Cordless Drill Reviews

Whether you are a busy contractor or a homeowner with a backload of small repairs and projects to contend with, a cordless drill, cordless impact driver, or cordless screwdriver can make the job go faster and easier. This report on cordless drills covers all three types of tools and tool kits. Advice on the right type of tool for the job, and which tools of each type perform best, is provided.
DeWalt DCD780C2
Best Reviewed
Best cordless drill
DeWalt DCD780C2

With a maximum voltage of 20 volts, the DeWalt DCD780C2 cordless drill packs enough power to tackle just about any task around the house or the job site. Reviews appreciate its compact, lightweight body, comfortable handle, and features such as the LED task light and smart charger that powers up a battery in just 30 minutes. In professional tests, this drill doesn't last as long on a charge as some competitors, but users say run time is ample for their needs.

Porter-Cable PCL120DDC-2
Runner Up
Light-duty cordless drill
Porter-Cable PCL120DDC-2

Rated at 12 volts, the Porter-Cable PCL120DDC-2 doesn't pack enough power for professional users, but it's a great, lightweight option for homeowners. Both professional testers and home users describe it as comfortable, well balanced, and quiet, with a surprising amount of power for its small size. It also includes nice extras like an LED work light and a magnetic bit holder. The one feature users would like to see added is a battery life gauge.

Milwaukee 2453-20
Best Reviewed
Best cordless impact driver
Milwaukee 2453-20

With 1,200 inch-pounds of peak torque, the 12-volt Milwaukee 2453-20 can handle just about any driving job you can throw at it. In comparison tests, it drives far more screws and bolts than any cordless impact driver before its battery gives out. It also has great features like an easy-insert chuck, a battery life indicator, a work light, and a 5-year warranty (2 years for the lithium-ion batteries, which are sold separately). Owners find it durable, lightweight, and comfortable to use.

Craftsman 17428
Runner Up
Cheap cordless impact driver
Craftsman 17428

Contractors and other professionals might want to steer clear, but homeowners who want an impact driver for occasional use should consider the Craftsman 17428. In absolute terms, performance does not stack up well to pricier tools, and that's reflected in mixed reviews from expert testers. Users, on the other hand -- especially those with realistic expectations -- are almost universally pleased. A battery, charger and carrying case are included, increasing value, and it uses the same power system as other Craftsman Nextec tools.

DeWalt DCK280C2
Best Reviewed
Best cordless tool combo kit
DeWalt DCK280C2

Considering that it includes two well-rated tools -- the DeWalt DCD780C2 drill driver and the DeWalt DCF885C2 impact driver -- it's little surprise that the DeWalt DCK280C2 tool combo kit gets great feedback from users. The set also has two batteries, a fast charger, a pair of belt hooks, and a contractor bag. For anyone in the market for both tools, this kit is a great value, costing about 45 percent less than the drill and driver would be if purchased separately.

Milwaukee 2401-22
Best Reviewed
Best cordless screwdriver
Milwaukee 2401-22

The 12-volt Milwaukee 2401-22 blurs the line between a cordless screwdriver and a drill. At 2 pounds, it's heavier than most cordless screwdrivers, but lighter than a full-size drill, and it's powerful enough for medium-duty driving and drilling. It also has many of the features you'd expect to find on a drill/driver, including a bright LED light, long-running Li-ion batteries, a battery-life gauge, a 30-minute charger, and a quick-change hex chuck. It comes with a 5-year warranty.

In this Report:

Types of Cordless Drills | Best Cordless Drills | Best Cordless Impact Drivers | Best Cordless Screwdrivers | Best Cordless Tools Combo Kits | Buying Guide | Cordless Drill Reviews

The best cordless drills and drivers make your job easier

When you're halfway up a ladder trying to bore a hole through siding, or down on your hands and knees driving countless screws through the boards of a new deck, it's a real nuisance to be held in place by an extension cord. That's why experts at Popular Mechanics call the cordless drill/driver "by far the most popular portable power tool of all time."

Types of Cordless Drills

Cordless Drills

Cordless drills range in power from as little as 7.2 volts to 20 volts or more, but the most popular models are either 12 or 18 volts. In general, the more voltage a drill has, the more speed and torque (turning force) it can deliver. Most 18-volt drills can also run longer between charges than their 12-volt competitors. However, a drill's voltage isn't the only factor in its performance. In expert tests, performance among 18-volt drills varies widely, with some models – and not always the priciest ones – driving an extra 100 screws or more on a single charge.

