Reviews

Best Random Orbital Sanders: Make Sanding Easier and Faster

Choose one of these random orbital sanders for faster sanding with less effort.

With decades of combined experience covering the latest news, reviewing the greatest gear, and advising you on your next car purchase, The Drive is the leading authority on all things automotive.

The Drive on YouTube The Drive on Facebook The Drive on Instagram

The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.

BY Heather Fishel / LAST UPDATED ON September 21, 2021

A random orbital sander makes your sanding work infinitely easier and much faster. Featuring variable speeds and versatile sizes, these sanders offer maneuverability and the power you need for heavy sanding as well as for smooth, final sanding. Choose one of these quality sanders from the chart below to help you get the job done.

Best Overall
DEWALT 20V MAX Orbital Sander
LEARN MORE
Summary
Summary

This 20V orbital sander is variable speed. It can achieve 8,000 to 12,000 orbital rotations per minute. It fits 5-inch sanding pads.

Pros
Pros
  • There’s a textured rubber overmold grip to make holding it comfortable
  • Has a dust port that fits a bag or directly onto a dust collector
Cons
Cons
  • Motor can randomly die after extended use
  • Unit also doesn’t come with a battery or charger
Best Overall
DEWALT 20V MAX Orbital Sander
Best Value
Beyond by BLACK+DECKER Random Orbit Sander
LEARN MORE
Summary
Summary

The 2.4-amp motor in this sander achieves 12,000 orbits per minute. It has a built-in dust bag. Fits 5-inch sanding pads.

Pros
Pros
  • Sander features an adjustable grip with three possible positions
  • Dust collector is easy to pop off and empty to make working faster
Cons
Cons
  • Collection bag isn’t very big and could fill quickly
  • Unit may not be durable enough for repeated and heavy use
Best Value
Beyond by BLACK+DECKER Random Orbit Sander
Honorable Mention
Milwaukee Electric Tools Random Orbit Sander
LEARN MORE
Summary
Summary

Reduced vibration sander that has a 3.0 amp motor and operates at 7,000 to 12,000 orbits per minute.

Pros
Pros
  • Sander is short, so it reduces the distance between the work object and the operator
  • Only one hand needed to remove the dust bag
  • Design, including the rubber “over-mold” in some areas, reduces fatigue
Cons
Cons
  • Does not include connections to a standard Shop-Vac
  • Battery not included
Honorable Mention
Milwaukee Electric Tools Random Orbit Sander

Why Trust Us


Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

Learn more

Types of Random Orbital Sanders

Palm Sander

A random orbital palm sander is a small version of your typical random orbital sander. They’re great for smaller-scale projects, like sanding patches of drywall, stripping furniture, or sanding away paint. Relatively affordable in price and powerful enough to deliver 10,000 orbits per minute or more, they’re great for everyday or at-home work. And random orbital palm sanders are also typically lightweight, comfortable to use, and compact in size.

Right-Angle Drive

A right-angle drive random orbital sander is a professional’s tool—or one that’ll get the job done when you’re tackling huge projects, like cabinet refinishing or pro millwork. These sanders are designed to work for hours at a time (or even all day long) without overheating. A right-angle drive random orbital sander can only achieve a slow sanding pace of about 5,000 orbits per minute, but it does tend to have a more powerful motor with between 3 and 5 amps.

Inline Drive

An inline drive random orbital sander is another great option for large-scale jobs. It’s something of an in-between option—these sanders tend to be smaller than right-angle drive models and more similar to palm sanders, but they’re larger than your average palm sander. With an inline drive random orbital sander, you’ll be more in control thanks to the handles and the sanding pad placement.

Top Brands

DeWalt

DeWalt is one of the best-known brands in tools, both hand tools and power tools. So it’s no surprise that, since the company’s founding in 1922, DeWalt has built a reputation among professionals and home handypeople alike. With a special emphasis on woodworking tools like the DeWalt 20V MAX Orbital Sander, you can’t go wrong choosing a random orbital sander from this brand.

Milwaukee

Founded in 1924, Milwaukee—or Milwaukee Tools, as it’s often known—is a brand that focuses on innovation in tools. All of the company’s products deliver professional-level results and offer great longevity, making electric sanders like the Milwaukee Electric Tools Random Orbit Sander fantastic choices whether you’re an expert or a first-time user.

