LAST UPDATED: December 22, 2020
The Best Electric Sanders (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021
Save your palms with the proper power tool
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PUBLISHED ON December 22, 2020
Some folks thoroughly enjoy sanding, while others despise it. It’s a time-consuming task that honestly does gauge an individual’s level of commitment to a project and his or her attention to detail. But that doesn’t mean power tools can’t aid the process. While electric sanders can be overkill in some situations, they can effectively reduce the amount of time you spend putting the finishing touches on some things.
But they aren’t all the same. There’s a lot to consider when purchasing an electric sander. The materials you are sanding, the amount of room you have to work with, and how much money you have to spend all come into play. Throw in all the options available, and you’ve got yourself a real mess to sort through. That said, our goal is to help you find out which is best for you so you can finally wrap things up.
Excellent palm sander with a relatively affordable price point. This model features a 1/4-sheet pad and is perfect for use on medium to small surfaces.
- Affordable price
- Superior quality
- Exceptional performance
- More expensive than most competitors
Extremely affordable sander with a respectable performance for the price. The 1/3-sheet pad makes it great for a variety of projects.
- Incredible price
- Respectable performance
- Lightweight design
- Multiple mounting types
- Retention clips are subpar
Cordless random orbital sander perfect for anyone of any trade. This tool offers superior performance and is part of the 20V Max lineup.
- Compact and easy to handle
- Brushless motor offers superior performance
- Comes with a battery and charger
- Premium price tag
Why Trust Us
All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Electric Sander
- Reduce fatigue. One of the significant advantages of an electric sander is that they reduce fatigue. While manual input is still necessary, the tool reduces how much work you need to do by a considerable amount.
- Speed things up. Not only does it reduce the amount of work you need to do, but it also does it much more quickly. The proper technique results in you spending far less time sanding.
- Save your hands. Power tools always create a risk for injury but sanding things by hand often results in the development of blisters, cuts, and bruises. Careful handling of a hand sander can significantly reduce these risks.
Types of Electric Sanders
Palm sanders are medium in size and can have either a square or rectangular pad. It functions by throwing the pad in a small circle, and that is why it is also known as an orbital sander. This type of sander is excellent for a medium workpiece because they are easy to handle and can quickly work in reasonably sized work areas. They are also more affordable than some other options. But keep in mind that their motion does leave behind a considerable amount of marks and could be laborious to use on large workpieces.
Random orbital sanders typically feature a round sanding pad, which is the first thing that differentiates them from other options. They are also relatively a bit larger and are best for working with large workpieces than most alternatives. They function by moving the pad in two circles. The pad travels along the path of a large circle but continuously circles as it does so. This motion removes material quickly while reducing the number of marks it leaves behind. They are typically the most expensive option but are a favorite across all industries because of their function. You may be able to use an orbital sander for polishing, but for the best results, you should use a car buffer polisher.
A detail sander, sometimes known as a mouse or corner sander, gets its name because you use it to give a workpiece the finishing touches larger sanders can. They are a handheld tool with a triangular pad that allows you to reach into tight spaces or corners and touch them up.
In place of a dedicated detail sander, you might use an oscillating multi-tool. As a sander, it works to achieve the same purpose of sanding in corners or tight spaces. The primary difference is that this type of tool features an interchangeable head that you can attach blades to.
A belt sander does not vibrate, oscillate, or orbit like other options. Instead, it uses two motorized drums that cycle a loop of sandpaper to smooth or strip surfaces. They come in a variety of sizes but serve a different function than other models we’re looking at. In most cases, you’ll use a belt sander in the early stages of a project to give the workpiece shape. For example, you might use one after a rough cut to finalize the shape you need the object to take.
DeWalt got its start in 1922 when Raymond DeWalt developed the first woodworking machine to boost productivity. It’s no surprise that a start like this leads to them becoming an absolute juggernaut in the segment. Today, the company works out of Baltimore, Md., producing tools such as the DeWalt 1/4 Sheet Palm Grip Sander.
Black and Decker
In Baltimore, Md., Duncan Black and Alfonzo Decker set up shop to develop the world’s first portable power tool in 1912. The Stanley Black and Deckergroup is headquartered in New Britain, Conn., and serves the industry with over 175 years of experience. That’s why it can produce items on our list, such as the Black and Decker Mouse Detail Sander.
Based in Elgin, Ill., Wen has been hard at work since 1951. The brand serves many industries but is a favorite among the DIY crown and hobbyists because they provide quality tools at relatively low prices. The WEN 6377 Variable Speed 5-Amp Dual-Head Drywall Sander is one of the few to make our list.
Electric Sander Pricing
- Under $50: In general, the tools in this range are budget-oriented tools that best suit non-professionals well. They may not fare well during daily use but are great for intermittent projects.
