The Best Cordless Drills Tested in 2022

Learn about the crucial features and useful extras to look for in the best cordless drill, then explore our list of top picks.

By Glenda Taylor and Bob Beacham | Updated Oct 27, 2022 5:12 PM

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The Best Cordless Drill Options

Photo: Glenda Taylor

With many of today’s tools running on powerful, long-lasting batteries, DIYers aren’t limited by the length of a cord. Cordless tools offer the flexibility and range of movement that’s often needed for tackling most home improvement projects. The popularity of cordless drills, in particular, has brought numerous models to the market, so we wanted to know if our readers were getting what they were paying for. In order to know for sure, we had to personally test the drills, and that’s exactly what we did.

We didn’t pull any punches in our tests—we pushed each drill to its limit and awarded points based on quality, torque, ease of use, and sheer power. We tested each function on every drill to determine the best use for each make and model.

Keep reading to learn how to navigate the options from the cordless drill industry and to find out why each of the following models earned a spot in this lineup. Each of the top picks was selected after an in-depth review of the market and thorough product vetting.

  1. BEST OVERALL: DEWALT DCD771C2 20V MAX Compact Drill/Driver Kit
  2. RUNNER-UP: Makita FD07R1 12V Brushless Cordless Driver-Drill Kit
  3. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Cordless Drill / Driver, LDX120C
  4. UPGRADE PICK: DEWALT 20V MAX Brushless Impact Driver and Drill
  5. BEST LIGHT-DUTY: Makita DF012DSE 7.2V Cordless Driver-Drill Kit
  6. BEST HEAVY-DUTY: Milwaukee M18 FUEL 1/2 in. Hammer Drill
  7. BEST LIGHTWEIGHT: AVID POWER 12V Cordless Drill, Power Drill Set
  8. BEST COMPACT: BOSCH Power Tools Drill Kit – PS31-2A – 12V, 3/8 Inch
  9. BEST COMBINATION KIT: CRAFTSMAN V20 Cordless Drill/Driver Kit with Battery
  10. ALSO CONSIDER: RYOBI ONE+ 18V Cordless 1/2 in. Drill/Driver Kit
The Best Cordless Drill Options

Photo: Glenda Taylor

How We Tested the Best Cordless Drills

To earn a spot in this cordless drill lineup, every power tool was extensively tested. We started by charging the batteries fully, so each drill had a fair shot from the outset. We separated the drills by voltage to remain product-appropriate and performed the most aggressive tests on the highest-voltage drills.

We demanded more from the powerful models—the 18-volt and 20-volt drills with ½-chucks—because these are the drills DIYers purchase to construct larger projects, such as garages and sheds. We had to know whether they would overheat and how much torque they could generate. We tested each of the 18-volt and 20-volt drills using a variety of drill bits—both standard and specialty, such as auger bits and paddle bits—to determine how much power and torque they had. The larger a bit’s surface, such as an auger bit or a 2-inch hole-saw bit, the more power a drill must have to successfully drill through wood and other materials.

We recorded each drill’s performance using a rubric and awarded numbers from 0 to 4. For example, if a drill did not drill through soft pine easily, it got a 0. If it drilled through pine moderately well, we gave it a 2, and if it drilled through pine exceptionally well, it got a 4. At the end, we added up the points from the rubric to get a better overall picture of how well each drill did.

As we drilled holes, we noted each tool’s runtime. However, we did not award points for runtime because lithium-ion batteries may perform better or worse for a variety of reasons, and things like being stored in subfreezing temperatures can reduce their viability. We didn’t feel it would be a fair assessment of the tool to award points on runtime. We did, however, award points for power and torque. We also awarded points based on ergonomics, the ability to adjust clutch settings, and whether they came with additional features—such as work lamps.

For the drills with less voltage such as 12 volts and 7.2 volts, we did not subject them to intensive drilling as we did the others. These smaller drills are not designed to withstand that type of activity, so we tested them in practical drilling and driving situations. We used standard drill bits and drilled holes in softwood and hardwood. We noted whether the drills overheated. We adjusted and tested their clutch settings and tested any additional functions.