Makita

Sure, Makita first started with an innovative electric motor in 1915. But today, this company is all about tools. Specifically, the brand sells power tools that are specially crafted to deliver impressive strength, performance, and durability regardless of what you use them for. Random orbital sanders such as the Makita BO5030K 5" Random Orbit Sander show just how strong the brand’s products really are.

Skil

Here’s a brand that’s all about power tools: Skil. If you’re looking for a company that knows power tools well, it’s hard to beat Skil’s level of expertise. As the brand that invented the handheld circular saw, Skil continues to innovate today and produce power tools that impress with their performance. You’ll love working with tools like the SKIL 5” Random Orbital Sander.

Key Features

Variable Speed

It’s important to choose a random orbital sander that offers variable speed, or variable speed control. This sole feature allows you to adapt and adjust on the job, changing up your working speed (or your sanding speed) as needed for different items and areas. You can find sanders that offer anywhere from two speed settings to as many as six speed settings. Lower speeds are great for fine sanding, while higher speeds are better for quickly sanding through rough surfaces. More speed choices means you’ll have more versatility and your sander will be able to accomplish more. 

Sanding Surface Size

A random orbital sander features a sanding surface, or disc, that does the sanding. This is where you attach sanding pads, and it’s also the part of the tool that determines how small or large the sanding area is. Smaller sanders will feature anywhere from 1 to 4 inches of sanding surface, while your average sander features a 5-inch surface. Before you buy a random orbital sander, think about whether your projects usually have small or large surfaces. This will help you decide which sanding surface size is the right fit.

Power Source

There are three different kinds of power sources that random orbital sanders can have: a power cord, rechargeable batteries, or compressed air. It’s important to think about which power source is best for your needs before buying. Corded sanders never run out of power; they just need an electrical outlet to get to work. However, they can limit your freedom of movement. Cordless random orbital sanders can be used absolutely anywhere, but they do need to be recharged frequently; most operate for just 30 to 45 minutes on a single charge. Compressed air (or pneumatic) sanders use a central air compressor to get their power, but this can require frequent pauses in your work to recharge. 

Weight

While your average random orbital sander might be relatively small and compact in size, it’s important to take a close look at the tool’s weight. These power sanders can range in size — and the bigger they are, the heavier they usually are. Heavy random orbital sanders can weigh more than 7 pounds, but smaller models can weigh as little as 1.5 to 4 pounds. To reduce fatigue while you work, opt for a lighter-weight sander that still offers the right size sanding pad for your needs. 

Best Random Orbital Sanders Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
DeWalt 20V MAX Orbital Sander

This 20V orbital sander is battery-powered and has a variable adjustable speed. It can achieve 8,000 to 12,000 orbital rotations per minute. It’s compatible with 5-inch sanding pads. There’s an attached bag for dust collection.


What’s nice about using this sander is that the handle is comfortable to grip. It has a textured rubberized overmold grip on the handle. The dust port is convertible, so you can attach a dust collection bag or attach a separately purchased dust collector for bigger projects.


Unfortunately, the motor may randomly die after extended use. The unit also doesn’t come with a battery or charger. These need to be purchased separately.

Best Value
Beyond by Black+Decker Random Orbit Sander

This sander comes with a 2.4-amp motor, which has a sanding power of 12,000 orbits per minute. It has an adjustable grip and built-in dust bag. You can use 5-inch sanding pads with it.


You’ll appreciate the details with this sander that make it pleasurable to use. The grip is adjustable into three positions to make sanding comfortable at any angle. The dust bag is effective and easy to empty. There’s a filter to help keep the air clean and your workspace clear. When it’s full you just pop it off, empty it, and put it back on.


The downside of this unit is that the dust bag that’s included isn’t very big. This will cause it to fill quickly and you’ll have to repeatedly stop and empty it. This will slow down your progress. The unit may also not be durable enough for heavy and repeated use.

Honorable Mention
Milwaukee Electric Tools Random Orbit Sander

Adjust this orbital sander to give you 7,000 to 12,000 orbital rotations per minute. You can use 5-inch sanding pads on it. The hook and loop functionality makes changing the pads quick and easy. There is overmold cushioning in key places to reduce the stress and fatigue on your hands.


This sander is battery-powered but it still delivers plenty of power. It uses red lithium battery technology to give you 35 minutes of runtime on a single charge. You’ll also find that this sander is quite short, which reduces the distance between you and the object you’re working on.


