Best Cordless Drills and Cordless Drill Buying Guide

So, it’s fall. The kids are in school, the leaves are changing colors and there’s a nip in the air. But before you can enjoy the sights and smells of fall, you’re gently reminded that there’s a bookcase that needs to be assembled and shelves that need to be made. But you need a cordless drill. Here are some helpful hints on what to look for when choosing a cordless drill.

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Cordless drills are one of the most useful tools, both for the professional and do-it-yourself homeowner. The market is full of types and sizes of drills, from handy pocket sized models, to heavy magnetic base models that clamp and drill through thick plating. They all share the same purpose however, to simply drill a hole where none exited before.

Common Types of Cordless Drills

Cordless screwdriver

The least powerful cordless drill is a cordless screwdriver. It runs at 2.4-10.8 volts. It should not be used for anything except driving screws into basic materials. Avoid very low voltage cordless screwdrivers. It is faster to screw by hand.

Basic cordless drill

The most common DIY cordless drill is the basic cordless drill. It runs at 9.6-18 volts. It can drill into wood, drywall or light metal. It can also drive and remove screws. It uses an adjustable clutch to switch from drill bits to screwdriver bits.

Cordless impact driver

This cordless drill is like a basic cordless drill with a torque upgrade. It runs at 14.4-20 volts. It does not need a pilot hole, so it is a good choice for decks and other large projects.

The drill will automatically increase the torque when it senses increased resistance. This keeps the bit from slipping out of the screw head and stripping the screw.

Cordless hammer drill

The most powerful cordless drill is a cordless hammer drill. It runs at 18-36 volts. Cordless hammer drills are heavier than the other types. It can do everything a cordless impact driver can do. It can also punch through brick and concrete.

The cordless hammer drill has an adjustable clutch with a special hammer setting where the drill bit punches in and out as it spins. Special drill bits are needed for the hammer setting. You will also need hearing protection.

Cordless Drills Important FAQs Answered

Read your owners manual thoroughly. This will clearly illustrate what your drills capabilities and limitations are.

  • How big a drill do you need?: Most cordless drills are available in 9.6 to 28 volts. The higher the volts, the bigger the drill. 14.4 to 18 volts are suitable for the do-it-yourselfer.
  • Weight of the drill: 9.6 volt drills weigh about 3.5 lbs as opposed to a 24 volt drill that could weigh 8-9 lbs. New lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries weigh less that the traditional Nickle-Cadium (Ni-Cd) batteries.
  • Ergonomics: At first, cordless drills had pistol grip handles, meaning the handle was behind the motor. Now, most cordless drills have T-shaped handles (Handle is midway along the drill). This allows for better balance and the weight of the battery is more evenly distributed. Along with the design of the handle, look for a cordless drill with a comfort insert. This will come in handy if the drill is used for a long period of time.
  • The clutch unit: The clutch tightens screws to a preset torque to prevent over-tightening or stripping. Most drills have 8-16 torque settings and the manual will advise which to use. Some drills also have a “drill-screw” setting. This setting allows the clutch to be ignored and full-torque is sent to the chuck.
  • Drill Speed: Inexpensive models will likely have just one speed: 300 RPM. More expensive models will have dual speeds: 300 RPM for screw driving and 800 RPM for drilling. There is usually a switch on top of the drill for selecting speed.
  • Variable Speed: Besides the dual speeds, most drills will also have variable speed built into the trigger mechanism. By adjusting finger pressure on the trigger you can control how fast or slow the drill turns allowing for greater control.
  • The chuck: Standard size is 3/8″ but larger models can have 1/2″ chuck for 1/2″ bits. Go for the 1/2″ bit if you think that you will use larger bits (ex. masonry bits). Keyless chucks are pretty much standard on all cordless drills.
  • Batteries: Most batteries are Nickle-Cadium (Ni-Cd). Ni-Cd batteries are very toxic because of the cadium. However, newer drills have NiMH (Nickle-Metal-Hydride) batteries. These batteries are smaller, last longer and hold their charges better but are only available in a few drills now. Also look for Lithium-ion batteries.
  • The Charger. The charger is almost always included with the drill. It usually takes 15 minutes to 3 hours to completely charge a battery (depends on type and quality of charger and battery). A fast charge is not always good because recharging generates heat which can shorten battery life. Be sure to follow directions for charging times and recycle when through.
  • Match drill to Task: No need to use a hammer drill for furniture assembly. Match the drill and bit for the task at hand. Most homeowners can get away with a good cordless drill with good clutch for $50-$100

Tips for Choosing the Right Cordless Drill for Your Needs.

