Reviews

Best Bolt Cutters: Never Get Locked Out Again

Stop making metal shavings and bust through anything with these bolt cutters.

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BY Heather Fishel / LAST UPDATED ON July 28, 2021

Bolt cutters are incredibly handy. Contrary to the name, a bolt cutter doesn’t have to be used solely for cutting through bolts — it is a multi-purpose tool that helps in several different situations. Sure, power tools are just as quick and require less effort to operate. But think about safety. Power tools are often far too aggressive, and a little accident can have significant consequences. Plus, don’t forget that they’re useless without a power source. That’s precisely why you should invest in a good set of bolt cutters.

 

Of course, as the name implies, they are great for cutting bolts. This is an excellent function for many occasions. But the powerful jaws can be put to use for many other projects, such as trimming solid core wire, metal shelving, and even steel straps that keep cargo on pallets. No matter what you’re using your bolt cutter for, make sure you invest in one that offers good grips that deliver control and leverage. You also need bolt cutters that can make tough cutting jobs effortless.

Best Overall
Tekton 8” Bolt Cutter
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Summary
Summary

8-inch bolt cutters that feature use of quality materials for construction.

Pros
Pros
  • Lightweight and compact
  • These cutters are easy to use and carry anywhere
Cons
Cons
  • Narrow jaw opening limits the usefulness of these cutters.
Best Overall
Tekton 8” Bolt Cutter
Best Value
Neiko Heavy Duty Bolt Cutter
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Summary
Summary

Compact and affordable cutters make quick work of thin materials. Hardened materials and design characteristics provide performance and longevity.

Pros
Pros
  • Very affordable, but still offers plenty of performance 
  • Hardened cutting edge offers several advantages
Cons
Cons
  • Quality control is subpar and based on user reviews, many faulty models seem to exist
Best Value
Neiko Heavy Duty Bolt Cutter
Honorable Mention
 Knipex Tools Comfort Grip High Leverage Cobolt Cutters
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Summary
Summary

Premium professional-level mini cutters perfect for regular use. The compact design is complemented by the compound function that multiplies force for maximum performance.

Pros
Pros
  • Ultra-hard edges and quality construction promote superior performance and reliability
Cons
Cons
  • Premium price point is equivalent to full-size models with greater capabilities
Honorable Mention
 Knipex Tools Comfort Grip High Leverage Cobolt Cutters
The Best Bolt Cutters
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Benefits of Bolt Cutters

  • Quick and efficient. Have you ever struggled to cut through a rusted or seriously thick lock? A bolt cutter can make quick work of just about any type of lock, no matter how long it’s been hanging on a gate, door, storage unit, or any other item. You can slice through locks in no time, working quickly and efficiently with very little difficulty or resistance in your way. By multiplying the force on a lock, they can snap a lock off in just seconds.
  • Safe to use. Power tools that promise to cut through locks can put you in serious danger. They seem like powerful and quick-working alternatives to bolt cutters, but they can be more challenging to control and less effective than a bolt cutter. And they could wind up sending parts flying or lead to mistakes. Bolt cutters, on the other hand, cut only what you place inside their jaws. There’s no recoil or bounce back, and there are no parts that could cut or otherwise harm you.
  • Eliminates effort. You don’t need a whole lot of physical strength or individual effort to operate a bolt cutter. With just a bit of arm strength, you can crack right through even the hardiest locks with a smooth, swift motion. The power of a bolt cutter allows you to accomplish more with less effort, which makes the hard work of lock cutting a whole lot easier and less straining. You’ll have mechanical force and pressure on your side.
  • Doesn’t require cleanup. If you’ve ever attempted to cut off a lock with a hand tool or power tool, you’ve likely discovered just how messy that process can be. These tools leave behind shavings and a whole lot of little bits and pieces to clean up before the job is officially finished. However, bolt cutters don’t make a mess at all. They simply snap a lock at one point, leaving you with nothing but the lock itself to take care of.

Types of Bolt Cutters

Traditio​​​​nal­

Traditional bolt cutters feature all the typical design elements you should expect to find. They do not feature any design characteristics they do not need, but still perform their intended task. You will find that this type dominates our list. Even mini or compact models can be lumped into this category as they feature the same design, only scaled down.

