Cordless drills are an essential tool in every household, every construction job and every woodworking related business. Not to long ago cordless drills were without strength and with batteries which needed to be recharged every 15 minutes, but now cordless drills have the same capabilities as corded drills and batteries can last for hours without recharging. With that being said, it is obvious that cordless drill is a tool of choice nowadays and that corded drills are slowly becoming a relict in every workshop. We can all agree that cordless drill is a necessity but the problem emerges when you see hundreds of models from hundreds brands in your local hardware store or online shop. More money in most cases means more quality but don’t spend to much money without knowing what you want, what you need and most importantly, what is the meaning of all features on cordless drills. People often buy on discounts and they often buy “no name” products of unknown origin and expect to use this “tool” for household repairs or hobbies, but the truth is that you can’t buy tools unprepared. That is why we made this article in which we will explain everything that you need to know when buying a cordless drill.
BRAND AND PURPOSE
Don’t be surprised, brand is the most important thing. There are hundreds of cheap cordless drills on the market with funny names, false written features and unknown origin. Don’t be cheap, you can’t buy good cordless drill for 20$ and your drill must be from a respected manufacturer with a dealership and service station near your place of residence. The brands you can’t go wrong with are Makita, Bosch, DeWalt, Hitachi, Milwaukee, Black&Decker, Metabo, Porter, Rockwell, Ryobi, Craftsman, Panasonic and Skil. Maybe there are few more quality brands other than aformentioned ones but we don’t know anything about them and therefore we can’t recommend it to anyone.
The second thing when buying a cordless drill is the purpose. Ask yourself do you need the tool for a few hours a month or for 10 hours a day, and that will be your main parameter when buying your cordless drill. Almost every manufacturer has a hobby line and a professional line of tools. Hobby line is for occasional use in the house and professional line is for contractors and workshops. We don’t have to emphasize that hobby line tools are much cheaper than professional line of tools. For instance green Bosch tools are hobby tools and they are much cheaper than blue Bosch tools for professional use.
TYPE OF DRILL
The next thing is to ask yourself what will be the span of work for your drill. There are four types of cordless drills and they have different capabilities and different prices. For instance, if you need only cordless screwdriver don’t waste your money on cordless hammer drill. Hereafter we will explain each type of cordless drills.
This is primary an automated screwdriver even though it falls under the category of cordless drills. Those type of drills have very little power in the drill category and you can’t drill almost anything with them. This type is primary for assembling furniture and small things around the house. Cordless screwdrivers are low voltage tools and they typically range from 2,4 to 10,8 volts.
Basic cordless drills
This is a tool of choice for a household or a weekend warrior because it provides far more power than cordless screwdrivers. This type of cordless drills features an adjustable clutch to maximize the drills spinning power and an adjustable chuck so it can accommodate both drill bits and individual screwdriver bits. Basic cordless drills are versatile tools that are capable of drilling holes in wood or light metals as well as driving and removing screws. Voltage of basic cordless drills range from 9,6 to 18 volts.
Cordless impact drivers
The difference between basic cordless drills and cordless impact drivers is in the sensor that measures resistance and automatically increases the torque to prevent the bit from slipping out of the screw head. This features helps reduce the chances of stripping screws and ruining bits and also eliminates the need for a pilot hole. The main purpose of cordless impact driver is for large projects like house building, deck building etc. Voltage of impact drivers range from 14,4 to 20 volts.
Cordless hammer drills
If you want to drill through brick or concrete then you need a cordless hammer drill. This type of cordless drills features an adjustable clutch same as basic cordless drills but with final setting for hammer drill use only. When the clutch is set on that mode the drill punches in and out while simultaneously spinning. Remember to use special masonry drill bits when drilling through brick or concrete. Cordless hammer drills are heaviest of all cordless drills but they are also the most powerful of all cordless drills. The voltage of cordless hammer drills varies between 18 and 36 volts.
