If you plan on kicking off a project around the house or in the garage, you owe it to yourself to invest in a set of proper tools. After you acquire basics like a hammer, level, tape measure, wrenches, ratchets, and an ever-growing socket set (that somehow doesn’t have a single ten-millimeter socket), the next step is power tools — and one of the most commonly-used power tools out there is the cordless drill. With a basic set of driver and drill bits, you’ll be able to assemble and disassemble almost anything on your to-do list. A good cordless drill will save you time and money, improve your quality of work, and last years.
There are lots of options out there, though, so take advantage of this gear guide to find the one that’s best for your needs and budget.
The Makita XFD12T is the workhorse of this group, and it’s the one you want for major projects that require professional-grade tools. As soon as you hold this 18-volt drill in your hand, you’ll know it means business. There are two battery options available, and we recommend upgrading to the five-amp-hour option if you can. This drill delivers power through a 21-step clutch and two-speed transmission. The brushless motor’s low setting limits speed to 500 rotations per minute, and the high setting opens things all the way up to the 2,000 rotations per minute limit. You’ll also have 530 inch-pounds of torque at your disposal – plenty for driving large screws through hardwood or drilling through dense materials. Included are one battery, a charging dock, and a hard case. The drill and battery are backed by a three-year manufacturer warranty.
Buying tools to work with your existing battery collection is a great money-saving strategy (one we’ve used ourselves), so give this cordless drill a look if you already own Ryobi power tools. For a fraction of what you’d pay for the alternatives, you’ll get quality features like an adjustable clutch, two-speed transmission, and hefty outer housing. There are also convenience items like a magnet to hold your spare screws, a storage slot for an extra bit (was that screw you were looking at a flathead or Phillips head?), and cushioned handle. In the low setting, this drill spins at 450 revolutions per minute. In the high setting, it reaches 1,750 revolutions per minute. Just remember that you’ll need to own a compatible Ryobi 18-volt battery or source one separately.
For those of you who are starting from scratch, Black & Decker offers this cordless drill in a kit with just about every combination of tools you could need. The 24-position clutch lets you dial up just the right amount of power. Part of this option’s cost saving comes from the single-speed transmission, which splits the difference between the competition’s high and low speeds with a maximum speed of 750 revolutions per minute. The most affordable configuration comes with one 20-volt battery and charging station, six drill bits, ten one-inch screwdriver bits, nine two-inch screwdriver bits, and four socket drivers. Up the ante with an extra battery or get a combination set that pairs this drill with a vacuum, circular saw, inflator, sander, picture-hanging tool, or reciprocating saw. A two-year warranty is included.
If one DeWalt tool is good, then two has to be better, right? Go ahead and get their 20-volt DCD791 drill in a package deal with a DCF887 impact driver that uses the same battery. Both use powerful brushless motors and convenient, built-in LEDs. The drill features a clutch with 15 settings and two speeds. The impact driver provides three speed settings and an easy-to-use keyless chuck to secure accessories. With a maximum 1,500 inch-pounds of torque available, the impact driver is powerful enough for home improvement jobs, but it isn’t strong enough for demanding automotive work. Both tools are great examples of DeWalt’s renowned durability and build quality. These tools are backed by a three-year warranty, and this kit comes with one charging station and two batteries. Best of all, the batteries are compatible with more than 200 DeWalt power tools. That’s one good way to build brand loyalty.
Craftsman has been a major player in tool manufacturing for decades, and you can get this cordless drill by itself, with an upgraded battery, or as part of a kit. The two-amp-hour battery upgrade comes with a significant bump in price, but it might be worth the cost if you need extended battery life for larger projects. As you’d expect from a professional-grade cordless drill, this tool uses an adjustable, 23-setting clutch to control power output and a built-in LED to light up your workspace. The two-speed motor operates at up to 350 revolutions per minute in low, and up to 1,500 revolutions per minute in high. Pair this drill and its battery with a drill bit set, circular saw, jigsaw, flashlight, or oscillating tool in one of the available kits. Craftsman includes a three-year warranty.
The Bosch PS31 is what we’d reach for to complete day-to-day tasks around the house that don’t require a full-size cordless drill. Its compact size makes it easier to maneuver and much more user-friendly in tight spaces like cabinets and crawl spaces. With a small, 12-volt battery, don’t expect as much power as you’d get from the other options on this list but that’s a fair tradeoff especially when you consider the battery indicator light that lets you know when it’s time for a recharge before you run out of power. Unlike many drills of this size, this one features a 21-setting clutch and two-speed transmission. Achieve 350 revolutions per minute in low, and 1,300 revolutions per minute in high. An LED above the trigger helps you see what you’re doing. The whole tool weighs less than two pounds. Bosch backs this cordless drill with a one-year warranty.