In the end, we analyzed each drill’s cumulative score, and those that performed the best within their voltage range earned a spot on our best cordless drill lineup. We’re confident that these drills are among the best cordless drills on the market today—for several different types of users.

The Best Cordless Drills

Photo: Glenda Taylor

Our Top Picks

The following cordless drills represent many of the top brands, known for reliability and value, and we tested each drill on the list. We determined the extent of each tool’s power, whether it could withstand repeated use, its battery life, and the drill’s overall quality. Since some of the following drills are better suited to some tasks than others, we’ve defined the best use for each, based on our extensive hands-on testing. Keep reading to find out how each drill performed.

Best Overall

The Best Cordless Drill Option: DEWALT DCD771C2 20V MAX Compact Drill Driver Kit
Photo: amazon.com

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, so we couldn’t wait to run it through our battery of tests.

As with all of the drills, the first thing we did was charge the drill’s 20-volt battery to ensure we had plenty of runtime. We then inserted a ½-inch auger bit and started drilling holes in a tree stump. This DeWalt drill powered right through multiple holes on both low and high speed. The tool’s grip is comfortable in the hand, and DeWalt has added a bonus palm support on the back of the drill, which allowed us to use our other hand to stabilize the drill and exert pressure on the bit. This is a handy feature for drilling with larger bits.

We switched to a 2-inch hole-saw bit and drilled a dozen or so holes with the DeWalt drill. It powered right through—no loss of torque and no bogging down. After about 55 minutes of solid use, we lost battery power, so we paused to recharge the battery before we tested its driver functions. Keep in mind that runtime is more about the battery than the drill, and things such as the age of the battery and the temperature (lithium-ion batteries don’t run as long in cold temps) can impact runtime.

At around 3.5 pounds, the DeWalt drill is of moderate weight and is well balanced. The ½-inch clutch indicates its impressive power and versatility. An LED light brightens dark corners. The 16 clutch settings allowed us to tweak the torque power for different screw-driving tasks.

DeWalt’s 20V Max kit comes with a 1.3-amp-hour battery, a charger, and a carry bag. Its durability and reliability are among the best in the industry, and this DeWalt cordless drill would make a valuable addition to the tool kit of both DIY enthusiasts and professionals.

Product Specs

  • Model: DCD771C2
  • Voltage: 20 volts
  • Weight: 3.5 pounds
  • Runtime: 3 to 4 hours

Pros

  • ½-inch clutch
  • Brush motor design
  • 1.3-amp-hour battery included
  • Comes with a charger and a carry bag

Cons

  • Some users have reported issues with battery life

Get the DeWalt 20V MAX on AmazonThe Home Depot, and Acme Tools

Runner-Up

The Best Cordless Drill Option: Makita 12V Cordless Drill Kit
Photo: amazon.com

One of the first things we noticed about the Makita drill was its lightweight, compact size, making it well suited for smaller jobs. At just 6.5 inches long and 2.3 pounds, with an ergonomic grip to boot, the drill fits comfortably into tight spots where many others won’t. Makita’s brushless motor makes the most of the 12 volts of lithium-ion battery power, which is plenty for everyday tasks, such as drilling holes to hang pictures.

We started with a fully charged battery and inserted a paddle bit. The drill comes with two power settings, and we selected the lowest to have sufficient torque for drilling through our test wood. We drilled dozens of holes and then switched to a hole-saw bit. The 12-volt 2-amp-hour battery didn’t start to show signs of exhaustion for a full 35 minutes of drilling. Keep in mind that we were drilling holes repeatedly, which put more pressure on the drill than is typical for most situations, so battery runtimes are understandably reduced.

We then swapped in a fresh battery and inserted a driver bit. The compact Makita comes with a 20-setting clutch, so we tested the various torque settings to the screws we were using. This little Makita has slightly less power and torque than the 18-volt and 20-volt models we tested, yet it was surprisingly powerful for a 12-volt cordless drill.
Though it is not a cheap cordless drill, it delivers decent battery life and superior balance, making it well suited for most DIY projects.

