Along with your utility knife, among the most versatile tools you can find in the wood shop or even at home, is the cordless drill. It can be used to drive screws into various types of material, and bore holes for different purposes. Because it does not need any AV connection to operate, it can be used both indoors and outdoors. Its portability and versatility make the tool a fixture in most tool kits.
When on the market for the right cordless drill to buy, both amateur and experienced carpenters alike are stumped, what with the numerous models available. Today’s technology is so advanced that drills now come in various shapes and sizes, each packed with numerous innovative and functional features.
While it can be difficult to really focus on the features you need, and zero in on the most cost effective option simply because of the sheer number of choices available, there are some guidelines that you can follow to make your decision-making process easier.
First, determine the tasks you would frequently need the cordless drill for. Then, compare the various models available. Understand their various features and specifications, and how they work. Which ones are best suited for your particular needs?
With all the available options, it is easy to get tempted to buy a more powerful and, naturally, more expensive model than what you need. Thus, it is imperative that you narrow down your choices to the ones that will do well with the tasks you frequently do. If you often perform maintenance and light repair jobs such as assembling barbecue grills or replacing door hinges, for example, then you will be fine with a more compact tool. For less than $100, you can already have a decent 6 or 7-volt cordless drill.
On the other hand, if your projects are more complex like hanging drywall or making furniture pieces, you will need something more powerful and packed with advanced features. You will need to allot at least $200 for that. What is important is to evaluate the available features and specifications, and find the perfect match to your needs and budget.
In general, re-modelers and professional contractors acquire multiple cordless drills to address the various kinds of drilling jobs that their projects may require. You will commonly find an impact driver, impact wrench, cordless screwdriver, and drill driver in their toolkits.
To sum everything up. The key is in choosing the particular models that can help you perform the jobs you need done – faster and in a more convenient manner. There are combination models available that can do multiple tasks well, although you may be better off getting a few different models that will allow you to cover all possible job requirements.
Best Cordless Drill Complete Guide
Most Common Cordless Drill Types
You can find cordless drills in practically all styles, sizes, and power outputs. They may likewise be homeowner or professional-grade. The tool can help significantly speed up tasks such as attachment and removal of fasteners which would otherwise take a lot of time to complete by hand using a wrench or a screwdriver. Likewise, it is a great tool to use for boring holes into all types of materials like metal, wood, plastic, and concrete. What’s more, modern cordless drills are now able to operate much longer on a single battery charge. Modern technology has equipped current models with longer-lasting lithium-ion batteries, LED lights that offer better vision, and fast chargers to help minimize downtimes. These are only some of the features that have significantly improved cordless drills today, resulting to better productivity for both DIY-ers and pros. Basically, cordless drills can be classified into 5 basic types, each one intended for use in specific applications. Understanding each type will help you determine the type that is best suited for your projects.
Cordless Screwdriver – A great tool to use for furniture assembly, cabinet door removal, putting up picture frames, and other similar light jobs, cordless screwdrivers are typically small tools that are easy and comfortable to use. Even if you have other kinds of drills on hand, it is best that you have a dedicated cordless screwdriver to speed up completion of various simple jobs.
Drill Drivers – Quite popular with pros and homeowners, the drill driver allows you to drive various kinds of fasteners through practically any type of material. You can quickly change bits as well to suit the particular job at hand. A regular drill driver is typically big and bulky, and is usually not ideal for use in small or cramped spaces because of maneuverability issues.
Impact Driver – Equipped with higher torque than regular drill drivers, impact drivers are best used for installation and removal of bolts, nuts, and fasteners. Because their size is more compact than a drill driver, impact drivers can be used even in tight or small spaces. This type of cordless drill requires hex shaft bits as well as other accessories for optimum benefits. An impact driver is not ideal for drilling holes, but it can be very useful for rough carpentry and automotive work.
Hammer Drill – This type of cordless drill works by producing a forward, rotating thrust that makes it possible to bore a hole through masonry materials while driving fasteners at the same time. The heaviest type of cordless drill, the hammer drill needs more battery power to operate than others. It brings incredible strength that is ideal for working with metal, concrete, and wood.
Rotary Hammer Drill – If the power of the hammer drill is not sufficient for you, then perhaps you need a rotary hammer drill. With the tool, you can easily chisel through masonry. It is likewise more effective to use for material removal than even the combined strength of the hammer drill/driver. While a cordless rotary hammer may weigh more than 10 lbs., it is nevertheless quite portable. However, you may experience fatigue when working with the tool for a long period of time. The tool is perfect for professionals who regularly drill and chisel through masonry work.
