The router is a flexible and versatile power tool that every dedicated carpenter must have. Pros and beginners can vastly improve their workflow, mastery, and efficiency thanks to this little device.
A router is equipped with a motor that delivers a high RPM rate. It makes the spindle turn at nearly a supersonic speed, which allows for working with various wood types and creating a wide range of carpentry projects.
With it, you can:
- Create decorative elements: shapes, flutings, etc.
- Cut joints, dovetails, mortises.
- Craft frames and panels.
- Peel off old, dry paint.
And much more. It is a powerful tool that you simply can’t ignore, as it makes woodworking a faster, enjoyable, and irresistibly creative process!
But how to choose one? Which RPM rate, amperage, horsepower, and base should a router have? Which projects can you complete with it? Is it possible to grab one at a budget price and still get a high-quality item?
To answer all these questions, I’ve reviewed my personal top 8 picks of the best wood routers under $100. They combine reliability, high efficiency, as well as low price. No doubt, one of them will become a true gem in your collection of power tools.
Budget Wood Routers – Top 8 Picks
This selection includes only budget models, the specs of which are generally the same. Though every model also has some unique characteristics that deserve your close attention.
1. Ryobi R1631K Router – The Best Budget Wood Router
Our first item, Ryobi R1631K, is the best wood router for under 100 dollars. It combines quality, acceptable price, and all the features that a DIY adept might need for their woodwork projects.
For starters, it’s a three-bit tool. We have here:
- 5/16 Inch straight cut;
- 5/32 Inch roman ogee;
- 1/4 Inch radius round over.
And I gotta say that even some costlier wood routers don’t offer that much. And to achieve better results and enjoy more accuracy, there’s a built-in LED light: it will help you focus on details more efficiently and give your carpentry a degree of finesse.
The thingy is equipped with a straight shank. Powered with a DC corded source, Ryobi has an impressive torque: 25,000 revolutions per minute! So, as I’ve said, smoothing out edges, trimming, and adding finishing touches is easy with this humming beauty.
What I also like about this model is that it mitigates a trauma risk. There’s a polythene guard that prevents wood particles from injuring your eyes. Although, I strongly recommend you never pass on the eye gear.
The router has a motor with 8,5 amperes. It’s quite powerful: you can easily work with any wood type: mahogany, cherry, redwood, walnut, and so forth. I think even such toughies as purpleheart or Brazilian cherry with their hardness don’t have a chance against Ryobi.
Ergonomics are also on spot. The grip is attached to the base, which allows a comfortable grip. As a result, you won’t suffer from joint pains or finger numbness after hours of handiwork.
Work precision is another reason for joy. Ryobi is enhanced with a sensitive push button that gives you more control over fluid depth adjustments. With this and the locking feature, you can finish your projects way faster as well as calibrate the measurements in a matter of seconds.
- Weight: 6.5 pounds
- Item dimensions L x W x H: 11.4 x 7.09 x 10.47 inches
- Power Source: DC
- Colour: green
- Ryobi R1631K Router
All in all, I’m really pleased with Ryobi R1631K. It is definitely one of the top routers under 100 bucks. Rich with features, endowed with precision control and a nice torque, it is the best candidate for your carpentry arsenal.
- RPM of 25k;
- Three-bit set;
- Extra eye protection;
- Integrated LED lighting.
- The user’s guide may seem uninformative.
2. Wen RT6033 Plunge Woodworking Router – #2 Among the Best Affordable Routers
Our runner-up is a brainchild of the Wen company. This power-tool brand has been in the business since 1951 and comes from Illinois. So, let’s see what their router can do for you.
Let’s begin with the power specs. The corded Wen RT6033 draws its energy from a 15-ampere motor, which requires a standard 120V supply. If you translate it into horsepower, then you’ll get a 2,17 HP – not bad!
So, the speed is variable here. Starting at 8,000 RPM, Wen can make it to 23,000 RPM. That is really nice for a range of materials.