Foldable

Bolt cutters can be hard to store; therefore, some models with folding handles do exist. The handles fold upward onto the jaws to decrease their overall length. While this makes them wider, they are short enough to store in most toolboxes and bags. Integrity is only slightly compromised because the handles are mostly solid materials. The exception being a separation that allows them to fold. 

Extendable

Though none are featured on our list, there are bolt cutters with extendable handles. The handles can be left at the shortest length for use in tight spaces, as they are much easier to handle in this configuration. However, the handles can be extended to increase the mechanical advantage. The only problem with this design is that the handles may lack structural integrity because they are hollow.

Top Brands

Tek​​​​ton

Located in Grand Rapids, Mich., Tekton is the proud producer of consumer-level hand tools. Despite its economical pricing, this family-owned operation still manages to incorporate top-tier performance characteristics into their designs. The Tekton 8" Bolt Cutter is an excellent example of this.

Knipe​​​​x

Founded in 1882, Knipex remains headquartered in its home city of Wuppertal, Germany. It was initially focused on pincers and blacksmith's tongs but gradually began developing other hand tools. There's no arguing that it is a leading producer of high-quality pieces of equipment, such as the Knipex Tools CoBolt Compact Bolt Cutter.

Workpro

For more than two decades, Workpro — a company that’s also known as Workpro Tools — has created an array of quality tools that are aimed at making your work easier. Designed and built for durability as well as professional-level results, products like the WorkPro Bolt Cutter are a solid investment.

Bolt Cutter Pricing

  • Under $50: Most bolt cutters list for less than $50. The closer they list to $50, the better their quality will be. However, many will still perform as well as premium listings.
  • $50 and up: Bolt cutters above $50 are of premium quality. These are top-grade options that are intended for regular use in professional settings.  

Key Features

High-Strength, Highly Durable Build

In order to buy the best bolt cutters available, you’ll want to make sure you choose a product that’s high-strength and built for long-term durability. Bolt cutters rely on force to work effectively and efficiently — so if yours can’t handle a lot of force or fail in the face of sturdy locks, they aren’t going to be strong enough to meet your needs. Look for a bolt cutter that’s made out of durable materials from the cutting jaws all the way down to the handles. 

Size and Weight

Bolt cutters come in all different sizes and weights. And these two details can make one particular bolt cutter better suited to your needs than others. When you’re considering size, you want to look at the handle length. Longer handles (or arms) mean more leverage, so a 24-inch bolt cutter is going to deliver more force than an 18-inch bolt cutter. A longer-handled bolt cutter can also cut through harder materials and metals. The bigger and tougher the locks are that you’ll be dealing with, the bigger you’ll need your bolt cutter to be.

Additionally, the weight of a bolt cutter determines its portability and can affect its force. Lightweight bolt cutters are easier to work with and keep on you at all times. However, heavier bolt cutters are the best choice for extra-tough locks. You can find bolt cutters as light as two pounds or as heavy as eight pounds or more.

Jaw Opening

Here’s a feature you absolutely can’t skip over. The jaw opening on a bolt cutter directly affects how and what it can be used for. If the opening is slim or small, it can only work on thinner locks. If the opening is quite wide, you’ll get more versatility. The standard jaw opening for bolt cutters is 5/16-inch. Anything smaller will be better suited for cutting wire or thin pieces of metal. If you’re working with extra-tough locks, however, you might need a larger opening.

Other Considerations

  • Comfortable Grips. Grip design is essential to the operation. You will be exerting a considerable amount of force, so you want to make sure you have something that is both comfortable in your hand and easy to hold onto. While it shouldn’t be a driving reason to consider a bolt cutter, it is something to prioritize during selection.
  • Foldable Design. If you need to carry bolt cutters in a tool bag, you might want to invest in a set designed with that in mind. This is especially true if you know you will need longer handles for an increased mechanical advantage. Again, this is not a standard design feature, so you will need to search specifically for sets that offer it.
  • Adjustable Blade. Most bolt cutters feature an adjustable blade. With this adjustment, you can set the proper cutting depth to fine-tune performance. How this adjustment is made can vary, and it is something to pay careful attention to. You want to make sure that the mechanism is both easy to use and will provide reliable results.
  • Cutting Style or Angle. If you think all bolt cutters cut in exactly the same way, it’s time to take a close look at the ones you’re thinking about buying. Bolt cutters actually have different cut styles, or angles, which creates different end results. You can choose from angled, shear, clipper, or center cut bolt cutters. Each of these types of cuts can shape how you position your bolt cutter, how much pressure is applied to one point, and how the jaws open. 
  • Hydraulic or Hand-Powered. Most bolt cutters are powered by nothing but your own force applied via the handles. However, you can opt for a hydraulic bolt cutter if you’d like. In these tools, a motor powers the cutting blades via a hydraulic piston. That piston moves the blades with increased force — more force than you could likely create with hand- and handle-operated bolt cutters. Hydraulic bolt cutters are especially helpful if you’re trying to cut through thicker locks.