Features of Cordless Drills
Cordless drills are available in different price points, depending on the features and the type of drill. When choosing the best drill suited for your needs, there are a few things that you need to consider. These include understanding the terminology used to describe the various features of the drill.
Voltage – The power of the cordless drill is expressed in volts. This can range between 2 and 24 volts. A model with a higher model is a more powerful drill. You will need a powerful drill if you have a difficult project that offers some resistance. One downside of having more power is that the drill is also usually heavier than a less powerful tool. Thus for light remodeling jobs around your home, a 14-volt cordless drill will suit you just fine. However, if the job requires more torque and you need to hurdle some masonry or other tough materials, then you will need a more powerful cordless drill.
Chuck Size – The clamp that keeps the rotating bit snugly in place is called the chuck. It is an important feature to consider when on the market for a cordless drill as the chuck size dictates the bit size that your drill can use. The most common chuck sizes include 1/4”, 3/8” and ½”. A ½” chuck is suitable for heavy duty jobs. The bigger cordless drills typically have ½” chucks, and cannot accommodate 3/8” bits.
Drill Speed – The speed of a running drill is measured in rotations per minute (RPM). The lower-end and less expensive drill models are typically the single speed drills that operate at around 300 RPMs. These models come in handy when you need to drill nails and screws somewhere in your house. The higher-end and obviously more expensive models rung at speeds of as much as 1200 – 1500 RPMs. These models can handle more difficult tasks such as boring holes into dense materials like metal, hardwood, and masonry. When using the drill on metals, however, it is best to lower the speed to around 700 RPM. This is because insisting on using a higher RPM may cause your bit to burn up. Metal easily overheats; thus, it must be drilled at a much slower speed compared to other materials to avoid overheating. Models with higher RPMs, as mentioned, are more expensive because they are equipped with more capability and power. You can find variable speed drills on the market that come with a trigger that you can use to control the bit’s speed.
Battery Type – A cordless drill, regardless of how expensive, efficient, or feature-packed it may be, is simply mediocre if it does not have a superior-quality battery. A high quality battery will allow the cordless drill to perform at optimum level longer in one single battery charge. Various factors affect the longevity of a cordless drill’s rechargeable battery, and these include:
- The temperature,
- The material being worked on, and
- Whether the cordless drill is in continuous or intermittent use.
High end models come with battery power indicators that show the remaining battery life. One advantage of this feature is that you can prevent the drill from completely draining its battery while in use. Thus, you can plan on how to handle big projects. You can make schedules on how long to use the drill before charging again, or whether or not you need to have a backup battery on standby to minimize downtime. There are different types of batteries available, the most popular of which are lithium-ion and nickel cadmium. The latter is cheaper, but is nevertheless long-lasting and durable. It can be recharged for around 1,000 times without losing capacity; thus, it has become very popular among a great number of users. Lithium-ion batteries, on the other hand, while being more expensive between the two, also have twice as much energy density. According to The Home Depot, they offer twice the performance and run four times longer than standard batteries. It also weighs a lot lighter than its nickel cadmium counterpart. A lithium-ion battery does not last as long as a nickel cadmium battery. However, unlike a nickel cadmium battery, it does not contain any toxic chemicals. Most users, regardless of the preferred battery type, opt to purchase a backup or second battery pack to go with their cordless drill. This way, they can minimize downtime while waiting for their original battery to recharge.
Clutch – A cordless drill can disengage its drive shaft whenever the drill is met by a significant amount of resistance. This is known as the clutch feature. You can tell whenever the clutch is engaged because of the distinct clicking sound that the cordless drill will make while in use. Screws will not strip because of the clutch. Likewise, the drill’s motor will be prevented from getting overworked and eventually burnt up. Various cordless drill models are equipped with different types of clutch settings. Some models offer up to 24 variable settings. These settings are very useful particularly for more experienced carpenters who need to adapt the drill to whatever material they may be currently working with. This is not a necessary feature for household tasks that are primarily minor and basic.
Aside from the standard features enumerated in this section, cordless drills may also be equipped with some neat features that can make the completion of your projects and tasks much more convenient. These include the following extras:
- Rotating handles,
- Built-in LED lights for improved visibility,
- Additional handles that can be useful when working on masonry and other heavy materials, and
- Electronic brakes.
There are more additional features you can find in various cordless drill models. Before you get swayed by these nifty extras, don’t forget to consider – first and foremost – the features that you really need, then the features that would be nice to have, as well as the features that you do not have any use for and will just add up to the cost of the tool. However, if you find the extra features really helpful for the various applications you need the cordless drill for, then by all means, buy the tool even if it means spending a little bit more. Just make sure it is still within your budget.