With a lower PRM, you can work with hardwood types like white oak or hard maple, and the higher RPM value is awesome for getting a cleaner finish. Perfection and carpenter go hand in hand, as you know.
What I really enjoy about this model is that it’s conveyed with a caboodle of accessories. In the package, you will find a template guide, wrench, fence scale, dust collector, straight-edge fence, and also a centering pin. It feels almost like Christmas with all these gifts!
With this helper, you can nail all kinds of routing thanks to its ½ inch collet diameter and a ¼ inch adapter. There’s a depth-stop feature that has an advancement of 5/16 of one inch per quarter.
Another impressive feature is a turret that can assume 7 positions and provide a nearly surgical finesse. While in most competing models you get a maximum of three or even two positions!
The work comfort is also praiseworthy. First, there’s a smooth start feature, which allows the motor to gain the rotation speed gradually. It prevents your tool from getting jerky and barely controllable.
Second, the router is pretty ergonomic. The handle provides a firm and comfy grip. Although the router is a tad heavy: 19 pounds. So, while working on a big project, you will certainly need periodic coffee breaks. Otherwise, your hands will get tired quickly.
- Weight: 19 pounds
- Item dimensions L x W x H: 17 x 14.6 x 7 inches
- Power Source: corded electric
- Colour: Orange
- Voltage: 120V
- Variable Speed Plunge Woodworking Router, Hard-Shelled Case, Multi-Function Straight Edge Fence, Template Guide, Circle-Cutting Centering Pin, Fence Scale, and 1-1/2-Inch Dust Collection Duct
As for the rest, I heartily recommend Wen RT6033. It can brag about impressive features and offers some useful bells and whistles. The second best router for under $100, no doubt.
- Plenty of bonus accessories;
- Nice plastic case;
- Seven turret positions;
- Soft startup;
- Great for many wood projects.
- A bit hefty;
- The Max speed is 13k RPM.
3. Makita RT0701C – A Versatile Good Budget Router
Our next item is made by the Japanese brand Makita which has a solid reputation among handymen. They have been making tools since 1915 and a whole line of carpentry tools.
The first thing you notice is how compact Makita is. The tool weighs only 3.9 lbs and is made from durable aluminum. So, if you happen to be a vagabond craftsman, taking this router with you wherever the road leads is no problem at all.
But don’t be fooled by its humble size. Makita is a true beast when it comes to woodworking – the 6,5-ampere motor has a 1,25 HP value and a variable torque with 6-speed levels. All in all, you get a range of 10,000-30,000 RPM! Not that bad for such a small guy.
I also like how easy-to-use Makita is. It can brag about the adjustable cam lock that has an easy release. This feature helps you calibrate the depth of the router any way you want. It can be done within a moment, and installation/removal becomes a breeze.
The soft startup is also here to provide more safety and smoother workflow. The package includes a plunge base, an adjustable height base, and an edge guide.
All these elements together with the miniature size, are great for small-scale projects that require blow-by-blow precision. Like a chessboard with Latin inscriptions in a fancy Renaissance font. Or a ceremonial plaque with Okinawa glyphs.
- Weight: 3.9 pounds
- Item dimensions L x W x H: 17 x 10 x 7 inches
- Power Source: corded electric
- Colour: green
- Voltage: 120V
- Makita – 1-1/4 H.P. Compact Router Kit Fixed Plunge Bases (RT0701CX7)
But besides such prowess at surgical woodwork, Makita has its drawbacks. One of them is that the kit lacks vital gear. No collect or wrench is included, and also no LED lighting, which is more than puzzling.
- Very powerful motor;
- Lightweight & compact;
- Great for small projects;
- Easy installation.
- Misses some elements;
- Not ideal for bigger projects.
4. Bosch Router Tool Colt PR20EVS – An Inexpensive Wood Router
Bosch power tools barely need any introduction. This router has been available for a while now and all I can say is that it has its ups and downs.