Moreover, some top-performing 12-volt drills can actually hold out longer than the average 18-volt model. You can get a decent 12-volt cordless drill for $150 or less, while 18-volt drills can cost anywhere from $100 to $400. In addition, 12-volt drills are lighter, usually between 2 and 4.5 pounds, compared to 3.5 to 6 pounds for an 18-volt drill. So if you only need a cordless drill for light jobs around the house, like repairing drywall or replacing a light fixture, a 12-volt cordless drill is probably your best bet. But hard-core DIY jobs, such as carpentry and remodeling, probably require the greater power and speed of an 18-volt model.

Cordless Impact Drivers

For some jobs, a cordless drill isn't actually the best tool at all. If you have to drive a lot of screws, one after another -- for instance, to build a deck or hang tile backer board -- you're probably better off with a cordless impact driver. This tool does only one job – driving screws and other fasteners – but it does it fast and easily. They work by combining bit rotation with percussive force, giving them two to three times the torque of a drill/driver, according to Popular Mechanics. They can drive long screws and hefty lag bolts through hard wood with no need for a pilot hole and even fasten and unfasten lug nuts on a car tire. However, they can't bore holes unless you equip them with a special hex-shank bit for the purpose, and even then, they're much slower than a cordless drill. Impact drivers are also louder than drills, so you can't generally use them without hearing protection.

Cordless Screwdrivers

On the other hand, if your screw driving needs are limited to minor tasks, like assembling furniture and hanging items on walls, you might be just fine with a cordless screwdriver. Cordless screwdrivers typically cost $100 or less and weigh only 1 to 2 pounds, and their compact size is handy for getting into tight spaces. However, they lack the power of an impact driver and the versatility of a drill. If you can handle the extra weight, you can spend the same amount for a compact cordless drill/driver that does two jobs instead of one.

Cordless Tool Combo Kits

If you're going to be doing both a lot of drilling and a lot of driving, consider getting a combo kit. These include both a cordless drill and an impact driver, together with batteries and a charger that work with either tool. Buying a combo kit is often significantly cheaper than buying the individual tools separately. However, at around $200, these kits are still pricier than either tool on its own, so don't spring for one unless you're really sure you need both.

Finding the best cordless drills

Numerous publications, including ConsumerReports.org, Popular Mechanics, and TheSweethome.com, put cordless drills and impact drivers through rigorous comparison testing. We consulted these sources to see which drills have the power, speed, and battery life to handle the toughest jobs. We also considered what professionals and owners had to say about the tools' handling, charging time, and features. Reviews from retail sites such as Lowes.com, HomeDepot.com, and Amazon.com provided useful information about long-term durability. We factored in all this information to name the best cordless drills for both heavy and light use, cordless impact drivers, cordless tool combo kits, and cordless screwdrivers.

Best Cordless Drills

For most drilling and driving needs, a cordless drill/driver is the most practical tool. These tools have a chuck that can accommodate a variety of different bits, both round and hex-shank (hexagonal), for drilling holes and for driving or removing screws. Cordless drills also come with an adjustable clutch that regulates the torque, or twisting power, applied to a screw for delicate projects.

We found the most recommendations for 18-volt cordless drills, which have the power to handle just about any drilling or screwing job a homeowner can throw at them. The top performer in this class, based on both professional tests and user reviews, is the DeWalt DCD780C2 (Est. $180). This drill has a maximum voltage of 20 volts, but reviewers say its batteries are actually rated at 18 volts under normal usage, and tests show the drill's power is comparable to other 18-volt models. Two professional tests give the DCD780C2 top marks for speed, and one says its power is also excellent. Greg DiBernardo at Tools of the Trade also approves of the drill's compact size (around 3.5 pounds) and comfortable grip.

In terms of battery life, professionals find the DCD780C2 somewhat less impressive. In a test at TheSweethome.com, the DCD780C2 can only drill 20 to 25 holes or drive 70 to 90 screws before its battery gives about -- a middling performance for a drill this size. However, owners don't appear to consider this drill's battery life a problem; in fact, many of the 150-plus reviews at Amazon.com praise this drill for its long run time between charges. This could simply reflect the difference between real-world use and testing designed to stress batteries to the max.