- $50 to $100: In this range, you can expect to find a blend of budget-level and professional-grade sanders. The quality of the tool and the type of sander influence price directly.
- $100 and up: This price range is typically reserved for top-quality options. Cordless models and random orbital sanders are predominant.
The operation of a sander is the first thing to take into consideration. This is something you can balance with the surface area you are working with and the medium. Are you doing bodywork on your car? Fabricating? Building a shelf?
In most cases, you’ll need two sanders, either a random orbital or palm sander for the majority of the project and a detail sander for tight spots.
Sanders don’t always have the same pad size to work with. Some are much larger than others to make quick work of vast surface areas, and others are smaller for more detail-oriented work. This is another thing you need to balance with the type of project you are doing and how much room you have to work with.
Take the time to pick a sander that you can handle comfortably. You already know that I’m going to say that you need to balance this with the work as well. But, don’t write-off how it feels in your hand. You want to make sure you can manage the machine in any position for a considerable period.
If you’re working in tight spaces, you might want something as compact as possible. Or if you’re working on a large surface, grabbing the biggest model might not be the best choice if it feels clumsy or awkward.
- Power Source. Electric sanders don’t always use the same power source. You’ll have both corded and cordless models to select from. Which is better comes down to a balance of personal preference, your budget, and whether or not size is an issue. Keep in mind that while a cordless model is more convenient, a battery influences the size and weight of the tool.
Best Electric Sanders Reviews & Recommendations 2021
If you need an excellent palm sander at a reasonable price, this one from DeWalt is hard to beat. It is a 1/4-sheet sander, so it's best for use on small surface areas. But despite being small, it offers excellent performance on account of the 2.3-amp motor and the orbital motion. Not only that, it even features a counterweight design to help reduce vibrations and improve the user’s experience. This sander also maintains a compact, easy-to-handle and easy-to-maneuver size because it relies on corded power. It keeps under control with a locking dust port system that you can use combined with the supplied dust bag or a vacuum if need be. It’s also worth mentioning that it works to keep dust out of the system with a rubber boot over the power switch, which prolongs the tool's life.
There isn’t much to not love about this model. It is more costly than alternatives, but that’s to be expected with a high-quality tool.
The low price and fantastic design features of this WEN sander make it hard to beat in terms of value. This 1/3-sheet sander is an excellent all-around choice for a wide range of DIY projects. One thing we love is the inclusion of retention springs and a hook-and-loop system. This allows you to use any sheet-type sanding medium with the sander, giving you more bang for your buck. The 1.2-amp motor may not be the most powerful, but it still runs the pad at 12,000-RPM without resistance. It’s incredibly lightweight at just three pounds and uses corded power to retain easy handling. Of course, it also comes with a dust bag to keep you and the work piece clean as well.
Unfortunately, users indicate that the hook-and-loop system is a far better fastening solution than the retention clips. That means the best results are limited to use with hard-to-find and costly sandpaper.
Random orbital sanders typically generate higher price tags, so you should squirrel away a few extra dollars and invest in this bad boy. DeWalt’s second entry to our list is a cordless random orbital sander that includes a nice storage bag, a battery, and a battery charger. With its 20V MAX system, performance is going to be hard to beat in terms of electrical sanders—even if it uses a corded power supply. And though it’s more expensive than other options, maintenance is simple with a replaceable pad and a brushless motor. Not only that, the brushless motor boasts better efficiency and performance, even during prolonged periods of use. We also appreciate the compact design that provides improvements in control and user experience.
Yes, it does have a premium price tag, but this tool is worth the money. This is especially true if you need a tool you can depend on for regular use in a professional industry.
We love a thoughtful design, and this belt sander provides a great user experience. It features an angled belt that allows you to reach further into corners and joints. This feature is a big step up from a belt sander without it. Another thing we love is the retractable hood that gives you the ability to do more work in incredibly tight spots. The handle design is also something worth noting as it keeps all controls in a comfortable position. The forward handle is even retractable to ensure you maintain total control no matter what position you are using the tool in. And of course, we can't leave out how easy it is to remove the dust bag when you need to empty it.
The only downside to this sander is that many folks report issues with the belts tearing or slipping off. One or two complaints would be negligible, but there are enough to warrant using caution when operating it for the first couple of times.
Black and Decker takes another spot on our list with this detail, or “mouse,” sander. It includes a few implements that make it especially useful for detailed work or use in tight spaces, which is why we like it. On the surface, you’ll notice that it has a tight and compact design, which is excellent, but it is something to expect. What gives it a leg up is the inclusion of the finger attachment and sanding pad that reach around the object into even tighter spaces than the base system can. That means it reduces even more time you need to spend working surfaces that are hard to reach. It’s also got a three-position grip that makes it comfortable to use and easy to handle in any space.