When you look at cordless drills in your local hardware store or in an online shop there are a lot of features with numbers that varies from model to model. If you don’t know the meaning of those features you can’t decide which is the best drill for you. We must warn you again not to trust the features on unknown brands because they are in most cases very far from real capabilities of those drills. The most common and the most important features that are stated on almost every model of cordless drills are: battery type, battery charger, battery voltage, torque, chuck size and accessories. Hereafter we will explain each of those features.
This is the first feature for describing almost every cordless drill on the market but don’t buy the drill with highest voltage just yet, it is not that simple. Higher voltage produces greater torque or power but that doesn’t mean much if you drain your battery in 10 minutes. To get the most out of your battery you must combine the voltage and strength of the battery. The strength of the battery is measured in amp-hours (Ah) and more amp-hours means that the battery will last longer. It is always better to have low voltage battery with higher amp-hour rating than a higher voltage battery with lower amp-hour rating.
There are three types of batteries for cordless drills on the market: nickel-cadmium (NiCd) batteries, nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries and lithium-ion (Li-Ion) batteries. All of these types come in various voltages and amperages and from that perspective there is not much difference between them. The main difference is in weight, NiCd batteries are heavy and considerably larger than NiMH and Li-Ion batteries. Also NiMH and Li-Ion batteries are better for enviroment because they can be recycled. By our opinion Li-Ion batteries are the best choice because they provide highest voltage and amperage for the same size as their counterparts and their weight is significantly lower. But if you don’t mind the weight and you don’t care about the enviroment so much, then the NiCd batteries are the cheapest choice.
Battery charger is also a thing to consider when choosing your cordless drill because it can also make a difference in the final price of the product. There are typically two types of chargers, rapid chargers and slow chargers. As their names suggests the difference is in the speed of recharging the battery. Rapid charger can fully recharge the battery in 15 minutes or less, while slow charger needs few hours to complete the job. Rapid charger is a better choice but it also cost significantly more than a slow charger, and if you have a spare battery then you really don’t need a rapid charger. You need to pay attention whether your charger has a smart function. The smart charges automatically turns itself off when charging is complete which saves electricity and prevents the battery from overcharging which can damage the battery.
There are typically two different-sized chucks, 1/2 inch and 3/8 inch. That number refers to the largest drill bit shank the chuck can accept. The 3/8 inch chucks will usually suffice for all your drilling around the house or on small and medium projects and there is no need for a bigger size chuck. Normally cordless drills with 1/2 inch chuck are more expensive than those with 3/8 chuck.
Torque is a measurement of drills power or technically that is the measurement of twisting force the drill applies when in use. Torque in most cases depends on the voltage but the torque can vary between models with the same voltage. This is because not all motors are made from same materials and with same quality of materials. Generally speaking, torque is the most important thing when we speak about drilling and always try to buy the drill with biggest torque. If the torque is too small the drill will struggle and eventually it will break down.
When we speak about accessories there is literally everything you can imagine to put on cordless drill. Ultimately you will end up using one or two of them and other accessories are just for decoration. Some of the most comon accessories are carrying case, auxiliary handle, built in LED lights, built in level, built in storage areas, magnetic trays, built in blowers, pressure sensitive triggers, single sleeve keyless chuck etc. Some of those accessories are neat and some of those are redundant, it is up to you to choose. We recommend auxiliary handle, especially if you buy a cordless hammer drill, and always a carrying case.
Now you know what to look for when buying a cordless drill and all of the above elements create a price of your cordless drill. If you want a simple cordless screwdriver then you can find a solid one for as low as 50$ but if you want the best cordless hammer drill out there, then it can cost up to 500$. As you can see, it all depends on what you want and need from your cordless drill. We hope that this cordless drill buying guide helped you to choose the cordless drill that suits your needs. If you don’t have the time to look and compare drills yourself and you need a drill which will cover all your basic needs than we recommend Makita XFD03 Drill/Driver, DeWALT DCD795D2 Compact Hammer Drill and Hitachi DS18DSAL Drill/Driver.
If you are fan of Bosch tools, and we are, and you don’t mind paying a little extra for high quality tool, then we advise you to check out our review of one of their best drill/drivers, the Bosch 26618-01 Drill/Driver.