Users agree with DiBernardo that the DCD780C2 is light, compact, and very comfortable to handle. They like its features, including two speeds, 15 clutch settings, an LED work light, a belt clip, and a "smart" charger that can restore the battery to full power in 30 minutes. Many owners also appreciate the fact that this DeWalt tool is assembled in the USA. The most common complaint we found is that the drill's chuck has a tendency to wobble, impairing its precision -- a problem that shows up with most cordless drills. Some reviews say replacing the Jacobs chuck that's standard on most drills with a pricier Rohm chuck can fix the problem. You can buy a compatible Rohm chuck directly from DeWalt for about $45.

Another downside of the DeWalt drill is its relatively high price. If that's a concern for you, we found two less expensive 18-volt cordless drills that also get very high ratings from both professionals and home users. Compared to the DeWalt, the Bosch DDS181-02 (Est. $125) fares better in some professional tests and worse in others. One source says the Bosch can run longer on a charge than the DeWalt, but it's noisier and somewhat less powerful. But Doug Mahoney of TheSweethome.com, by contrast, actually recommends the Bosch as an "upgrade" drill that can handle the toughest jobs. In his drilling test, the Bosch is the top performer, boring 33 percent more holes on a charge than its nearest competitor, and it places near the top in the driving test as well.

At 3.4 pounds, the Bosch drill is even lighter than the DeWalt, and Mahoney says it's very comfortable to hold. It has most of the same features as the DeWalt, including the two-speed operation, smart charger work light, belt hook. It also has one handy feature the DeWalt lacks: a battery life gauge to let you know how much charge is left. This is particularly important with the lithium-ion batteries found on most cordless drills, since sometimes after being fully drained they can no longer be recharged. Users at Amazon.com appreciate the features of the DDS181-02, as well as its lightweight, compact body, good balance, and comfortable grip. The one feature they wish it included is on-board storage for extra bits. We also saw the usual smattering of complaints about the chuck wobbling.

The Hitachi DS18DSAL (Est. $120) also gets mixed reviews from professionals. Mahoney says it "doesn't come close to matching the Bosch's power or endurance," even though they weigh exactly the same. Yet another professional test names the Hitachi as the top pick out of all 18-volt cordless drills, with top marks for both speed and power. It has the same two-speed operation, work light, and smart charger as the Bosch and DeWalt drills, but it's a little slower to recharge – about 40 minutes instead of 30. Also, it doesn't come with either a battery gauge or onboard bit storage.

Most users at Amazon.com describe the Hitachi as light, powerful, and very ergonomic. They're a bit miffed at the lack of a battery gauge, and they don't like the fact that the drill comes bundled in a bulky case with an incandescent flashlight that most consider a useless encumbrance. A bigger problem, however, is that several users say either the batteries or the charger stopped working within a year after purchase.

A lighter cordless drill for lighter jobs

Although 18-volt cordless drills have the most oomph, experts say a lighter 12-volt drill is powerful enough for most homeowners' needs. In this class, the Porter-Cable PCL120DDC-2 (Est. $120) is a Best Buy pick by one professional reviewer and a runner-up choice at TheSweethome.com. Both sources say this drill is only middling in terms of speed and power, and it can't go nearly as long on a charge as its 18-volt competitors. Also, it has only a 3/8-inch chuck, rather than the 1/2-inch size that's standard on 18-volt drills. However, it makes up for that with its quiet operation, feather-light weight (just 2.3 pounds), and comfortable handling.

The PCL120DDC-2 has several features found on pricier 18-volt drills, including two speeds, an LED work light, a handy belt clip, and a smart charger that can replenish the batteries in 30 minutes. It doesn't have a battery life gauge, however. Users at Amazon.com say this drill is light, well balanced, and remarkably powerful for its size. The main complaint we saw is that bits have a tendency to drop out of the chuck when it's not running. Also, while there aren't that many complaints about breakdowns, some users say that getting repairs under Porter-Cable's 3-year warranty is a hassle.

Best Cordless Impact Drivers

Impact drivers can drive more screws at faster speeds than a cordless drill, and they are ideal for working with large fasteners or driving screws without a pilot hole. Though they look like drills, impact drivers are very different internally. While a cordless drill merely rotates, an impact driver combines rotation with a series of rapid, successive blows. This creates two to three times the torque of a cordless drill, allowing you to power through tough projects without straining your wrists or forearms.

