Busy With DIY Projects? These Work Lights Are Perfect for Getting Things Done (2024)

Work lights need to be tough and durable to stand up to harsh environments, and rough since different jobs and tasks call for different kinds of lights. We researched current offerings from top lighting and tool manufacturers like Woods, Husky, Milwaukee, and more, evaluating each for light source, brightness, color temperature, portability, and durability, among other factors.

Our favorite work lights provide bright task lighting for close-up work, or even brighter light for lighting up an entire room or work site. A neutral or cool color temperature is also preferred, to help with focus and alertness. When making our list, we prioritized lights with rugged construction and ratings for dust, water, and weather resistance. We also looked for work lights to suit a variety of projects, jobs, and work sites, including tripod-mounted work stand lights, handheld work lights, hanging work lights, and magnetic lights.

Our Top Picks

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What We Like

  • Power via battery or extension cord

  • Fast and easy setup

  • Durable impact-resistant legs

  • Lifetimes warranty on the LEDs

What We Don't Like

  • Not as bright as other options

  • One button for brightness and power

  • Battery not included

We want our work lights to provide lighting in a variety of harsh environments, so they have to be durable, reliable, and bright. The Milwaukee M18 Rocket Dual Power LED Flood Light is an adjustable tripod light with impact-resistant construction and an all-day 3000 lumen output that can run on 110V or battery power, which is why it’s our favorite work light.

If we could only have one work light, this would be it. It sets up in seconds, with a quick release for the tripod legs, and extends all the way from four to seven feet to accommodate different situations and job sites.

Its 3000 lumens are enough to provide task lighting for a variety of situations. If you need to light up the undercarriage of your car, it can do that. If you need to light a ceiling you’re painting, it can do that too. Though, if you need something brighter, the Husky Twin-Head LED Work Light (our best with stand pick) puts out 10,000 lumens from two adjustable light heads.

The compact LED light head is also impact resistant, so you don’t need to worry about it tipping over, unlike the more fragile (but brighter) halogen bulb in the Woods 500 Watt Portable Work Light (our best budget pick). The tripod legs do have screw holes though, so it’s easy to secure in place in uneven environments. It’s also dust and water resistant, with an IP54 rating, so you can use it both indoors and outdoors. That’s one of the best IP ratings on our list, though the Maxeon Cyclops 720 (our best portable pick) has a stronger IP64 rating if you need something portable that’s dustproof in addition to being water resistant.

This is a battery-powered light that uses Milwaukee M18 batteries, but it doesn’t include one. If you aren’t already in the Milwaukee battery ecosystem, you can pick up an M18 XC Starter Kit that comes with a battery and charger. This light is a dual-power light though, which means you can plug it in using any extension cord if your jobsite has power available. When used with an extension cord, it doesn’t need a battery at all.

Dimensions: 7.5 x 8 x 40.5 inches | Lumens: 3000 | Weight: 15.25 pounds

What We Like

  • Durable metal construction

  • Convenient carrying handle

  • Grill designed to reduce shadows

What We Don't Like

  • Short power cord

  • Hot halogen bulb

  • No power switch

The Woods 500 Watt Portable Work Light is a versatile option that’s significantly less expensive than most of our recommendations. It’s exceptionally bright and portable, and very durable, with all-metal construction and a tempered glass lens to protect the halogen bulb. The built-in carrying handle makes it easy to pick up and move around, and the head rotates up and down to aim light where you need it.

This is the only halogen work light we recommend, due to the inherent benefits of LEDs. This light runs very hot, despite a heat-dissipating design, so it can be uncomfortable to use in close quarters. The benefit is that it’s very bright without also being very expensive. Even without a tripod, it’s bright enough to illuminate the undercarriage of a car, dim areas at a construction site, or provide task lighting for home improvement projects.

We do wish this had a longer power cord, which is a theme for a lot of our favorite work lights. It’s an especially big issue here though, as the cord is only about a foot long. You’ll need to pick up a heavy duty extension cord if you don’t have one already. It doesn’t have a power switch either, but with such a short cord that isn’t a big issue. It turns on when you plug it in, and off when you unplug it.

Dimensions: 8 x 8.5 x 12 inches | Lumens: 7000 | Weight: 3.1 pounds

What We Like

  • Long battery life

  • Bright light with dimmer switch

  • Multiple mounting options

  • Wired power option

What We Don't Like

  • Battery not included

  • Limited horizontal head movement

If you aren’t already locked into a specific battery ecosystem, we recommend the Ryobi One+ 18V LED Flood Light as our favorite rechargeable work light. It’s very bright, with dimmer settings, and lasts up to 16 hours on the lowest setting. The best thing is that you can keep using it even if the battery dies, as long as you have an extension cord on hand. There’s a power plug recessed into the back, so you can plug in any extension cord and keep working.