On the menu, we have a mighty 5,6-ampere motor with 1 horsepower. Some may think that it’s insufficient. But hold your judgment: Bosch PR20EVS is a raging beast with variable speeds from 16,000 to 35,000 RPM!
Apart from its impressive torque capacity, I can also praise its flexibility. This tool is easy to operate and install. The clamp system enables you to move the motor from base to base. And switching between micro and macro adjustment is quick and painless too.
The bit capacity is also a nice feature. It has a fixed base and lets you change bits using a combo of a spindle lock and a wrench. That sums up the good things about PR20EVS.
There are a few flies in the ointment. First, this model could use some improvement on the edge adjusting. There are no center lines on the base, which prevents you from setting the edge guide with precision.
Aligning to the depth scale is also a challenge. The problem is you have to go through an arduous mounting procedure of the drill first. And finally, the base of the router can be a loosey-goosey because of its unreliable screws. And this can lead to a messed-up project.
- Weight: 3.3 pounds
- Item dimensions L x W x H: 9.41 x 7.43 x 4.7 inches
- Power Source: battery powered
- Colour: green
- Voltage: 120V
- (1) PR20EVS Palm Router, (1) PR001 Fixed Base, (1) 1/4-Inch. Self-Releasing Collet Chuck, (1) Shaft Wrench, (1) Collet Wrench
All in all, Bosh has a tradition of making high-quality power tools. They are workhorses that keep running for hundreds and thousands of hours. And while this router certainly has something to be proud of, Bosch's quality assurance needs to shape up.
- Impressive motor power;
- Still cheaper than $100;
- Nice bit capacity.
- Barely retains the depth setting;
- The base loosens somehow.
5. Avid Power 6.5-Amp 1.25 HP Compact Router – A Very Cheap Wood Router
The next model is brought to us by Avid Power. It is a Chinese brand that specializes in producing a wide range of tools for carpentry, gardening, and so on.
Experienced carpenters may notice that this model is like a facsimile of a few budget Makita models. At least some of its parts – like the base – are interchangeable with some of Makita’s products, including Makita RT0701C.
Under the bonnet, we have here a solid 6,5-ampere motor, which produces 1,25 horsepower. In terms of the torque capacity: this translates into the range between 10,000-32,000 RPM. Considering that it’s a miniature tool for small jobs, this rotation rate is impressive.
The router is enhanced with the rack-&-pinion system that helps you adjust the depth and regulate precision. And what I also like, that this cheap router is equipped with LED lights for better control over the working area.
Its aluminum body seems to be sturdy, and the handle is covered with rubber to provide a firmer grip. But the metal body doesn’t save Avid from heating quickly, so don’t forget to give it a break every 30 minutes or so.
What I like is that it comes with a whole bag of bonus items. Just like Ryobi, this model comes in the company of:
- 5 router bits;
- Dust collector;
- Vacuum attachment;
- 3/8 and 1/4 inch collet;
- Edge and roller guides.
But like every cheaper model, Avid has a few downsides. First, its rack-&-pinion seems to be unstable. Sometimes it just doesn’t hold the needed height. Second, you may have issues with regulating the bit at the maximum depth.
- Weight: 7.8 pounds
- Item dimensions L x W x H: 11.69 x 10 x 4.61 inches
- Power Source: corded-electric
- Colour: green
- Voltage: 120V
- Avid Power Compact Router Kit comes with 1 x Avid Power Compact Router, 5 x Router bits, 1 x Edge guide, 1 x Roller guide, 1x Dust hood, 1x 3/8” collet, 1x 1/4” collet, 1x Wrench, 2x Carbon brushes, 1x Toolbag, 1x User manual, Avid Power Customer Service
All in all, I think it’s a good tool for part-time wood artists, hobbyists, and those who make their first steps in carpeting. Maybe, not the best wood router for the money, but it works fine for small-time projects and doesn’t cause too many problems.
- Very low price;
- Compatible with Makita parts;
- LED lights;
- 3/8 collet;
- Speed dial on top.