The biggest downside of this sander is that the battery is sold separately. The bulky size and shape of this sander makes it hard to use on surfaces that are anything but large and flat.

Honorable Mention
Bauer 2.8 Amp, 5 Inch Random Orbital Palm Sander

If you’re planning to put your random orbital sander through some seriously heavy-duty use, then the Bauer 2.8 Amp, 5 Inch Random Orbital Palm Sander is a fantastic option. This tough—and affordable—power tool will help you tackle projects big and small, frequent or infrequent. It’s built for tough scenarios and situations, and you’ll get a long life out of it.


This random orbital sander features a 5-inch sanding surface, which moves just 3/32 inches to deliver a smooth and swirl-free finish on any material. Its 2.8-amp industrial-level fan-cooled motor is impressive, delivering anywhere from 0 to 13,000 orbits per minute with its variable six-speed control. And, because it’s designed for professional-level work, the motor can handle a whole lot of use back to back. 


The sander is also comfortable to work with. It features a cushy rubber palm grip and an ergonomic design that limits vibrations and helps fight fatigue.

Honorable Mention
 Ingersoll Rand 328B Heavy Duty Air Geared Orbital Sander

This air-powered orbital sander delivers a dual-action pad motion for a smoother and more even sanding action. This professional-quality sander is durable and features low-vibration styling. It has ball bearing construction to help it stay balanced for an easier and more pleasant sanding experience. It’s compatible with 8-inch sanding pads. Use the variable control to adjust the speed.


You’ll love this sander if you have larger surface areas to sand because the sanding pads are bigger than the other sanders on this list. The low vibration and ball bearing balancing make it easier to achieve an even and smooth surface.


Unfortunately, this is a sander that you need an air compressor to run. If you don’t have a large enough compressor, the sander will bog down. It also doesn’t come with a compatible dust collection system.

Honorable Mention
Ryobi RS290G Single Speed 5 Inch Corded Random Orbit Sander

This 2.6-amp orbital sander generates 12,500 orbits per minute. You can use 5-inch hook-and-loop sanding pads with it. The sander also comes with a dust bag and three pads. The attached dust bag will collect the dust created to make sanding easier and prevent blowback.


You’ll find using this sander to be comfortable thanks to the ergonomic handle. It has a hex-notched rubber design. The on/off switch is also conveniently located right next to the grip.


Unfortunately, the design of the sander isn’t very stable and the tabs that hold the sanding pad in place can pop out while you’re using it. This makes the entire tool unstable. The dust catcher bag isn’t very durable and can tear, causing dust to go everywhere.

Honorable Mention
PORTER-CABLE Random Orbit Sander

This 5-inch orbital sander has a 1.9-amp motor that generates 12,000 orbits per minute. It’s compact and lightweight. It features a dual-plane counter-balanced fan to extend the run time while also reducing fatigue through your hand and arm. You can use 5-inch eight-hole hook-and-loop sandpaper.


What makes this sander stand out is the sealed 100 percent ball-bearing construction. This makes it incredibly durable and sturdy. You’ll also avoid gouging and achieve a super smooth finish thanks to the PORTER CABLE Controlled Finishing System. This system gives you controlled speed as it starts up.


However, the motor in this sander is smaller than other units on this list. This results in it lacking power, which makes it difficult to achieve a perfectly smooth result. The lightweight plastic makes the unit feel cheap and not very durable.

Honorable Mention
Makita BO5030K 5

This orbital sander has a 3-amp motor that generates 12,000 orbits per minute. It creates a large ⅛-inch random orbit action to create a uniform and smooth surface. It has a rubberized grip to give your hand comfort and better sanding control. The entire unit is dust-sealed to minimize contamination on the interior. This gives the sander durability. There’s also an included dust catcher bag to make using the unit cleaner.


What makes this sander stand out is that you have the option of buying the case with it. This protects the sander and means you don’t have to buy a separate case. It also makes sanding easier with a pad control system to provide gradual speed upon starting.


Unfortunately, the sander only has one speed once it’s going, which makes its use limited. You’ll also want to keep an eye on the gaskets as they can melt from the heat generated during extended use.

Honorable Mention
Jet Random Orbital Palm Sander

The Jet Random Orbital Palm Sander might be compact, but it’s one seriously sturdy power tool. This little 6-inch sander is able to deliver 12,000 RPM, though it measures just 9.3 x 6.4 x 4.3 inches in total size and weighs only 2.4 pounds. This random orbital sander will fit right under the palm of your hand, but it works quickly, offers great long-term durability, and is actually quiet while it runs.


