Whether you use a drill for simple tasks like installing mirrors or shelves or rely on it for bigger jobs, such as drilling into concrete or driving large screws into a deck, there's no doubt that cordless models offer increased portability and versatility. Michael DiMartino, Senior Vice President of Installations at Power Home Remodeling, notes, "When you’re on the move, having a cordless drill is essential. It eliminates finding outlets close to your work area and/or running extension cords, which also saves you from spending valuable time strategizing over the power sources needed for your tools.”
We purchased 33 cordless drills from a wide range of manufacturers and put the drills through their paces at The Lab in Des Moines, Iowa. We evaluated them all on power and accuracy when driving screws or drilling holes of various sizes in concrete and wood. Ranging in experience from occasional DIYers to professional woodworkers, we evaluated the drills on battery life, included accessories, ease of use, ergonomics, and overall value. After the lab tests, we then evaluated the long-term durability and performance of 10 of the top models by testing them in our homes for two months.
DeWalt Atomic 20V Max* Brushless Compact 1/2 in. Drill/Driver Kit
Very light and compact
Excellent power for its size
Long run time
No battery run-time gauge
Somewhat slow to fully charge battery
What's lightweight, compact in size, and yet full of enough power to handle just about any drilling or driving task you set it to? The DEWALT Atomic MAX DCD708C2, which has a 20-volt battery, 1/2-inch chuck, two-speed settings with a maximum of 1,650 rpm, and 340 unit watts out of torque (the amount of force with which the drill turns the bit). This compact drill measures a mere 6.3 inches in length and weighs only 2.4 pounds including the battery, but it's no weakling. In our tests, this drill/driver proved capable of drilling holes of any size, as well as sinking screws of any size, without problems. It was able to drive and seat the largest lag screws and finesse smaller screws without any issues. Large-diameter holes were easily drilled without bogging down or stalling.
Aside from being powerful, the Atomic MAX is comfortable to hold, with features that are easy to use. The keyless chuck was easily opened and closed and had no issues gripping the various-sized bits that were tested. The drill felt perfectly balanced in the hand, and trigger engagement was effortless. The clutch performed perfectly to limit the amount of torque needed during testing. We also appreciated the built-in work light that helped us see in dim spaces. The one feature this drill doesn't have is a fuel gauge to notify the user when the battery charge is getting low. However, the battery does have a long run time. In fact, we used the drill for 30 minutes straight without any loss of power.
Overall, we found this drill performed better than expected, and it was a great value for the price. This tool is highly versatile and compact, yet possesses enough power to tackle even the most significant tasks. It's an excellent option for anyone looking to take on DIY projects at home.
How It Performed Long-Term
After two months of testing, this drill continues to be a reliable and powerful tool. We've used the drill for various tasks around the house, such as hanging photos and drilling pilot holes for anchors and screws. However, while it's great for everyday projects, we do prefer a larger Dewalt drill when working with cement. We found that the 20V battery is still quite powerful though and performs better than the 12V Dewalt batteries we have previously utilized.
Price at time of publish: $189
Voltage: 20-volt | Chuck Size: 1/2-inch | Clutch Settings: 15 | Max RPM: 1,650 | Max Torque: 340 unit watts out | Drill Weight: 2.4 pounds
Skil Pwrcore 12 Brushless 12V 1/2 Inch Cordless Drill Driver Kit
Good performance with small bits
Built-in LED work light
Lagged or stalled with large bits
Only includes one battery
Although not as powerful as most of the other options on this list, the Skil PWR CORE is a great budget-friendly option for tackling small projects around the house or for occasional use. The 1/2-inch chuck has 18 clutch settings, two-speed settings with a maximum of 1,700 rpm, and up to 350-inch pounds of torque. We found that the drill had plenty of power when driving the smaller lag screws and drilling the smaller holes. However, it could not drill a 1 1/2-inch hole without constantly stalling. It drilled a 3/4-inch hole halfway through a 2x4 before stalling.
