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Which compact router is best?

A compact router is a small and easy-to-control tool that works well for edging and carving shapes in wood or plastic. These handheld tools can be incredibly versatile, and their sizes and weights make them easy to transport. As with any power tool, the power level, design, and features of compact routers will vary. Some allow for fine-depth adjustment, and others may include accessories to increase the speed of your work and allow for precise cuts. Our favorite, the Makita 1 1/4 HP Compact Kit, is a great option for a first-time router user because it includes several accessories. To learn more about compact routers, continue reading our buying guide.

What to know before you buy a compact router

Any compact router will be fairly small and lightweight in design, but its power, handling, and adjustability will vary.


The power of a compact router, just like a regular router, is measured in horsepower, or HP. Most compact routers offer from one to two HP.


The better your router handles, the more control and accuracy you will have. In general, lighter models lend a high degree of accuracy and control.


The speed and depth settings of your compact router will determine the variety of jobs and materials you can handle. Speed allows you to account for the density and hardness of different materials. Maximum speed isn’t always the best option, and lower speeds will struggle with some woods. Depth adjustment allows you to control your cuts to adapt to the task at hand.

You should also consider factors like the cord length of the router because this will determine where you can use your router without an extension cord.

What to look for in a quality compact router

Discovering the right router for you is important, but your decision-making doesn’t end there. You also need to think about what features define your router and what base (or bases) come included.


The base of your router is the plane that rests against the material you’re working with. The most common types of bases are fixed, angled, and plunge bases. A fixed base is the most common design and can move up and down in the base to adjust depth. Plunge bases are easier to adjust while you are working, and they work best for making cuts in the middle of a surface. Angled bases provide angled cuts. A compact router may come with one base, or it may include interchangeable bases.

Additional router features

Consider how comfortably the handle of a router fits in your hand. This is particularly important if you’re left-handed because not all routers are equally comfortable for righties and lefties alike. Other features may include LED lights to guide your work, a cam-lock system for easy adjustments, and soft-start functionality.


Compact routers may include accessories that help you guide your cuts and remove debris. The edge guides of a router are what allow you to align the bit to make precise cuts, and they should be made of sturdy metal. A dust-collection adapter is not necessary, but it will make your work and cleanup easier. Lastly, the bit of a router is the part that does the cutting. This component is available in a range of sizes to allow for a variety of cuts and shapes.

How much you can expect to spend on a compact router

Entry-level and midrange compact routers may cost from $120-$350, and they will vary in their features and included accessories. For $350-$500 you can purchase high-powered compact routers that are often feature-packed for precise handling and fine adjustment.

Compact router FAQ

Q. How do I keep my wood from burning as I work?

A. This generally occurs when you’re moving too slowly, keeping the router in one place, and allowing the bit to heat up. Try to move the router slightly faster. If you’re performing a deep cut, perform it in several steps to give the bit a chance to cool down.

Q. How long do router bits last?

A. Not as long as you might think. Even just a few hours of work can wear down bits, but you can have your bits sharpened by a professional to extend their lifespans.

What are the best compact routers to buy?

Top compact router

Makita 1 1/4 HP Compact Kit

Makita 1 1/4 HP Compact Kit

What you should know: The number of included accessories makes this one of the best deals available.

What you’ll love: If you’re just starting, this router kit gives you everything you could need.

What you should consider: The three depths in the plunge base may be somewhat limiting.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top compact router for money

DEWALT Max Torque Variable Speed

DEWALT Max Torque Variable Speed

What you should know: Dewalt’s reliable quality shows in the sturdy construction of this router.

What you’ll love: The wide speed range and fine-depth adjustment make this a versatile tool.

What you should consider: With no carrying case storing this tool can be difficult.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

 AVID POWER 6.5-Amp 1.25 HP Compact Router

AVID POWER 6.5-Amp 1.25 HP Compact Router

What you should know: This straightforward router is reliable; though its applications may be limited.

What you’ll love: The powerful motor of this low-priced router makes it stand out among entry-level options.

What you should consider: The single speed of this router makes it difficult to adapt to different jobs and materials.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Peter McPherson writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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