Best Bolt Cutters Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
Tekton 8” Bolt Cutter

This tool might be small and compact, but it is no slouch when it comes to cutting through tough items like bolts, chain, threaded rods, and heavy-gauge wire.  This bolt cutter is made with forged and hardened steel alloy jaws and rolled steel handles covered in cushioned, non-slip rubber grips. It can tackle items up to 3/16 inches in diameter without a problem. It delivers compound cutting action that requires less effort to get the perfect cutting force due to the included compound hinge. Though this bolt cutter will be a small addition to your toolbox, it’ll deliver the power and force you’ll need when you have to cut through wire and other thin pieces of metal. 


Of course, it is not ideal for every possible use. The jaw opening is a little too narrow for many uses, but larger configurations are available.

Best Light-Duty Use
WorkPro Bolt Cutter

This is an excellent choice for lighter use like cutting through soft metal, small bolts, rods, rivets, and chains. These bolt cutters are made out of drop forged chrome-molybdenum steel with jaws that are powder coated for durability. They deliver compound cutting acting without requiring much effort on your part. This bolt cutter uses a classic lever-fulcrum design and precisely aligned blades for extra leverage. When you grab this bolt cutter, you feel a distinct advantage. The tubular handles feature bi-material anti-slip grips and an ergonomic design that helps you keep your grip even as you’re applying pressure. Despite being quite small, you’ll still be able to quickly cut through whatever is in its jaws. 


Keep in mind that this bolt cutter isn’t recommended for cutting locks or thick bolts—it’s a better choice for lighter-use situations. Still, it is an excellent addition to any existing collection.

Best Compact
Olympia Tools Powergrip Compact Bolt Cutters

If you’re looking for a bolt cutter that’ll fit right alongside the tools you carry every day, the Olympia Tools Powergrip Compact Bolt Cutters are the perfect pick. This short-handled tool measures just 14 inches in total length, meaning it’s small enough to fit into a bag. And there’s another big perk: the handles actually fold, which means you can make this bolt cutter even smaller in size if needed.


With this compact bolt cutter, you’ll have a tool that’s tough without taking up a ton of space. The patented folding handles are suitable for every tool bag or box. Yet you’ll still get great durability and hardiness as you apply force onto locks. The handles are ergonomic for your comfort, with extra width so you don’t feel as much pressure on your palms. A pair of CR-MP hardened steel cutting edges delivers quick, hard cuts with efficiency and great impact. And the blades are aligned for even, clean slices through metal of all kinds. 

Best Value
Neiko Heavy Duty Bolt Cutter

With a heavy-duty build, this bolt cutter gives you long, useful life and high cutting capability without dipping too far into your tool fund. The blades are 12 inches and made out of premium Cr-Mo steel, which makes them able to cut through incredibly tough materials. These blades are also heat treated, which helps resist cracks and dings along the cutting edge. A pair of ergonomic handles that are constructed from textured non-slip plastic gives you a comfortable, controlled grip. Believe it or not, these grips contribute to a long life. Even over many uses, it’s unlikely that the edges will dull or the tool will deteriorate. 


It seems quality control is a downside of these cutters. While they’re cheap enough to justify spending your money on, many customers report flaws in the edges that simply shouldn’t exist.

