What the best cordless drill
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.
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.
handling. A drill should be
light enough to lift easily and well balanced, with a grip that feels
comfortable in your hand.
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
- 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.
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.