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Best Cordless Drills

By: Amy Livingston on July 03, 2017

Editor's Note:
When it comes to cordless drills, two models from Bosch lead the pack. Milwaukee makes an impact with its well-liked impact driver. Top combo kits are profiled as well, as are light duty cordless screwdrivers. We also found some budget choices that won't leave a big hole in your wallet.

Bosch DDS181 Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Chuck size -  ½ inch Battery voltage - 18 Warranty - 1 year

Best cordless drill

The 18-volt Bosch DDS181 cordless drill packs enough power to tackle just about any task around the house or the job site. In professional tests, it delivers plenty of power and speed and easily outlasts the competition on a battery charge. Owners appreciate its compact, lightweight body, two-speed operation, comfortable grip, and abundant features such as an LED task light, battery life gauge, and smart rapid charger. Several different versions and kits are available; all get great feedback.

Buy for $155.99
Runners Up
Specs that Matter Chuck size - 3/8 inch Battery voltage - 12 Warranty - 1 year

Light-duty cordless drill

Rated at 12 volts, the Bosch PS31-2A doesn't pack enough power for professional users, but it can easily handle DIY jobs around the house. Both professional testers and home users describe it as light and compact, with exceptional battery life and a surprising amount of power for its small size. It also includes nice extras like an LED work light, two speeds and a battery life gauge. All it lacks is a belt hook.

Buy for $129.00
Milwaukee 2453-22 Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Chuck size - ¼ inch Battery voltage - 12 Warranty - 5 years for tool, 2 for batteries

Best cordless impact driver

With 1,200 inch-pounds of peak torque, the 12-volt Milwaukee 2453-22 can handle just about any driving job you can throw at it. In comparison tests, it drives far more screws and bolts than other cordless impact drivers before its battery gives out. It also has great features like an easy-insert chuck, a battery life indicator, a work light, and a five-year warranty (two years for the lithium-ion batteries). Owners find it durable, lightweight, and comfortable to use.

Buy for $137.00
Craftsman 17428 Review
Runners Up
Specs that Matter Chuck size - ¼ inch Battery voltage - 12 Warranty – 1 year

Cheap cordless impact driver

Contractors and other professionals might want to steer clear, but homeowners who want an impact driver for occasional use should consider the Craftsman 17428. Its 830 inch-pounds of peak torque can't match the performance of pricier tools, but expert reviewers give it high marks for its responsive trigger, comfortable handling, and fast charge time. Users are equally pleased with its compact size and low price.

DeWalt DCK240C2 Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Chuck size – ½ inch drill, ¼ inch driver Battery voltage - 20 Warranty – 3 years parts, 1 year service

Best cordless tool combo kit

Considering that it includes two well-rated tools -- the DeWalt DCD771C2 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 1.3-Ah batteries, a fast charger, and a contractor bag. For anyone in the market for both tools, this kit is a good value, costing a bit less than the drill and driver if purchased separately.

Buy for $159.00
Milwaukee 2401-22 Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Chuck size – ¼ inch Battery voltage - 12 Warranty – 5 years tool, 2 years batteries

Best cordless screwdriver

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.

Types of Cordless Drills

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. 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 it can deliver. 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 and professional tasks, such as carpentry and remodeling, probably require the greater power and speed of an 18-volt or higher model.

Cordless Impact Drivers

For some jobs, a cordless drill isn't the best tool. 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. 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. 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.

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.

Cordless Screwdrivers

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
Our Sources
"The Best Drill"
"The Best Cordless Drill: We Review 10 of Our Favorite Drills"
"Impact Driver Comparison Test"

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.

18-volt cordless drills can handle nearly any DIY job

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. In this category, the best pick appears to be the Bosch DDS181 (Est. $180). It's the top performer in tests at TheSweethome.com, boring 33 percent more holes on a charge than its nearest competitor and placing near the top in the driving test as well. This leads tester Doug Mahoney to recommend it as an "upgrade" drill that can handle the toughest jobs. The Bosch also earns a recommendation in testing by ConsumerReports.org, with top marks for speed and good marks for power and handling.

The DDS181 is easy to handle and control. It's also packed with useful features. Its two-speed transmission lets you switch off between more torque (for driving) and more speed (for drilling). It comes in a few different versions and in a few different kits. The Bosch DDS181-02 (Est. $100) is a base version with a plastic chuck. It comes in a kit with two lithium-ion batteries and a "smart" charger that can restore the battery to full power in around 30 minutes. It has a built-in LED work light for use in dark spaces, a belt hook, and a battery life gauge to show how much charge you have left. It's discontinued by the maker, but still available at retail from a few sources. The Bosch DDS181-02LPB (Est. $180) adds a job site radio to the aforementioned kit, but is otherwise identical; it's available from a few vendors, but most notably at HomeDepot.com. Finally, the Bosch DDS181A-02 (Est. $180) is currently the most available version. It is identical to the Bosch DDS181-02, but replaces the latter's plastic chuck with a more durable metal one.

Regardless of the version, users at Amazon.com appreciate the features of the DDS181, as well as its lightweight, compact body, good balance, and comfortable grip. They're particularly pleased with its well-positioned LED work light, which they say illuminates the work area better than most. However, a few users say this drill isn't powerful enough for their needs. We also saw some complaints that switching from forward to reverse gear is awkward. Finally, users wish the drill offered onboard storage for extra bits.

Compared to the Bosch, the Hitachi DS18DSAL (Est. $160) fares better in some professional tests and worse in others. Mahoney says it "doesn't come close to matching the Bosch's power or endurance." Yet ConsumerReports.org puts the Hitachi first out of all 18-volt cordless drills it tests, with top marks for both speed and power, and names it a Best Buy. It has the same two-speed operation, work light, belt hook, and smart charger as the Bosch, 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.

We found more than 1,000 user-written reviews for this Hitachi drill at Amazon.com, Lowes.com, and Sears.com, with ratings across these sites of around 4.5 stars out of 5. Most owners describe the Hitachi as light, powerful, and well built, and they say it can run for quite a while on a single charge. 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 Bosch PS31-2A (Est. $100) is clear winner. In Mahoney's tests, 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 big boys."

This Bosch drill has its limitations, however. Although it comes with an LED light, it's not as well-placed as the one on the more powerful Bosch DDS181. 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." One expert test found that it takes much longer to charge than any other brand's – as long as five hours. However, this test is a few years old, and Bosch has upgraded the batteries on the drill since then so that's not as much of a concern, and the user reviews we found at Amazon.com and Lowes.com 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.

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