Out of all the different power sanding options out there (orbital, random orbit, belt, detail, etc), random orbit sanders are the most popular and well-rounded choice; if you’re going to buy one do-it-all sander for your power tool collection, make it a random orbital.
Why, you ask? Well, belt sanders are best for working on large surface areas and removing a lot of stock at a time, while orbital (aka quarter-sheet) and detail sanders are best for finish work and getting into tight spots.
Quick Look: Top Random Orbital Sanders
(Real quickly, before we go any further a quick note about the difference between orbital and random orbital (RO) sanders — we can’t tell you how many times people mix them up):
Orbital sanders are square (a lot of people call them ¼ sheet sanders), whereas RO sanders are circular (a square foot lets you get into tight corners and up against walls)
Orbital sanders usually use some sort of clamping mechanism to attach the sandpaper, whereas most RO sanders use velcro (hook and loop)
Because of differences in sanding action, random orbital sanders produce a cleaner finish and are less prone to leaving swirl marks
OK, back to the review. Random orbital sanders are the perfect intermediate between belt sanders and orbitals: they’re powerful enough to blast through rough stock material, yet docile enough for finish work – it all depends on what grit sandpaper you use, and how much pressure you apply to the sander.
In this article, we’ll narrow down our top overall picks for the best random orbital sander currently on the market – taking into consideration consumer reviews, price, durability, performance, and overall value.
In simple terms of price, the Black & Decker BDERO100 without question gets our top pick for the best cheap random orbital sander.
It has over 500 reviews on Amazon, with an average rating of 4.5 stars out of 5. It’s durable, it accepts universal hook and loop sandpaper (that you can pick up anywhere for cheap), and it has a dust collection filter that actually works pretty well. Not to mention, it’s plenty powerful even for large surface area applications.
In terms of flat-out performance, the Makita 5” BO5041K kit gets our top nod. The Bosch ROS20VSK was a close second (and a little less expensive), but in the end we fell for the superb performance and flawless engineering of the powerful 3.0-amp Makita.
If you’re a DIYer who likes the finer things and accepts nothing less than the best quality tools, you’ll absolutely love this thing – it’s got almost zero vibration, and it’s just a joy to use. Plus, it comes with a really nice hard case.
Lastly, we went with the PORTER-CABLE 7346SP as our top pick for the best 6” random orbital sander.
Believe it or not, there’s a fairly noticeable difference between 5” and 6” sanders.
If you plan on tackling a lot of overall surface area (for example if you do a lot of car/boat polishing), 6” RO sanders are a good pick. The only downfall is that for some reason, they’re much more expensive than their 5” cousins.
Our PORTER-CABLE pick seems to be one of the only exceptions – a good performing tool that’s only marginally more expensive than a quality 5” sander.
Best cheap random orbital sander: Black & Decker BDERO100
Like we were saying, in our mind there’s no better option for a cheap random orbit sander than the Black & Decker BDERO100.
This thing has been around ever since we can remember, and reviews for it continue to be exceptional (it’s actually recently been selected as an Amazon Best Seller, which is not an easy feat to accomplish).
As far as power, we didn’t seen an actual amperage rating anywhere, but trust us that it’s got enough juice to do pretty much anything you’ll want to do with it. Naturally it wasn’t quite as powerful as the more expensive Makita RO sander, but it’s a fine performer nonetheless.
It comes with one sheet of 120-grit sandpaper (whoopdy-do), but the good thing is you can pick up packs of 5” hook and loop paper for next to nothing.
Things we liked
- Price! (Duh…)
- Well liked based on 500+ Amazon reviews
- Comes with a decent 2-year warranty … not the best in the world, but pretty good for the price
- Has surprisingly little vibration
- Extremely durable
Things we didn’t like
- The dust-collection filter could work better, but hey… it’s better than not having one at all
- Doesn’t come with a case
Best budget performance random orbital sander : Makita 5” BO5041K Kit
In terms of best flat-out performance, Makita received our top pick for its 5” BO5041K sander. Like most Makita tools, this thing is sleek, sexy, and is an engineering masterpiece.
Sanding is probably the least favorite job for a lot of DIYers (and most professionals), but unfortunately there’s just no getting around it — you’re gonna have to sand at some point, no matter what kind of jobs you plan on tackling. Thus, you might as well spend a few extra bucks and get a top-notch sander that’ll give you the least amount of a headache.
Most people use the BO5041K as an all-purpose woodworking sander, but it’s also great on metal and fiberglass composites for restoration or paint prep, and we’ve heard plenty of people say that they use theirs all the time for polishing/buffing.
The 3.0-amp motor is more than powerful enough to get through heaps of even the roughest unmilled stock, but probably the best part of all about this sander is the variable speed control dial – adjust your sanding pressure along with the dial, and you’ll have no problem using it for ultra-fine finish work as well.
