How to Choose the Best Cordless Drill for DIY Home Projects - Buying Tips

Best small and cordless drills buying guide and what to look for. Explore the main features and accessories of the power drills, with benefits. See what battery-operated models from DeWalt, Bosch, Ryobi, Makita, and others are top sellers? See what battery size to select: 18 V, 20 V, or 24 Volts, and is there enough power for your home project? Understand the differences between corded and cordless drills, including brushless and brushed types.

Makita cordless drill (amazon.com)

Whether you like to fix things or not, a cordless drill is a must-have tool in your home toolbox. Sooner or later, you will need to hang a picture, mirror, put a shelf on the wall, install or replace a light fixture, loosen the screw, or fix the broken table. That is why you need a handy power tool that you can easily use, carry, and store.

In this article

  1. Cordless vs. corded drills
  2. What are cordless drills and where to use
  3. Drill types
  4. What to look for in cordless drills
  5. Brushed vs. brushless cordless drill
  6. Top sellers
  7. Popular brands

Cordless vs. corded drills

The two main types of power drills are: corded and cordless.

Corded drills are connected to the electrical outlet, and they depend on the electricity, where your range of motion depends on the cord length (or the extension cord).

Cordless use rechargeable batteries and are portable – easy to move around and store.

Corded can be used indefinitely while cordless as long as the battery lasts.

Corded drills are recommended for heavy-duty jobs where more power, speed, and stable drilling is needed. The main advantage is that they won't give up on you in the middle of the job. If you are using a cordless drill for large jobs, it is recommended to have a spare battery.

In corded models, the power is measured in amps (usually 3-7 amps), while with cordless, the power is measure in volts (generally between 7.2V and 36V).

What are cordless drills and where to use

Cordless drills are portable tools that operate using rechargeable batteries. The primary purpose of drills is to drill a hole or drive a screw. Based on the type of a drill or driver and the power, these power tools can drill a hole in the wood, drywall, plastic, metal, or even concrete, and more.

They also use attachments (bits) for drilling, driving, or both.

Some cordless drills, such as budget-friendly models, are typically small, lightweight, have just enough power, and have simple features, making them ideal for smaller jobs around the house. Battery-operated drills that come with advanced features and accessories can cost much more but are much more powerful, multifunctional, more robust, and stronger, making them perfect for handymen, contractors, and professionals carpenters, and home remodelers.

When comparing to corded electric drills, the main advantage of the cordless type is the portability as they utilize batteries, making the tool very convenient to use, at home, cottage, outdoors, and in places where there is no electrical power available. When it comes to power, there are also cordless tools that are as strong as the corded ones.

Now, let's find out what to look for in portable and handheld drills?

    If you are in a hurry, check out these top 3 sellers:

Drill types

There are several types of cordless drills you can choose from depending on the application:

Simple drills make holes in different types of materials. Drill drivers are 2-in-1 tools, which bore holes and work as drivers, capable of loosening or tightening screws. Drills and drill drivers are the most popular for home use; you could drill wood, plastic, metal, or masonry. Both of them are the least powerful drills, often with a maximum voltage of 18 Volts (18V).

Combination or combi drills are equipped with one additional feature – hammer function, making a tool ideal when drilling through harder materials. Combi drills may be informally named as a 3-in-1 tool, which combines drill, driver, and rotary hammer drills.

SDS drills (SDS stands for Special Direct System) went a step further in complexity. There are three modes – drilling through light materials, drilling with hammer move in rotating motion for masonry and the hardest brick walls, plus no rotation mode that provides the chisel use. Chiseling can be handy for making channels for cables or breaking up materials.

Hammer drills or Percussion drills are similar to the SDSs, but it is not possible to eliminate rotating. Therefore, the chisel function is left out, and drill works only as a powerful tool for drilling in rocks, concrete, and masonry. SDS drills and hammer drills are designed for skilled hobbyists and professionals. They are bulkier and have an additional handle to be held with both hands.

You are going to choose the most appropriate cordless drill for your needs, but some relevant characteristics have to be checked in all types.

Did you know that the portable electric drill was invented by Black + Decker more than 100 years ago, while the first cordless power tool was unveiled by the same company in 1961 and was designed for NASA. Check out these cordless drills as the most advanced power tools from Black + Decker.

What to look for in cordless drills

Black and Decker Cordless DrillBlack & Decker Drill

Voltage

Voltage number (battery voltage) means the available power of the cordless drills. More powerful drills also have a variety of functions; they are heavier and more expensive. Roughly speaking, 9V may be used for very light tasks only, 14-18V will be sufficient for slightly ambitious home repairs, and for extreme jobs, consider 20V or 24V. More power or volts one drill has, more strength is available, but such tools also come with a heavier battery.