The drill comes with a fast charger that can reach 25 percent power in just five minutes or full power in 45 minutes. It has a built-in LED work light and comes with a belt clip, but unlike more expensive models, it only includes one battery and does not include a carrying bag or case. Still, we found this drill performed well, even drilling through concrete without too much trouble. In our tests, the chuck held all bits securely and did well with all smaller bits, but it had some lag with bits larger than 1 inch. While this 12-volt drill is not ideal for larger jobs, it's a very useful tool for the homeowner or renter who just needs a drill on occasion.
How It Performed Long-Term
During a recent hot tub repair, we found the LED light on our drill to be incredibly useful. It illuminated even the darkest areas, making our work much easier. The only downside was that the light is located at the base, which can be obstructive. However, overall, this drill is lighter and more compact than others we've used, yet still just as powerful.
Price at time of publish: $106
Voltage: 12-volt | Chuck Size: 1/2-inch | Clutch Settings: 18 | Max RPM: 1,700 | Max Torque: 350 inch-pounds | Drill Weight: Not provided
Bosch GSR18V-190B22 18-Volt Cordless Drill
Powerful and precise
Built-in LED light
Some lag on large bits
This 18-volt drill provides plenty of power and precision: The 1/2-inch chuck has 21 clutch settings and two-speed settings, with a maximum of 1,700 rpm and 480 inch-pounds of torque. That lets you drill accurately and drive without damaging the fasteners. While testing, we found that this drill had no problem drilling holes, other than with the large 1 1/2-inch spade bit. Though the hole was eventually drilled, the tool stalled a few times during the process. Driving screws was no problem, however, and our tester was able to drive screws flush without stripping or damaging the screw head.
The drill has a built-in LED light and a comfortable, ergonomic grip. We also found that while the drill is heavier than 12-volt models, the extra heft contributes to the superior torque the tool delivers. It's also fairly compact for an 18-volt model, measuring slightly less than 8 inches in length. The drill comes with two batteries, a charger, and a carrying bag. Overall, this is a great drill for larger tasks around the house, such as installing shelves, but it might be more than you need if you just want a drill for occasionally hanging pictures.
How It Performed Long-Term
We tested this drill extensively for the past two months on various materials, such as drywall and wood. Based on our findings, we can confidently say that it possesses ample torque to tackle any household project. Even after more than three uses and a full charge, the battery remains highly efficient. Just note that while the carrying case is strong and practical, it lacks a dedicated space to organize the drill bits neatly.
Price at time of publish: $139
Voltage: 18-volt | Chuck Size: 1/2-inch | Clutch Settings: 21 | Max RPM: 1,700 | Max Torque: 480 inch-pounds | Drill Weight: 2.8 pounds
Best for Concrete
Makita 18V LXT Lithium Ion Brushless Cordless 1/2" Driver Drill Kit
Includes auxiliary handle
Compact for tight spaces
Forward/reverse bar somewhat awkwardly placed
If you want a lot of power but don't need a hammer drill, then the Makita LXT XFD14T is the next best thing. This professional-level drill has an 18-volt battery, 1/2-inch chuck, two-speed settings with a maximum of 2,100 rpm, and a whopping maximum torque of 1,250 inch-pounds. After testing the drill, we found that it possesses a significant amount of power. The trigger is highly responsive and allows for easy speed variation within the high and low range. It had no issues drilling holes with a 1 1/2-inch spade bit, and even a 1/2-inch twist bit was able to drill through pine with ease.
At 7 inches in length, this is a fairly compact drill, making it easier to work in tight areas. It includes an auxiliary side handle for better control when working at high speeds or high torque. We were impressed with the power and ease of use this drill provides. Even without a hammer drill option, it was able to drill five 3/8-inch holes in concrete in a little over 20 seconds. We did note that the forward/reverse bar is a little awkwardly placed, though.
