The best cordless drills and drivers make your job easier
Cordless drills can replace conventional drills and manual screwdrivers, because they're equally adept at boring holes and driving screws. However, with the large number of models available, it's important to assess your needs before choosing the cordless drill or driver that's right for you.
The most important factor, reviewers say, is choosing a cordless drill with adequate power. That's easier said than done, because cordless drill models can range in power from 7.2 volts to 20 volts or more. According to J.D. Power and Associates, most owners prefer 18-volt drills to 12-volt drills because they have more power and can run longer between charges. But not all 18-volt drills are the same. Expert tests show that performance varies widely (battery run time can differ by more than 100 screws), with higher prices not necessarily leading to a better tool. For some homeowners and tradespeople (like electricians and finish carpenters), top-rated 12-volt drills can be a good option to consider because they are smaller and less expensive, experts say.
Battery type can affect performance, too. The best cordless drills and drivers use lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, which are lighter and more compact than nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) or nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries. Li-ion batteries also keep their charge longer between uses, making them a better choice for homeowners who don't use these tools every day.
Cordless drill alternatives
Using both bit rotation and impact to drive screws, cordless impact drivers have much more torque than cordless drills, notes Popular Mechanics. They can drive screws and lag bolts without a pilot hole and with minimal strain on the hand and wrist. However, they are less versatile than cordless drills as their primary function is to drive screws. That said, makers are offering impact driver accessories that have begun to blur the difference between the two tools. For example, DeWalt offers a line of "Impact Ready" products that includes drill bits and hole saws.
While a cordless impact driver makes sense for large projects (such as building a deck), if your screw driving needs amount to furniture assembly and hanging items on walls, you might be just fine with a cordless screwdriver. Cordless screwdrivers are relatively inexpensive and light weight, but you give up some versatility compared to a cordless drill as cordless screwdrivers are relatively limited when it comes to drilling holes.
Cordless drill reviews
There's lots of feedback available regarding cordless drills, cordless screwdrivers and cordless impact drivers. ConsumerReports.org offers extensive coverage, including tests of all three types of tools. Cordless drills are assessed based on their expected usage and are rated against their heavy-duty, light-duty and general-use peers. Testing-based comparisons from Popular Mechanics, Tools of the Trade, Pro Tool Reviews, Fine Homebuilding, and TheFamilyHandyman.com also reveal top performers. Both homeowners and contractors comment on drills at retail sites like HomeDepot.com Lowes.com and Amazon.com.
Elsewhere in this Report:
Pros and cons of cordless are discussed, and best-rated choices are listed.
Cordless Impact Drivers
Is an impact driver a better fit for your needs than a cordless drill? Editors look at the considerations and name the best models.
If a cordless drill or impact driver is overkill for your budget and your needs, consider a cordless screwdriver instead. We look into the details and make our recommendations.
Not sure what you need to consider before buying a cordless drill, impact driver or screwdriver? This guide will help make finding the right tool and model easier.
There are lots of expert and user reviews of cordless drills and similar tools. Editors used these to help identify the best choices. Reviewers are ranked by their helpfulness.