Battery

The battery is the most important part of the cordless drill because a weak battery will decrease the drill power, and it won't be enough for the job. If you plan to use a drill frequently, buy a spare battery. Check the amp-hour (Ah) of the battery, which indicates its capacity, i.e., duration between charges.

Lithium-ion batteries are standard for modern electronics and tools and something you should look for, not NiMH. Most cordless drills come equipped with Li-Ion batteries because they are lightweight, powerful, and do not lose capacity over time.

Lithium-ion batteries can charge and discharge faster and hold a charge for a long time. Tools with NiMH batteries are cheaper to buy.

Torque settings

The torque or twisting force of the drill is measured in Newton-meters (Nm). You will need to choose a twisting force to suit your material and work phase, so check how many torque settings your model offers.

The torque selection (clutch) allows the user to prevent unwanted action such as damaging a screw head or driving it too deep into the material. Once correctly set, the clutch will stop drilling any further if there is too much resistance on the drill bit. Better models come with at least 24 settings.

Forward/reverse function

This feature helps you run the drill clockwise or counterclockwise or to screw or unscrew the bolt.

Speed

Speed is measured in revolutions per minute (RPM). Similar to the torque, it is better if it could be adjustable while working. Cheaper models come with one or two-speed options. If you need a drill, mostly for drilling holes, get a model with more speed options.

Handles

A T-handle or pistol type? Most modern cordless handles are equipped with a T-handle. A T-handle has better balance since most of the weight is between the motor and battery, and your hand is out of the way when working in tighter spaces.

The pistol type is better for heavy-duty jobs where more force on the bit is needed.

Other features to consider

A vibration dampener reduces vibration, making the tool more precise and durable.

Built-in laser level provides accuracy.

Built-in LED lights allow drilling in locations with low lights.

The chuck is used to lock the bit inside the tool and comes with the key or without. Keyless chucks are a better option for many as they provide fast bit change without the additional tool. Common chuck sizes are ¼", ½" and 3/8".

A depth gauge allows you to fix the depth of the hole.

Drills with hammer function have additional features – impact energy, blows per minute, safety clutch.

Finally, each job requires an appropriate drill bit. If you choose a brand name drill, it will be very easy to find a corresponding drill bit set among many on the market.

Brushed vs. brushless cordless drill?

The main difference between brushed and brushless cordless drills is that the brushless is more advanced and efficient. It uses magnets to generate power. Since there is no friction, the motor will produce less heat, so the drill will last longer and perform better. Brushless drills are lighter, more compact, generate less noise and vibration.

They can adjust their speed rate depending on the material you are drilling into - they use less energy, as they operate with less friction. As they operate with no brushes, no need to think about replacing them.

Brushed cordless drills use brushes made of carbon that deteriorate over time, leading to more maintenance and replacement when worn out. Brushed motors are cheaper.

Top sellers

Bosch Power Tools Drill Kit - PS31-2A - 12V

"This little drill is amazing! It's now my favorite tool."
(Dan P)

"Household warriors, this is the drill for you"
(William Sims) 

  • Lightweight design and easy carrying - 2 lbs 
  • Two speeds with 20+1 torque adjustment
  • LED Light for improved visibility
  • Variable speed
  • 12 volts Lithium ion batteries
  • Customer ratings: 4.8 out of 5

DEWALT 20V MAX XR

"Rugged, Powerful, Good Battery Life"
( D. Porter)

"wow!! impressive"
(Fer) 

  • Lightweight design - 10 lbs 
  • High efficiency brushless motor with three speeds 
  • Heavy-duty 1/2" ratcheting nitro-carburized metal chuck
  • 3-Mode LED light
  • 20 volts Lithium ion batteries
  • Customer ratings: 4.8 out of 5

Makita XFD12R 18V LXT

"Great drill surprisingly light weight but still powerful"
(Plidian)

"Rugged, fast, and smart. My favorite drill/driver for under $100"
( ShazaM) 

  • Lightweight design and easy carrying - 3.4 lbs 
  • Electronically-controlled brushless motor with two speeds 
  • Heavy-duty 1/2" ratcheting nitro-carburized metal chuck
  • 25 minutes to charge
  • 18 volts Lithium ion batteries
  • Customer ratings: 4.7 out of 5

Brands

The most popular and reliable brands of cordless drills are:

  • Bosch
  • Ryobi
  • DeWalt
  • Makita
  • Black & Decker
  • Milwaukee
  • Mac Allister
  • Hitachi

Conclusion

Cordless drills are becoming more popular today than ever. Thanks to its small and lightweight design, useful feature, high power, and versatility, they are favorite power tools among homeowners, DIY hobbyists, contractors, and professionals.

Handheld drills are portable, save time, easy to carry and store, and last long enough to finish your job, especially with a spare battery and fast charger. No need to worry about tangled and short extension cords, and is an electrical outlet nearby. You can efficiently perform drilling and driving tasks anywhere in and around the house, even when away.

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