Product Specs

  • Model: FD07R1
  • Voltage: 12 volts
  • Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Runtime: 45 minutes to 1 hour

Pros

  • Built-in 20-setting adjustable clutch
  • 2 lithium-ion batteries included
  • Ergonomic grip
  • Comes with a charger and a carry bag

Cons

  • Short battery life
  • Pricey

Get the Makita 12V MAX Drill Kit on Amazon or at The Home Depot.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Cordless Drill Option: BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Cordless Drill Driver, LDX120C
Photo: amazon.com

We discovered that we didn’t have to spend a lot of money to get a powerful cordless drill. Few brands have a better reputation for balancing quality and value than Black & Decker, and their 20V MAX cordless drill is a great example.

After charging the battery, we started with a hole-saw bit and drilled 2-inch holes in pine. The Black & Decker provided nearly as much power as the more expensive drills in this lineup, but it didn’t have quite as much torque when we exerted a lot of pressure. Not to worry, it’s not designed for heavy-duty drilling—it’s intended for basic, around-the-house drilling and driving, and it does that exceptionally well. We tried a variety of bits, and the Black & Decker handled all but the largest auger bit. The battery went out around the 25-minute mark, so we paused to recharge.

With the battery charged again, we switched to driver mode and inserted the screwdriver bit stored on the back of the tool’s handle. The drill offers an 11-setting clutch, which allows us to tweak the drill’s torque sensitivity when inserting screws.
While this drill will not be powerful enough for a professional framer, it has ample power for many jobs around the home and yard, yet the price is among the lowest on the market. Even though the brush motor helps keep the cost down, Black & Decker didn’t skimp on features in this lightweight ergonomic drill. An LED work light facilitates jobs in dark corners, and a 1.5-amp-hour battery and a charger complete the kit.

Product Specs

  • Model: LDX120C
  • Voltage: 20 volts
  • Weight: 3.4 pounds
  • Runtime: 1 hour

Pros

  • Brush motor design
  • ⅜-inch keyless chuck and 11-position clutch
  • Trigger-activated variable speed included
  • Built-in LED light

Cons

  • Suitable for use on wood, plastic, or metal only
  • Charging overnight is not recommended

Get the BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX on Amazon, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Tractor Supply Co..

Upgrade Pick

The Best Cordless Drill Option: DEWALT 20V MAX XR Brushless Impact Driver and Hammer
Photo: amazon.com

This DeWalt combo kit may appeal to both DIYers and professionals. The cordless hammer drill makes light work of drilling into tough materials like masonry. The impact driver effortlessly deals with oversize fasteners like deck screws that can sap the energy from even the most powerful standard drill/driver.

We tested the DeWalt hammer drill on concrete and were impressed by its torque and power. We drilled more than a half a dozen holes without the hammer drill bogging down or the battery lagging. Our hands and wrists gave out before the hammer drill did—its 20-volt 4-amp-hour battery just kept going and going. One slight downside is that the included leverage bar is made from relatively lightweight plastic—it’s OK but feels cheap. We attached it to the drill but ended up taking it off and using it without it.

The impact driver is impressive. It comes with a compact nose and three speed adjustments. We inserted screws into soft pine without the impact motion kicking in, but when we added pressure and started inserting screws into ash, the impact motion kicked in and added power to insert the screws more quickly. The impact is smooth and rapid—like a well-oiled machine. Like the hammer drill, the battery power of the driver lasted longer than we did. All in all, it’s an excellent set for the money.

The drill has a ½-inch chuck with a durable all-metal 11-position clutch. 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.

Product Specs

  • Model: DCK299M2
  • Voltage: 20 volts
  • Weight: 3.4 pounds
  • Runtime: 3 to 4 hours

Pros

  • Comes with a hammer drill and an impact driver
  • Includes two 4.0-amp-hour lithium-ion batteries
  • ½-inch chuck and 11-position clutch included
  • Comes with batteries, a charger, and a carrying bag

Cons

  • Expensive compared to similar options
  • Cheap plastic leverage bar

Get the DeWalt 20V MAX Impact Driver and Drill on Amazon, Lowe’s, and The Home Depot.