This tool is notoriously delicate, and you need to be careful when using it. Otherwise, the finger attachments and dust collector are likely to break off.
This entry from Tacklife makes it to our list because it’s another great detail sander you can grab at a reasonable price. Many love this tool because it is sized perfectly for medium to small hands. The small size, however, is more beneficial to handling it in tight spaces. Of course, it also keeps all controls in a perfectly accessible position for when you are using it normally or in an awkward place. Its performance is promising with 12,000 RPM load-free speeds. This speed alleviates the amount of pressure you need to apply during use, further boosting how comfortable it feels. Speaking of comfort, its motor’s design works to eliminate vibration, and it also features soft rubberized pads to improve your experience with it.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of indications that the dust collector is far too flimsy. So, if you purchase it you should be exceptionally cautious of potentially breaking it.
This is the first and only multi-tool to make our list, and it's definitely worth your consideration. The benefit of this design is that it combines the ability to sand and cut into one tool. Not only does that increase the overall value, but it prevents you from trying to load up your tool bag with too much equipment to carry in a single trip. It comes with two different cutting blades, the sanding pad, and 10 sandpaper pieces. But because it also comes with a scrapper, you consider this a triple threat. But, to take things even further, it is a cordless power tool as well, so you don't have to worry about finding an outlet and extension cords to put it to work.
Two things to not love are how heavy the tool is and the fact that it relies on external tools for attachments. While they aren't terrible by themselves, they do drive the point that this is an out-of-date design.
Need the power of a belt sander in an incredibly tight space? Check this out. This little belt sander uses a 1/2-inch wide sanding loop that measures 18 inches in length. It can run the belt at speeds of 1080 to 1800 feet per second. That means you can reach far into tight spaces and strip or reshape whatever you need to. A couple of other things that work in its favor are the auto-tracking belt system and tool-free belt installation system. Both of these features prevent you from using tools to set it up or adjust it throughout the life of the sanding belt. Some may not like the traditional control system, but we find that it complements the intended use in the case of a compact tool.
The price tag is a dead giveaway that this is no professional level tool. But for light projects and intermittent use, it's hard to beat, and the quality isn't something to complain about.
WEN is dominating our list with affordable sanders, and they make one more entry with this piece of equipment. Unlike any of our other picks, this sander has a specific purpose in mind. That is to give you enough reach to sand high walls without overextending yourself. The reach is great for safety as it prevents you from leaning or extending yourself on a ladder if you even need one at all. Also, unlike the others, this sander has a dual-head design. The circular head is excellent for working over broad areas, and the triangular head reaches deep into corners. Yes, dust may be an issue, but this tool keeps control of the built-in vacuum attachment system. No additional investments are necessary, so long as you have a shop vac.
That said, the vacuum system isn’t going to collect all of the dust on account of the design. This is something you need to be aware of when you start using the tool above your head.
Black and Decker is back with the final entry to our list. And don’t worry, it’s a great one. This is an excellent random orbital sander for the DIY crowd and hobbyists that don’t have the budget to invest hundreds of dollars into a single tool. As if that isn’t good enough, the fact that it’s a cordless model should undoubtedly tickle your fancy. Being part of the Black and Decker 20V Max family, the battery is compatible with other tools in the line. And yes, the battery and battery charger are also part of the deal, so you don’t need to worry about spending any more money. This random orbital sander does offer respectable performance with operational speeds of 12,000 OPM when free of load, but it’s 30 percent smaller than the leading competitor.
Battery life and performance do prevent this model from ranking among premium offerings. However, when it lists for nearly 1/4 of the price, we really can’t complain.
- All sanders achieve similar goals but are not all the same. Always be sure to pick the right tool for the job.
- Always keep the dimensions in mind. The size of the sanding pad and the overall size of the tool determine how it performs and what you can use it for.
- As always, a power tool isn’t still the best option. Be mindful of the fact that sanders remove material rapidly, which may cause irreversible damage.
Q. Is an orbital sander better than a sheet sander?
Yes and no. An orbital sander does offer more versatility as you can safely use it for a variety of tasks. However, the discs are more costly, and the orbital sander generally needs more room to work effectively.
Q. What sander is best for removing paint?
That depends on the medium you are working with and how much space you have to work with. For removing paint from vehicles, you’ll probably have the best experience with a random orbital sander or a belt sander in some instances.
Q. What's the difference between an orbital sander and a palm sander?
A palm sander is just an electric sander you can use in a single hand. Keep in mind that most sanders use an orbital motion regardless of the size.
To recap, the DeWalt 1/4 Sheet Palm Grip Sander takes our top pick, and the WEN 6313 Electric 1/3 Sheet Sander is our pick for Best Value. But, that does not mean they’re the right type of sander for your next project.
We’d like your feedback. Let us know which sander on our list makes the most sense for the work you’ve got in mind.