While a cordless drill's chuck can be adjusted to hold a variety of bits, an impact driver has a fixed chuck that only holds hex-shanked bits. In the past, that limited impact drivers to just driving tasks, but manufacturers now offer drill bits, hole saws and other hex-shanked bits designed specifically for use with an impact driver. Using a fixed rather than an adjustable chuck also results in a more compact tool that can be used more easily in tight quarters.

However, an impact driver can't completely replace a cordless drill. For starters, impact drivers are noisier than cordless drills, so most can't be used without hearing protection. Most also lack a clutch, which means they are not a good match for delicate jobs where you don't want to drive a screw too deep or to inadvertently strip its head. But for heavy-duty fastening jobs -- like building a deck or laying a new subfloor -- mechanics, contractors and homeowners say an impact driver makes the job faster and easier. The best cordless impact drivers are compact for easy handling, have a battery with adequate run time, and have good trigger control.

No impact driver earns stronger recommendations from professional sources than the Milwaukee 2453-20 (Est. $120). Despite its compact size – just 6 inches long and 2.25 pounds -- this tool is capable of producing 1,200 inch-pounds of peak torque. In two separate comparison tests, this Milwaukee impact driver trounces the competition, driving 219 to 229 fasteners before its battery gives out -- roughly 50 more than its nearest competitor. Testers are also impressed with the Milwaukee's features, including a brushless, 2-speed motor and an easy-insert chuck that locks bits in place with a push. It's backed by an impressive 5-year warranty, with the lithium batteries covered for two years.

There aren't that many reviews for the Milwaukee 2453-20 on retail sites, but the ones we found are overwhelmingly positive; for example a 5 star rating at HomeDepot.com based on nearly 50 reviews. Owners consistently describe this impact driver as powerful, sturdy lightweight, and comfortable to use. They're also pleased with extras such as the battery life indicator, reversible belt clip, and built-in LED light. Aside from a solitary complaint about a tool that broke on its first day, most users don't have a bad word to say about this impact driver.

The Milwaukee's biggest drawback is its high price tag: around $120 for just the bare tool, or $170 when sold as a kit with two batteries and a charger -- the Milwaukee 2453-22 (Est. $170). For homeowners on a budget, the Craftsman 17428 (Est. $60) might be a better option. This 12-volt impact driver comes with a 1.3-Ah lithium-ion battery and a smart charger that can restore a charge in half an hour. It's about as light as the Milwaukee -- just 2.3 pounds with the battery ­ but not nearly as powerful, with a maximum torque of only 810 pounds.

This Craftsman impact driver draws mixed feedback in professional tests. It's the worst overall in one independent review, with abysmal marks for speed and run time -- but even there, it gets excellent ratings for power and charging time. This, combined with its low price, comfortable handling, and responsive trigger, inspires Popular Mechanics to name it the Best Value impact driver. Owners at Sears.com agree, with 95 percent of the nearly 160 reviewers recommending this lightweight, powerful, and sturdy tool. There are some complaints about its short battery life, but most owners consider it a good value nonetheless.

An 18-volt impact driver may be a better tool for your big jobs

For most household jobs, a 12-volt impact driver (like the ones profiled above) has more than enough power. However, for heavy-duty fastening jobs, it's worth considering a larger 18-volt tool, which can drive even more fasteners on a single charge. We found strong reviews for the Ryobi P236 (Est. $60), which is available only as a bare tool, with the battery and charger are sold separately. In two professional tests, this impact driver exhibits exceptional power and run time, partly because it's one of the few impact drivers on the market that can be used with a high-capacity 4-Ah battery. It also features a quick-load chuck, a built-in LED light, and a handy magnetic storage tray for screws and extra bits. On the downside, it's very noisy, and the battery can take up to an hour to fully recharge. You'll also need to budget extra for the battery and charger; options include the Ryobi P128 1.5 Ah battery and charger kit (Est. $50), the Ryobi P108 4 Ah battery (Est. $100), the stand-alone Ryobi P117 charger (Est. $40) and more.

Owner reviews for the Ryobi P236 are mostly positive. Users say it's powerful, lightweight, and ergonomic, with great battery life. They appreciate its features, with one exception: many users complain that the built-in work light doesn't switch on until the bit starts spinning, so you never get a chance to align your screw before you start driving it. We also saw a few complaints about durability, but overall, the majority of owners recommend this impact driver.