Still, this is a great drill for users who need a lot of power for large projects and want a professional-level tool for serious drilling and driving. It's overkill for small projects around the house, however. The drill has two batteries, a charger, an auxiliary handle, and a carry bag.
Price at time of publish: $320
Voltage: 18-volt | Chuck Size: 1/2-inch | Clutch Settings: 21 | Max RPM: 2,100 | Max Torque: 1,250 inch-pounds | Drill Weight: 5.7 pounds
Bosch PS31 12 Volt Max 3/8 in. Cordless Drill/Driver Kit
Long run time
Some stalling with large bits
If you want a cordless drill that packs as much power as many much larger drills, yet is still small enough to tote around your property easily, check out the Bosch PS31-2A. Although it's a 12-volt model, it has plenty of speed, with a maximum of 1,300 rpm, and with 265 inch-pounds of torque, it also has plenty of power. In our tests, this drill drove screws easily, and the clutch was sensitive to seating screws at the right depth. Impressive for a 12-volt drill.
There are features galore on this compact Bosch drill, including a 21-stage clutch, variable speed trigger, 3/8-inch chuck, soft-grip handle, integrated LED work light, and a side-mounted battery gauge that helps users figure out how much longer they can work before it’s time for a recharge. The drill kit includes two batteries and a soft-sided carrying case. The Bosch battery has an exceptional run time, often outperforming even much larger 18-volt drills.
This is an excellent tool for general household and garage/workshop use and is capable of drilling holes and driving screws with few limitations. It delivers a bigger performance than its compact size might lead you to believe.
Price at time of publish: $139
Voltage: 12-volt | Chuck Size: 3/8-inch | Clutch Settings: 21 | Max RPM: 1,300 | Max Torque: 265 inch-pounds | Drill Weight: 1.8 pounds
DEWALT Xtreme DCD701F2 12-Volt Cordless Drill
Excellent power for the size
Clutch is easy to adjust
Comfortable grip handle
Speed control is a bit stiff to adjust
Some lag with large bits
While a 12-volt drill isn't the most powerful option, it's generally more than adequate for the types of projects tackled by the average DIY'er or handyperson. The DEWALT Xtreme DCD701F2 is a compact drill, but it still provides big performance. Its 3/8-inch ratcheting clutch has two speeds—the low speed for higher torque and the high speed for less torque—and 15 settings. The brushless motor provides a top speed of 1,500 rpm. In our tests, the drill performed very well at lower speeds, and it had plenty of torque for harder tasks. We were especially impressed at how easily the drill drove holes in concrete without a hammer drill function.
The Xtreme is just under 6 inches in length, making it ideal for working in tight spots or where precision really counts. It's well-balanced and has a comfortable grip, a feature we appreciated during testing. There's also an integrated LED work light, a belt clip to keep the tool close at hand, and a fuel gauge to let you know how much battery charge remains. The kit includes the drill, two batteries, a charger, and a nice bag to carry it all in.
For a 12-volt drill, this tool has lots of power for the size and can run a 3/4-inch spade bit clear through a 2x4 without stalling. For an around-the-house drill, this is perfect for most tasks.
How It Performed Long-Term
Although we mainly use it for driving, we have also been able to make holes for hanging pictures. We only had to recharge the battery once, which was a precautionary measure. Nonetheless, having a backup battery in our handy carrying case has given us peace of mind. We still admire the drill's lightweight construction, which enables us to use it in tight spaces, and the LED light, which illuminates dimly lit areas for us.