Best Light-Duty

The Best Cordless Drill Option: Makita DF012DSE 7.2V Lithium-Ion Cordless
Photo: amazon.com

The stand-out feature of the 7.2-volt Makita cordless driver drill kit is its unique hinged body. DIYers can secure it in a pistol grip like a drill or inline like an electric screwdriver. Since most cordless drills come with a pistol grip, we were anxious to discover what (if any) benefits the cylindrical grip offered.

With a fully charged battery, we started our tests with the pistol grip and a small paddle bit with a hex shank. It doesn’t accept round-shank bits, which is a bit of a downside. Since the Makita is a 7.2-volt drill/driver, we didn’t expect it to have as much power as other models we tested. Sure enough, it didn’t, but it’s not designed to rival a professional 20-volt drill. It’s made to drill holes mostly in wood or drywall, and it does that quite well.

The most significant benefit we found with the inline grip came when we needed to insert fasteners in tight spots, such as installing cabinet slides or hinges. Here’s where the inline grip really makes a difference. It doubles as a cordless screwdriver—but with more power. Its 21-setting clutch allowed us to select just the right amount of torque sensitivity for inserting various fasteners before it disengaged. We were also able to choose from two speeds, which increased versatility.

We decided if we were going to have only one drill/driver in the house for handyman-type tasks, we’d choose this Makita model. It’s not a construction drill—but it excels at reaching fasteners in tight spots. We could get nearly 30 minutes out of the drill before the battery ran out and we needed to recharge. The LED light doesn’t just provide illumination; it also flashes when the battery charge gets low.

Product Specs

  • Model: DF012DSE
  • Voltage: 7.2 volts
  • Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Runtime: Unlisted

Pros

  • Hinged design
  • 2-speed motor and 21-position clutch
  • Built-in LED light
  • ¼-inch hex drive

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Some users have reported issues with torque
  • Doesn’t accept round-shank bits

Get the Makita 7.2V Cordless Drill Kit on AmazonThe Home Depot, and Acme Tools

Best Heavy-Duty

The Best Cordless Drill Option: Milwaukee 2804-20 M18 FUEL in. Hammer Drill
Photo: homedepot.com

Milwaukee’s cordless hammer drill offers the kind of heavy-duty performance that, until relatively recently, only corded drills could deliver. We could choose between drilling, driving, or hammer functions from the multifunction collar. The 14-setting clutch gave us the ability to select just the right sensitivity when we switched between large fasteners in hardwood and smaller fasteners in pine. And, the ½-inch chuck reflects the tool’s versatility and battery power.

The optional support arm is plastic and steel, but it’s pretty rugged, and because this drill comes with a lot of torque, we appreciated being able to help control it with the support arm. If the drill had jammed when we were using it—it didn’t—the high torque could have resulted in a painful wrist injury.

The Milwaukee handled virtually every test we threw its way—we drilled with a large auger bit, a 1-inch paddle bit, a 2-inch hole-saw bit, and we used it to drive fasteners in hardwood, in pine, and through sheet metal. This product is available as a “tool only,” so the kit doesn’t include a battery or a charger. We used a well-worn 5.0-amp-hour 18-volt battery from another cordless tool, and we were able to get almost an hour of continuous use. With a new 5.0-amp-hour or a 6.0-amp-hour battery, this cordless drill would be more of a powerhouse than many DIYers need.

Product Specs

  • Model: 2803-20 M18
  • Voltage: No battery included (5.0-amp-hour or 6.0-amp-hour battery recommended)
  • Weight: 4.5 pounds
  • Runtime: 5.0 amp hours

Pros

  • Multifunctional collar
  • 14-position clutch and ½-inch chuck
  • Built-in side handle and belt hook

Cons

  • Heavy construction
  • Battery and charger not included

Get the Milwaukee M18 Hammer Drill on Amazon, The Home Depot, or at Acme Tools.

Best Lightweight

The Best Cordless Drill Option: AVID POWER 12V Cordless Drill, Power Drill Set
Photo: amazon.com

Weighing in at just 2 pounds, the Avid Power cordless drill was the lightest drill we tested. However, it feels solid in hand, and it has decent power and torque for its 12 volts. We were able to drill quickly into pine and ash, and the battery lasted more than 30 minutes of continuous drilling before it gave up.

