Best Belt Sanders of 2018

J.D. Chadwick ·
Multimedia & Home Improvement Editor
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After dozens of hours researching the best belt sanders on the market today, our team of reviewers chose the Makita 9903 as our best overall pick. This tool comes equipped with a powerful 8.8-amp motor –  enough power to tackle almost any sanding job – plus an auto-tracking feature that makes adjusting and changing your belt easy. Additionally, you get a tracking dial that improves maneuverability, along with a variable speed option that allows you to set the correct speed for different types of sanding tasks.       

Best Overall
Makita 9903
This belt sander hits all the right spots for an outstanding tool. Its 8.8-amp motor, auto-tracking feature, tracking dial and variable speeds make it ideal for any sanding job.
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Best Value
Skil 7150-01
This tool is perfect for occasional around-the-house jobs. It’s a great size for a home tool chest, and you’ll save more than $100 off our top pick.
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Best for Contractors
Hitachi SB8V2
This sander delivers the power, versatility and durability professionals need. Its powerful 9-amp motor and a soft-grip handle make it comfortable for prolonged use.
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Best Overall
No matter what size your sanding task, the Makita 9903 is the best tool for the job. It’s hefty 8.8-amp motor delivers enough power to sand, smooth and prime any surface, from metals and woods to everything in-between. While other sanders we reviewed have a marginally more powerful 9-amp motor, the Makita performs as well or better than all other models.
The motor is only the starting point – this sander comes with an auto-tracking feature that helps you adjust your belt quickly and easily. That, along with its front handle makes sanding flush-to-wall corners easier. This is an extremely durable sander, designed for extended use. To that end, Makita included a soft-grip handle to increase comfort and reduce chaffing during long jobs. While the Makita is a bit heavier than other sanders, this is by design. The extra weight increases the balance of the tool, but it’s not too heavy to use and doesn’t wear you out after a few hours.
  • Powerful 8.8-amp motor.
  • Auto-tracking technology allows you to adjust and change the belt quickly.
  • Front handle allows for extra balance and control.
  • Heavier than other sanders.
  • Relatively short 1-year warranty.
  • Most expensive sander we reviewed.
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Best Value
Sometimes you just want a tool for those “just in case” scenarios – odd jobs that pop up around the house. You don’t need the best of the best for these types of jobs because a simple and functional tool will suffice. The Skil 7150-01 is such a tool. Priced at less than $50, you won’t break your budget buying one.
While its 6-amp motor is a far cry from the most powerful sanders we reviewed, it’s adequate for occasional use. Even though it’s relatively weak, it has some unique features that make it stand out from the crowd, including pressure-control technology that indicates when you’re applying the ideal amount of pressure for the type of job you’re doing. Other sanders we reviewed make you rely on your own judgement, which may be fine for experienced users, but novice and casual users will find the pressure indication very helpful. The other unique feature in this belt sander is its enhanced filtration system, designed to capture more airborne debris and sawdust than the competition. This not only reduces the amount of cleanup required, but it also the amount of sawdust in the air you’re breathing.
  • Costs less than $50.
  • Unique pressure-control technology.
  • Enhanced micro-filtration system to reduce debris.
  • Relatively weak 6-amp motor.
  • Not as well balanced as our top pick.
  • Since it picks up more dust, the catcher bag fills up quickly.
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Best for Contractors
Hitachi is a brand well known for creating tools that are durable, versatile and powerful, and the Hitachi SB8V2 is no exception. In fact, it delivers all of these qualities in spades. It has the most powerful motor of all the sanders we reviewed – 9 amps – allowing you to be as aggressive as you want without moving beyond the sander’s ability to keep up with you.
Other features that professionals will appreciate are its variable speed control, soft-grip handles and clear front window. Speed control allows you to adjust how fast your belt turns for different jobs. Soft-grip handles make it more comfortable to use for longer periods and reduces vibration, and the clear window, unique to this sander, allows you to see exactly where you’re going, eliminating a lot of guess work. A professional needs tools that are both durable and long lasting, and the Hitachi SB8V2 is just that tool. The company stands behind this tool with a five-year warranty, which is longer than most of the other sanders we reviewed. Additionally, if you ever need replacement parts, Hitachi sells them on its website, while other companies make you rely on third-party vendors for spare parts.
  • 9-amp motor can handle any task.
  • Long life span, backed up by 5-year warranty period.
  • Clear front window allows you to see exactly what you’re doing.
  • Not ideal for casual users.
  • At 9.5 pounds, it may wear out non-professionals quickly.
  • On the pricier side of the belt sanders we reviewed.
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Most Durable
The Porter-Cable 352VS 8 Amp is made entirely of metal, making it more durable and sturdy than models with plastic incorporated heavily into the design.
The metal not only protects the sander from any abuse or weather, but it also helps keep the motor cool. We thought all that metal might make this sander impossible to lift but it’s surprisingly lightweight. This sander also has an 8 amp motor and variable speed control. The dust bag swivels easily so it doesn’t get in your way and it’s particularly big so you don’t have to empty it as often as with other sanders. The cord placement is a little inconvenient, but aside from that the Porter-Cable 352VS is a rugged, easy to use sander.
  • It runs up to 1,300 SFPM.
  • Poor cord design.
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Most Powerful
While most of the belt sanders we evaluated have about 8 amps of power, the Triton TA1200BS has an impressive 10 amps.
This high-powered machine has variable speed control, a lock-on button and a small front roller for reaching all the nooks and crannies. Change the 2-by-21 inch belt by pressing on a lever. The handle is adjustable and comfortable. If you’re worried about this sander being too powerful it has a slow start feature so the machine doesn’t jerk out of your hand when it starts. You can modify the Triton TA1200BS for use as a stationary sander and it comes with an inversion stand and clamps, making it a great deal.
  • It has 10 amps of power.
  • It’s loud.
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Why Trust Us?