This light runs on Ryobi 18V batteries (the same ones used in drills, fans, and other tools), but it doesn’t come with one. If you don’t already have other Ryobi tools, you’ll need to pick up a One+ 18V starter kit with a battery and charger. We would have preferred if it came with the battery, but it is a cost-saving move for people who already have a toolbox full of Ryobi batteries and don’t need any more.

We like this as a general purpose work light, because you can use it in a lot of different ways. It has a built-in stand that lets you set it on the ground or a workbench, and it swivels 360 degrees. There’s no horizontal swivel though, which can be an issue when using the other mounting options.

The base includes integrated hooks and keyholes for hands-free use, a threaded insert for use with a tripod, and 2-by mounting capability (you can snap it securely on a 2x4 board). It also works with Ryobi’s Link system, so you can snap it onto Link wall storage in addition to compatible tool boxes and containers.

Dimensions: 8.78 x 8.23 x 6.18 inches | Lumens: 3000 | Weight: 2.66 pounds

What We Like

  • Very bright directional light

  • Versatile detachable tripod

  • Durable aluminum construction

What We Don't Like

  • Heavy

  • Short power cord

This Husky work light features sturdy aluminum construction, dual heads, and a telescoping tripod stand. The dual LED heads are exceptionally bright, and they’re hinged so you can aim them in unison or in different directions. This is a good general purpose work light that’s suitable for a wide variety of job sites and purposes, both indoors and outdoors.

We like the flexible design of this work light, which is really like two lights in one. The tripod telescopes between about 26 and 76 inches, so you can shine light directly where it needs to be.

You can also remove the light from the tripod for easy transport, although it is a bit heavy. It’s a nice option to have though, and the light has a built-in stand so you can use it without the tripod if you need light down close to the ground.

This work light is very durable, so it can stand up to some rough use. It’s impact resistant, which is essential for any tripod-mounted light due to the chance of tipping over. It’s also water resistant, so you can use it uncovered outdoors. The only real limit is the short power cord, which is only about six feet long. That’s significantly longer than the one foot cord included with the Woods 500 Watt Portable Work Light (our best budget pick), but we still would have preferred a longer cord. You may not be likely to use this light within six feet of an outlet, but that’s what extension cords are for.

Dimensions: ‎26.8 x 16.5 x 8 inches | Lumens: 10,000 | Weight: 17.23 pounds

What We Like

  • Classic trouble light design

  • Built-in grounded outlet

  • Metal cage and hook

What We Don't Like

  • No bulb included

This classic trouble light from Cable Matters is exactly what every mechanic needs in their toolbox (or hanging next to it, at least). The timeless trouble/drop light design includes a comfortable plastic handle with push-button switch that you won’t accidentally turn off, a strong metal cage and reflector, and a hook for hanging it off a convenient shroud or bracket.

The best part about this trouble light is that the handle includes a built-in grounded outlet so there’s no need to pull out a separate extension cord. The 16AWG cable is protected by an SJTW cable jacket that’s capable of standing up to oil and other chemicals, so it’s suitable for use in your garage, a repair shop, or anywhere else you need it.

When this trouble light was designed, it was intended for use with rough service incandescent lights. You can still buy rough service incandescent bulbs, but we prefer to use this light with a rough service LED instead. LEDs are more durable than incandescents, and they also produce less heat, which means you can safely install a 100 watt equivalent in this trouble light. We recommend rough service 100 watt LED bulbs designed for garage door openers, since they’re shock resistant. Cool or bright white is preferred for most tasks, but you can use warm or soft white if you prefer.

While this light is a classic pick that every mechanic should have, we also love the Maxeon Cyclops 720 (our best portable pick) for automotive repair applications. It’s small, bright, and has a strong magnet that lets you stick it to any handy ferrous metal available on the undercarriage of the car you’re working on (like the frame) for an easy, hands- and cord-free light source.

Dimensions: 13.78 x 3.94 x 3.54 inches | Lumens: N/A | Weight: 2.72 pounds

What We Like

  • Long battery life and short charge time

  • Three brightness settings

  • Easy to position for task lighting

  • Dustproof and water resistant

What We Don't Like

  • Battery isn’t replaceable

  • Housing isn’t chemical-resistant

The Maxeon Cyclops is our favorite portable work light because it’s tiny, bright, and durable. It’s small enough to slip in your pocket, but it puts out plenty of light (with three intensity settings) and isn’t flimsy or weak at all. We do wish the plastic housing was chemical-resistant, but avoid spraying brake cleaner or acetone on it, and you probably won’t have an issue with that.

