With many of today’s tools running on powerful, long-lasting batteries, DIYers are no longer limited by the length of a cord. Cordless tools offer total flexibility and range of movement for tackling projects. The popularity of cordless drills, in particular, has brought numerous models to the market.
With so many to choose from, how can you be sure to pick the best cordless drill for your needs? Keep reading to learn how to navigate your choices and to find out why the following are our top favorites:
- BEST OVERALL: Dewalt 20V MAX Cordless Drill
- RUNNER UP: Makita 12V MAX Brushless Cordless Driver-Drill Kit
- BEST BUDGET: BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Cordless Drill / Driver
- UPGRADE PICK: DEWALT 20V MAX XR Brushless Impact Driver and Hammer
- BEST LIGHTWEIGHT: AVID POWER 12V Cordless Drill, Power Drill Set
- BEST COMBINATION KIT: CRAFTSMAN V20 Cordless Drill Combo Kit, 4 Tool
- HONORABLE MENTION: Makita DF012DSE 7.2V Lithium-Ion Cordless 1/4″ Hex
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Cordless Drill
Given the tremendous variety of drills available, there are numerous things to consider when you choose the best cordless drill for you. While power and run-time are the headline elements, other important features affect usability and operator comfort. Consider the following key factors in your search for the best cordless drill for your needs.
Voltage and Amp Hours
Voltage indicates the energy output of a cordless drill, which varies from 7.2 volts to 20 volts. The higher the voltage, the more motor power a drill has. How you plan to use a drill will determine how much voltage you need. Twelve-volt models make great general-purpose household tools for occasional use. Avid DIYers and professionals tend to prefer 18- or 20-volt models.
At this point, we need to clear up some natural confusion about 18- and 20-volt cordless drills. They are, in fact, the same thing. When an electric motor starts up, it gives a quick surge, in this case to 20 volts. It then settles down to its normal running power of 18 volts. Some manufacturers choose to include the smaller figure in the specs, others the larger. Nevertheless in terms of power, they are exactly the same. Similarly, the running power of a 12-volt drill is actually 10.8 volts.
The most suitable voltage depends on how you plan to use the drill:
- <12 Volts: A compact and lightweight tool for those who only have the occasional need for a drill or driver. These models are also popular with hobbyists and model-makers.
- 12 Volts: An affordable, general-purpose tool popular with homeowners. They serve DIYers in a wide range of drilling and driving tasks, such as putting up shelves, assembling furniture, etc.
- 18/20 Volts: Powerful and versatile tools that might have a hammer action for drilling masonry and can drive longer fixings with relative ease. Heavy-duty SDS versions have enough power for home remodeling and professional use, and can even tackle small demolition tasks.
Also consider the battery’s Amp hours (Ah) rating. The higher the Ah, the longer the tool will run. Batteries included with the purchase of a drill typically run 1.3 or 1.5Ah. That’s adequate, but not generous. Models of 3.0 to 4.0Ah provide much more powerful performance for the same price. More powerful 10Ah batteries come at a price point more likely to appeal to professional users.
Torque and Speed
Powerful motors produce more torque, or twisting force. Rotation speed indicates how many revolutions the drill bit makes per minute (typically between 200 and 1,000 rpm), with slower speeds providing more torque. While a high-speed tool drills faster, a model with more torque can drill through harder materials with larger bits more efficiently.
Virtually all drills have a clutch to temper some of the torque they produce. When a screw you’re inserting reaches maximum depth, the clutch disengages the spinning force, preventing the drill bit from stripping out the head of the screw—or worse, catching in the head, which can cause the drill to jerk violently and lead to injury.
Cordless drills offer multiple clutch settings and most include a variable speed trigger. Look for a model with at least 10 clutch settings, so you can adjust it to the right amount of resistance necessary for a wide array of tasks. Similarly, a drill with two speed settings offers more versatility.
Size, Weight and Chuck Size
How much physical size and weight of the drill matters depends on both the user’s physical strength and the intended frequency of use. Lightweight models may weigh as little as a pound. Heavy-duty cordless hammer drills might surpass 8 pounds. Although it may be tempting to buy the most powerful tool for a given budget, the extra weight that comes with that power could quickly lead to user fatigue. It’s worth checking whether the quoted weight includes the battery.