As a matter of policy, Top Ten Reviews attempts to evaluate all products and services in our reviews with hands-on testing that simulates the experiences of a typical user. We spent dozens of hours researching the best belt sanders on the market today, comparing specs, surveying regular users and consulting professionals to see exactly what to look for in a belt sander. The manufacturers have no input on our testing methodology, and results of our evaluations are not provided to manufacturers in advance of publication. Although Top Ten Reviews may make money from sales that originate from our reviews, every product was reviewed from an objective standpoint.  

How We Picked the Best

Top Ten Reviews has been researching, evaluating and reviewing the best belt sanders since 2014. Our team of expert reviewers spent dozens of hours searching for the best belt sanders available. We considered hundreds of models, looking at power, versatility, durability and more, and we chose models based on features such as motor power, size, weight, balance, durability and versatility. At the end of our analysis, we picked models that are well-rounded, not necessarily the most powerful, most expensive or top-of-the-line products. Instead, we chose tools that hit all the bases the best. 

How Much Do Belt Sanders Cost?

The belt sanders we evaluated cost an average of $135, but we recommend you invest in an extra sanding belt if you use your belt sander frequently. The price of replacement belts vary by the size and grit but generally don’t cost too much. We found 10 packs available online for about $20.

Important Features to Look For

When you pick the best belt sander for you, keep the following aspects in mind.

Belt sanders have several practical uses. They’re great not only for priming and finishing wood and metal surfaces, but also trimming, leveling, shaping and smoothing rough surfaces. The best belt sanders will remove paint, and stain finishes. Additionally, the most versatile models work on metal to remove rust and paint.  

The biggest, most powerful belt sander isn’t always the right choice. Consider what you’ll be using the tool for and how often. Large, heavy, hefty sanders are great for professionals, but a more lightweight, compact model would be better for your average home tool set. Big, bulky tools require more space to store and more regular maintenance to perform.

All belt sanders come with a standard array of features such as dust bags, manual or automatic tracking, and more, but the best belt sanders go beyond that. Some unique features we encountered were a pressure control system that indicates when you’re applying the ideal amount of force and a clear window that shows you exactly where you’re going. And some models offer ways to make it easier to change and adjust your belt, from things such as simple levers to an auto-tracking feature.

The best belt sanders can be expensive. Our top choice, the Makita 9903, costs more than $200. And while you get your money’s worth out of it, depending on how often you’ll use it, and the scope of your projects, you may not need to shell out that much cash. In contrast, you can pick up the Skil 7150-01 for less than $50. It produces similar results for most projects. If you’re not going to use a sander very often, or just want one around the house for those “just in case” situations, a less-expensive model will probably fit your needs. 

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