Price at time of publish: $110
Voltage: 12-volt | Chuck Size: 3/8-inch | Clutch Settings: 15 | Max RPM: 1,500 | Max Torque: Not stated | Drill Weight: 1.9 pounds (tool only)
Milwaukee M12 Fuel 3403-22 Drill/Driver Kit
Very powerful, with high torque and speed
Superior battery run time
Handle might be big for those with small hands
Speed selector a bit stiff
It might have a 12-volt battery, but our tester described the Milwaukee Fuel 3403-22 as "a beast in disguise." This compact drill is powerful. The 1/2-inch chuck provides a maximum of 400 inch-pounds of torque. There are 12 clutch settings and two speed settings, with a maximum speed of 1,550 rpm. Our impressed tester said, "This drill easily drills holes and drives screws with gusto. Its small size belies its power and performance. This might not be the best finesse drill, but it's a powerful one that handles all other tasks with ease." We noted that there were no issues in drilling holes until we reached 1-1/2-inch holes with a spade bit, when the drill began to lag slightly.
At only 5.95 inches in length, this is a compact drill that easily works in tight spaces. It has a LED worklight, a metal belt clip, and a fuel gauge that lets you know how much battery charge remains. This drill also has a remarkably long battery life. The kit includes the drill, a charger, a carry bag, and two batteries. One big advantage to this kit over some competitors is that you get one each 2.0 amp-hour and 4.0 amp-hour battery packs, the latter providing double the run time of the smaller one.
This is a professional-level tool that's built well and performs well. It might be overkill for a typical household drill, but has plenty of muscle for any big jobs that might arise.
How It Performed Long-Term
This drill continues to be a go-to for home DIY projects. We've had great success using it to hang various items over the last two months, including a wall mirror, a bathroom fan, new shades, a sofa bracket, and a bedframe. We found that the weight is manageable for prolonged periods when held above the head, but we wish it were even lighter. Additionally, the ergonomic grip handle prevented any cramping during use
Price at time of publish: $169
Voltage: 12-volt | Chuck Size: 1/2-inch | Clutch Settings: 12 | Max RPM: 1,550 | Max Torque: 400 inch-pounds | Drill Weight: 2.5 pounds
Best for Tight Spots
DeWalt Xtreme 12V Max* Brushless Cordless 5-in-1 Drill/Driver Kit
Four changeable chucks for various difficult spots
Bits stay secured
Lagged with large bits
If you often need to drill in spots that are tough to reach, tight in space, or oddly shaped, then you'll appreciate the DEWALT Xtreme 5-in-1, which comes with four attachments for different applications: a 1/4-inch right angle head, a 1/4-inch quick release for corner spots, a 1/4-inch quick-loading head, and a 3/8-inch ratcheting chuck for extra precision. This a great set of accessories for being able to drive and drill in odd spaces.
The drill runs off a 12-volt battery and has 15 clutch settings and two speed settings with a maximum of 1,500 rpm. In our tests, we found that this drill has great performance and could drill holes of any size with no problem until we tried the larger spade bits. Still, it was easy to drive screws, and the clutch enabled us to dial in the correct amount of torque needed for the task. Bits remained secure in the chuck without wobbling, and the drill was very comfortable to grip.
While it might not be the most powerful drill available, this is a great choice if you tend to work in tight spots, such as underneath cabinets, behind fixtures, or above your head. You'd have a hard time finding the various attachments separately. The kit also includes one battery, charger, and bag.
Price at time of publish: $189
Voltage: 12-volt | Chuck Size: 1/4-inch, 3/8-inch | Clutch Settings: 15 | Max RPM: 1,500 | Max Torque: Not stated | Drill Weight: 2.6 pounds
Best Hammer Drill
DEWALT XR DCD996P2 20-Volt Hammer Drill
Tremendous power in hammer mode
Variable speed can be set precisely
Long battery life
Might be more power than you need
Speed adjustment is stiff
A hammer drill adds a "hammering" motion while it drills, greatly increasing its power. This isn't the drill for hanging pictures or other light tasks; a hammer drill is best suited to construction or other heavy-duty projects. Note that you can also use the drill without switching on the hammer mode. The DEWALT XR DCD996P2 is a professional-level drill that runs on a 20-volt battery, has a 1/2-inch chuck, and has three-speed settings with a maximum of 2,250 rpm in hammer mode, or 2,000 rpm in drill mode. When used in hammer mode, it delivers up to 38,250 blows per minute. During testing, drove all the lag screws to full depth without any issues and split the board when the 5/8-inch lag bottomed out.