While many general-purpose cordless drills are quite large, others can be pretty compact without sacrificing power. That’s good to know when it comes to drilling and driving screws in confined spaces.
Just about every cordless drill has a convenient keyless chuck, though chuck size varies. This generally reflects the capabilities of the drill as it governs the maximum size of drill bit that can be inserted. Light-duty models might have a 1/4-inch chuck while high-power tools may have a chuck of up to 1/2 inch.
Brushed vs. Brushless Motor
Corded drills typically use a brushed motor. They are cheap and reliable, but the brushes eventually wear down and require replacement. The other challenge with brushed motors is that they create friction, which would run down the battery power in a cordless model.
The best cordless drills often use a brushless motor. These virtually maintenance-free motors make much more efficient use of the battery. However, brushless motors cost more. As a result, many budget cordless drills still use brushed motors.
For the average homeowner, the difference is probably negligible. Those who want to maximize performance and run time, particularly professional users, should choose a brushless cordless drill.
Nearly all cordless power tools, including drills, run on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. A drill battery lasts from as little as 15 minutes to over an hour on a single charge. It can take up to five hours for a full recharge, so if your projects involve extensive drilling, opt for a kit with backup batteries.
Note that manufacturer statements on runtime often take backup batteries into account. For instance, the specs on a drill that comes with two batteries, each lasting one hour, may cite a two-hour runtime.
Additionally, some cordless drills include a smart charger that replenishes the battery faster, usually within 15 to 60 minutes. A charge indicator allows users to monitor battery capacity.
Depending on how you intend to use the power tool, one or more of the following extras may be worth pursuing in a kit.
- A rubberized grip reduces hand and arm fatigue and prevents blisters.
- Some drill handle designs facilitate multiple hand positions for different types of drilling.
- Interchangeable batteries work with other power tools from the same brand.
- Work lights enhance visibility and precision while working.
- A built-in level helps ensure a drill bit or screw goes in straight.
- Drills with a bit holder offer easier access to bits while using the tool.
- A storage box protects the drill and keeps any additional parts organized.
Our Top Picks
The section above gives a comprehensive introduction to the key features found in all the best drills. Now we need to apply those factors to real-world choices. The following meet a wide variety of needs. They represent many of the top brands, known for their reliability and value. For quick reference, we have divided them into a number of different categories.
DeWalt’s 20V MAX cordless drill/driver comes from one of the most respected names in professional power tools. It offers superb quality and excellent performance at an affordable price.
At around 3.5 pounds, the DeWalt is relatively light and well balanced. The 1/2-inch clutch indicates its impressive power and versatility. The brush motor offers two speed ranges for added flexibility, plus 16 clutch settings for precise driving control. An LED light brightens dark corners.
DeWalt’s 20V Max kit comes with a 1.3Ah battery, a charger and a carry bag. Its durability and reliability are among the best in the industry. This DeWalt cordless drill would make a valuable addition to the tool kit of both DIY enthusiasts and professionals.
For reliability in a light-duty drill, consider Makita’s 12V cordless drill. At just 6.5 inches long and 2.3 pounds, with an ergonomic grip to boot, the drill fits comfortably into tight spots where others won’t. Makita’s brushless motor makes the most of the 12 volts of lithium-ion battery power—plenty for everyday tasks, such as drilling holes to hang pictures.
The cordless drill kit comes with a 20-setting adjustable clutch, battery, battery charger, and a hard case for safe storage. This tool delivers power comparable to higher-voltage models, boasting long battery life and superior balance.
Few brands have a better reputation for balancing quality and value than Black+Decker, and their 20V MAX cordless drill is a great example. It has ample power for many jobs around the home and yard, yet the price is among the lowest on the market. The brush motor helps keep the price down.
Black+Decker didn’t skimp on features in this lightweight, ergonomic drill. The 3/8-inch keyless chuck comes with an 11-position clutch and trigger-activated variable speed. An LED work light facilitates jobs in dark corners. A double-ended screwdriver bit, 1.5Ah battery and a charger complete the kit.