After recharging the battery, we tested its driving function, and the Avid Power drill inserted fastener after fastener without a hitch. Then we tried the flexible shaft that comes included with the tool. In theory, it’s a nice concept, being able to attach the shaft to the drill’s chuck and then insert a screw tip to make it possible to reach hard-to-reach areas. It didn’t work out too well for us, however. The magnetic tip didn’t have sufficient magnetic attraction to hold the screw bit in place, and it fell out repeatedly. Plus, the shaft is relatively stiff and challenging to bend in an optimal configuration.

Fortunately, the Avid Power drill is good enough for most at-home drilling and driving needs that it stands alone—the shaft is just an add-on, so we didn’t subtract points for not liking it.
The Avid Power drill has two speed ranges for increased versatility and a ⅜-inch keyless chuck. We found the 15-setting clutch showed good sensitivity, and as a bonus, the drill comes with a helpful work light. This competitively priced kit would make an ideal tool for the new DIYer or a great addition to an RV tool kit.

Product Specs

  • Model: Not specified
  • Voltage: 12 volts
  • Weight: 2 pounds
  • Runtime: 1 hour

Pros

  • Brush motor design
  • ⅜-inch keyless chuck and 15-position clutch
  • 22-piece kit and and charger included
  • Affordable price point

Cons

  • Some users have reported issues with battery life
  • Flexible shaft doesn’t work well

Get the Avid Power 12V Cordless Drill on Amazon.

Best Compact

The Best Cordless Drill Option: BOSCH Power Tools Drill Kit - PS31-2A
Photo: amazon.com

We were impressed by both the compact size and the bright LED light on the Bosch cordless drill. It delivers a surprising amount of practical power in a remarkably diminutive package. It weighs a little more than 2 pounds and comes with a ⅜-inch chuck. Two speed ranges provide good versatility for all kinds of drilling and driving tasks. There’s also a battery charge indicator light on the side.

We tested the drill’s drilling power with a paddle bit and regular bits, and it performed flawlessly when drilling in pine. It kept chugging along when we drilled in ash wood, but after drilling dozens of holes in the harder wood, the body of the drill became quite warm. We realized, however, that we were pushing the Bosch drill beyond what it was designed to do. We let it cool down and then tested its driving capabilities.

The 20-setting clutch was the easiest to adjust of all the drills we tested, and it offered a wide range of torque sensitivity. The only downside—and it could be a game-changer for some—is how tight the batteries fit. It’s challenging to remove them, and someone without a strong grip might not be able to do so at all.
The Bosch kit includes a pair of 2.0-amp-hour batteries, a charger, screwdriver bits, and a carry bag. While mainly designed for DIY users, it will also appeal to contractors, particularly those who often work overhead and who don’t need a heavy-duty drill much of the time.

Product Specs

  • Model: PS31-2A
  • Voltage: 12 volts
  • Weight: 2.14 pounds
  • Runtime: 1 hour

Pros

  • ⅜-inch chuck and 20-position clutch
  • 2 speed settings included
  • Built-in LED light
  • Comes with two 2.0-amp-hour batteries

Cons

  • Some users have reported issues with recharging/removing the batteries

Get the Bosch 12V Cordless Drill Kit on Amazon.
Check for a refurbished Bosch on Amazon.

Best Combination Kit

The Best Cordless Drill Option: CRAFTSMAN V20 Cordless Drill Driver Kit with Battery
Photo: amazon.com

Craftsman’s V20 drill/driver kit is an excellent investment for new DIYers, those upgrading from old corded models, or new contractors putting together their first tool kits because it comes with the cordless drill, two 20-volt 2.0-amp-hour lithium-ion batteries, and a charger.

We found the Craftsman to be a powerful drill that rivals the performance of other 18- and 20-volt cordless drills we tested. Craftsman has long been a respected name in tools, first associated with Sears and now acquired and manufactured by another well-known manufacturer—Stanley. This is the first Craftsman tool we’d tried since the company changed hands, and we were excited to test its performance.