Grip – It is important to consider the grip when buying a cordless drill. Without a comfortable grip, you will find it extremely difficult to work with the drill continuously for a long time. Thanks to modern technology, drill models that are coming out today are equipped with ergonomic grips that allow for a much better user experience. Some models are fitted with rubberized grips that provide more comfort. If you currently have issues with your shoulder, elbow, or wrist, then it is recommended that you go for more compact and lighter models.
Forward/Reverse Switch – This feature allows you to shift directions with just a press of a button or a flick of a switch. You will find this particularly useful when performing tasks like unscrewing and screwing fasteners, and other similar jobs.
How to Match the Drill to the Task
Various jobs may require specific cordless drill features. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of various models in relation to your specific needs will help make your buying decision much simpler.
Light Repairs and Maintenance – The jobs include drape bracket installation; drywall anchor hole drilling; assembly of grills, exercise equipment, furniture, and others; installation of drawer and cabinet handles and knobs; and door hinge replacement or removal. All these tasks are easy and quick to do; thus you do not need cordless drills equipped with two batteries for these jobs.
To address the task of boring holes and driving screws, your drill must have a variable speed option and 2 fixed speed settings. You will also need an adjustable clutch. Overall, you will need a drill in the 6 – 7.2v range to cover all your jobs.
Repair and Remodeling – Jobs in this category are a little more complex. These include building storage closet shelves or storage racks, driving screws into wood, replacing fence pickets and deck railings, boring pilot holes, furniture making, and drywall hanging.
For these types of jobs, you need a variable speed cordless drill with 2 speed settings. You also need a model with clutch and T-handle. To minimize downtime, get a spare battery. A drill with a voltage rating of at least 9.6 will suit you just fine. Even better would be a 12-volt cordless drill, though expect it to be a little on the heavy side.
Heavy Duty Construction Jobs – Obviously, heavy duty tasks require a heavy duty tool. For driving spikes into a landscape timber, boring holes for spikes and bolts in pressure treated wood, working on masonry walls, driving into steel, and installing decking, you need to have at least a 12-volt cordless drill. The tool may be a tad more expensive and heavy, but hey, you have to cover heavy load, so you need a unit with a lot of power. Otherwise, you will only burn up your drill.
Best Cordless Drill Reviews
1. DeWalt DCD790D2 Review
A brand with a long list of successful power tools launched on the market, DeWalt does it again with its DCD790D2 cordless drill. With a 20-volt power rating, the drill surely packs quite a wallop. It comes with easy to adjust speed and clutch settings. One of the more outstanding cordless drills on the market today, and arguably the best in the line-up of products in this review, the DCD790D2 from DeWalt is ideal for use in a wide variety of projects.
The powerful drill can easily handle heavy duty jobs. Operating with 20-volt batteries, it is capable of running at a maximum speed of 2000 RPM – impressive by any standard. When switching between 2 different jobs, you can easily adjust the speed settings. It has a low 0-600 RPM setting when you need to use the tool as a screwdriver. The cordless drill comes with 15 clutch settings with the lower setting intended to keep the screws from stripping or being driven too deep into the material. On the other hand, the high 0-2000 RPM setting can be used for boring holes in metal and wood. It can drill 2” holes in wood, and ½” holes in metals.
DeWalt, unfortunately, has withheld the device’s torque or the measure for the drill’s turning force (industry standard). The company has instead released the power rating, a measurement that takes both the speed and torque into account, with the output expressed in UWO (or unit watts out). DeWalt says that power is the volume of completed work within a given time frame. This means that the higher the tool’s power rating, the shorter the time it can complete a given job.
The bone of contention with this measurement system is that it cannot be compared on even terms with the traditional standards used in the industry. Thus, it may be impossible to compare the torque rating of another brand against DeWalt’s power rating. The DCD790D2’s 360 UWO power rating cannot be pitted against all the other models in this review that use industry-accepted measurement standards.
At only 3.5 lbs., the DCD790D2 can be considered a “lightweight” compared to the heavier drills in its class. It is comfortably designed as some of the tool’s weight is dispersed below the hand. This makes it balanced and easy to hold. Its keyless chuck measures ½”, which means that you can loosen or tighten the bits by hand. Thus, you don’t have to worry about losing the key just to change drill bits, which can really get you upset when you’re working on a difficult position and you suddenly find the need to switch drill bits.
The drill comes with an LED that lights up the area just ahead of you. It has a trigger that delays release by 20 seconds. The LED is positioned at the foot so the chuck does not get in the way of the light’s projection. You can also bring different bit sizes along as a bit holder can be attached to the tool.