This sturdy drill has a heavy-duty brushless motor and XR Li-Ion batteries designed to provide longer life and run time than other drills. It has a three-mode LED work light with a spotlight function for working in dark areas. Its weight helps keep it steady in your hands, even when working with high torque. It was no problem to drill 1 1/2-inch holes through 2x material, and it drilled 3/8-inch holes in concrete without slowing down. At the end of our testing session, the 5 AH battery was still fully charged.
This is a professional model built for heavy-duty jobs. If you have a big DIY project, such as remodeling the kitchen, this would be the perfect drill to do a wide variety of drilling and driving work. But for small jobs and just around the house, it's probably more drill than you need. The drill comes with two batteries, a charger, an auxiliary side handle, and a carry case.
How It Performed Long-Term
We've put this drill through its paces, installing a new screened door and even snaking the dryer. It works well for drilling pilot holes in studs and driving wood screws but not so well for driving bolts. Despite this drawback, it routinely outperforms our expectations thanks to its intuitive design and lengthy battery life.
Price at time of publish: $369
Voltage: 20-volt | Chuck Size: 1/2-inch | Clutch Settings: 11 | Max RPM: 2,250 | Max Torque: Not stated | Drill Weight: Not listed
Milwaukee M18 Fuel 1/2-in. Hammer Drill/Driver Kit
Long battery life
Might be overkill for the average user
For the toughest jobs, you need an equally tough drill. And that's just what you get with the Milwaukee M18 FUEL 2904-22, which has both regular and hammer drill modes. This powerful drill runs off an 18-volt battery, has a 1/2-inch chuck, 16 clutch settings, two-speed settings with a top speed of 2,100 rpm, 1,400 inch-pounds of peak torque, and up to 33,000 blows per minute in hammer mode, giving this tool enough power to tackle just about anything. Nothing in our tests was too much for it to handle, including quickly drilling through the 2x4 with a 1 1/2-inch spade bit. The 5-amp-hour battery was still on full charge after all the testing was completed.
Despite its power, this is a fairly compact drill, measuring just a bit under 7 inches in length. That lets you work even in tight quarters. Plus, it has a variety of safety features important on the job site, including autostop control should the drill bit become caught. It has a LED work light and includes two batteries, a charger, an auxiliary side handle, and a case. We appreciated the drill's ergonomic grip, good balance, and easy-to-use controls but did notice that it's a fairly heavy drill.
If you are a serious DIYer or in the construction business, then this would be an excellent choice. It's a professional-level tool with a correspondingly premium price.
Price at time of publish: $299
Voltage: 18-volt | Chuck Size: 1/2-inch | Clutch Settings: 16 | Max RPM: 2,100 | Max Torque: 1,400 inch-pounds | Drill Weight: 4.91 pounds
Best for Serious DIYers
DEWALT MAX XR DCD800E2 20-Volt Drill/Driver Kit
Three-mode, three-position bright LED light
Might be more power than the average user needs
If you take DIY seriously, are taking on a large home project such as building a deck or remodeling, or do carpentry projects, then you need a drill that has enough power to match your needs. The DEWALT MAX XR DCD800E2 is more than up to the task, with a 20-volt battery, 1/2-inch chuck, 15 clutch settings, two-speed settings with a maximum of 2,000 rpm, and up to 600 foot-pounds of torque. It performed well during all of our testing. It didn't matter what kind of screw or drill bit we used, this drill drove them all. We even tried driving the 1/2-inch lag into the wood without first drilling a pilot hole, and nothing happened.
