A car engine, wall studs, and other tight spaces simply aren’t accessible to most standard corded or cordless drills. That doesn’t mean you have to resort to a manual screwdriver—the right-angle drill is well suited for these situations.
This L-shaped specialty power tool features a handle that attaches to the head at a right angle. The head is short enough, at less than 4 inches, to fit into places standard drills can’t reach, allowing the user to drill holes in floor joints or loosen nuts on an alternator tucked deep into the engine.
This guide will explore the factors that are vital to consider when shopping for the best right-angle drill and review some of the top models on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Makita XAD02Z 18V LXT Cordless 3/8″ Angle Drill
- RUNNER-UP: Milwaukee 2415-20 M12 Cordless Right Angle Drill
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Genesis GCQD38A Variable Speed Close-Quarter Drill
- UPGRADE PICK: DEWALT 20V MAX Right Angle Cordless Drill
- BEST CORDED: Makita DA3010F 4 Amp 3/8-Inch Right Angle Drill
- BEST HEAVY-DUTY: DEWALT FLEXVOLT 60V MAX Right Angle Drill Kit
- HONORABLE MENTION: DEWALT Right Angle Attachment
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Right-Angle Drill
While the width of the head is perhaps the most crucial feature of a right-angle drill—since it determines the space into which it can fit—several other factors are also vital to consider, including motor speed, power source, and weight. Ahead, learn more about these and other important attributes to think about when choosing the best right-angle drill.
Corded vs. Cordless
Right-angle drills are available in corded and cordless varieties, each of which has its pros and cons. Cordless drills operate via a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and offer the convenience and flexibility of not requiring an electrical outlet or a cord. This allows them to be used virtually anywhere.
Corded models, in comparison, require a standard electrical outlet. While these drills aren’t as convenient, a 120-volt supply of electricity makes them more powerful and gives them a reliable and constant supply of power. Corded models are also generally less expensive than cordless models. As with many power tools, it makes sense to spend more on a cordless model if it will see regular use. For DIYers who may only use a right-angle drill on occasion, a less expensive corded model should suffice.
Size and Weight
Size and weight determine the functionality and ease of use for a right-angle drill. Since the purpose of a right-angle drill is to fit into tight places, size is crucial. Most right-angle drills have a head that is between 3 and 4 inches wide, making them capable of fitting into places that standard corded and cordless power drills can’t reach.
Right-angle drills also need to be short and lightweight enough to easily manage with one hand. With this in mind, most right-angle drills are about 12 inches or less in length and weigh between 3 and 4 pounds. Keep in mind that while cordless drills offer the convenience of portable power and no cord to work around, they are also heavier as they carry the weight of a battery.
Chuck size is also important to consider. Most right-angle drills have a ⅜-inch chuck, which helps keep the head compact. Some larger models feature a ½-inch chuck for drilling larger holes or driving in bigger screws. These models typically have a wider 5-inch head.
Comfort and Grip
To fit into tight spaces, a right-angle drill should allow the user to grip it securely with one hand. Right-angle drills have ergonomically shaped handles with rubberized grips that enable the operator to have a solid hold on them while drilling. Many also have detachable side handles to apply more leverage on the drill with the other hand. Some manufacturers also equip right-angle drills with paddle-style triggers that run the length of the handle. This allows the user to better regulate pressure on the trigger to control the drill’s speed.
A drill’s speed determines how quickly the tool can drill holes or drive in screws. It also provides some indication as to how much torque the drill produces, if the manufacturer does not provide that information. Speed is measured in rotations per minute (RPMs) and, in most cases, is directly related to the power source. Most cordless 18-volt right-angle drills have a maximum speed of around 1,500 RPMs, while 20-volt drills can produce about 2,000 RPMs.
Corded right-angle drills have access to more power, which means they can produce more RPMs. A corded 4-amp right-angle drill boasts around 2,400 RPMs. While speed is not the same as torque, motors that can produce greater RPMs are more powerful and thus capable of producing more torque.
When assessing the battery life of a cordless tool, it’s important to consider not only how long each individual charge lasts but also how long the battery itself will hold a charge before it needs to be replaced. Most batteries for right-angle cordless drills will last about 3 hours on a single charge with intermittent use and will take about 3 hours to recharge.
Lithium-ion batteries typically last about 3 years, or about 300 to 500 charging cycles, before they begin to lose their ability to hold a charge. This doesn’t mean the battery will stop working altogether. As a battery nears the end of its life, it will simply last for a shorter period of time.
Attachments and Additional Features
As with standard drills, right-angle drills are capable of using various types of bits and attachments. These drills are adept at drilling holes with standard drill bits or driving in screws with Phillips-head, flat, star, and other styles of screw-driving bits. These drills can also use socket attachments to drive bolts.
Right-angle drills, like other power tools, use a variety of accessories, including drill bits, screwdriver bits, chuck keys, and other accessories that can be misplaced. For this reason, many right-angle drills include a storage bag that holds the tool, accessories, batteries, and chargers all in one place for easy storage and transport.
Right-angle drills also offer features that make them easier to use, such as LED lights that illuminate the work area. Many include switches that make it easier to control the drill speed and allow the user to increase or decrease the speed range to maximize control and improve torque.
Our Top Picks
Taking the above attributes into consideration, the top picks below trim the field to some of the best right-angle drills available on the market. Any of these drills will make it easier to drill holes and drive screws in tight areas.
If the reason for owning a right-angle drill is to reach into tight places, then it needs to be compact, and this model from Makita fits the bill. With a slim design—the body is only 3 inches wide and just over 12 inches long—and a 3½-inch head, this right-angle drill is among the best models on the market for fitting into tight spots. It also offers valuable user features, including a removable side handle to apply more leverage to the head and a keyless ⅜-inch chuck to easily swap out bits.
This model is also comfortable to hold with a molded rubberized nonslip grip and a total weight of just 4 pounds. The powerful 18-volt battery provides an ample 121 inch-pounds of torque, while a pressure-sensitive trigger allows the user to regulate the speed from 0 to 1,800 RPMs. The drill also features 11 settings for optimizing torque and speed, including a drill mode.
A compact design and quality construction make this model from Milwaukee one of the top right-angle drills. The drill packs 100 inch-pounds of torque off of its 12-volt battery, and a head that measures just 3¾ inches long allows it to fit into tight spaces.
It also includes thoughtful user features, including a paddle-style pressure-sensitive trigger that allows the user to easily adjust its speed. A rubberized coating at the back of the handle adds grip, while an LED light illuminates the work area. A ⅜-inch keyless chuck speeds up the bit-changing process. At just 11 inches long and about 3 pounds, this drill is also one of the lightest and most compact right-angle drills.
Adding another power tool to the home workshop doesn’t have to be a huge investment. At a price that’s less than half of many other right-angle drills, this model from Genesis is a worthy addition for those who don’t frequently need the services of a right-angle drill. This corded drill features a 3.5-amp motor, which produces a respectable 1,600 RPMs for its ⅜-inch chuck.
The 3-inch-wide head is comparable to other right-angle drills, allowing the user to fit it into tight spaces. The drill’s ergonomic rubberized grip and lightweight nature (just 3.5 pounds) make this drill easy to maneuver with one hand. A reverse/forward switch adjacent to the trigger is convenient for driving or removing screws.
While this right-angle drill from DeWalt may not be the most compact, it compensates for that in raw power. A 20-volt power source—an upgrade from the 18-volt battery found in most right-angle drills—enables this device to deliver up to 2,000 RPMs, making it one of the faster and more powerful right-angle drills on the market. DeWalt also ensures it’s easier to control the speed with a switch that toggles between two ranges: a 0 to 600 RPM speed that maximizes torque, and a 0 to 2,000 RPM speed.
The ergonomic handle features a long, pressure-sensitive trigger that’s easy to operate, plus a molded rubberized grip for security and comfort while holding it. This right-angle drill is burlier than other models—the head is 4 inches long, while most other models fall between 3 and 3½ inches. Despite its bigger size, it weighs a manageable 4 pounds.
While cordless options offer convenience, a corded model can’t be beaten for maximum power. This model from Makita is one of the best corded models, thanks to a powerful 4-amp motor that produces a maximum speed of 2,400 RPMs. It’s also one of the most compact right-angle drills, with a short head width of just 2⅝ inches and a total length of 10⅝ inches, so it can fit into spaces that few other drills can reach.
Other features include a paddle switch that allows the operator to limit the speed to improve torque and prevent stripping screws. A detachable side handle provides additional control for the user, while a built-in LED light improves visibility while working. At just 3½ pounds, the Makita DA3010F is also one of the lighter models on the market.
The standard distance between two studs or joists is just 16 inches, which isn’t enough clearance for a standard cordless or power drill—and most right-angle drills aren’t powerful enough to drill large holes through studs. DeWalt’s right-angle drill, which uses its powerful Flexvolt system, is a solution to this issue. The 60-volt battery, brushless motor, and ½-inch chuck make this drill powerful enough to drill larger holes through studs or drive in screws, while its 6-inch head length provides plenty of clearance to fit between studs.
This beast includes two speed controls that allow the user to better manage its ample torque: one setting with a speed range of 0 to 300 RPMs and a second setting of 0 to 1,250 RPMs. This model also features some advanced DeWalt technologies, including E-Clutch, which automatically detects resistance to adjust the speed of the drill. A wraparound top handle and optional side handle give the user more control over this 12-pound drill.
For those who only need a right-angle drill on an occasional basis, purchasing a new one may not make sense. This attachment from DeWalt is a more affordable alternative. It attaches to a standard drill, transforming that tool into a right-angle drill. This right-angle attachment measures about 8 inches long, extending an existing drill enough to fit into tight spaces, with a 4-inch head.
The shaft of the attachment features a rubberized coating that allows the user to achieve a secure grip for added leverage, and the attachment’s standard shank will fit most drills with ⅜-inch or ½-inch chucks. All-metal internal gearing ensures this attachment can handle drills with high RPMs and torque.
FAQs About Right-Angle Drills
For more information on how and where to best use a right-angle drill, read on for answers to some common questions about these power tools.
Q. How does a right-angle drill work?
A right-angle drill functions much like a standard drill, except the head is set at a right angle to allow it to fit into places that are too tight or hard to reach for a standard drill.
Q. What do I use a right-angle drill for?
This versatile tool is helpful for a broad range of projects. It can be invaluable for fitting into tight spaces when working on a vehicle. A right-angle drill is also ideal for drilling between floor joists or wall studs, which are spaces that are typically too narrow for a standard drill.
Q. What is the difference between a ⅜- and ½-inch drill?
The main differences between these two types of drills are the bit size and the power. A ⅜-inch drill can only use a bit with a shank that is up to ⅜-inch in diameter. These drills are typically smaller than ½-inch drills and produce less speed and torque. A ½-inch drill can use drill bits with shanks up to ½-inch in diameter. They are also larger, which makes it more difficult to fit them into small spaces, but they do produce more power.
Q. What is a right-angle drill attachment?
A right-angle drill attachment turns a standard drill into a right-angle drill. The attachment typically has a standard ⅜-inch shank that fits into the chuck of the drill. The attachment extends about 8 inches with a head that extends 3 to 4 inches from that shaft at a right angle. The head has a chuck, which holds a drill or screwdriver bit.