- Gets hot quickly;
- More of a hobby tool.
6. Ryobi P601 One+ – Simple, Cordless, Cheap
This model is for those wood artisans who enjoy mobility. Ryobi presents a cordless router that also has impressive versatility.
P601 weighs just 3,3 pounds, takes up little space in the bag, and needs an 18V lithium battery to work. So, it’s a great tool for ‘field jobs’ or quick work like trimming, mortising, making round overs, and so on.
As a cordless item, this Ryobi model can’t deliver the torque that a regular router can. But it’s still pretty impressive with its 29,000 RPM and works nicely with soft and medium hardwood types.
P601 has pretty much all the basic features of a router. Its aluminum base is durable and provides satisfying stability. Although I couldn’t help but notice that its locking mechanism is a bit jittery while the router is on.
Depth adjustment is also on the menu. There’s an onboard knob that allows quick adjustment. But sometimes it’s not very ‘cooperative’ and becomes hard to regulate. Maybe it has something to do with the heating?
LED lights have made it to the party too: this is what every handyman favors in a mobile tool. Although they could have a bit more brightness or some sort of regulating dial as shading extra brightness is essential at times.
A vacuum attachment would also be great: be prepared to clean a sawdust pile after the job is done. Also, this tool desperately needs a tighter collet and an indicator light that alerts you that the battery is dying. (Keep a set of spare batteries just in case).
- Weight: 2.8 pounds
- Item dimensions L x W x H: 10 x 5 x 10 inches
- Power Source: battery powered
- Colour: green
- Voltage: 18V
- Ryobi P601 One+
To sum up, Ryobi is surprisingly good for such a cheap device. It does quick finishing jobs quite well and fast. It needs just a bit of space in your drawer. And it’s also compatible with batteries from P100 to P108. It’s one of the top-rated wood routers in the cheap segment.
- Ridiculously low price;
- 29K RPM;
- Mobile & compact;
- LED lights;
- Great for finishing touches.
- Batteries aren’t included;
- Lacks a few features;
- A bit loud.
7. Porter-Cable PCE6430 Router – A Compact Low-cost Helper
Our next model is one of those tools that you would give a solid B without hesitating. It’s not much in terms of versatility, but what it can do, it does good.
It is a little router charged with a 4,5-ampere motor that puts out an RPM rate with up to 31,000 rotations per minute. And in terms of horsepower, I’d estimate it as 0,5 HP.
I guarantee that this tool will shine in your hands when it’s time for light work like mortising or one last finishing touch. It’s fairly easy to handle. It has a standard aluminum base, a pretty firm depth adjustment that won’t slip, a secure latch, and also LED lights.
Dial adjustment is surprisingly clear-cut, by the way. You don’t have to worry about ruining your work. Although sometimes its release refuses to cooperate when you want to do extra adjusting. But it’s not a dramatic issue, of course.
- Weight: 3.6 pounds
- Item dimensions L x W x H: 8.31 x 8.31 x 5.75 inches
- Power Source: corded electric
- Colour: black
- Voltage: 120V
- Porter-Cable PCE6430 Router
As for the rest, just like Ryobi 601, it is a hard-working little fella. It’s great for trimming soft/medium hardwood, plastic sheeting, surface finishing, and doing occasional metal works too. So, I’d say it honestly works for every dollar paid.
- Nicely fits in the palm of your hand;
- Amazing for light works;
- LED lights;
- Not too loud;
- The locking collar may feel a bit lose sometimes.
8. CtopoGo Compact Wood Palm Router – Affordable & Straightforward
Our last item is from the CtopoGo company. It is a low-priced tool that is evidently meant for light work. For example, you can do cabinet processing, cut curves, add grooves, trim the material, etc. In other words, unleash the full of your carpeting genius.
It is a compact gizmo that can generate up to 30,000 RPM and work continuously without overheating. Its trim diameter is 1/4 inch. There’s also a transparent base, so you can monitor precision better. The trimmer is solid, and the depth is fairly easy to adjust.