With this tool, you’ll get variable speed control that works well for any project. A balanced sanding pad helps you achieve swirl-free finishes on any material, and the hook-and-loop sanding pads even allow you to quickly and easily swap out pads so you have little downtime while you’re in the middle of a job. And when you’re working, you’ll really love the exhaust silencer, which keeps the sander quiet.


What really makes this random orbital sander a standout is its impact-resistant composite housing. This innovative housing actually reduces the sander’s weight, makes it more balanced, and reduces the amount of hand fatigue you experience. It’s even backed by a two-year warranty for extra reliability.

Honorable Mention
SKIL 5” Random Orbital Sander

This orbital sander has a 2.8-amp motor that can achieve 13,000 orbits per minute. There’s a dust container on the back that uses cyclone force to collect the dust you generate while sanding. It’s transparent so you know exactly when it needs emptying. While sanding, you can use the variable speed control to have the exact amount of power that you need. The sander is compact so that it fits into tighter spaces.


What makes this sander stand out is the low vibration. It’s incredibly comfortable to hold thanks to the ergonomic design, rubber grip, and low vibration production. It also has an internal counterweight to reduce hand and arm fatigue.


Unfortunately, the dust collector will continually pop off and even when it is on, it struggles to effectively collect all of the dust. The pad that holds the sanding pads is not very durable or secure. It can peel or break off with heavy use.

Tips

  • Always wear eye protection when sanding and grinding. Also wear a dust mask or, better yet, a respirator. Using a random orbital sander produces large amounts of fine dust particles that can produce lung damage and breathing problems. 
  • When sanding small areas or objects, it’s possible to hold your work in one hand and the random orbital sander in the other. But it’s better to use a clamp or hold-down to stabilize the object for better control and safety. Some recommend a piece of carpet hold-down for this. 
  • Be careful about the direction you’re sanding in. If you aren’t sanding in the same direction across your entire surface or project, you could run the risk of creating visible scratches or swirls. This might be hard to see clearly on a raw piece of wood, but once you apply a stain, those unwanted scratches will really pop. Take a close look at the wood grain so you can sand carefully and achieve a flawless finish.
  • Always work slowly and with small motions rather than fast, wide sweeping movements. Slow, careful consistency will produce the most flawless results. If you move too quickly, or dart your random orbital sander from side to side repeatedly, you’ll likely wind up with big, visible scratches that you spot only once your work is finished.

FAQs

Q: What Is the difference between a traditional orbital sander and a random orbital sander? 

A traditional orbital sander has a square sanding pad and moves in an orbital manner. A random orbital sander, on the other hand, has a circular sanding pad and it moves in an elliptical manner. Use a random orbital sander for making major changes to metal or wood or for finer finishes. 

Q: Are there different types of random orbital sanders?

Yes. Some random orbital sanders are pneumatic-powered and some are electrical-powered. Some sanders are cordless, while some are corded. Many random orbital sanders have some form of dust collection system. Most of these sanders are either 5- or 6-inch (the diameter of the sanding pad). 

Q: What grade of sanding pad do I use?

It depends on what you are sanding. Grades range from 60 (coarse) to 240 (fine). A large, rough project requires a coarse pad; for smooth, final finishes, you should use a fine-grained pad. 

Q: What is a random orbital sander used for?

A random orbital sander vibrates in tiny circles to get surfaces nicely sanded or polished—and because of this power tool’s very smooth results, it’s great for a wide variety of different tasks. One of these sanders can be used on wood, plastic, or even metal. So, you can put your random orbital sander to work on jobs like removing paint, finishing woodworking crafts, or even (with the right accessory, of course) buffing your car’s exterior or restoring its headlights. 

Q: Are random orbital sanders and palm sanders the same?

You might have noticed that some of the random orbital sanders on our list above are also palm sanders. That’s because you can find random orbital sanders in a number of sizes—including compact palm sanders. While palm sanders can come in different forms, it’s also possible to find ones that are also random orbital sanders. Just make sure before you buy one of these tools that it’s really able to sand in little circles. 

Final Thoughts

Our choice for the best random orbital sander overall is the DeWalt 20V MAX Orbital Sander because it is powerful and features variable speed control. If you’re looking for a great value, consider the well-built Beyond by Black+Decker Random Orbit Sander