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The most common types of cordless drills
If you’re new to power tools, that’s perfectly fine; we have good news for you. There isn’t a great deal of background information you need to understand before buying a cordless drill, but reading up on a few key points can help you make an informed decision. We created this guide to help you make sense of the different options available, as well as the best way to get the most value for your money. Read on to get up to speed on things like brushless motors, impact drivers, and battery compatibility. You’ll be ready to buy with confidence in no time.
For decades, cordless drills used brushed motors just like you would find in car starters and other electronic devices. Think of brushes as blocks of consumable material that sit alongside the spinning mass within your drill’s electric motor. These motors are relatively simple, reliable, and easy to maintain. New ones are still readily available and fairly inexpensive.
That being said, maintenance will be necessary eventually. Because they do experience physical contact and quite a bit of friction, brushes will wear down with use and need to be replaced. This isn’t expensive or terribly difficult, but it is an extra step that you might not want to deal with.
Brushless electric motors use a contact-free design made possible by powerful magnets. By limiting physical contact to only the bearings that hold the rotating components in place, brushless motors experience minimal wear and generate far less heat. This also allows them to run more efficiently and smoothly. At low speeds, brushless drills will be slightly easier to control with precision. No cordless drills are what we’d call loud, but brushless motors are quieter than brushed ones.
Brushless designs are more complicated than brushed alternatives, and they will cost you more money upfront. As a tradeoff, you’ll probably be able to push them harder and keep them in service longer.
The least expensive way to add a cordless drill to your tool box is to buy one individually, with no accessories. This also means it won’t come with any batteries, so you’ll want to make sure you either have compatible batteries from another power tool from the same manufacturer, or a plan to buy a battery and charger separately.
Because many people buy with brand loyalty, this is not an uncommon way to buy tools. The top brands make tools available on their own, so don’t think that you have to sacrifice quality to shop this way. If you have batteries on hand or are buying other tools already, this can be an economical way to go.
If you’re building a toolset from scratch or just getting into the power tool game, kits are a convenient option. They’re also significantly more affordable than buying all your tools separately. The tools included in these kits use the same batteries and come with a single charging station.
One of the most common tools to pair with a cordless drill in a kit is a small impact driver. The two of these look similar but function differently. Cordless drills use continuous electric current to spin a bit, and you can determine the speed with the tool’s variable trigger. A clutch can be used to control slip and prevent excessive force from being used. An impact driver does not allow for this kind of modulation and does not use continuous force. Instead, quick pulses of energy act on the bit in a hammering motion. This is useful for things like breaking rusty bolts loose, but we definitely wouldn’t advise sinking a sheetrock screw into your drywall with an impact driver.
Features to look for in a cordless drill
The cordless drills in this gear guide are basically differentiated by motor type, power available, and durability. Consumer-grade drills have more than enough power and durability to handle projects around the house. Opting for a brushed motor can save money without a noticeable sacrifice in capability for most users. These options are great for installing anchors in drywall and performing light builds.
By stepping up to a professional-grade cordless drill, you’ll get more power (which is especially useful for drilling) and more rugged materials that can handle the bumps and scrapes of life on a construction site. These drills typically use brushless motors that last longer, generate less heat, and consume less energy. Invest in one of these, and you’ll have a tool that can handle heavy-duty projects for years to come.
Do you need a cordless drill?
In short – yes, you need a cordless drill! Once you have a place of your own and maybe a garage or backyard, it’s time to invest in power tools and get work done like a pro. Cordless drills will save you time and result in better results. With nearly endless bits and attachments to choose from, you can drive and drill just about anything.
Many cordless drills can be purchased as part of a larger kit. If you have the money handy, this is a great way to beef up your tool box and take advantage of battery compatibility. Even though there are plenty of quality brands out there, you’ll often see people pick one and stick with it so they can use one kind of battery and charger for all their power tools.
- Get jobs done in less time
- Handle screws and drilling with one powerful tool
- Admit it, cordless drills are more powerful than your hands
- Expand your tool box with relatively inexpensive bits and accessories
- Cordless drill batteries are compatible with other power tools from the same manufacturer
Pricing ranges for cordless drills
- Less than $100: Choose from a selection of serviceable cordless drills. These options will be fine for occasional jobs around the house, but might not hold up to commercial use.
- More than $100: Premium cordless drills will cost a little extra, but you’ll end up with the same high-quality equipment found on construction sites around the world.
How we chose our top picks
It would be great to spend time with each one of these cordless drills. It would be even better to hand them out to our friends and knock out a whole bunch of home improvement projects in a weekend. Unfortunately, reality often steps in and prevents us from conducting hands-on testing. When that happens, we scour hundreds of reviews and professional sources and crowdsource information from thousands of consumers to find products with a proven record of success. Using that knowledge and our own experience, we make sure only the best products make it into our gear guides.
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