This is a battery-powered light that charges via USB-C, so you can use the same charger that you use for your phone—no need to carry around a proprietary charger, or end up on a job site with no way to charge the light. It lasts a long time too, at about five to six hours per charge, and only takes three hours to fully charge.

Our favorite thing about this light (other than the size and brightness) is the base. You can set it on a workbench and then swing the light to achieve the ideal angle, but it’s also magnetic, so it’s perfect for working on cars. Snap it to the frame, a strut tower, or any other convenient bit of ferrous metal, and it holds fast. It’s also dustproof and water resistant, with an IP64 rating, so you can use it in pretty harsh environments without worrying.

Dimensions: 1 x 3 x 5 inches | Lumens: 700 | Weight: 7 ounces

What We Like

  • Strong metal clamp and spring

  • Compact and lightweight

  • Bright white light

What We Don't Like

  • Cord is a little short

  • Doesn’t swivel easily

This clamp light from Cable Matters is the exact combination of a tried and true design with modern technology that we love to see. It features the same type of strong, metal clamp used in clamp lights for decades, but uses a compact LED light instead of a bulky reflector. It’s easier to maneuver in tight spots than a reflector-style clamp light, but holds just as tightly.

We like that the color temperature of this light is bright white, and that it provides more than enough illumination for task lighting. Whether you clamp it to the undercarriage of your car or to a workbench, it puts out plenty of light without any dingy yellow or orange undertones. It also runs much cooler than the incandescent bulbs used with old reflector-style clamp lights, so it’s much more comfortable to use in close quarters.

Our only complaints about this light are minor. The cord is shorter than we’d like, and the light doesn’t swivel very easily. The cord is six feet long, which is probably more than enough if you’re using it at your workbench, but will likely come up short if you’re using it to work on your car or on a job site. That’s easily solved with an extension cord, but it would have been nice if the cord were longer. We feel the same way about the mobility issue—it does swivel, but only if you loosen up a screw first.

Dimensions: 3 x 5 x 12 inches | Lumens: 800 | Weight: 1.1 pounds

Final Verdict

We recommend the Milwaukee M18 Rocket Dual Power LED Flood Light as the best overall work light, because it’s durable, reliable, and suitable for a wide range of job sites. We like that you can use it with either a battery or an extension cord, that Milwaukee provides a lifetime warranty on the LED head, and that the sturdy tripod telescopes from a little over three feet all the way to seven feet. If you need something more maneuverable, the Maxeon Cyclops 720 (our best portable pick) is palm-sized, has a long battery life, and a magnetic stand.

What to Look For in a Work Light

Type of Work Light

When you start looking for a work light, think about the type of work you do, where you’ll need to use the light, and what it will need to illuminate..

  • Handheld lights: The simplest work lights are handheld flashlights, but we don’t typically recommend any basic flashlights because they’re too difficult to position when you suddenly need both your hands. It’s a good idea to have a bright rechargeable flashlight at your disposal, but we prefer handheld work lights that have additional features, like hooks and magnets. The Maxeon Cyclops 720 (our best portable pick) is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand or your pocket, and it has a hinged magnetic base that you can set on a workbench or stick to a ferrous metal surface.
  • Clamp lights: These work lights have a light fixture attached to a clamp, so they’re very useful when you need both your hands to perform a task. We prefer clamp lights with strong metal clamps instead of plastic clamps that use weaker springs, because plastic clamps rarely hold up well in harsh work conditions. The Cable Matters Portable LED Clamp Light (our best clamp pick) has a strong metal clamp with a bright LED light head.
  • Work stand lights: If you need to illuminate a large area, or focus light on something that isn’t on the ground, we recommend a work stand light like the Milwaukee M18 Rocket Dual Power LED Flood Light (our best overall pick) with a telescoping mount that lets you raise or lower the light head to suit the job you’re working on.
  • Trouble lights: Also called drop lights, these are handheld work lights that are characterized by a protective cage and a hook for hanging the light when you don’t have any free hands. The Cable Matters 25ft 75W Trouble Light (our best for mechanics pick) includes a grounded outlet in the handle, so it doubles as an extension cord.
  • Floodlights: These work lights are designed to cast a wide beam of light, so they’re good for lighting up large areas. They can be handheld, mounted on a tripod, or have a base that’s designed to sit directly on the ground or a workbench. The Ryobi One+ 18V Hybrid LED Flood Light (our best rechargeable pick) can be mounted on a tripod or a 2x4 board, set on the ground or a workbench, or snapped into place on compatible Ryobi Link wall storage and toolboxes.

Lumens and Color Temperature

Lumens refers to the brightness of a work light, and color temperature indicates whether the light feels warm or cool. Different jobs call for different lumens and color temperatures, but work lights should generally be bright and white, which means high lumens and a high color temperature.

