Rotary Tool vs Multi Tool vs Oscillating Tool: What’s The Difference?

Below, we outline:

– What each of rotary tools, multi-tools, and oscillating tools are

– And, what the main difference between each tool is


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What’s A Rotary Tool?

A rotary tool is a powered tool with a rotating/spinning tip, which accessories or attachments are inserted into or attached to.

One of the most established and common brands of rotary tools is Dremel.

Dremel has such a share and position in the rotary tool market, that when many people generally refer to a ‘rotary tool’, they refer to it as a Dremel.

We explain what a Dremel rotary tool is in a separate guide.


What’s A Multi Tool?

Multi-tool is short for ‘multi-function tool’, meaning it can be used for a variety of tasks (and to perform a variety of functions)

‘Multi-tool’ can be used to describe several types of tools that can perform different functions – such as non-powered knife, screwdriver, and all-in-one type tools, but also powered tools.

Multi-tool is also commonly used as another phrase for an oscillating tool.

For the purposes of this guide, we will refer to multi-tools as oscillating tools (that can perform different functions)


What’s An Oscillating Tool?

An oscillating tool is a power tool that involves the movement of an accessory or attachment at the end of the tool, in a back and forth (or side to side) motion.


What’s The Difference Between A Rotary Tool, Multi Tool & An Oscillating Tool?

The major difference between a rotary tool, and a multi-tool/oscillating tool is:

– The accessories on the end of a rotary tool spin/rotate

– The accessories and attachments on the end of a multi-tool/oscillating tool on the other hand move side to side (or, back and forth)


Some other differences between the tools might be:

– Some Dremels might generally be able to accept a wider range of accessories and attachements than some oscillating tools, meaning they might be able to carry out a wider range of tasks


– Some oscillating tools might be for heavier duty or more intensive work than Dremels which are more so for lighter duty and crafting type activities


– Some oscillating tool models might generally be bigger in dimensions, and weigh more


– Some cordless oscillating tool models might have higher voltage batteries, at for example 18 volts or 20 volts, compared to 12 volts


– Plus potentially other differences, depending on the model of tool


Are There Any Similarities Between Rotary Tools, Multi Tools, & Oscillating Tools?

A major similarity between a rotary tool, and a multi-tool/oscillating tool is:

– Both tools can be used for a range/variety of activities and uses because they can each have different accessories/bits and attachments inserted into/attached to the end of the tool

For example, they might each be able to take accessories for cutting, sanding, grinding, scraping, and other uses


Examples Of Some Of The Most Popular Rotary Tools, Multi Tools, & Oscillating Tools On The Market

Rotary Tool

Read more about some of Dremel’s most models right now in these guides:

Dremel 4000 Series (Corded Dremels)

Dremel 8000 Series (Cordless Dremels)

Best Overall Dremel Rotary Tools


Multi-Tools & Oscillating Tools

DEWALT 20V MAX* XR Oscillating Tool Kit, 3-Speed (DCS356C1) (on Amazon)

Makita XMT03Z 18V LXT® Lithium-Ion Cordless Multi-Tool, Tool Only (on Amazon)




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