We’re happy to say that this Craftsman drill is every bit as good as the models in years past. It has a two-speed motor and a ½-inch chuck. We tested its drilling performance on both hardwoods and softwoods and while using a paddle bit, an auger bit, and a hole-saw bit. It drilled continuously for nearly an hour.
With an extra battery, we didn’t have to wait for the depleted battery to charge. We simply swapped to the fully charged battery and tested the Craftsman’s driving capabilities. It comes with two drilling speeds, lots of torque, and a 23-setting clutch that adjusts with ease and provides just the right amount of control for heavy or light fastener insertion. We also liked the LED light—something many more powerful drills omit. This drill is suitable for household use, but it will also perform well for larger construction projects, such as building a garage or a storage shed.

Product Specs

  • Model: CMCD700C1 & CMCB202
  • Voltage: 20 volts
  • Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Runtime: 1 hour

Pros

  • 2-speed motor
  • ½-inch chuck and 23-position clutch
  • Built-in work lamp

Cons

  • No carry case

Get the Craftsman 20V Cordless Drill on Amazon or at Lowe’s.

Also Consider

The Best Cordless Drill Option: RYOBI ONE+ 18V Cordless 1 2 in. Drill Driver Kit
Photo: homedepot.com

Never having used Ryobi branded power tools, we were initially skeptical about whether the Ryobi One+ Cordless Drill would withstand the intense testing we subjected the other 18-volt and 20-volt drills to in this lineup. We were pleasantly surprised.

The drill felt solid and substantial right out of the box, boasting an ergonomic grip that is comfortable to grasp. Like the other high-powered drills, the Ryobi comes with a ½-inch chuck, so we used the same bits to test its drilling performance. We drilled dozens of holes in both hardwood and softwood using an auger bit, a paddle bit, a hole-saw bit, and standard bits as well. The Ryobi tool didn’t overheat, and it ran on a single battery charge for nearly 45 minutes.

We swapped to the second fully charged battery to test its driving prowess. The tool has two speed settings and a 24-setting clutch. The clutch adjustment was slightly stiff to begin with, but it loosened up a bit as we tested. The Ryobi also comes with an LED light, and the nice thing about this one is its position—it’s located on the front of the battery holder. When we activated the trigger, it shone directly on the work area.

The Ryobi drill would be well suited for a new carpenter or a framer who needs a powerful drill but doesn’t want to spend the money necessary to get one of the more expensive pro brands. It’s also among the best options for a powerful DIY drill.

Product Specs

  • Model: P215K1
  • Voltage: 20 volts
  • Weight: 2.7 pounds
  • Runtime: 1 hour

Pros

  • 2-speed motor
  • ½-inch chuck and 24-setting clutch
  • Bright LED lamp
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Heavier than some

Get the Ryobi 18V Cordless Drill on Amazon or at The Home Depot
Check for a refurbished Ryobi on Amazon.

Recap of Recommendations 

  1. BEST OVERALL: DEWALT DCD771C2 20V MAX Compact Drill/Driver Kit
  2. RUNNER-UP: Makita FD07R1 12V Brushless Cordless Driver-Drill Kit
  3. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Cordless Drill / Driver, LDX120C
  4. UPGRADE PICK: DEWALT 20V MAX Brushless Impact Driver and Drill
  5. BEST LIGHT-DUTY: Makita DF012DSE 7.2V Cordless Driver-Drill Kit
  6. BEST HEAVY-DUTY: Milwaukee M18 FUEL 1/2 in. Hammer Drill
  7. BEST LIGHTWEIGHT: AVID POWER 12V Cordless Drill, Power Drill Set
  8. BEST COMPACT: BOSCH Power Tools Drill Kit – PS31-2A – 12V, 3/8 Inch
  9. BEST COMBINATION KIT: CRAFTSMAN V20 Cordless Drill/Driver Kit with Battery
  10. ALSO CONSIDER: RYOBI ONE+ 18V Cordless 1/2 in. Drill/Driver Kit

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Cordless Drill

Given the tremendous variety of drills available, there are numerous things to consider when choosing the best cordless power drill for you. While power and runtime are usually the headline elements, other important features also 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 averages from 7.2 volts to 20 volts, although a few higher-voltage drills are out there. The higher the voltage, the more motor power a drill has. How you plan to use a drill will determine how much voltage is needed. Often 12-volt models make great general-purpose household tools for occasional use.