We recommend neutral (4000K - 5000K) or cool (5500K and up) for color temperature because neutral and cool light is good for visibility and alertness, and at least 500 lumens for handheld lights. For non-handheld lights, we like the same color temperature range, but prefer at least 2000 lumens.

Here’s what to look for in terms of lumens:

  • 500 - 2000 lumens: This amount of light is suitable for handheld work lights like the Maxeon Cyclops 720 (our best portable pick), providing enough illumination for close-up tasks when you don’t need to light up a large area. Lights in this range are good for working on cars, woodworking, soldering, and other tasks where you need to light up the small area you’re focused on.
  • 2000 - 4000 lumens: Work lights in this range are good for providing task light over a larger area, like painting, carpentry, plumbing, and general construction. The Milwaukee M18 Rocket Dual Power LED Flood Light (our best overall pick) falls in this range, which is why it’s suitable for such a wide range of job sites.
  • 4000+ lumens: Brighter work lights are good for providing task lighting over a large area. You can use these lights in many of the situations where less brightness is required, but they can be too bright for close-up work. The Husky 10,000-Lumen Twin-Head LED Work Light (our best with stand pick) fits in this category, so it’s good for illuminating large work areas.


Portability is an important consideration when choosing a work light, but the level of portability you require will depend on how you plan on using the light. When considering portability, the specifications you want to look at are the size and weight of the light, and the power source.

For size and weight, think about the different places you’ll need to use your work light, and how often you’ll need to move it around. Bulkier work lights are more difficult to move around, but they’re typically also sturdier.

If you’re a mechanic and need to shine a light in a lot of places in different cars throughout the day, we recommend a highly portable handheld light like the Cable Matters 25ft 75W Trouble Light (our best for mechanics pick) or the Maxeon Cyclops 720 (our best portable pick). If you’re a painter, an option that’s much brighter but less portable, like the Husky 10,000-Lumen Twin-Head LED Work Light (our best with stand pick), will work well.

Power source also impacts portability, since it’s easier to move a battery-powered light around than one that needs to be plugged in. The Ryobi One+ 18V Hybrid LED Flood Light (our best rechargeable pick) is super portable, because you can plug it in using an extension cord or move it around freely with a battery that lasts up to 16 hours between charges.

Mounting Options

Work lights can be handheld, freestanding, or mounted using a variety of methods. This is an important consideration when selecting a work light, because some types of work leave you with a free hand to hold a light, while others require light in a very specific location while you use both of your hands to perform the task at hand.

Here are some mounting options to look for:

  • Clamps: One of the most flexible mounting options available, clamps allow you to attach a work light just about anywhere. You can clamp a work light to your workbench, to the undercarriage of a car, to your toolbox, and any other convenient location. We like strong metal clamps, like the Cable Matters Portable LED Clamp Light (our best clamp pick) more than plastic clamps with springs.
  • Magnets: Because they’re really easy to snap into place and move around, work lights with magnetic mounts are very useful if you’re working around magnetic surfaces that you aren’t worried about scratching. The Maxeon Cyclops 720 (our best portable pick) is great for working under cars, because it has a strong magnet in the base that you can stick to a frame rail, exhaust pipe, or any other handy ferrous metal surface.
  • Work stands: If you need to cast light over a large area, or illuminate something that isn’t down near the ground, a work stand mount will come in handy. The Husky 10,000-Lumen Twin-Head LED Work Light (our best with stand pick) has a telescoping tripod stand, and you can also remove the dual LED head assembly and carry it around with a built-in handle independent of the tripod mount.
  • 2-by mount: Work lights with 2-by mounting compatibility can be attached to a 2x4 board, so they’re useful on any work site that has exposed dimensional lumber (or you can rig up a portable stand using a 2x4). The Ryobi One+ 18V Hybrid LED Flood Light (our best rechargeable pick) can be mounted on a 2x4, but it also includes other mounting options like integrated hooks and keyholes to hang the light from a nail or screw, and compatibility with Ryobi’s Link storage system

Why Trust The Spruce?

Jeremy Laukkonen is an updates writer for The Spruce who has over a decade of experience writing about lighting equipment, tools, and home improvement topics. Before he was a writer, Laukkonen was a mechanic, where he spent about ten years under the hoods of all manner of domestic and Japanese cars and trucks, along with Volkswagens, Audis, and the occasional Saab.

In writing this story, Laukkonen leaned on his extensive hands-on experience with work lights, including classic hand-held trouble lights, sturdy tripod flood lights, and bright, pocket-sized LED lights. He selected the work lights for this article based on his own experience as a mechanic, along with second-hand knowledge of other trades, evaluating each for the type of light source, brightness, color temperature, durability, and other factors.

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