The Best Electric Sanders (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021
Save your palms with the proper power tool
The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.
BY Hank O'Hop / LAST UPDATED 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
- 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.