Types of 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. Most cordless drills deliver either 12 or 18 volts of electromotive force.
Cordless Impact Drivers
If you have to
drive a lot of screws, one after another -- for instance, to build a deck or
hang tile backer board -- a cordless impact driver is a better choice than a
drill. This tool does only one job – driving screws and other fasteners
– but it does it fast and easily. Impact drivers work by combining bit
rotation with percussive force, giving them two to three times the torque of a
drill/driver, according to Popular Mechanics. 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.
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.
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.
Finding The Best Cordless Drills
"Best 18V Impact Driver Roundup"
"The Best Drill"
"The Best Cordless Drill"
including Consumer Reports, Popular Mechanics, and Wirecutter, 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 Lowe's, Home Depot, and Amazon 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.
18-volt cordless drills can handle
nearly any DIY job
Experts say if you want a tool
with the power to handle just about any drilling or screwing job you can throw
at it, you should choose a drill of at least 18 volts. The Kobalt KDD 1424A-03 (Est. $160), which is rated at 24 volts, clears this bar by a mile. It manages
this trick, in the words of Kenny Koehler at Pro Tool Reviews, by "adding an extra
cell in its battery pack so that it runs on six cells instead of five."
Koehler admits this sounds like a gimmick, but in his tests and a series
of tests at Consumer Reports, this Kobalt drill proves it's more than that.
Both publications give the drill top marks for speed and rate it very good for
torque as well. They're not quite in agreement on its ease of use, though;
Koehler rates its ergonomics "very good," but the editors of Consumer Reports
give it only a so-so score for handling. They also note that while it can run a
fairly long time on a battery charge, it might not be able to make it all the
way through a big job without recharging. That's a problem, since the kit comes
with only one 2.0-Ah battery, and it takes about 85 minutes to charge.
Fortunately, you can buy an additional battery, the Kobalt KB 224-03 (Est.
or upgrade to a 5.0-Ah battery, the Kobalt KB 524-03, (Est. $90),
which will give you plenty of run time.
The Kobalt KDD 1424A-03 has lots of
useful features, too. It has a brushless motor, which improves both its
durability and its efficiency. Like most cordless drills, it has a two-speed transmission that lets you choose between
more torque (for driving) or more speed (for drilling). Other perks include a
half-inch chuck, a built-in
LED work light for use in dark spaces, a belt hook, onboard storage for extra
bits, and a battery life gauge to show how much charge you have left. On the downside, it's heavier
than most 18-volt drills, at four pounds. Consumer Reports says that it's also
on the loud side.
feedback isn't as ample as we'd like, but we found nearly 80 reviews for the Kobalt KDD 1424A-03 at Lowe's, the primary retailer.
It gets a very solid overall rating of 4.5 stars from owners, who describe it
as powerful and lightweight, with good run time. The main complaint we saw about
this drill is that the chuck can work its way loose, allowing the bits to fall
out. The drill is backed by a five-year warranty, with three years' coverage
for the battery.
If the Kobalt drill's price tag
is a little too rich for your budget, the (Est. $95)
also gets strong ratings from both professionals and users. It's not as
powerful as the Kobalt; Worx bills it as a "20 volt max" drill, but as Pro Tool Reviews explains, that's actually the same thing as other brands'
18-volt tools. In tests at Consumer Reports, it doesn't fare quite as well as
the Kobalt; while both drills are fast, the Worx is more difficult to handle
and control. It can go longer than the Kobalt on a fully charged battery, but
when it finally runs dry, it takes a whopping 5 hours to recharge. Also, its
quick-release chuck can't accept bits larger than 1/4 inch, which makes this
drill unsuitable for heavy-duty jobs. On the plus side, it's nearly a pound
lighter than the Kobalt and significantly quieter.
The Worx drill's real selling point, though, is its unique
dual rotating chuck. This clever design can hold both a drill bit and a driving
bit, so when you want to switch from one task to the other, all you have to do
is give the head a turn. Users at every retail site that carries this drill
– Amazon, Home Depot, and Lowe's – say this feature is amazingly
convenient, making jobs much faster by eliminating the time spent switching out
bits. They also like its compact size, light weight, good battery life, and
useful features like a work light and two-speed operation – though they'd
like to see some additional features, like a belt hook.
The most common complaint about this drill is that the
torque adjustment is useless; switching the dial from 1 to 12 makes no
appreciable difference. It's not clear whether these users received defective
drills or the torque settings just don't vary enough to be noticeable. We also
saw a few complaints about durability, with owners saying their drills stopped
running after three to 16 months. Still, for the price, most users consider it
a great value. Worx offers a three-year warranty on the drill, but the
batteries are covered for only 12 months.
18-volt drill worthy of mention is the (Est. $130). It's not covered in any
professional tests, but it receives thousands of mostly-positive reviews at
Amazon, Home Depot, and Lowe's. Users say this tool is powerful, lightweight,
and well balanced. It can run a long time on a charge and is quick to recharge
when it finally runs down. However, it gets a smattering of complaints about
durability, both for the drill itself and the battery charger. Also, it's not
that easy to tell when the battery is properly seated in the charger, users
say, and that may be at the root of some reports of batteries that can't hold a
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 (Est. $130) is a clear
winner. In a comparison test at Wirecutter, this little drill "completely blew
away the competition in terms of battery life," drilling twice as many holes on
a charge as other 12-volt drills and driving nearly 50 percent more screws.
Moreover, even though it was the smallest and lightest drill in the test
– just 2.14 pounds – it was powerful enough to beat the performance
of many bigger 18-volt drills, driving screws fully and barely struggling as it
drilled through dense knots. Roy Berendsohn and Timothy Dahl at Popular
Mechanics agree with this view, saying the 12-volt Bosch "could run with the
This Bosch drill has its
limitations, however. Although it comes with an LED light, Doug Mahoney of
Wirecutter says it's awkwardly placed, so it tends to cast a big shadow right
above the drill bit. It has two speeds and a battery life gauge, but no belt
hook and no onboard storage for bits. Also, not all testers are as impressed
with its battery life as Mahoney. Berendsohn and Dahl warn that its small
battery can't handle "serious hole-hogging." However, user reviews at Amazon
generally say the drill can go a long time on a charge and recharges quickly.
Users also praise the drill for
its light, compact size, which makes it easy to use in tight spaces. They admit
it's not as powerful as an 18-volt drill, but most say it's tough enough for
basic DIY jobs. Their main problem with it is that, for some users, the battery
is really hard to remove from the drill for charging. A few users say they had
to use pliers to pry it loose, and a couple had to return the drill because
they couldn't get it out at all. We also saw a few complaints that the keyless
chuck doesn't hold the bits securely, allowing them to slip loose between uses.