Choosing the right kind of cordless drill, is really dependent upon your needs, and what it will be used for; crafts, home improvement projects, a little bit of everything, etc. You should also be aware that cheaper is not always better, as some less expensive cordless drills have less power and are not capable of performing the same actions. But, a cheaper cordless drill can be great for small projects; I have a battery operated drill that I paid $20 for at Target that I still use to hang pictures and other things.

You should however consider the drill’s size. Most cordless drills weigh less than 10 pounds, and usually less than nine pounds, but you should look for one that feels comfortable to you. I prefer a smaller weight because its easier to hold for longer periods of time, but you may prefer a heavier drill. You should also consider the type of voltage you need. A bigger drill with higher volts is best for people who need serious power, while a lighter weight drill is perfect for someone who needs help doing small projects around the house.

Since this is something you plan to use often, you need to find a cordless drill that fits your grip comfortable. Most of the battery operated, smaller drills are made of molded plastic, and require that you contort your body to use in certain situations. The larger cordless drills on the market today have an adjustable head with a central grip that can be more comfortable. Try a few different models to find one that feels the best in your hand.

You should also look for a cordless drill that includes rechargeable batteries, and the charger. Most cordless drills include the charger in the box, but you need to check the box to make sure before buying. It can save you the surprise at home, of discovering that you need to spend an additional $30+ for a charger and rechargeable batteries. There are still inexpensive models on the market that runs on C batteries, or even AA batteries. When using the charger, make sure that it includes a light or some way of telling you that the batteries are charged. I had an older model that was completely blank, and left it up to the user to decide when to take the batteries off the charger.

Using these tips you can ensure that you choose the right cordless drill for your needs.

Things to Avoid when Buying a Cordless Drill

If you’re in the market for a cordless drill, there are a few things to keep in mind. For example, you should avoid buying a cordless drill based on power alone. A good power range for DIY cordless drills is 10-18 volts, but it is more important to purchase a drill with features you want and will use.

If you do not already have protective eyewear, buy it at the same time you purchase your cordless drill. Always be sure to wear it when drilling.


Cordless Drill Batteries: What you need to know

The basic battery is the nickel-cadmium (NiCd) battery. It is also the cheapest battery. It is fine for cordless screwdrivers and occasional projects, but it will take hours to recharge.

Lithium (Li-ion) or nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries have higher power and longer run time than NiCd batteries. You should get lithium batteries if you do frequent DIY work with a cordless drill. They charge in 30 minutes or less. They also weigh less than NiCd batteris. Lithium batteries come in slim and fat sizes. The fat batteries cost more and last longer between charges.

You should never run a lithium battery down completely. You will not be able to recharge it.

How to use a Cordless Drill Safely

Safety is key when using a cordless drill, and most of the basic ways to use a drill safely is to use common sense. Use these tips to stay safe while using your cordless drill.

Always wear safety glasses when using the drill.

Do not wear loose clothing when using a cordless drill.


You may think that this rule doesn’t apply to you, and that you are aware of your surroundings enough that you would realize if your shirt was nearing the drill bit. The truth is that when most of us are working intently on a project, we are seldom aware of what is happening around us, and its easy for your sleeve or tie, to become caught in the rotating drill bit, especially if you lean forward for a closer look without thinking. You should however wear safety glasses or goggles to protect your eyes.


Do not use your cordless drill near water.

Though you are not using a direct electrical current like you would is using a drill that plugs into a socket, there is still a current running through the drill, which increases the risk of electrocution. You may also cause internal damage to the drill if water gets near the tool. Likewise you should avoid using your cordless drill near gas, or any explosive materials. Even a small static charge from using the drill can lead to a serious problem.


Pay attention.

You should also be careful to always pay attention when using a cordless drill, just as you should with any power tool. Never take your eyes off the drill when working on a project, even for a second to look up. Keep your attention focused solely on the project at hand. This also means that you should keep kids, pets, neighbors, and other distractions away from you while working with a cordless drill. Your pet may brush against you, or your spouse could tap you on the back, and startle you, causing you to drop the tool or ruin your project.


Use a Vice or a Clamp When Appropriate

Use a vice whenever the situation calls for one. Never hold onto one board while attempting to drill another board to the first. This is almost asking for an accident to happen. And use common sense when carrying the cordless drill from place to place, in other words, don’t keep your finger on the button when carrying it. If you trip, and the drill starts you could cause serious harm to yourself.


Careful placing on your work area

Set the drill down on it’s side on a flat surface when not it use. Falling drills can damage the drill, and more importantly could cause injury because they are typically heavy and the drill bits are sharp. Never lay your drill in the dirt.


Bits are hot after use!

The last tip for cordless drill safety is to avoid touching the drill bit right after using. The bit is hot enough that it can cause serious burns to your hand. Also metal that is drilled into and the shavings created by the bit will be hot from friction.

Never let children use a cordless drill without demonstrating for them and carefully supervising.

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