Best Cordless Tool Combo Kits

When your task list includes both drilling and heavy-duty driving, then you probably need a drill and an impact driver to get your jobs done. A combo kit, which includes both tools along with batteries that fit in either one, offers a better deal than buying the tools separately.

The DeWalt DCK280C2 (Est. $200) includes bare-tool versions of the DeWalt DCD780C2 (Est. $180) cordless drill and the DeWalt DCF885C2 (Est $180) cordless impact driver, along with two lithium ion battery packs, a speedy smart charger, two belt hooks, and a carrying bag. It's a pretty terrific value considering that the drill and driver each cost $180 when sold separately.

The DeWalt DCD780C2 is our Best Reviewed cordless drill, with high marks from both professionals and users. Reviewers say it's powerful and easy to handle, with an array of useful features. The DeWalt DCF885C2 didn't make our recommendations for cordless impact drivers, mostly because it's not covered in as many sources. However, the one professional publication that reviews this DeWalt impact driver recommends it highly, saying it combines great power and handling with acceptable speed and battery life.

There are no professional reviews for the DeWalt DCK280C2 combo cordless tool kit, but users have provided plenty of feedback, and most of it is quite good. We found nearly 450 total reviews for it at Amazon.com and HomeDepot.com, with overall ratings of 4.7 stars out of 5 at each site. Owners describe both tools as well made and easy to handle. They say the drill is compact and has decent battery life, while the driver is powerful and ergonomic. However, as we noted in the section on cordless drills, there are complaints that the chuck on the drill is wobbly, and some people say their batteries wouldn't recharge after being fully discharged.

We also found good user reviews for the Milwaukee 2691-22 (Est. $180) . This combo kit includes the 18-volt Milwaukee 2606-20 cordless drill (Est. $100 for bare tool) and the 18-volt Milwaukee 2656-20 impact driver (Est. $100 for bare tool), along with two lithium-ion batteries, a 30-minute charger and a carrying case. The impact driver hasn't been included in any professional tests, and the drill is only a middle-of-the pack performer in tests at TheSweethome.com, with about half the endurance of the Bosch DDS181-02 (Est. $125), which is profiled in our discussion of the best cordless drills. However, the nearly 550 user reviews for the combo kit on Amazon.com are highly favorable, with an overall rating of 4.8 stars out of 5. Owners say the drill and driver are both powerful, sturdy, and compact, with great battery life. They also appreciate features such as the battery life gauge, built-in LED lights on both tools, and 5-year warranty. The few complaints we saw are mostly about durability, with a couple of users reporting multiple breakdowns and poor customer service from Milwaukee.

If you're looking for something less expensive, the two-piece Ryobi P882 (Est. $100) is worth considering. The two tools it includes, the 18-volt Ryobi P271 cordless drill (Est. $30 for bare tool) and the 18-volt Ryobi P234G impact driver with bits (Est. $40 for bare tool), haven't been included in any professional tests. However, the combination of the two -- along with two batteries, charger, carrying bag, and socket adapter -- is the best-rated combo kit at HomeDepot.com, with 4.6 stars overall from more than 1,000 owners. It has fewer reviews at Amazon.com, but the feedback there is equally positive. The main comment we saw is that this kit is a great value, with two durable, lightweight tools and long battery life. Most owners say the impact driver has plenty of power, though some are less impressed with the drill. However, there's one complaint that comes up often: many users say the batteries stop working after a year or so of use. Although Ryobi backs these tools with a 3-year warranty, owners say they have had no luck getting the defective batteries replaced.

Best Cordless Screwdrivers

Cordless drills and cordless impact drivers can handle most driving jobs with aplomb, but some tasks, such as cabinet making or repair, call for a lighter touch. That's where a cordless screwdriver can come in handy. These small tools, usually weighing a pound or less, are suitable for driving screws and light drilling. They can fit into tight spaces more easily than a hefty drill, and you can hold them up in different positions without tiring out your arm. On the down side, even a good cordless screwdriver is much slower and less powerful than an inexpensive cordless drill, and a quality model can cost almost as much.