The brushless motor and powerful battery are designed for professional use, so you can be sure this drill will last you for years. We also appreciated the drill's three-position, three-mode LED work light. Overall, we found all of the controls to be easy to use and very responsive, making this drill a pleasure to use. It comes with two batteries, a charger, a belt hook, and a carrying bag.
This is a premium drill with outstanding performance and power. It's ideal for serious DIYers, woodworkers, or people working in the trades.
How It Performed Long-Term
After using this drill constantly for two months, there is very little to dislike about it. It worked well for general-purpose drilling, but it really excelled when we used it to mix tile mortar. Most drills would struggle to complete the task, but this impact driver breezed through it. It's worth noting that we've only had to charge it once since we acquired it, thanks to the battery's impressive lifespan.
Price at time of publish: $289
Voltage: 20-volt | Chuck Size: 1/2-inch | Clutch Settings: 15 | Max RPM: 2,000 | Max Torque: 600 foot-pounds | Drill Weight: 2.82 pounds
Milwaukee M18 FUEL 2805-22 ½-Inch Cordless Drill
Includes auxiliary side handle
Built-in LED light
Might be more powerful than the average user needs
This powerful drill is designed for the professional or the serious DIYer who frequently takes on large or heavy-duty projects. It has an 18-volt battery, 1/2-inch chuck, two-speed settings with a maximum of 2,000 rpm, 14 clutch settings, and a maximum of 1,200 inch-pounds of torque. The drill worked well throughout the testing process. It was powerful enough to drill deep holes and drive massive lag screws. It drove straight through the 1 1/2-inch spade bit with no hiccups or hesitation, securing all the lags in place.
The brushless motor of the drill is designed to prevent overload while providing long battery life and superior power. At a little under 7 inches, it's reasonably compact in size, and it includes an auxiliary side handle for better control when precision counts. A built-in LED work light helps brighten dark work spaces. During testing, we found the drill very easy to use, other than a stiff speed-selector switch, and appreciated the easy-to-read battery life gauge. The drill includes two batteries, a charger, an auxiliary side handle, and a sturdy carrying case.
This is a great choice for someone who wants professional quality with batteries that last. It's a pro-level tool built for serious use and at a premium price.
Price at time of publish: $339
Voltage: 18-volt | Chuck Size: 1/2-inch | Clutch Settings: 14 | Max RPM: 2,000 | Max Torque: 1,200 inch-pounds | Drill Weight: 4.8 pounds
|Overall Rating||Performance||Power||Ease of Use||Features||Value|
DeWalt Atomic 20V Max* Drill/Driver
Skil Pwrcore 12-Volt Cordless Drill
Bosch 18-Volt Cordless Drill
Best for Concrete:
Makita 18-Volt Drill/Driver Kit
Bosch Cordless Drill/Driver Kit
DEWALT Xtreme 12-Volt Cordless Drill
Milwaukee M12 Fuel Drill/Driver Kit
Best for Tight Spots:
DeWalt 5-in-1 Cordless Drill
Best Hammer Drill:
DEWALT 20-Volt Hammer Drill
Milwaukee Hammer Drill/Driver Set
Best for Serious DIYers:
DEWALT 20-Volt Drill/Driver Kit
Milwaukee ½-Inch Cordless Drill
Our top scoring drill, the DEWALT Atomic MAX DCD708C2, had no problem with any test thrown its way, including drilling holes of various sizes into wood, drilling into concrete, and driving screws of different sizes, seating them fully without damaging or stripping the heads. However, if you need a drill with pro-level performance and power, then the Makita LXT XFD14T, which is about as heavy-duty as a cordless drill can be without being a hammer drill, is a great option.
Other Options We Tested
RIDGID 18V Cordless 1/2 in. Drill/Driver Kit: This drill was easy to use and well-balanced. However, there were a few instances where small drill bits would fall out. It took some finagling to get the power switch to work, and the battery compartment's release button is a bit wide for people with smaller hands to reach.
