When one is assembling a tool kit for home improvement, maintenance, and construction projects, one of the first items purchased is often a power drill, followed by an assortment of drill bits. These attachable cutting implements bore into surfaces, drilling a wide range of hole types and sizes. There’s a nearly endless supply of drill bits on the shelves of home improvement stores in different types, sizes, and material options—each suited to specific tasks—and a DIYer must know the appropriate one to use.
I recently tested eight offerings from leading tool manufacturers in a quest for the best drill bits available. I worked with bits designed for metal, wood, aluminum, concrete, tile, and more, so if you’re planning to upgrade your tool kit, perhaps my findings can help.
Read on to find out more about the materials and design features used to construct high-quality drill bits, the different kinds of bits available, and how to find the type you need. Ahead, learn about the details on the various drill bits chosen and how they performed in testing. But first, have a look at the picks.
- BEST OVERALL: Milwaukee 29-Pc Shockwave Red Helix Titanium Bit Set
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Ryobi Multi-Material Drill and Drive Kit
- UPGRADE PICK: Norseman 69280 M42 Cobalt Heavy-Duty 115-Pc Drill Set
- BEST FOR STEEL: Bosch CO14B 14-Pc Cobalt M42 Drill Bit Set
- BEST FOR ALUMINUM: Irwin 29-Pc Cobalt Alloy Steel M35 Drill Bit Set
- BEST FOR MASONRY: Bosch 7-Pc Blue Granite Carbide Hammer Drill Bit Set
- BEST FOR TILE: Diablo 4-Pc Tile & Stone Carbide Tipped Drill Bit Set
- ALSO CONSIDER: DeWalt 21-Pc Titanium Nitride Coated Drill Bit Set
How We Tested the Best Drill Bits
To kick off this project, I spent 20 hours researching drills and drill bits for common household repairs, maintenance, and DIY projects and learning about best drilling practices. Then I began searching the most reputable tool brands to find the best drill bit designs and materials available. After reviewing more than 50 drill bit sets, I selected our top picks based on functionality, size combinations, cost, and availability.
I tested the picks in a workshop using a benchtop drill press with a keyed chuck and a cordless drill driver with a keyless chuck. Test materials included wood, PVC, and aluminum for titanium-coated high-speed steel bits; cast iron, stainless steel, and aluminum for cobalt alloy bits; brick, cinder block, and poured concrete for masonry bits; and ceramic, travertine, and glass tiles for carbide-tipped tile bits.
After noting the physical characteristics of each bit set, I selected four different drill bits from each set. Following best practices for each bit type, drill type, and material type, I drilled three holes with each bit in every selected test material. I noted accuracy of hole placement and any movement of the bit prior to surface penetration, drilling speed, chip or “drill dust” consistency, and cleanliness of the holes at the entry and exit points.
The best drill bits penetrated surfaces quickly, drilled aggressively, and stayed sharp throughout the testing process.
Our Top Picks
With these key features in mind, I spent a week shopping for and testing the following picks. Read on to find out why I consider them to be the best drill bits around and how they performed in my workshop tests.
For everyday drilling, whether on the job or for DIY projects, a set of dependable all-purpose bits comes in handy. The Milwaukee Shockwave Red Helix drill bits were designed with drilling toughness in mind. The 29 bits are made of rugged, cost-effective, high-speed steel with a titanium oxide coating for improved wear resistance. A four-way cutting edge on the pilot-point tip delivers precise starts and smaller chips for faster, easier material removal and less heat buildup. To improve drilling speed, the variable width helix starts out at an aggressive 35-degree angle near the tip and ends at 15 degrees nearest the chuck. These bits feature hex shanks for fast, easy chucking in cordless drill/drivers or impact drivers.
While the Milwaukee Red Helix drill bits were priced higher than other titanium-coated bits I tested, they performed extremely well. The heavy-duty plastic carry case proved easy to open and close, even with gloved hands, and the bits were a breeze to find thanks to clearly legible size indexing. I also liked that the hex shanks made the bits compatible with all kinds of drills as well as impact drivers.