If you're on the fence about whether you need the capabilities of a drill or just a cordless screwdriver, the 12-volt Milwaukee 2401-22 (Est. $100) could be a good compromise. In size, power, and cost, it falls in between a typical cordless screwdriver and a full-size drill/driver. It weighs about two pounds, and it can generate 175 inch-pounds of torque. It also includes many of the amenities you'd expect to find on a cordless drill. A quick-change hex chuck makes it easy to swap out bits with one hand, and a reversible belt loop keeps the tool handy for both right-handed and left-handed users. The variable-speed trigger gives you better control, and the adjustable clutch with 15 settings helps you avoid over-tightening screws. There's also a built-in LED work light, and a battery-life gauge, and a 5-year warranty, with 2 years of coverage for the lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries.

The Milwaukee 2401-22 is the only cordless screwdriver we've found that earns any recommendations from professional sources. In one professional test, it actually beats out many full-sized drills for speed and handling. It's neither as powerful nor as long-running as a cordless drill, but it's as good as any other cordless screwdriver in the test. It also gets top marks for its smart charger, which restores the battery to full power in 30 minutes.

Consumers agree this is one tough driver. At Amazon.com, it's one of the most popular drivers, earning an overall rating of 4.6 stars out of 5 from roughly 260 owners. Though feedback is less at HomeDepot.com, just over 90 users there rate it at 4.7 stars. Overall, comments indicate that this Milwaukee cordless screwdriver is very lightweight and easy to handle, and it runs a long time on a charge. They also describe it as surprisingly powerful for its size, capable of handling the majority of drilling and driving jobs more easily than a full-sized drill. Most users also describe it as reliable, but we ran into a few complaints about battery or charger failures.

For extra-light jobs, such as installing window blinds, a 12-volt tool like the Milwaukee 2401-22 could be overkill. A less powerful cordless screwdriver, with between 3 and 8 volts, can get the job done without setting you back more than $50. These inexpensive cordless screwdrivers usually have built-in batteries rather than a removable battery pack, which means that when the battery wears out, you have to replace the whole tool. Many use Li-ion batteries, but a few cut cost by using less expensive nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries, which weigh more and have a shorter run time.

Among these low-powered, low-priced cordless screwdrivers, we found good feedback for the Black & Decker PD600 (Est. $30). This tool isn't covered in any professional reviews, but it gets mostly positive reviews from nearly 675 owners at Amazon.com. Users admit that, with its 6 volts and 80 inch-pounds of torque, this tool is really only suitable for light jobs, but it does those adeptly. It has two speed settings, one for drilling and one for driving, and an articulating head that can adjust to three positions: straight, 45 degrees and 90 degrees. Users also like its built-in work light and quick-release chuck, which makes it easy to switch from drilling to driving. Its Ni-Cd battery can go five to six hours on a charge, but once it's depleted, it takes about six hours to recharge – and it needs to be fully drained first, or else it won't be able to recharge up to full power. Several users complain that their batteries stopped holding a charge at all after a year or two. Still, for only $30, you could make a case that they still got their money's worth.

Buying Guide

What the best cordless drill has

  • Adequate power. Professional tests show that larger 18-volt drills deliver more speed and torque than smaller 12-volt models. However, experts consider compact models more than adequate for most DIY jobs around the house – and they're also cheaper and lighter in weight.
  • Long run time. There's nothing more frustrating than a drill that poops out on you in the middle of a big project. The best way to avoid this problem is to choose a drill with lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. These tools cost more than those powered by older nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) or nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries, but they also weigh less and run longer on a charge – and unlike drills/drivers powered by other battery types, you get full power right up until the battery gives out. However, running them all the way down can be a mistake; ConsumerReports.org warns that lithium-ion batteries from many brands couldn't be recharged after being fully depleted, and replacing them can cost around $100 a pop. So if your drill has the new lithium-ion batteries, make sure it also has a battery gauge to let you know how much battery life you have left.
  • Fast recharging. Old-school battery chargers took 3 to 5 hours to replenish battery life. Modern "smart" chargers, by contrast, can recharge a lithium-ion battery in 15 to 60 minutes. Some models can even charge two or more batteries at once.
  • Adjustable speed. When you're drilling holes, speed is more important than power, but for driving screws, you need more torque. If you want a drill that excels at both jobs, look for one with two speeds. It should also have a reverse option so you can unscrew misplaced screws or free a stuck drill bit.
  • Comfortable handling. A drill should be light enough to lift easily and well balanced, with a grip that feels comfortable in your hand.
  • Convenience features. The features users find most useful on a cordless drill include a battery gauge, a trigger-activated LED light to illuminate the work area, and storage in the handle for extra bits. Carrying cases and belt hooks are also popular – especially hooks that can be switched to hang on either side for left- or right-handed users.
  • A decent warranty. A one-year warranty is fairly standard for a cordless drill, but many top-rated models are covered for three years, five years, or even for life. It's important to make sure the warranty covers the batteries as well as the drill itself, since they're often the first part to fail.