DEWALT 20-volt Max 1/2-in Brushless Cordless Drill: When drilling 1-1/2-inch holes at high speed, this model repeatedly stalled during testing, but it had no issues drilling 1-inch holes. In the low-speed setting, the torque is noticeably superior. Even though the built-in light between the trigger and clutch is useful for drilling in low light, the chuck's forward extension casts so much shadow on the drilling or driving location that the light is often ineffective.
How We Tested the Cordless Drills
We purchased and tested 33 drills at our testing lab in Des Moines, Iowa. Our team of testers, who ranged in experience from casual users to professional woodworkers, put the drills through their paces, evaluating every drill on numerous aspects of performance.
Our testers started by evaluating the overall weight, feel, and ergonomics of the drills before moving on to specific tests designed to measure the tools’ abilities at driving screws of various sizes into wood and concrete, as well as drilling both small and large holes into wood.
Each drill was challenged with a variety of scenarios to evaluate the tool’s torque. Torque is a measurement of the force with which the drill bit spins, and so the more torque, the more powerful the drill. Testers evaluated torque by using different bits to drill various sizes of pilot holes in wood, and then drove lag screws into the holes. They then backed all of the screws out. This was repeated on both high and low drill speeds.
The testers then challenged the tools’ abilities to drill holes in wood by using five different types of bits to drill holes on both low and high speeds. The testers noted the drill’s performance for each hole, including how easy it was to change the bits, adjust the settings, drill precisely, and pull the tool’s trigger.
Up next was a test of the drill’s ability to drive through concrete. For this test, a 3/8-inch masonry bit was installed. The drill was set to high speed and highest torque setting. Hammer drills were set into hammer mode. The testers then drilled holes into edging blocks, noting the effectiveness of the drill as well as its overall performance.
The final test of performance was drill driving ability. Various bits, speed settings, and clutch settings were used to drive screws of different sizes into wood. Every drill was evaluated for its performance in carrying out these tasks, with testers observing how effectively and easily the drill drove the screws.
Once performance testing was completed, the testers evaluated the drill batteries for run life, ease of installation and removal, any special features on the chargers, and overall battery performance. They then loaded the drill and its components into the carrying bag, if one was included, and observed how well everything fit, as well as the overall weight of the loaded bag. Finally, they took all of these results in mind and rated each drill on its overall value. After concluding our lab testing, we put the top 10 cordless drills to the test in various homes across the country to assess their long-term performance.
What to Look for in a Cordless Drill
Most cordless drills today use lithium-ion cells that are lighter than older nickel cadmium batteries and hold a charge longer, cutting down on annoying pauses to recharge your drill. Most higher-end drills include two batteries, so one can be charging while the other is in use.
The heaviest-duty cordless drills today have either 18-volt or 20-volt batteries, which provide enough oomph to drill through even the hardest materials. Our top pick, the DEWALT Atomic MAX DCD708C2, has a 20-volt battery for the utmost in power. However, that extra power means extra weight, which can be tough on your hands, wrists, and arms. If you’re only planning on using your drill for simple tasks, such as screwing furniture together or hanging pictures, 12 volts or less are sufficient, and the drill will weigh less.
Michael DiMartino, Senior Vice President of Installations at Power Home Remodeling, recommends, “For most DIYers doing light tasks, I recommend going with lighter-duty drills—around 12 volts—because the batteries are much smaller and lighter, making them perfect for weekend projects. Plus, with the added cordless feature, tackling projects becomes even more efficient. However, if the drill is needed for heavy-duty projects, such as driving large screws or making holes in concrete, then an 18-volt or even 20-volt tool is up to the challenge."
The drill’s chuck is the three-pronged clamp at the front of the drill that holds the bits in place. As a general rule, the more powerful the drill, the larger the chuck. You’ll typically find that the heaviest-duty drills have a 1/2-inch chuck, which is large enough to accept the big bits used for drilling into metal or stone.