I also want to compliment its maneuverability – it’s easy to work with the surface of the material thanks to CtpopGo. Plus, it’s not super noisy, which is always a good thing: you can skip buying earplugs. (But don’t).
- Weight: 5.52 pounds
- Item dimensions L x W x H: 10.04 x 5.12 x 5.12 inches
- Power Source: AC
- Colour: red
- Voltage: 110V
- CtopoGo Compact Wood Palm Router
Though, the tool could use a dust-collecting duct or something. And the worst part is that no bits are included in the package. You will have to buy them separately.
- Allows firm grip;
- A bunch of accessories is included;
- Returnable during a month.
- Virtually zero instructions;
- Bits aren’t included.
Now, let’s shed some light on how to use a wood router and which characteristics to look for when picking one.
Important features a wood router must have
Okay, so here are the ‘talents’ that a worthy tool must have to take your carpentering to the next, more professional level.
1. Variable Speed Control
Basically, every router, big and medium-sized, has a variable speed control. It’s quite necessary for both the quality of your work and your safety. Variable speed allows you to turn a single router into a universal weapon.
A rule of thumb is that smaller bits require a higher RPM – it contributes to more precision and finer finishing touches. A slower RPM rate is essential for larger bits as it makes work much safer.
So, make sure that your router has a dial to control speed. It makes the router a truly universal weapon. And you’ll be able to do all kinds of work as well as process various wood types.
2. Soft Starter
Just like a car, a router can’t gain full speed within a second’s fraction. A smoother startup is a great feature to have as it mitigates a trauma risk or a chance that you mess up the current project.
A router without a soft starter will jerk like an eel on hot sand. Meanwhile, smooth RPM acceleration is the best way to keep your workflow under control.
3. Spindle Lock
While being not that super important, a spindle lock can make your wood routine way easier. The trick is that the majority of routers require two wrenches to change the bit: one wrench is for the motor shaft and another for the collet.
A spindle lock makes it all easier. With it, you can instantly remove the motor and get to the bit. Just imagine how much time this feature will save!
4. Electronic Feedback Circuit
Behind this brainy term hides a monitoring feature. It is responsible for monitoring the load that the motor of your tool gets during the work and automatically adjusts the torque.
It is especially vital when you work with hardwood, thick planks, and so on – EFC prevents the motor from stalling and getting damaged. In the power tool industry, it has different names, but the common one is the feedback circuit.
5. Torque, RPM, and Horsepower
Odds are, you already know what these words mean. Torque, being in close relationship with RPM, is the rotating force produced by the motor. Meanwhile, horsepower basically means how quickly you will accomplish the job.
As I’ve said, a higher RPM rate is great for small-scale jobs and projects that require finesse and focus on details. And also it’s good for a softer wood.
Meanwhile, slower RPM works fine for harder timber. So I recommend searching for a router with a wider dynamic range.
As for the HP, in reality, it’s basically the same for every router. The reason why is in most cases they are equipped with a universal motor that feeds on 110V. Averagely, that translates into 1,5 HP or less.
How to use a wood router?
If you’re a beginner who learns their tool yet, you can try your hand at the following wood jobs:
- Molding. It’s the fanciest thing a router can do. You can turn a dull wood plank into a roman ogee or an intricate pattern to adorn window frames, doors, garden gazebos, and so forth.
- Dadoes. These are like little pits that allow affixing shelves.
- Patterns. Designs, ornaments, grooves, inscriptions, and so on. These aesthetics will breathe new life into your wood artistry.
- Rabbets. These guys are universal soldiers that can do a lot in terms of supporting construction.
- Hinges. You can lock faceplates or recess door hinges with a router.
- Edges. Smooth, precise edges are a signature trick of a wood router. Nicely leveled cuts will add a tinge of professional refinement to any project.
These are the very basic uses you can put your router to.