Know before you go

What jobs are you doing? For light-duty drilling, such as most homeowners might do around the house, a 12-volt cordless drill can do the job. A compact drill can also drive screws, though not very deep or very fast. If you need to drill large holes or sink long screws, it could be worth stepping up to an 18-volt cordless drill, despite its typically higher cost and weight. If you only need to drive screws and not drill holes, then perhaps all you need is a cordless screwdriver, which weighs only a couple of pounds and can cost $30 or less. On the other hand, if you're driving a lot of screws and bolts, a cordless impact driver will get the job done much faster. And if your job involves a lot of drilling and a lot of driving, then a combo kit containing both a drill and an impact driver could be a good buy.

Do you own other cordless tools? If you already have cordless tools, you can save some money by choosing a drill or impact driver – or both – that use the same battery and charger platform. Even if you don't own any other cordless tools yet, it's worth thinking about whether you might want to invest in some in the future. If you choose to invest in a relatively expensive drill or impact driver from a high-end brand, you could be committing yourself to that same brand for future tool purchases.

Try before you buy. It's always best to try tools in person, if possible. A website can tell you how much the tool weighs, but not how it feels in your hands. A good cordless tool should feel balanced, not front-heavy, as you hold it. The trigger should be responsive without being overly sensitive or difficult to depress. Be sure you can easily remove and replace the battery, too.

Cordless Drill Reviews - Our Sources

  1. TheSweethome.com - The Best Drill, Doug Mahoney, Jan. 26, 2016

    Doug Mahoney, a former carpenter and seasoned tool reviewer, tests 12-volt and 18-volt cordless drills for DIY use. After searching reviews to find the best-rated tools under $100, he spends two days testing the top 16 drills, sinking over 3-inch drywall screws and 345 1-inch holes. He considers their performance and handling, along with how much they can do on a charge, to name his top picks for both general use and tougher jobs.

  2. Popular Mechanics - Cordless Drill Reviews: We Work 10 Drills to the Limit, Roy Berendsohn, Dec. 8, 2015

    Testers at Popular Mechanics subject 10 cordless drills, all with lithium-ion batteries, to a triathlon test designed to measure real-world performance. They start by boring 24 holes with a 1-inch spade bit, then drive 12 2-inch lag screws into pilot holes in a pressure-treated beam, and finish by driving 3-inch screws until the battery gives out. Berendsohn's write-up gives pros and cons for each drill, based on performance, features, and ease of use. 

  3. Popular Mechanics - Tool Test: 12-Volt Impact Drivers, Roy Berendsohn, Aug. 18, 2014

    Popular Mechanics tests nine 12-volt impact drivers by driving lag screws into a 4 x 4 board until the power gives out -- a good test of both battery life and total power. Each model gets a rating from one to five stars and a summary of what the testers liked and disliked about it, including power, handling, features, and ease of use.

  4. ProToolReviews.com - Best 18V Impact Driver Roundup, Kenny Koehler, Feb. 29, 2016

    Pro Tool Reviews subjects eleven 18-volt cordless impact drivers to a series of tests. Testers measure performance by driving a series of different types of screws into plywood. They also try to get a measure of reliability by measuring the heat each tool builds up during testing. Ergonomics and value are also assessed, and tools are ranked both overall and on performance alone. You can also find numerous other single-tool reviews and multi-tool roundup at this site.

  5. Popular Mechanics - The Top 20V Drill/Drivers, Tested, Roy Berendsohn, Jun. 12, 2014

    Popular Mechanics turns its attention to 20-volt electric drill drivers. Testers bored 1-inch holes in Douglas fir 2-by-8s and drove 3-inch lag screws into pine 4-by-4s, then left all the drills in an unheated garage for several days and checked their performance again. Each drill gets a star rating and a summary of likes and dislikes. Roy Berendsohn says all six of the test drills "met or exceeded our expectations for performance and value."

