Best multi-tools: 2018 group test

Which of these 11 all-round multi-tool stars is a glovebox essential?

A multi tool is one of the best pieces of car kit to drop in your glovebox. These products cut, grip, tighten and remove screws, plus come with other features that are handy when stuck on the side of the road.

A multi tool’s benefits won’t stop on the roadside, as they’re handy to have when camping, cycling or hiking, as well as for various tasks around the house. There are many on the market for all budgets. To find out which is the one to come to your rescue, we put 11 to the test. 

How we tested them 

We tried the multi tools over a range of gripping and cutting tests, which included snipping wires and cutting paper and wood. On top of that, we also measured how good they were at turning screws.

We looked for high-quality tools that were easy to use and could be operated one-handed. Designs that locked in place were a plus, for safety. Value for money using online prices was the final factor. 

Verdict

The quality of the Gerber Center-Drive simply cannot be matched in this test. It had the best all round performance in a relatively well-priced package. 

  • 1. Gerber Centre-Drive
  • Reviews Gerber Centre-Drive

    Price: Around £125
    Rating: 5.0

    A key feature here is that the pliers are accessed via a thumb-opening system. Instead of having to fold the tool to access the pliers, it slides out by pushing with your thumb. This makes the Center-Drive easy to use single-handed. The spring-loaded pliers are thinner than the Victorinox X’s, but were easier to operate.

    The 3.25-inch knife couldn’t match the sharpness of the best it was up against, but it still scored high for cutting. The screwdriver is another highlight. Its offset design means the driver sits at the centre of the tool, giving it a more balanced action. Importantly, the bit holder is the usual quarter-inch size, so replacements from other screwdrivers fit easily.

    Buy it from Amazon here

    Leatherman Wave +

    Price: Around £135
    Rating: 4.5

    Some neat features set the Wave + apart. It was the only multitool to feature a pair of scissors, which were very capable at cutting several sheets of paper stacked together. Its screwdriver has a Phillips head and a flat-head in a single unit that’s easy to swap around. 

    The pliers are slightly thinner and longer than what Victorinox offers, and cut wires better than the SwissTool BS. But the lack of a spring for easy single-handed use was a minus.

    Buy it from Leatherman here

    Victorinox SwissTool BS

    Price: £160
    Rating: 4.0

    The SwissTool BS comes with a handy 23cm ruler on the side, which helps mark it out from some of those on this page. The pliers could have been easier to get on with, though. They weren’t as intuitive when using single-handed, partly because they lacked the spring mechanism found in the winner. 

    We liked the 7cm blade. It locked safely in place and scored well in the cutting test, even if the longer blade
    on the Gerber was slightly sharper. The 4.5cm Phillips head screwdriver was stable, but wasn’t as easy to use as those on its rivals here. Still, the three flat-head screwdrivers were a nice addition, as was the wood saw, which made quick work of our cutting tests.

    Buy it from Amazon here 

    Victorinox Swisstool X

    Price: Around £120
    Rating: 4.0

    If the Swisstool X had a spring-loaded action, and felt as ergonomic as the Gerber, it would have won this test. It oozes quality, and its locking blade was by far the best. Sharpness and quality were unmatched, and the two sides can combine to create a 20cm ruler. While its screwdriver trailed the Gerber, it’s still one of the best. We weighed it at 290g, making it the heaviest buy, but it still felt easy to use.

    Buy it from Amazon here

    Draper Expert 21 Function Pocket Multi-Tool

    Price: Around £22
    Rating: 4.0

    Draper offers the greatest value on test. The Expert has 10 tools, plus 11 driver heads. It was best at turning screws, and performed well in the grip tests; the large spring-loaded pliers were easy to use one handed and excelled at cutting wire. Although the sharp knife cut and carved well, there’s no locking mechanism, while other tools like the scissors lost out.

    Buy it from Tooled-Up here

    Leatherman Rebar

    Price: Around £85
    Rating: 4.0

    Any product from Leatherman is likely to score well, and that certainly applies to the Rebar. All 10 tools feel like top-quality items, and the design incorporates a ruler. Each tool locks safely in place and the blade deserved particular praise – it was incredibly sharp and capable at cutting and carving. The pliers performed well, but we felt the Gerber had a better set with a spring-loaded pair for one-handed operation.

    Buy it from Amazon here

    Leatherman Wave

    Price: Around £130
    Rating: 4.0

    Although the Wave costs £45 more than the Rebar, it’s easy to see what the extra money buys. It comes with the second-best pair of scissors in the test, along with a small bit screwdriver that no other tool featured. The larger blade was even more precise and capable at cutting through wires and carving wood. The thinner pliers on the Wave scored well, but lost out to the Gerber’s as they don’t feature spring-loaded jaws. 

    Buy it from Amazon here

    Hanwei Paul Chen Multi Tasker

    Price: Around £10
    Rating: 3.0

    Despite the budget price tag, the Hanwei impresses. Instead of a pair of pliers, the tool is centered around a pair of scissors that its rivals had no hope of matching. The pliers are small and flimsy and scored poorly in our grip tests. We liked that the blade came with a locking mechanism, and the screwdriver was another plus. The Hanwei felt good to use, but didn’t have the ergonomics or the quality of more expensive rivals.

    Buy it from Heinnie here

    Sealey PK36

    Price: Around £35
    Rating: 3.0

    The PK36 is one of the best tools to hold. It has soft rubber padding, but this also gives it strong grip. While the pliers are good, they just lose out to the Draper’s larger pair – and the same goes for many of the rest of the tools in the 15-in-1 design. The blade is shorter, doesn’t lock and lacks sharpnesss. The screwdriver performed poorly, and the scissors failed to match the pair in the cheaper Hanwei or the Leatherman Wave. 

    Buy it from Tool-Net here

    Stanley 12-In-1 Multi tool

    Price: Around £12
    Rating: 3.0

    This 12-in-1 tool is lightweight and easy to hold. We liked the pliers, as they made easy work of most wires, although the lack of a spring-loaded mechanism meant it wasn’t the easiest to use single-handed. The blade was good, but doesn’t come with a locking mechanism. The plastic edges on the side help improve grip. While build quality felt better than the Hanwei, some tools couldn’t match its close rival.

    Buy it from Amazon here

    True Utility SEVEN

    Price: Around £12
    Rating: 3.0

    The SEVEN is the smallest multi tool on test. At just 100g, it’s very light and easy to hold, and the clip on the side means it can be attached to work trousers. We found the knife capable, but it didn’t have the length or precision of the best. Plus, while the pliers’ spring-loaded mechanism made one-handed operation easy, they couldn’t cut or grab wires as well as the best. On top of that, the screwdriver was the worst on test. 

    Buy it from True Utility here

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