Premium Pick
Knipex Tools Comfort Grip High Leverage CoBolt Cutters

With a premium price and a number of premium features, the CoBolt Cutters are impressive. While plenty of bolt cutters are strong, this tool is able to deliver exceptional cutting performance with minimal effort, and they include features that others don’t. This bolt cutter can cut items like bolts, nails, rivets, and more up to 5.2 millimeters in diameter. The lever-action design applies 20 times more hand force than you apply with your hands. A distinct characteristic of this model is the spring-loaded grip. Underneath the locking mechanism is a return spring to operate. In combination with the comfort grips, this action makes for a much more enjoyable user experience than you might be used to. 


Again, this is a premium listing, and its price is a reflection of that. Still, it is quite high for the overall size of the tool and what it can be used for.

Honorable Mention
MaxPower Heavy Duty Bolt Cutter

Chromoly drop-forged steel offers several advantages. First, it's lighter and stronger than many alternatives. Furthermore, the well thought-out design ensures durability, and it will last for years, even when it regularly faces hard use. Like many other models, it offers a compound function to increase force output in combination with the long handles and comfortable grips that give you the ability to make quick work of anything in its jaws. Longer and shorter versions are also available. That ensures you can use this quality tool for absolutely any cutting task.


One major flaw of this tool is the lack of a jaw adjustment. Not being able to recalibrate the settings will undoubtedly result in a shorter life compared to many other offerings.

Honorable Mention
Capri Tools Klinge Mini Bolt Cutter

These cutters measure just a few inches in length and fit easily in the palm of your hand. Despite being small, they still feature a combination mechanism to multiply force output. The use of Cr-Mo blades only furthers the cutter's ability as it will undoubtedly last a long time, no matter what you expose it to. This material is also much lighter than many other offerings, which complements the small size. These cutters are super handy and perfect for cutting through nails, screws, metal wire, and small bolts. Because they are small, electricians and other technicians can comfortably keep them on their sides at all times, even in tight crawl spaces.


While there isn't much to complain about, the size is limiting. There are many mini and compact offerings on the table. But these seem to have a smaller head than most, which is a limitation in terms of usefulness.

Honorable Mention
Ares Mini Bolt Cutter

This is a very cost-effective mini bolt cutter anyone on a budget should consider. Despite being more affordable than its competitors, it still offers all the same qualities the more expensive models can. In fact, it has something many of the others don't. One highlight is the spring-loaded handle. This simple addition makes for a far better user experience. Furthermore, the locking handle prevents accidents when the cutter is in storage. The lock is effortless to operate and is cleverly incorporated into the ergonomic handle design. These handles are another notable design feature as they are very comfortable and slip-resistant.


Unfortunately, these cutters don't have an adjustable blade, and the jaws open only enough to deal with very thin materials. At the price point, you can expect these ailments.

Honorable Mention
GreatNeck Bolt Cutter

If you are still on the hunt for an affordable option, check out this bolt cutter. We'll start by mentioning there are a total of seven different sizes available, all of which are still far more affordable than most of what's on the market. The chrome vanadium steel and hardened cutting edge are enough to chop through most any material you'll put in its jaws. It also features a compound action in the jaw to reduce the amount of force you need to apply to cut. Slip-resistant vinyl grips help alleviate strain, and longer handles only help the cutting process along. Furthermore, the larger models feature a jaw opening of 1/2 inch, which is far greater than the standard.


The real let down is the fact that more substantial materials could have been used for the jaws. While it does help lower the price point, it's very easy to damage the cutting edge.

Honorable Mention
Power Grip Bolt Cutters

What's the best thing about this cutter? The folding handle. This is not a standard feature, and you have to specifically look for a model with a folding handle. These cutters measure 18 inches long with the handles extended. However, they fold up so that they will easily fit in any toolbox or tool bag. While it's still large, it's far easier to transport than a model with fixed handles of a similar length.


Conveniently, longer and shorter variations are also available. The use of Cr-Mo steel and a compound action ensure these cutters can perform just as well as any other models on the market.

 

Despite the initial impression, the folding mechanism is not the weak point of this model. Unfortunately, the adjusting screw and rivets that hold everything together are kind of flimsy and are prone to failure during hard use.

Honorable Mention
Kotto Bolt Cutter Set

You don’t have to settle for a single bolt cutter if you’re frequently using this tool — you can get a complete set of cutting tools if you choose the Kotto Bolt Cutter Set. For one reasonable price, you’ll get three cutters that can tackle different needs and jobs. 


