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Need a multitool? These are the only two brands I recommend and why

A good multitool can make a great gift and be a reliable companion for decades - if you pick the right one.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
Leatherman Free P4

A good multitool can be a reliable companion for decades (as long as you don't lose it!).

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

I like having a good multitool close at hand. While they can't replace a proper toolkit, I don't fancy carrying a full toolkit with me when I'm out and about. Many of my readers are like me, often finding themselves doing random and unplanned DIY tasks throughout the day, so having a portable toolkit that can handle the basics is essential.

Not a week goes by without someone asking for my multitool recommendations. My advice is always the same: check out what Leatherman or Gerber have to offer, and ignore the rest.

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Why? Two reasons: warranty and repairability.

Take my trusty Leatherman Free P4. I chose this one for three reasons: it has all the tools I need, the wire cutters are user-replaceable so I don't need to warranty the tool to get them fixed, and it comes with a long 25-year warranty.

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And these are real warranties. I know because I've had to use them a few times over the years. I use and misuse my tools -- after all, any tool can be a substitute for a hammer if you're creative enough! As a result, I've managed to break a few blades and even the pliers. But each time, the issue was dealt with promptly and to my complete satisfaction.

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Assuming you don't lose your multitool -- don't be like the guy writing this, who managed to lose two multitools in as many years -- you'll have a reliable companion for decades.

The next thing to consider is repairability. The wire cutters on every multitool I've owned get absolutely hammered. I use them not only to cut wire but also to chomp through small bolts, nibble through metal, and gnaw through screws. They experience a very hard life. Therefore, these parts need to be user-replaceable, otherwise, I'd be replacing or warrantying the tool each time the cutters get mangled.

Cutters on my Leatherman multitool mangled after a few years of hard work.

Cutters on my Leatherman multitool mangled after a few years of hard work.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Fortunately, you can get replacement cutters for Leatherman and Gerber multitools. The cutters are easy to replace, allowing you to get your tool back to an as-new state in no time. 

Refitting brand new cutters on my Leatherman multitool.

Refitting brand new cutters on my Leatherman multitool.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

I replaced the cutters on my Leatherman in about five minutes and for about $12.

My Leatherman tool looking like new!

Like new!

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Personally, I don't recommend wasting money on cheap multitools. It's a false economy and a classic case of 'buy cheap, buy twice.' I've been sent dozens for testing, and they've all been poor quality, disappointing, or even dangerous. That's why I don't recommend them.

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Some people have told me they'd buy a cheap one for the car or home to use in an emergency. However, the last thing you want to rely on in an emergency is a cheap tool!

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