowed contractors, mechanics, and the like to enjoy the ease of convenience of the cordless approach.

Makita has continued to improve and expand its line of 18-volt battery-operated tools to this day with over 150 compatible power tools, easily making them the industry’s most comprehensive brand. Recent innovations include an intelligent charging system that reduces charging times, as well as the new XGT line. Debuting in 2020, Makita’s XGT range offers heavy-duty tools paired with robust, high-output batteries to help power through even the most demanding jobs. With the XGT lineup, Makita has solidified its position as a force to be reckoned with in the power tools industry.

LXT vs. CXT vs. XGT

When choosing between today’s Makita products, buyers have a couple of decisions to make. Makita currently offers three distinct tool lines: CXT, LXT, and G-Line. CXT—short for Compact Extreme Technology—is the brand’s compact offering. These lightweight tools are perfect for on-the-go projects, and all run on the same 12-volt battery with 1.5Ah, 2.0Ah, and 4.0Ah versions to choose from. While Makita’s CXT products might lack the battery life and heavy-duty construction of some of the higher product lines, they still meet the brand’s exacting quality standards. The CXT products also have a few neat tricks up their sleeve; their 12V batteries are designed with multiple contact terminals to ensure consistent performance despite vibrations and come with built-in LED indicators that indicate the current battery level.

Moving up a tier, you’ll find Makita’s LXT lineup. These power tools primarily run off 18V batteries, though some double up to give users 36V of professional-grade power. Often seen as the gold standard in the power tool segment, Makita’s LXT products are tough to beat when you’re seeking a reliable, powerful tool that won’t quit until the job is done. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when shopping the LXT lineup. First, LXT products are sold as bare tools, meaning they don’t come with batteries or chargers. Second, they’re pricey. Makita’s tools can cost a pretty penny but are well worth the investment for those with high standards.

Finally, there’s the XGT line. Introduced in 2020, XGT tools offer unrivaled power to help power through even the toughest jobs. XGT tools are powered by a new 40V battery pack that offers more than twice the voltage of the LXT line, allowing users to cut the cord and tackle new types of jobs. The lineup, which initially included reciprocating saws, impact drivers, impact wrenches, circular saws, combination hammers, angle grinders, and two drill drivers, has now grown to encompass more than 125 products. Makita’s high-output batteries might not last as long as some LXT and CXT products, but it’s a fair trade-off when you consider the step up in power. Built with impact absorption that includes padding and a heavy-duty outer casing, XGT tools are jobsite-ready and built to last. They’re also exceptionally water resistant and can be charged in as little as 28 minutes—an important consideration when you’re on the clock. Given Makita’s background in battery-based innovation, it’s little surprise to see the brand once again leading the way when it comes to the 40V XGT lineup.

Makita’s rise from a small electric motor repair company to a major player in the power tools industry is no accident. By investing in research and development and continually perfecting its line of rechargeable battery platforms, Makita has established itself as a true leader in the power tools industry. Makita’s products might not be cheap, but their heavy-duty construction, reliable performance, and unsurpassed battery technology provide the sort of value that it’s hard to put a price on, especially amongst construction professionals, mechanics, and tradespeople. From compact, portable CXT tools that are perfect for homeowners to work-ready LXT products and the new XGT line of 40V offerings, there’s a range of Makita tools for every user.

While some buyers swear by American-made tools, Makita’s reputation supersedes borders. The company operates manufacturing facilities worldwide, including China, the U.K., Germany, Brazil, Romania, and Thailand, but every drill, saw, and battery that rolls off the line is held to the same high standards users have come to expect from this respected blue brand.