Avid DIYers and professionals tend to prefer 18- or 20-volt models. However, there is 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:

  • Less than 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 DIYers for a wide range of drilling and driving tasks, such as installing shelves and assembling furniture.
  • 18 or 20 volts: Powerful and versatile tools, they 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 they can even tackle small demolition tasks.

Beyond the energy output, the battery’s amp-hours (Ah) rating is important to consider. The higher the Ah, the longer the tool can run. Batteries included with the purchase of a drill typically run 1.3 or 1.5 Ah. That’s adequate, but not generous. Models of 3.0 to 4.0 Ah provide much more powerful performance for the same price. More powerful 10 Ah batteries come at a price point more likely to appeal to professional users who regularly need longer lasting tools.

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.

Most drills have a clutch to temper some of the torque they produce. When a screw being inserted reaches the 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 a drill’s physical size and weight matters depends on both the user’s physical strength and the intended frequency and length 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 also worth checking whether the quoted weight includes the battery, because often the weight listed in the tool’s product specs do not.

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 ¼-inch chuck while high-power tools may have a chuck of up to ½ 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 a typical DIYer, the difference is probably negligible. Those who want to maximize performance and runtime, particularly professional users, often choose a brushless cordless drill.

Runtime 

Nearly all cordless power tools, including drills, run on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. A drill battery lasts from as little as 15 minutes to more than an hour on a single charge. It can take up to 5 hours for a full recharge, so if a project involves 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 1 hour, may cite a 2-hour runtime.

Additionally, many 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.

Additional Features

Depending on how you intend to use the power tool, one or more of the following extras may be worth looking for 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.

Shopping for a Used or Refurbished Cordless Drill

Historically, most people would baulk at the idea of spending good money on a used or second hand tool, but today’s refurbished models are not the dubious equipment found at a neighborhood yard sale. For some time, reputable manufacturers and retailers have been offering refurbished or renewed products like cordless drills alongside new models.

The idea is that when a commercially viable fix is possible, it cuts down on waste—which is always a good thing. It may also offer buyers the opportunity to acquire products that might otherwise be outside their budget.

These should not be tools that have been beaten to death for 364 days and returned on the day the warranty expires. It’s true that often they have been tried by another buyer but will have been returned within a relatively short return window. Other times, they might be tools damaged in transit or in the warehouse.

So are refurbished drills any good? In our opinion, yes. There’s every chance they could represent a real bargain. There are some interesting offers on refurbished or renewed drills at Amazon and Walmart among others. However, care and common sense is needed.

  • Specify the type of cordless drill you want first. Look at new models. Then see what you can get on the refurbished market that comes close to those specifications.
  • Keep a tight rein on your budget. It’s easy to get carried away. The idea here is to save money, or get better value.
  • You should be looking for a substantial cost reduction. If the saving is only saving 10 percent or 15 percent, it might be better to buy new.
    Make sure you know exactly what is included. Cordless tools often won’t include battery or charger, for example.
  • Be sure to check warranty and return periods before you order. Don’t make assumptions, even if you bought from the retailer before.

While refurbished, reconditioned, or renewed tools are often excellent, there’s always a chance it could be a dud. Buy from a reputable source. Check the drill as soon as it arrives so you can get your money back if there’s a problem.

FAQs

Our in-depth investigation of technologies and specifications above may 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 some of the most common questions.

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 attach 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 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. However, 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. A battery can last as little as 15 minutes, though many will run between 30 minutes and an hour. Buying a spare battery allows you to simply swap one out and carry on working while the other charges.

Why Trust Bob Vila

Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series, including This Old House and Bob Vila’s Home Again, he popularized and became synonymous with “do it yourself” home improvement.

Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.