The drill is powered by two 20v lithium-ion batteries that can last an entire day without recharging. It will only take around 35 minutes to completely recharge the batteries. Thus, you don’t have to worry about a long downtime, especially when in the middle of a long project. The tool also has a battery indicator so you are aware of the remaining battery life at all times.
Considered as among the top models in its class, the DeWalt DCD790D2 boasts of an impressive 2000 RPM maximum speed. It is capable of creating as much as 2” holes in wood and ½” in metals. Its batteries can last a long time, an entire day to be specific, on a single charge. All in all, the cordless power drill’s speed comfortable design, and long battery life contribute to making it as one of the best, if not the best model, in this review line-up.
2. Bosch PS31-2A Review
You only have to try using this cordless drill once and you will no doubt be convinced that this model from Bosch can provide an amazing job for various tasks around the house. Aside from being one of the most compact and lightest models around, it can rival the biggest and heavier models in its power category. No other 12-volt cordless drill on the market can match the PS31’s battery life. While most other models can only drive 70 – 90 screws on a single battery charge, the Bosch model can do 138 screws! That’s head and shoulders above the competition.
In terms of power, the PS31 can drill screws effortlessly and evenly – even through hard knots. Most other 12-volt drills tested cannot even fully drive the screws flush through the wood material. The PS31 likewise dominated the competition in the drilling test. Other models were only able to bore in the vicinity of 8 to 12 holes. The PS31 did 25 holes – two or three times more than what the competition came up with. While other models had a difficult time with the test, with lots of stalling and binding needed, the Bosch PS31 just breezed through the entire exercise. It simply kept right on going until it was time to stop.
In the tests done for this review on various cordless drill models, the PS31 actually posted more impressive figures than a number of the supposedly more powerful 18-volt models in the line-up. The PS31 was able to drive more screws and drill more holes than some of them. It should be emphasized that the 12-volt PS31 is not supposed to even be considered in the same class as the 18-volt drills. It is like pitting welterweight Manny Pacquiao vs. current heavyweight champion Tyson Fury. Although the PS31 took a while to accomplish the tests, the impressive numbers it posted are still indicative on the tool’s overall capabilities.
One other amazing thing about the PS31 is that despite its impressive endurance and power, it is not bulky at all. It may be the most powerful and dominant 12-volt drill around, but it is also among the lightest and smallest models available. The place where the reduction was taken from is most impressive – the tool’s main body. While the handle of the drill is large enough to provide bigger hands a comfortable grip, the entire length of the tool – from the nose to the tail – is only 6 ¾”.
Being very small, the PS31 expectedly is quite light. In fact it tips the scale at only 2 lbs., 2 oz. and that is taken with the battery. However, despite its weight, the tool feels very solid to hold. It does not, in any way, feel cheap and plastic-like. Just by holding it, you will immediately know that it is durable. During testing, we accidentally knocked it off the desk, and it did not even budge.
There are solid examples when the diminutive size of the PS31 can really be of significant help. These include tasks that require working overhead for a long time such as hanging window blinds. The job would be a breeze if you are using a light, compact, and comfortable to handle drill like the PS31. The size will likewise come in handy when working in cramped spaces.
Other useful product features include the remaining battery life indicator. It is comprised of 3 lights located at the side of the drill. It accordingly lights up each time the drill is in use. The lights are nicely designed in a way that with a single glance, you can check the remaining life of the battery. This is a lot more convenient than the battery indicator feature in other models where you have to press a button to activate the indicator lights. This can be quite cumbersome if you are working on a project and you have to stop just to check on the battery.
Another useful feature of the PS31 is that the batteries are interchangeable with the batteries of other Bosch devices like radios, saws, heated jackets, as well as oscillating tools. As long as the device runs on the same 12-volt batteries, you don’t need to buy extra batteries for your other Bosch devices. Because of Bosch’s expansive battery platform, you easily get to save as much as $40 to $60 or the cost of a new 12-volt battery.
3. Hitachi DS18DSAL Review
Its power, speed, and variable settings make the Hitachi DS18DSAL among the most versatile cordless drills on the market today. The Hitachi line of cordless drills have always been known as some of the most reliable models around, and the DS18DSAL certainly does not disappoint. With a maximum speed of 1800 RPM, easily one of the fastest in this review line-up, the drill is capable of producing torque of as much as 460 inch-pounds.
The unit is a perfect blend of power and speed, a great combination that makes the drill an ideal screwdriver and drill in one neat package. The 2 speed settings make it possible to conveniently switch functions. For drill applications, use the high setting, while when working on screws, you can use the low setting. The DS18DSAL is also equipped with 22 clutch settings that can be employed when in low speed setting to keep you from drilling screws way too deep into the material.