This set includes one heavy-duty, soft rubber 14-inch bolt cutter, one 8-inch mini bolt cutter, and one 8-inch high leverage cable cutter. They’re all packed together in a convenient, organized carrying case. The 14-inch bolt cutter is the toughest of the bunch, with extremely hardened cutting blades that can resist damage even when working on hard metals. The 8-inch bolt cutter is nicely compact, yet it’s also durable thanks to strengthening rivets on the cutting blades. And if you’re handling wires and cables, the 8-inch cable cutter tool will fill in where your bolt cutters can’t. No matter which one you pick to work with, you’ll be getting T8 steel blades with heat treatment and high frequency quench hardening for the longest lifespan possible. 

Honorable Mention
Allied International 14 in. Bolt Cutter

While a bolt cutter’s strength is critical, so is your comfort while you work — and the Allied International 14 in. Bolt Cutter will take care of your hands. This tool is as tough as it is comfortable to hold and apply pressure to. It’s even designed with comfort at the forefront of its shape. Built with a set of knurled rubber grips, you’ll have a mix of texture for good grip and cushy rubber for softness and cushioning. 


This bolt cutter is also made for tough, quick results. Its handles measure 14 inches long, giving you a good balance of length and control so you can apply enough force to snap through locks. The carbon steel jaws are specifically constructed for durability throughout frequent wear and tear. But you’ll also get a great, smooth cut thanks to the precision-ground cutting edges on the tough jaws.

Honorable Mention
Fiskars PowerGear Bolt Cutter

You don’t have to go big to get strong bolt cutters; with the Fiskars PowerGear Bolt Cutter, you’ll have all of the strength you need paired with great sharpness. This bolt cutter, which measures 14 inches in size, is powerful, efficient, and just plain good at its sole job.


With this bolt cutter, you’ll be able to cut through a wide range of different heavy-duty materials. It’ll work on everything from padlocks to rebar to metal rods to threaded rods to chain — and more. Constructed with innovative PowerGear technology, this bolt cutter can deliver as much as 30 percent more power than your average alternative. With ergonomic handles featuring soft, cushioned grips and a rugged steel jaw with forged, heat-treated cutting edges, you’ll get strength even in the face of hardened rods. An eccentric bolt on the jaws allows you to adjust their alignment, and the edges are designed to stay sharp even with repeated use.

Tips

  • Wear eye protection. Bolt cutters can send metal pieces flying. Even if they are only being used for a quick task, eye protection is a must.
  • Handle objects with care. The cut-ends of bolts and wires may be sharp. It is always safe to be mindful of this and wear gloves while collecting cut pieces.
  • Adjust blades before each use. Bolt cutters feature an adjustable cutting head. Before each use, it is wise to double-check this setting and make sure the ends are not in direct contact with one another.
  • Avoid diagonal cuts. Bolt cutters are meant to make level cuts. You should always avoid offsetting the jaws to cut diagonally as it can damage the edges during use.

FAQs

Q: What are bolt cutters used for?

As the name suggests, bolt cutters cut bolts. However, they are also useful for cutting wire shelving, nails, and other thin pieces of metal. They can also be used for cutting padlocks, so long as it is done in a legal manner. 

Q: How thick can bolt cutters cut?

This depends on the design of the cutters. Different designs offer different power and cutting abilities. Both the length of the handles and how wide the blades can open contribute to cutting power.

Q: Can bolt cutters cut through hardened steel?

In most cases, they cannot. Cutting through hardened steel typically requires very hard materials that are often found on the blades of hacksaws and power tools. 

Q: Is it legal to own bolt cutters?

You’ll want to check the specific laws in your hometown, but in most places bolt cutters are perfectly legal to own. They typically only become illegal when you’re carrying bolt cutters with criminal intent, or the intent to break into a structure or property. 

Q: What locks cannot be cut with bolt cutters?

Many heavy-duty padlocks can’t be cut through with bolt cutters. But the only truly foolproof locks are those that are completely shrouded in exterior housing. If the slim metal arch of the lock itself is exposed, it’s at risk of being cut through, or at the very least damaged, by anyone wielding bolt cutters. 

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, the Tekton 8” Bolt Cutter takes our top pick. This set is affordable and safe for professional use. However, an even more affordable option is the Neiko Heavy Duty Bolt Cutter, another perfectly capable set.