Forget that hefty electric drill. Compact cordless drills with Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries have plenty of power for most users, and the half-inch chucks accept a wide range of bits. The best drills cost $180 to $300 for a kit that typically includes a carrying case, spare battery and battery charger.
Both professional comparisons and user reviews name the DeWalt DCD780C2 (*Est. $210) as a leader in the compact drill/driver category. In side-by-side tests, the DCD780C2 displays plenty of power, ranking high in torque tests and speed trials. With two speeds and 15 clutch settings, users say its versatility is well suited for a variety of tasks. Speed selections give you the option of drilling quickly or slowing the drill down for tougher jobs, like when you're driving through thick material. A drill with multiple clutch settings lets you disengage the drill's transmission at a specific resistance; this prevents stripping screw heads or overdrilling in drywall.
Run time gets mixed results. OneProjectCloser.com , a website with guides and tool reviews for the homeowner, ranks it second in their comparison testing, where it blows the Ridgid R86008 (*Est. $160) and the Kobalt KT200A (*Est. $160) out of the water. A major consumer organization, on the other hand, says the DCD780C2 has only a fair run time, though only a few in their general drill category rate much higher. Consumer reviews are clearer, with the majority saying the batteries last a long time, even when powering through a day's worth of work or leaving the drill idle for weeks in between charges.
For a less expensive, lighter-duty drill, consider the Milwaukee 2410-22 (*Est. $150). Popular Mechanics name it the best 12-volt drill out of 13 drills they test, and editors applaud the 2410-22's "robust construction." Both homeowners and contractors who leave comments on Amazon.com say its light weight (2.5 pounds) and LED task light are great for tight spaces and small projects. One professional says, "Quality and power are excellent, I would recommend it very highly to anyone who needs a small, light driver that has power to do pretty big jobs."