With the DS18DSAL drill, you can bore ½” diameter holes in metals, which is decent enough for a cordless drill. In wood, however, the tool can only bore 1.75” holes, and sadly, this is below the average of other cordless drills in its class.
The design is ergonomic, which simply means the drill has a balanced weight as far as the sides below and above the grip are concerned. This enables you to have better control of the drill. A top-heavy drill results to an awkward weight distribution when you hold the tool in your hand. Weighing at just a shade below 3.5 lbs., the drill can be considered as light. The drill is comfortable to use practically the whole day, what with its overall lightweight design and balanced weight distribution. This will help you avoid undue stress and injuries.
The drill comes with an extremely useful ½” keyless chuck. With a keyless chuck, you can fasten bits securely just using your hand. No more worrying about forgetting where you placed the chuck key. A lost chuck key can always get in your nerves, especially when you are in a difficult position such as when you are working on top of a ladder and you have to change bits. The introduction of keyless chucks has somewhat addressed this issue. Another feature is an on-board LED light that illuminates the work area in front, which is a sound safety measure.
The DS18SAL comes with 18v lithium-ion batteries that are preferred for their light weight, power, and long life. With two batteries in the package, you can quickly replace one with the other, whenever necessary, without sacrificing a long downtime. In case it happens that both batteries are fully discharged at the same time, you only have to wait for around 40 minutes before a battery gets charged completely. The sad part is, the drill is not equipped with neither a charge indicator nor a battery meter that can tell you how much battery power is left at any given time.
In terms of warranty, Hitachi offers the best warranty among all products in this review. The product comes with a lifetime warranty against workmanship or material defects. The batteries, on the other hand, are covered by a two-year warranty. Trying to alter or repair the tool on your own, however, will void the warranties – whether the issue resulted from the effects of regular wear and tear, or caused by tool abuse.
Overall, the Hitachi DS18DSAL is among the best models in this review with an impressive speed of as much as 1800 RPM, and turning force of 460 inch-pounds. Its versatility is proven by the 22 clutch settings and 2 speed settings. It likewise has the best warranty among the drills in this review. One downside is its poor performance in boring holes in wood materials, but the DS18DSAL is still a good choice for a wide array of tasks and projects.
4. Milwaukee 2603-22XC M18 Review
The Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2603-22 cordless drill can be effectively used for driving screws as well as for drilling. It is a powerful equipment that is useful both for personal projects and for use in a job site. It produces torque of as much as 725 inch-pounds, easily among the best turning force ratings around. Maximum speed is around 1850 RPM, ideal for drilling applications. It has an ergonomic design, extended warranty, and long battery life. However, the batteries require a full hour of charging, which, although not particularly a long time, is a bit longer than other models in this review to achieve a full charge.
The drilling capability of the M18 Fuel is impressive – 3” holes in wood and ½” holes in metals. The drill’s high speed ratings and torque allows the drill to accomplish these feats. The combination of power and speed easily makes this tool a strong contender for the best power drill around. It likewise has 2 speed settings you can toggle when you need to switch from drilling mode to screw-driving mode, and vice versa.
The drill comes with 24 clutch settings you can easily adjust to apply the specific force you need to drill screws without causing damage to either the screw or the wood material. This feature comes in handy when you are working on the finishing stages of a project like assembling furniture and attaching cabinet doors.
Because of its ergonomic design, the drill is comfortable to use. It is well-balanced, lightweight, and powerful. The tool’s design is widely popular today as it helps reduce risk from injury or stress. Another convenient feature is the use of a keyless chuck. The tool is also designed with an LED light that helps illuminate your work space.
The cordless drill operates on 18v lithium-ion batteries that are preferred by many users for their known power, light weight, and long-lasting life. The M18 fuel is shipped with 2 batteries. This means you have an instant backup or spare battery. You can alternately use the batteries, making sure that the spare is always fully charged so you can minimize future downtimes. This is a good strategy to use, considering that a battery takes a comparatively long time to charge completely. One good thing is that the drill has a charge meter that lets you know the battery’s remaining power at any given time.
The manufacturer offers an impressive 5-year warranty on the cordless drill. The batteries, on the other hand, come with a warranty of 3 years. The warranties cover workmanship and material defects, but, as is the common practice in the industry, not including defects caused by misuse or abuse.
Overall, the Milwaukee M18 Fuel is a good combination of speed and force that makes for a truly versatile tool. The tool can be effectively used both as a screwdriver and a drill with its 24 clutch settings and 2 speed settings. One downside is the battery’s long charging time, but the M18 Fuel is nevertheless a solid choice if you are looking for a versatile tool that packs a lot of power.