  6. ConsumerReports.org - Cordless Drills & Tool Kits, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, May 2016

    ConsumerReports.org tests, rates and ranks 90 cordless drills and tool kits, including models for general use and light use, cordless screwdrivers, and cordless impact drivers. Testers drive four screws through a 4x4 pine beam with the same battery to test speed and power, then use a dynamometer to test run time under light and heavy loads. Each drill gets an overall rating based on speed, power, run time, charging time, handling, and noise. Buying guide information is free to read, but ratings and rankings are only available to paid subscribers.

  7. Tools of the Trade - Tool Test: 18-Volt Drill/Drivers, Greg DiBernardo, Apr. 19, 2012

    Contractor Greg DiBernardo tests 18 cordless 18-volt drills by using them himself and sending them out with crews to jobsites. He then briefly sums up each tool's pros and cons, including form factor, speed and power, and features. He names two favorite compact model and two heavy-duty models, but both of those are discontinued. In a separate test, editor David Frane checks the battery run time of all 18 tools.

  8. Lowes.com - Drills & Drivers, Contributors to Lowes.com, As of June 2016

    Lowes.com sells about 70 cordless drills and 35 cordless impact drivers from popular brands like Worx, Hitachi, DeWalt, and Porter-Cable. It's easy to sort the reviews to find top-rated products, but difficult to identify them, since the site doesn't list model numbers on the main page. Many of the individual reviews are picked up from the manufacturers' sites.

  9. Amazon.com - Drills: Cordless, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of June 2016

    Amazon.com sells cordless drills, impact drivers, and combo kits from several major brands, and some of the top models have hundreds of reviews from users. We found three drills with high overall ratings from 1,000 users or more, and one cordless screwdriver with positive feedback from over 650 users. Impact driver and combo kits, covered on separate pages, receive fewer reviews, but two highly rated models have 500 or more. All reviews appear to be unique to the site.

  10. HomeDepot.com - Drills, Contributors to HomeDepot.com, As of June 2016

    HomeDepot.com sells nearly 400 cordless drills on its website, and separate pages offer nearly 125 cordless impact drivers and over 300 combo kits. Across all the pages, we found several products with strong overall feedback from 250 users or more. Most of the individual reviews are quite short, but they include ratings for quality and value along with an overall star rating. As with Lowes.com, some reviews were originally published on the manufacturers' web sites.

  11. Sears.com - Cordless Handheld Power Tools: Drills, Contributors to Sears.com, As of June 2016

    This site ranks several popular wrist-based monitors, but rankings are not based on first-hand testing by experts or real-world use by owners -- just features. Still, the site offers a handy way to compare features that are important to would-be owners.

  12. NorthernTool.com - Drills + Accessories, Contributors to NorthernTool.com, As of June 2016

    Retail site NorthernTool.com is a good place to see owners' ratings and reviews of pro-level cordless drills, impact drivers and combo kits across a wide range of prices and sizes, including subcompact models. However, it doesn't have as wide a selection as some other sites, and the top-rated models don't get as many reviews.

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DEWALT DCD780C2 20-Volt Max Li-Ion Compact 1.5 Ah Drill/Driver Kit
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from Amazon.com
New: $179.00   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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Hitachi DS18DSAL 18-Volt Lithium Ion Compact Pro Driver Drill with Flashlight
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from Amazon.com
New: $129.00   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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PORTER-CABLE PCL120DDC-2 12-Volt Max Compact Lithium-Ion 3/8-Inch Drill/Driver
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from Amazon.com
New: $219.99
Average Customer Review:  
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Milwaukee 2453-20 M12 Fuel 1/4 Hex Impact Driver tool Only
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from Amazon.com
New: $74.21   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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DEWALT DCK280C2 20-Volt Max Li-Ion 1.5 Ah Compact Drill and Impact Driver Combo Kit
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from Amazon.com
New: $279.00   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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Milwaukee 2691-22 18-Volt Compact Drill and Impact Driver Combo Kit
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from Amazon.com
New: $172.00
Average Customer Review:  
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Ryobi P271 18 Volt 1/2 in. 2-Speed Drill-Driver (Bare Tool Only. Battery and Charger not included.)
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from Amazon.com
New: $22.99   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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Ryobi P234g 18 Volt Impact Driver Lithium-ion (Tool Only, Battery and Charger Not Included0
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from Amazon.com
New: $51.99 $35.96   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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Black & Decker PD600 Pivot Plus 6-Volt Nicad Cordless Screwdriver with Articulating Head
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from Amazon.com
New: $25.49   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review: