Best Cordless Drills of 2020

When completing jobs using a drill, you probably want the convenience and portability a cordless drill provides. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best cordless drill for your home repair needs.

Drilling Success: Finding the Best Cordless Drill

Imagine you've been tasked with repairing a fence on the far side of your yard. You probably don't feel like wrestling a 50-foot extension cord to get your drill out there, and you certainly don't want to drag your tools out there only to discover that your extension cord is three feet too short.

At times like these, a cordless drill comes in handy. The portability and versatility a cordless drill offers can increase your efficiency and free up the time you might otherwise spend gritting your teeth and tripping over an unnecessary extension cord.

To find the best cordless drill for your needs, you must first understand the many features this handy tool offers. That's where we can help. At BestReviews, we perform hours of product research in order to provide you with accurate product information and advice. Our goal is to give readers the facts they need to make smart buying decisions. To that end, we never accept product samples from manufacturers. This ensures that our top product picks are free from bias.

If you're ready to buy a cordless drill, we invite you to check out our top three choices in the above product matrix. If you'd like to learn more about how cordless drills work and what you can get for your money, please continue reading this guide.

Most cordless drills ship with a battery and charger.

How a Cordless Drill Works

A cordless drill runs on battery power instead of electricity. The batteries for these drills are rechargeable, so you can reuse them multiple times.

Cordless drill batteries provide approximately one to two hours of service before they need to be recharged. So, if you still need to repair that backyard fence, you can head outside without a cord—just you, your cordless drill, and any other carpentry supplies you might need.

In all other ways, a cordless drill works just like a corded power drill. You insert a drill bit or screw bit into the chuck, tighten the chuck, and press the drill's trigger. The drill motor spins the chuck, sending power, speed, and torque to the bit.

Cordless drills do not take alkaline batteries. Rather, they take rechargeable batteries—either the Li-ion or NiCd variety.

Picking the Right Cordless Drill/Battery Combination

Cordless drills are powered by a few different types of batteries. Use the information below to determine what kind of drill/battery combination you'd prefer.

Cordless Drill Battery Types
There are two standard battery types for cordless drills.

Nickel-cadmium (NiCd) batteries: If you've used a cordless drill in the past, you may already own a NiCd battery. This type of battery uses nickel hydroxide in the positive electrode and cadmium in the negative electrode. Newer cordless drills rarely use NiCd batteries, as they don't work as efficiently as lithium-ion batteries.
Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries: The most popular type of rechargeable battery for cordless drills features lithium-ion chemistry. The battery uses a chemical to create the charge. Li-ion batteries use either lithium iron phosphate or lithium cobalt oxide to supply free-flowing ions. These ions travel from the positive electrode to the negative electrode to provide electrical power.

Li-ion batteries weigh less than equivalent NiCd batteries. This is an important feature to consider when choosing a cordless drill. If you'll be carrying the drill extensively, you might prefer the lighter weight of a Li-ion battery.

Cordless Drill Battery Voltages

A battery with higher voltage generates more power. And whether you're driving screws or drilling holes, more power is better.

Since having more voltage than you need for a particular job doesn't cause any problems, we suggest you buy a cordless drill with a battery voltage as high as your budget can afford.

Rechargeable batteries for power tools are offered in several different voltage capacities. Below, we focus on the three most common voltages found in batteries for cordless drills.

9.6 volts: 9.6-volt batteries were commonly seen in cordless drills several years ago, but they're not so common today. You might save a little bit of money by purchasing a cordless drill with a 9.6-volt battery. However, this voltage capacity won't consistently deliver the power most people need from their drill.
14.4 volts: A drill that's a few years old may contain a 14.4-volt battery. Today's lower-end cordless drills may also contain 14.4-volt batteries. This level of voltage provides just enough power for basic tasks. But if you were to need extra power for a big job, 14.4 volts would likely deliver unsatisfactory results.
18 or 20 volts: Rechargeable batteries with 18 or 20 volts are commonly seen in today's cordless drills. And for nearly all residential jobs, 18 to 20 volts work perfectly.

When you're ready to buy a second battery for your cordless drill, be sure to read the drill instructions and buy a compatible spare. The brand of battery you buy must match the brand of your drill.

As an added benefit, batteries from one particular manufacturer often fit other cordless tools from that same manufacturer. For example, the spare battery you buy for your cordless drill should also fit a powered handsaw from the same manufacturer.

The battery used with a cordless drill often weighs more than the drill itself.

Parts of a Cordless Drill

Drill design doesn't differ much from model to model, but there are some variations that could influence your purchasing decision.

Battery compartment: The battery pops into the handle of the drill and extends off the bottom of it. This configuration keeps the weight of the battery below your hand, improving balance. The battery only fits into the handle one way; it's impossible to insert it incorrectly. However, you must have a battery that's compatible with your drill.
Chuck: The drill chuck is the adjustable hole at the end of the drill barrel that holds the drill bit or screw bit. After inserting the bit into the chuck, you tighten the chuck to hold the bit in place. Newer drills feature a dial that you can spin to loosen or tighten the chuck. Older drills may require a key to tighten the chuck.
Handle: Drills come with two different types of handles: the "T" design in which the handle connects to the drill barrel and the "pistol" design in which the handle connects to the back of the barrel. The "T" configuration is a newer design. With the weight of the barrel distributed on either side of the handle, it's quite comfortable to use. The pistol design isn't so new; you're more likely to see that configuration on older drills.
Speed setting: Most cordless drills offer two or three speed settings. Using a toggle switch, you can adjust the RPM of the drill to the optimum speed for the job at hand.
Toggle switch: The toggle switch determines whether the drill turns in a clockwise or counterclockwise motion. (These directional choices are also known as "forward" and "reverse.") On most drills, the toggle switch is conveniently located above the trigger.
Torque setting: A drill's torque range is represented by numbers on a dial; the most common range is 1 to 24. You can change the torque setting on a cordless drill by adjusting its dial. A larger number offers greater torque.
Trigger: The trigger is located near the top of the handle. Pressing it with your index finger starts the drill chuck spinning. Releasing the trigger prompts the drill chuck to stop.


Drill Bits Are Not Required to Match the Brand of Your Cordless Drill

You don't have to match the drill bit brand to the brand of your cordless drill. Any brand of drill bit—as long as it fits in the chuck—can be used with any cordless drill.

Understanding Drill Torque

The amount of turning force a drill generates is its torque. A drill's maximum torque level reflects the highest degree of difficulty it can handle. If you're planning to drill through tough hardwood, you may need a drill with higher maximum torque level.

Torque is measured in inch-pounds. The greater the figure, the higher the torque. Maximum torque should be listed in the specs for each drill you're considering.

Most drills offer a range of torque settings. To adjust the torque on a cordless drill, you twist a ring or adjust a dial on the barrel. Notably, the higher the torque setting, the faster the drill will exhaust the battery.

Cordless drills for residential use don't offer torque settings as high as those aimed at commercial use.

A cordless drill made for home use typically offers up to 350 inch-pounds of torque. Commercial-grade drills provide even more torque.

Understanding Drill Speed

Whereas torque refers to a drill's force and power, speed simply refers to how fast the drill's motor spins the drill or screw bit in the chuck.

Drill speed is measured in revolutions per minute (RPM). It refers specifically to the spinning of the chuck, regardless of the type of bit attached.

When using your cordless drill, a slower speed is appropriate for driving screws. A higher speed works better for drilling into wood with a drill bit.

Each drill has a maximum speed listed in its specifications. Some models list two or even three different RPM setting ranges. When multiple speeds are listed, the user is able to adjust the speed setting via a mechanism somewhere on the drill body.

Drill speed is measured in revolutions per minute of the chuck. A drill made for use at home could have a speed as high as 1,500 RPM.

Cordless Drill FAQ

Q. Does a corded drill offer any advantages over a cordless drill?
A. Some corded drills offer more power than the typical cordless drill. You'll also find corded drills in a larger variety of sizes than cordless models.

Perhaps the best aspect of a corded drill, however, is the fact that you never have to worry about running out of battery power in the middle of a job—if you have a long enough extension cord, that is.

Q. Should I pick a cordless drill that comes with a tool kit?
A. Manufacturers offer cordless drills both as standalone tools and in a kit of cordless tools.

If you purchase a kit, you can then use the same set of rechargeable batteries with all cordless tools in the kit. If a kit contains tools you don't want or need, however, it could be a waste of money.

Q. What does the size of the chuck on a cordless drill signify?
A. Cordless drills offer different chuck sizes. The size of the drill's chuck signifies the maximum bit diameter that can fit inside the chuck.

In the realm of residential cordless drills, the two most common drill chuck sizes are 1/2 inch and 3/8 inch. Most cordless drills can handle the drill bits you buy at a hardware store.

Q. Why do drills have different weights?
A. Cordless drills with greater power and torque typically weigh more than their competitors. Cordless drills with a larger battery capacity tend to weigh more too.

With the battery attached, a cordless drill can weigh anywhere from 3 to 10 pounds.

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