When drilling into wood, PVC, and aluminum, Milwaukee’s Quad Edge drill bit tips were both accurate and fast. They consistently penetrated exactly where they were positioned without skipping or traveling across smooth surfaces. I was also impressed with the clean, dust-free holes they drilled, due at least in part to the unique variable helix flute design that seemed to push debris up and away more easily than other bits.
- Type: Twist drill bits for wood, plastic, or soft metal
- Number of bits: 29
- Size range: 29 sizes from 1/16 inch to ½ inch
- These general-purpose drill bits are suitable for use on wood, plastic, and soft metals
- The ¼-inch hex shaft easily chucks into cordless drill/drivers; is also compatible with impact drivers
- Quad-edge pilot point penetrates quickly and drills with superior precision
- Variable helix and thick, tapered web offer aggressive chip removal with improved strength
- Premium price point for higher-quality design and material
- Tight fit in the carry case makes bit storage and removal somewhat difficult
Get the Milwaukee drill bits at Ace Hardware, The Home Depot, or Northern Tool + Equipment.
With 300 pieces, this versatile Ryobi kit is ideal for DIYers on a budget who find themselves tackling a different project every weekend. It includes 125 drill bits plus hole saws, nut drivers, screwdriver bits, and much more. The drill bits are perfect for drilling wood, metal, plastic, and masonry, and the driving bits work with a wide range of fasteners. The kit comes in a durable hard plastic carry case for easy transport.
Right off the bat, I was impressed by the cost-to-value ratio of this kit. Ryobi is widely recognized as a reliable choice for home repair tools and accessories, but the price here is a better-than-average value. Most of the drill bits in the kit feature a basic straight-shank split-point design, with the exception of three hex-shank black-oxide bits, 10 spade bits, eight brad-point bits, and 11 carbide-tipped masonry bits. I shop tested a total of 14 bits from the kit: four black oxide, four titanium, two spade point, two brad point, and two carbide tipped.
I liked this kit as an affordable and well-appointed starter set for home maintenance and DIY projects. Although the drill bits boast no upgraded materials or design features, they simply worked. Following basic drilling conventions, such as working slowly and lubricating the bit while drilling harder materials, each bit I tested drilled as expected. The thin diameter bits didn’t seem to be excessively flexible or susceptible to breakage. The thicker-diameter bits only skated slightly on the surface. (Tip: Use a punch or nail to mark the location and prevent skating.) When I attempted to drill too fast or applied excessive pressure, the tips tended to overheat. While the Ryobi kit may not be ideal for heavy-duty applications, for common household repair and maintenance projects, this kit could make an excellent buy.
- Type: Assorted kit includes twist bits and spade bits for wood, metal, plastic, and masonry, plus hole saws, screw drivers, and nut drivers
- Number of bits: An assortment of 125 bits, including 45 black oxide, 51 titanium, 11 carbide tipped, 8 brad point, 10 spade point
- Size range: 1/32 inch to 1¼ inch
- Affordable kit includes an assortment of 125 drill bits for wood, plastic, metal, and masonry drilling projects
- Includes duplicates of the most commonly used drill bit sizes to alleviate frustration from lost, broken, or damaged bits
- Nut drivers and drivers for slotted, Phillips, hex, star, and square-drive screws are also included, plus hole saws and other accessories for a complete drill/driver starter package
- Bits are well organized and secure in a heavy-duty carry case
- Overall, a bargain-priced widely inclusive starter kit
- Most of the drill bits are made with smooth shanks; not compatible with impact drivers or quick-change adapters
- Softer steel construction leads to more bit breakage, dulling, and driver stripping with heavy use
Get the Ryobi drill bits at The Home Depot.
Some drilling applications highlight the importance of choosing the best bits. While materials like stainless steel and cast iron can destroy most drill bits, these Norseman M42 cobalt alloy bits are up to the task. The 8 percent cobalt alloy used in these bits gives them improved hot hardness for outstanding durability under tough drilling conditions. They keep a sharper edge longer than either titanium-oxide-coated HSS or M35 cobalt, and they can be sharpened many times over for an extremely long working life.
These jobber length bits feature 135-degree split points and straight shafts. Packed in a multitiered steel index case, the kit includes 115 drill bits in fractional sizes 3/64 inch to ½ inch, letter sizes A to Z, and wire sizes 1 to 60, with no skipped sizes. This is the ideal set for drilling hard metals or free machining stainless steel, titanium alloy, and abrasive plastics.
I tested the Norseman M42 cobalt bits in stainless steel, cast iron, and aluminum, first using a benchtop drill press and again with a cordless drill/driver. Operation with the drill press was incredibly smooth. With only a few drops of oil to lubricate the bit, the split point easily penetrated on contact and left holes with crisp, clean edges. The metal chips were small and evenly sized—even with stainless steel, which with lesser bits can produce wiry edges or “bird nests” around the hole.
With the handheld drill, results were similar. I kept the drill at about half speed, applied a fair amount of force, and got nice clean results again. I was most impressed that with a simple (extremely well-made) split point, these bits did not skid on the surface at all during freehand drilling with no center punch. The price may be hard to justify for common wood, plastic, and soft-metal drilling, so I’d recommend these primarily for consistent use with hard metals.
- Type: Twist bits for drilling hard metals
- Number of bits: 115
- Size range: All fractional sizes 3/64 inch to ½ inch, all letter sizes A to Z, all wire sizes 1 to 60
- These M42 cobalt alloy twist bits are for drilling hard metals like stainless steel and titanium
- The 135-degree split point gives accurate centering and fast penetration
- Precision ground point, flutes, body clearance, and drill diameter for performance drilling
- Bits are securely organized in a steel storage case with clearly visible indexing
- Premium price point for top-quality precision drill bits
Get the Norseman drill bits at Amazon, Bowers Tool Co., or Prime Tools.
Those who want to be ready for all kinds of drilling should be prepared with a set of bits that can be used on hard metals like cast iron, stainless steel, and titanium alloy. These Bosch M42 cobalt bits feature 8 percent cobalt-alloy construction for extreme heat resistance and a long working life in hard metals. They boast a thick web helix design for fast material removal and outstanding stability. The tip-hardened 135-degree split points allow for fast and smooth penetration, and 3-flat shanks improve grip and stability in the drill chuck.
I give the Bosch M42 cobalt drill bits a thumbs up for several reasons. First, they are made of premium alloy that can be resharpened many times for an extremely long working life. Also, the kit is compact and comes in a durable carry case, so it’s easy to leave in a tool bag for those times when users may need to drill metal. Finally, although the kit is compact, it includes the most important sizes for general drilling. If exacting precision is not required, they will probably do the job.
In my tests with a drill press and cordless drill, the bits performed well. I did experience a small amount of skating before penetration with the smaller bits, but the larger bits were more stable. It bears mentioning that the smallest bits (less than ⅛ inch) have flat shanks, but that was not a hindrance. Also, the ½-inch bit has a machined shank so that it fits into a ⅜-inch drill chuck. Really nice bits at a good price.
- Type: Twist bits for hard metals
- Number of bits: 14
- Size range: 13 sizes from 1/16 inch to ½ inch
- M42 cobalt-alloy steel drill bits offer superior wear resistance drilling tough metals
- Set features 14 drill bits in 13 of the most popular sizes, including two ⅜-inch bits
- 3-flat shanks secure quickly and easily into a cordless drill/driver chuck
- Thick web helix design delivers more durability for tough drilling applications
- Not as many sizes to choose from
- Less suitable for precision drilling
Get the Bosch cobalt drill bits at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Acme Tools.
Yes, cheap HSS drill bits can drill a soft metal like aluminum, but aluminum’s low melting point becomes problematic with HSS bits due to heat buildup with extended use. For the cleanest, most precise results, heat-resistant cobalt-alloy bits—such as those in this Irwin set—make the best choice.
The Irwin M35 cobalt metal index drill bit set includes 29 bits, from 1/16-inch to ½-inch sizes, in 1/64-inch increments. They are purpose-built for a long working life while drilling metal. The M35 alloy steel exhibits excellent heat and wear resistance for long-term drilling durability. Heavy-duty web construction and 135-degree split-point tips allow the bits to drill metal fast and efficiently. And the bits are easy to sharpen when needed for an even longer work life. This drill bit set is conveniently packaged in a rubber overmolded steel carry case with removable cartridges for easier transport.
The Irwin cobalt drill bits performed exceptionally well in my tests, using them to drill cast iron and stainless steel in addition to cast aluminum. The tips drilled accurately with no walking on the metal surfaces, and they remained sharp, leaving clean edges on all of the test holes. I also appreciated that the larger bits are machined down at the shank to fit ⅜-inch drill chucks. The smooth shanks chucked securely into my drill press, but I had to double-check the grip in my cordless drill chuck.
The only weak points I noticed were in regard to the storage case, which features a sliding latch that sometimes becomes misaligned or sticks in place. The set is probably best for shop use only rather than carrying around in a tool box. The plastic cartridges that hold the bits in place are removable “for transport,” but the kit has no other carry case to insert the cartridge into. I did like that a tap and drill selection chart is included in the case, however. While the case could stand some improvement, the high-quality bits and moderate price point make this Irwin set worthwhile.
- Type: Twist bits for drilling soft or hard metal
- Number of bits: 29
- Size range: 1/16 inch to ½ inch
- M35 cobalt-alloy steel bits are compatible with tough metal drilling projects
- The bits’ durable cutting edge may be resharpened to extend the working life
- 135-degree split-point tip starts on contact and drills more efficiently with less force
- Steel carry case with easy-read size indexing also features a tap and drill selection chart
- The slightest torque makes the case latch sticky and difficult to open or close
Get the Irwin drill bits at Amazon or Acme Tools.
Drilling into masonry requires a hard, tough bit. Bosch Blue Granite masonry drill bits feature a heavy-duty build, with high-temperature-brazed diamond-ground carbide tips for accurate and aggressive drilling as well as milled U-flutes with deep-cut spirals for rapid dust removal. The softened smooth shanks offer a secure grip in the drill chuck. This set includes seven drill bits in five popular sizes: one ⅛ inch, two 5/32 inch, two 3/16 inch, one ¼ inch, and one ⅜ inch.
Masonry drill bits are often considered “throw-away” bits due to their short working life, but the Bosch Blue Granite bits proved to be more robust than average. I tested them in cinder block, brick, and poured concrete, using a cordless hammer drill, with and without pilot holes. In each case, the bits drilled quickly and produced clean, crisp-edged holes. I especially liked the ease with which the tips stayed on center when starting a hole.
On the cautionary side, I took care not to apply excessive force on the bits because the long bits tended to flex under pressure. After drilling three holes with each bit, the tips were beginning to show signs of wear, but they clearly could have drilled many more.
- Type: Twist bits for drilling masonry
- Number of bits: 7
- Size range: ⅛ inch to ⅜ inch
- Built to withstand the rigors of hammer drilling into concrete, brick, and cinder block
- Professional-grade diamond-ground carbide tip drills clean, precise holes
- Milled U-flutes with deep-cut spirals remove more dust than other masonry bits
- Softened shanks provide American National Standards Institute-compliant gripping power
- Care must be taken to avoid flexing and possibly damaging the bit under excessive pressure
- Slow drilling speed may be required to reduce heat buildup in the drill bit tip
Get the Bosch Blue Granite drill bits at Amazon or The Home Depot.
When it comes to drilling brittle materials, a specially designed drill bit is required. These Diablo carbide-tipped tile and stone drill bits feature short shanks and spear-shaped carbide tips for fast starts, accurate holes, and a long working life. The multiground carbide tips allow for aggressive drilling into hard materials. They are built with a unique brazing and hardening process to withstand impacts. The four-piece set includes one each of ⅛-inch, 3/16-inch, ¼-inch, and 5/16-inch bits. The smooth shanks offer good grip in drill chucks.
I tested the Diablo tile and stone bits in ceramic tile, travertine tile, and glass tile, using water as a coolant. I had greater success in ceramic and travertine, and less success in glass until I figured out the right combination of speed and pressure required. Ultimately, the bits worked on all three surfaces.
The carbide tips did produce clean holes quickly and continued to work well after four test holes each. The 2-inch shafts were a bit shorter than I would have liked, although the short length may have allowed better control than a longer shaft. The carbide tips are spear shaped, but broader than other spear points, which may have contributed to our initial challenges drilling glass. Unfortunately the carry case is not very good: cheap plastic that looks like retail packaging, and it holds the bits too tightly.
- Type: specialty bit for drilling ceramic, stone, and glass
- Number of bits: 4
- Size range: ⅛ inch to 5/16 inch
- The carbide tip efficiently drills hard, brittle materials such as tile
- Grippy shaft stays securely chucked in the drill
- Set includes 4 of the most popular sizes for hardware installation
- As a specialty drill bit set, it has a limited range of uses
- Shaft may not be long enough to drill holes deeper than the thickness of a tile
Get the Diablo drill bits at Amazon, Ace Hardware, or The Home Depot.
Titanium-nitride-coated drill bits have a hard surface that makes them a great choice for general-purpose drilling. DeWalt titanium nitride speed tip drill bits are machined from a single piece of metal for reliable performance in wood as well as steel, aluminum, plastic, and many other materials. The pilot point is designed for fast, accurate starts with less walking and burr-free holes. A patented web taper increases bit strength for high-torque drilling operations. This kit includes 21 bits in 16 sizes, from 1/16 inch to ½ inch, in a plastic tough case.
I could have easily flipped a coin and awarded the DeWalt titanium-coated bits Best Overall due to the competitive bit quality, price, and performance. I liked that this kit includes several duplicates in case of lost or broken pieces, but since it doesn’t have as large a selection as the Milwaukee set, I placed it here.
In my tests with wood, PVC, and aluminum, these bits made fast, accurate, clean holes every time. After drilling four holes each, the bits were still in great shape. I liked the 3-flat shanks for quick, secure chucking in the cordless drill, and the clear carry case made it easy to see what I was grabbing from the tool bag. A really nice, reliable set of all-purpose drill bits.
- Type: Twist bits for drilling in wood, metal, or plastic
- Number of bits: 21
- Size range: 1/16 inch to ½ inch
- Pilot point starts faster and more accurately than split point
- 3-flat shank chucks securely into the drill
- Titanium oxide finish provides a tough surface at an affordable price point
- The set includes doubles of the most popular sizes: 1/16 inch, 3/32 inch, and ⅛-inch
- Fewer sizes to choose from means less precise drilling
- Titanium coating wears down with repeated sharpening
Get the DeWalt drill bits at Amazon, Acme Tools, or The Home Depot.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Drill Bits
When choosing a high-quality drill bit, the main factors to consider include the type and size of the bit as well as the material that needs to be drilled.
Drill Bit Types
- Brad-point drill bit: This fluted drill bit is designed for use on wood. It features a sharp spur on the tip and spiral grooves (flutes) on the sides. The sharp tip helps position the bit in the right spot, and the flutes’ function is to grab wood chips and expel them from the hole during drilling, resulting in a clean hole. Brad-point bits make speedy work of jobs that require a high degree of detail.
- Twist drill bit: This standard bit has a pointed cutting tip and, like the brad-point bit, features fluted sides to remove waste as the hole is being drilled. A general-purpose choice for home use, the twist bit can be used on wood, thin metal, and plastic.
- Countersink drill bit: Considered a specialty bit, the countersink bit is designed to create a pilot hole with a wider opening at the top for countersinking screw heads. Used mostly on wood, the countersink drill bit allows for deep enough insertion of the fastener so that the head doesn’t protrude above the surface of the material.
- Forstner drill bit: For use on wood, the Forstner bit, named after its 19th-century inventor, Benjamin Forstner, features the same tip spur as a brad-point bit for precise drilling, but the body of the bit is designed to drill a flat-bottomed hole. Forstner bits are used to create holes that hold dowels (not screws), which are often found in high-end furniture and cabinetry construction.
- Spade drill bit: Also called a paddle bit, a spade bit comes with a tip spur for precision and a flat blade that’s designed to cut large holes—up to 1.5 inches across. Spade bits are commonly used to drill holes through wood studs to run wires and water-supply lines.
- Hole-saw drill bit: Used for making large holes in wood, thin plastic, ceramic tile, and other sheet goods, hole-saw bits usually come in two pieces: the bit itself—a cylinder with sharp, sawlike teeth—and a mandrel (shaft) that attaches to the bit and fits into the drill.
- Step drill bit: This pyramid-shaped bit is primarily used to enlarge existing holes and is used with thin material—usually sheet metal—but can be used on sheet plastic as well. The manufacturer often labels each “step” on the bit with the corresponding size hole it drills. A step drill bit can also take the place of a countersink bit by widening the top of a hole just enough to recess the fastener head.
In the United States, standard drill bits are most often sized in fractional 1/64-inch increments, commonly ranging from 1/16 inch up to 1 inch. Those needing a larger hole can opt for a spade bit or hole-saw bit. Bit size may also be labeled in millimeters and decimals, but don’t worry about trying to figure out which sizes are equivalent: Conversion charts are posted everywhere bits are sold, and they can be found online as well.
While all drill bits are made from metal, some types of metal are better than others for drilling holes in different types of material.
- Carbon steel bits are made for drilling into wood; they shouldn’t be used to drill through metal because they tend to heat up too quickly and may break.
- High-Speed Steel (HSS) drill bits are created by combining alloy metals with tungsten or molybdenum to create a bit that withstands high temperatures better than carbon steel bits. HHS bits are suitable for use on wood, soft metals, and fiberglass.
- Titanium HHS bits feature a thin titanium coating that reduces friction and helps the tips stay sharper, longer. Titanium-coated HHS can be used on wood, fiberglass, hard plastics, and soft metals, such as lead and aluminum.
- Black oxide HHS bits feature a thin coating of oxide that helps reduce rusting and corrosion, making them a good choice for use in humid or wet conditions. They are suitable for use with most surfaces, including wood, thin metal (such as copper sheeting), and fiberglass.
- Cobalt drill bits are manufactured by combining steel alloy with cobalt to form a super-strong drill bit. Cobalt bits are designed for drilling through metals, including aluminum and stainless steel.
- Tungsten carbide drill bits are harder than HHS bits and are used almost exclusively for drilling through ceramic tile and masonry, although the bits’ brittleness makes them more prone to breaking.
Now that you’ve learned more about buying the best drill bits, you may have a few lingering questions. Ahead, find out more about owning and caring for these handy tools.
Q. What are good-quality drill bits made from?
Most good-quality drill bits are made of high-speed steel. Often these bits are coated with black oxide or titanium nitride for improved wear resistance. Hard materials like masonry, tile, or glass require the use of specially designed tips with embedded carbide or diamond. High-quality bits for drilling hard metals are often made of cobalt alloy steel.
Q. What are the different types of drill bits?
While there are many specific design features that can improve drilling operation for different needs, the basic classifications include twist-drill, counterbore, countersink, flat-bottom boring, and specialty drill bits.
Q. Are drill bits universal?
Drill bits are not universal. Brands are not important, but the size of the drill bit’s shank must be compatible with the drill’s chuck. For instance, many cordless drills are made with a ⅜-inch chuck, so a bit with a ½-inch shank would not be compatible. Torque is also important to consider. Larger bits require more torque from a more powerful drill to work properly, but thinner bits must be specially designed to work with high torque drills to avoid damage.
Q. How can I clean my drill bits?
Clean bits work more efficiently and last longer than those left dirty. To clean drill bits, wash them with soapy water and a plastic bristle brush. Especially dirty bits may be allowed to soak in a 1:1 solution of water and liquid laundry soap. Rinse bits well after cleaning, then dry them with a rag. Apply a drop of lightweight machine oil to prevent rust.
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