This DeWalt combo will appeal to both DIY remodelers and professionals. The cordless hammer drill makes light work of drilling into tough materials like masonry. The impact driver effortlessly deals with oversized fasteners like deck screws that can sap the energy from even the most powerful standard drill/driver.
Both tools benefit from brushless motors that maximize the performance of the impressive 4.0Ah batteries. The drill has a 1/2-inch chuck with a durable, all-metal 11-position clutch. It also offers three speed ranges. The impact driver delivers high torque and 3,600 impacts per minute for consistent, fast driving of even the largest fixings. Despite their power, each tool weighs in at just 3.4 pounds.
Weighing in at just two pounds, the Avid Power cordless drill is among the lightest of its kind on the market. The battery slots up into the handle to maintain its compact design. Included with the drill are the charger, a wide selection of drill and driving bits, and a flexible drive that helps reach into awkward corners.
The cordless drill itself has a 12-volt brush motor with plenty of power for a variety of everyday household jobs. It offers two speed ranges for increased flexibility, a 3/8-inch keyless chuck, 15-position clutch and a useful work light.
This competitively priced kit would make an ideal tool for the new homeowner or a great addition to an RV tool kit.
Craftsman’s four-piece cordless drill combo makes a great investment for new homeowners, those upgrading from old corded models, or contractors putting together their first tool kit.
Each of the tools works from the same 20V battery. The kit includes two. This powerful drill has a two-speed motor, 1/2-inch chuck and 23-position clutch. A high-torque impact driver makes a great tool for driving large fixings. The circular saw has a 6.5-inch blade for ripping and cross-cutting. A work lamp provides 140 lumens of illumination.
Craftsman has a reputation for value and reliability. For the money, this is one of the best power tool sets available.
The stand-out feature of the 7.2V Makita cordless driver drill kit is the unique hinged body. DIYers can secure it in a pistol grip like a drill or inline like an electric screwdriver.
To add to this thoughtful versatility, the tool includes a two-speed motor and a 21-position clutch. An LED light doesn’t just provide illumination, it also flashes when the battery gets low.
Its 1/4-inch hex drive does exclude standard round shank drill bits, but hex shank drill bits are readily available. Or, users could fit the drill with a low-cost hex shank chuck.
FAQs About Your New Cordless Drill
Our in-depth investigation of technologies and specifications should have you feeling better equipped to choose the best power drill for your needs. That valuable information is underlined by examples of some of the top cordless drills currently available. Nevertheless, with so many options available, a few questions might remain. The following are answers to the most common.
Q. What can a cordless drill be used for?
The primary use of a cordless drill is for drilling holes and driving screws. However, you can also get numerous attachments. There are stirrers for mixing paint and other liquids. You can also fit a sanding drum, a wire brush for rust removal, or a polishing bonnet. We have produced a handy guide to cordless drill uses here.
Q. Are cordless drills less powerful?
Corded models were once the more powerful tools. But today, equally powerful cordless models rival them. However, cordless models lose some of their power over the course of the charge while corded models perform at a consistent level for as long as they’re plugged in.
Q. What’s the difference between a cordless drill and an electric screwdriver?
An electric screwdriver is usually much smaller, has limited power, and cannot drill holes. The cordless drill can make holes and also drive screws.
Q. Which brand of cordless drill is the best?
New and improved models enter the market all the time, so it’s difficult to say which brand is best overall. Brands with a reputation for high quality tools include Bosch, DeWalt, Makita and Milwaukee though almost all modern cordless drills are pretty durable and reliable.
Q. How long do cordless drills last on a single charge?
It very much depends on the Amp hours of the battery and how hard the drill is working. It can be as little as 15 minutes, though many will run between 30 minutes and an hour. Buying a spare battery means you simply swap one out and carry on working while the other charges.
There are hundreds of different cordless drills available, which means there are performance solutions for every task and prices to suit every budget.
The information provided above will help guide you to the right choice. It’s worth taking a little time to think about each shopping consideration to maximize the value of your purchase. While a single model will be adequate for many, there are always exceptions. A model maker who is also a DIY enthusiast might want to invest in both light- and heavy-duty cordless drills. Tradespeople and contractors often have more than one model, too.