While the best value wood router is a durable fella, it’s not completely immune to damage. As it does a minimum of a few thousand rotations per minute, I recommend you give it a short break every 25-30 minutes or so to avoid overtiring the motor.
Then, you may need an extra bit. There are two types in the store: steel and carbide. Carbide is costlier, but it’ll also last much longer – up to 10 times! And without losing the edge. But before buying, check if the bit size is compatible with your router: it’s either ½ or ¼ inch.
Here are some quick tips on keeping your router sessions safe.
Never pass on the protective goggles while working with timber, as it may result in a serious eye injury. Even if your router has a polythene protector that collects detritus.
Some routers are roaring beasts. If your ears are exposed to its noise on a regular basis, this may negatively affect your hearing and even cause tinnitus.
Earplugs are a great solution for that, and the only time when you don’t need them is probably occasional works with a lightweight, cordless tool.
Splinters and takeouts are also serious nuisances. It’s especially true for such wood as oak, hard maple, and so on.
So, protecting your hands and project can be done by simply selecting the right bit and maintaining its depth properly. Plus, make sure the blade of the router doesn’t get dull. Protective gloves aren’t a good idea though.
And now, a few popular questions you can see on the handyman forums.
What is the difference between a plunge and a fixed base router?
Basically, a plunge router allows you to plunge the cutting bit into the stuff you’re working with. This is especially vital for such techniques as mortising, groove-making, etc. Although, edge work is also an option with that kind of router.
Fixed base routers are a bit different species. They are fixed at a specific location at the base. As a result, the cutting edge can move up and down. And they work best when you need the highest degree of finesse and precision.
Each one has specific benefits. A fixed base tool offers some impressive precision. And its ‘colleague’ provides a smoother workflow and more versatility.
So, which one do you need? Most professional handymen have both in their arsenal, I assume.
If you’re a neophyte, then consider a plunge one as your debut router. It has a wide usability range. If you have a routing table at your disposal – a fixed base tool could be a better answer.
Can a Dremel be used as a router?
I don’t think you really can. The thing is both a Dremel and a router have a high RPM rate. But their amperage is dramatically different: a Dremel has a maximum of 1,5 amperes, while a router can offer as much as 7 amperes.
So, theoretically, you can use a Dremel for some routing. But in reality, it will be a slow, arduous, and painful process. It will also lead to quicker degradation of your device, as it’s simply not powerful enough.
By the way, Dremel is a nickname for every rotary tool that has a high RPM rate. But it’s also an actual brand that offers a whole kit of attachment pieces that can turn a rotary gadget into an improvised router. But only time will show if it’s efficient enough.
What can I use instead of a router?
Well, there are a bunch of alternatives. Some craftsmen use chamfers to make edges smooth and nicely finished. A small chamfer adds thickness to the edge, meanwhile, a wider one gives it a bigger visual volume.
Do you really need a router table?
Well, it depends on some factors. Like: how much you’re experienced, what your favorite woodwork routines are, or how impatient you are to get to carpeting.
You don’t necessarily need this magic table to start working right away. But having it provides some benefits:
- Consistency. At some point you can get so enthusiastic, you will want to run a ton of wood past the cutting bit. Having no table will make it difficult, as every ambitious project requires consistency.
- Large bits. Some bits demand multiple passes, as well as extreme precision.
- Dovetails. Cutting those is virtually impossible without a table if only you don’t care about your time or nerves.
- Detailing. At some point, you will work with smaller pieces that won’t be able to securely rest on the base. And if you have no table at hand, you will be forced to change the concept of the entire project.
As you can see, a routing table is a big helper.
Can you use a router on plywood?
There’s no reason why you can’t. But every pro will agree that you need to band the edges of the plywood with hardwood first. This will help you achieve great results, particularly making a better finish.
I hope my reviews and tips were of help today. If you have an itch to tame the magic of woodwork, don’t hesitate and get a router – this is the cleverest investment for under $100.
Do you use a router often? Which type is your favorite? Do you have any tips of your own? Share your knowledge with us!