Things we liked
- Superb performance, ultra quiet, and practically zero vibration – a gem of a tool
- Dust collection system works AMAZING
- Integrated ergonomic knob takes a lot of relief out of your arm/hand/wrist
- Super wide range of use – works as well as a finishing sander as it does a rough stock sander
- Universal hook and loop attachment
- Comes with a really nice Makita box (though for a little less, you can get the tool only)
Things we didn’t like
- Umm….. nothing? Suppose it would’ve been nice for Makita to throw in some free sandpaper..
Best 6” random orbital sander: PORTER-CABLE 7346SP
Like we were talking about earlier, you’d be surprised at the difference one single inch makes between a 5” and 6” sander. While this thing is awesome for polishing and buffing (and is what most people use it for), plenty of folks out there use it as their all-purpose sander too – it’s got more than enough power for it.
One of our favorite features of the tool is – believe it or not – the handle; it really, really takes a lot of strain off your sanding arm/hand when covering a lot of surface area, and/or using it for long periods at a time. You can use the handle on either the right or left side, or you can take it off altogether if need be.
In addition to the control dial which helps a lot with manual/variable speed operation, another favorite user feature is the fact that it accepts spindle accessories – in addition to the standard sanding/buffing pad, you can add just about any kind of fancy accessory you want to it.
Lastly, it’s got a beefy, more-than-capable 4.5-amp motor that like we said will have no trouble ripping through automotive paint, thick nasty gelcoat, or even unmilled hardwood – works just as well as a sander as it does a polisher.
Things we liked
- Very reasonable price for a 6” RO sander
- Comes with a free polishing pad, sanding pad, and PSA pad
- Strong 4.5-amp motor easily tackles rough sanding
- Leaves almost no swirl marks
- PORTER-CABLE’s reliable 3-year warranty
Things we didn’t like
- Uses peel-and-stick (PSA) sanding sheets — it is NOT hook and loop (this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but in our experience hook and loop is a little more convenient. You can however buy 5” PSA/hook and loop adapters so you can use hook and loop sheets instead)
- No dust collection filter – make sure and wear a mask
- Doesn’t come with a box
Things to consider when buying a random orbit sander
Like we talked about in the introduction, make sure you’re getting the right sander for your needs.
A random orbital sander is the best all-purpose choice; if you plan on doing mostly finish woodworking type stuff, you’ll probably be better off going with an orbital sander. Or vice-versa if you’re planning on mostly shaving down large pieces of rough stock, a belt sander would be your best bet.
Also, another thing we need to talk about is sanding pressure. RO sanders are very manipulable – that is, they’re very responsive to changes in how hard or how soft you press down on them while sanding.
This is a good thing, as it gives them a really, really wide range of use. If you’re running into problems taking off more material than you’d like (or not enough), just play around with variable speed dial and the pressure you’re giving it, and see how it affects results.
Also, brief yourself on what grit sandpaper to use before you tackle your job – we consider anything above an 80-grit to be a relatively coarse paper, while anything under about a 220-grit is pretty fine. Generally speaking, 120-grit is a pretty nice ‘all-around’ sandpaper if you’re unsure of what you should go with.
How to choose the best random orbital sander
- Really consider price. This might sound really, really obvious, but electric sanders are pretty simple tools; unlike, for example, an impact driver, you won’t find a ton of difference between a cheap one and an expensive one. Therefore, there’s no reason why you should have to spend over top dollar on one.
- Don’t ignore comfort. If you do most of your tool shopping online, handling a product before you buy it is out of the question.
Random orbit sanders are not really ultra-powerful tools, but when you’re using them for hours at a time, believe us, they can get fatiguing. That’s why choosing an ergonomic, comfortable tool with minimal vibration is key for RO sanders. For all of our top picks, comfort/ease of use was a key consideration.
Can you wet sand with a random orbital sander?
Can you? Well, sure. Should you? Mmm, probably not the best idea.
We know plenty of people who do use RO and/or orbital sanders while wet sanding (usually just with a spray water bottle), but we’ve also heard of several folks who’ve burnt out nice tools while doing so.
Bottom line is we all know that water and electricity isn’t a match made in heaven – aside from the risk of electrocuting yourself, you run a pretty good risk of burning out the tool (especially if it has holes for dust collection), and suffice to say water damage probably won’t be covered under anyone’s warranty.
We don’t do a ton of wet sanding, but in our opinion, it’s a job best left to being done by hand.
Alright, so who takes the cake in our best random orbital sanders roundup?
After careful consideration, it’s got to be the Black & Decker BDERO100 – our pick for the best cheap random orbit sander.
In our book, this thing checks off everything you need in a good RO power sander: it’s comfortable to use, it’s got a dust vent, the hook and loop sanding sheets for it are dirt cheap and easy to find, and most importantly, it costs less than dinner and a movie.
A very nice, very handy tool, and a super inexpensive way to add to your power tool collection.