For most DIYers, however, a drill with a 3/8-inch chuck is sufficient. The Bosch PS31-2A is one such drill, with enough power and versatility for most DIY projects. A 3/8-inch chuck is large enough to hold good-sized bits, but not so large that the drill is unwieldy. Drills intended for only lightweight jobs often have 1/4-inch chucks.
Most cordless drills today have keyless chucks, meaning you can change bits without needing a “key” or extra tool; just a twist of your hand will release or tighten the bit.
The drill’s clutch sets the amount of torque, which is a measure of the power with which the bit spins. Lower-end or lightweight cordless drills often have just one or two clutch settings, but higher-end or powerful drills typically have 14 to 20 settings, letting you fine-tune the amount of torque while you work. The very powerful Makita LXT XFD14T has an impressive 21 clutch settings, making it an ideal tool for drilling into various hard materials such as stone or metal or into wood and other softer materials.
Are cordless drills the same as electric screwdrivers?
Although they look quite similar and have overlapping functions, a cordless drill is not the same thing as an electric screwdriver. Electric screwdrivers have only two functions: drive screws in or loosen them so you can pull them back out again. Typically, you cannot adjust speed or torque on an electric screwdriver.
Cordless drills, on the other hand, have numerous uses, depending on the bit that’s attached. You can use your drill to drive or loosen screws, and also use it to drill holes, break up grout, stir paint, and grind or sand surfaces.
How long do cordless drills run on a fully charged battery?
Most cordless drills today run on lithium-ion batteries. As a general rule, you can expect a lifespan of roughly 500 charges from these batteries before you’ll need a replacement. As for run-time on an individual charge, that depends on several factors, including the age of the battery, the speed and torque setting of the drill while you work, and the hardness of the material you are drilling into. But as a very rough guideline, battery charge on a cordless drill lasts anywhere between 20 minutes and two hours, and it will take anywhere between 15 minutes and five hours to recharge the battery, depending on brand and battery age, although most are in the center or toward the lower end of that range.
What is a brushless cordless drill?
When shopping for a cordless drill, you’ll see some models boasting of a “brushless motor.” While the differences between the workings of brushless and brushed motors are rather technical, the most important differences as far as the typical DIYer is concerned is that brushless motors don’t generate friction or heat during use, last longer than brushed motors, require little maintenance, and perform better and more smoothly. While you’ll usually pay a little more for a tool with a brushless motor, it can be well worth the money if you use the tool frequently or desire the best performance.
Can a cordless drill go through concrete?
Yes, the most powerful drills can plow through concrete or stone. A drill with a hammer function is especially suited to these hard materials. Note that If you’re planning to drill through concrete, you will need to use a masonry bit, not a drill bit designed for making holes in wood.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article is edited and updated by Michelle Ullman, the tool expert for The Spruce. She has extensive experience not only in writing about all things related to the home, but also in carrying out various DIY projects, including landscaping, painting, flooring, wallpapering, furniture makeovers, and simple repairs.
For this roundup, she received extensive input from The Spruce's team of product testers, who carried out multiple tests of each drill's performance at various tasks, including drilling into wood and concrete. She also received advice and suggestions from Michael DiMartino, Senior Vice President of Installations at Power Home Remodeling.
This roundup was updated by Daniela Galvez, a Senior Commerce Editor for The Spruce specializing in home improvement, gardening, and lifestyle. For this roundup, she carefully examined our long-term testing findings and revised the product list to include a comprehensive evaluation of the user experience with each drill.
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Here at The Spruce, we want to ensure that we fully stand behind every product we recommend and that when we say something is the best, we mean it. You might have noticed The Spruce Approved badge next to the products on this list. Every product with this badge has been rigorously tested in person and carefully selected by our expert team of lab testers and editors. In most cases, we buy all of these products ourselves, though occasionally, we get samples provided to us directly by companies. No matter how we procure products, they all go through the same tests and must meet the same strict criteria to make the best-of cut.