Portable and Powerful Drills!
A cordless drill for the home is a necessity, be it for assembling furniture, hanging fixtures or the myriad odd tasks that inevitably pop up around the house. But how to decide among all the options out there, with 12V Max, 18V and 20V Max systems, extra batteries, drill-drivers and more? Four Best’s research has found that many products on the market are overbuilt for typical home applications and that many extra features are simply not necessary.
- A great, lightweight unit that has more than enough power and comes with two batteries for larger DIY tasks. Don't be fooled by the "difference" between 18V and 20V Max batteries—our top pick offers a great mix of affordability and performance.
- Lightweight and powerful.
- Includes two batteries, allowing you to recharge one while you work with the other.
- The second cheapest two-battery system in our comparison.
- Includes carrying case.
- Consumers have reported issues with the motor after years of use.
- Only one screwdriver bit is included with the set—if you don't already have a set of drill and driver bits you will need to purchase one.
- This unit is sufficient for most home uses and comes with a set of drill bits and accessories to boot. If you only need a drill for simple jobs around the house, save your money and go with this option, our "budget" runner up.
- Able to handle most home tasks.
- Only model that comes with a set of drill bits and accessories included (there is also a less expensive option without accessories).
- Lowest price point at the time of our comparison.
- Only comes with one battery—while fine for most home tasks, a backup can be useful for larger DIY jobs.
- Carrying case not included.
- Only 750 rpm (compared to 1,300 for the Bosch and 1,500 for the Makita and DeWalt).
- Despite the 12V Max system, this unit is nearly as powerful as the Bosch and DeWalt yet the most lightweight and compact in our comparison. It's worth the extra money if you'll be working overhead or in tight spaces, making it our "tight locations" runner up.
- The lightest and most compact drill in our comparison at only 2.3 lbs.
- Great for overhead applications and in tight spaces.
- Comes with two batteries (recharge while you work).
- Hard carrying case included.
- The 12V Max system has less power and holds a charge for less time than its 18V and 20V Max competitors.
- The highest price point at the time of our comparison.
- Drill bits not included.
- Although made by a storied manufacturer, consumers have experienced problems with the unit's batteries losing the ability to hold a charge within what should be their normal operating life. For this reason, the DeWalt missed our top spots.
- A powerful drill that is more than capable of handling tasks around the home.
- Comes with a useful "contractor's bag" that is large enough to hold the drill, batteries, charger and a mid-size set of drill bits.
- Comes with two batteries.
- A quick search around the web shows that consumers have reported problems with the batteries quickly losing their ability to hold a charge.
- One of the pricier units in our comparison (although frequently on sale).
- Drill bits not included.
An Important Note On Batteries
12V Max, 18V and 20V Max: What's the Difference?
In General – When choosing between a 12V Max, 18V and 20V Max cordless drill, it is important to keep in mind that while the higher voltage models can almost always do the job of a 12V Max model, the reverse is rarely true. Specifically, cordless drills with 18V and 20V Max batteries generally have more power and will hold their charge for longer than those with 12V Max batteries.
Importantly, we feel the Makita is something of an exception to this general rule. Specifically, while its torque is not as powerful as the other drills in this comparison,* its maximum of 1,500 rpm is tied with the DeWalt. This likely due to the Makita's brushless motor, which will run cooler and longer (i.e. using less power) than a comparable bushed counterpart.
*We must guesstimate the torque figure for the DeWalt as the manufacturer does not provide figures in inch pounds but instead in unit watts out or UWO. This is a whole "nother" topic of conversation, although it is likely safe to say the DeWalt's torque measured in inch pounds is somewhere between that of the Black + Decker and Bosch (i.e. between 300 and 350 inch pounds).*
What About the "Max" Designation? – Our extensive research shows that 18V and 20V Max batteries have the same power output. The “Max” is simply a marketing gimmick that means the battery’s output can go as high as 20V (i.e. "Max") for a brief period of time, something that is also true with 18V batteries.
If this confusing, it might help to think of the difference as boiling down to what is being referenced—both 18V and 20V Max batteries have a nominal voltage of 18V and a maximum voltage of 20V. In short, some manufactures reference the nominal voltage for their batteries while others reference the maximum voltage. The same is true with a 12V Max system, which is really just a 10.8V system when measured using nominal voltage.
Some Useful Information...
Extras and Accessories
Extra Batteries – As indicated above, one major consideration when selecting your drill is the number of batteries you want to come with it. For light home use, one battery should be more than enough. For larger tasks or if you are interested in expanding your home tools arsenal to include impact drivers, saws and more, you will want more than one battery—this will give you the ability to work on a project while charging the other battery or even to use the extra battery for other devices in your expanding tool arsenal. Keep in mind that any additional tools you decide to purchase will need to be compatible with the same battery system!
Drill Bits and Accessories – You will need a set of drill bits and accessories (such as a screwdriver bit for driving screws) to get to work with your new drill. Among the options in today's comparison, only the Black + Decker comes with a set of bits and other accessories (the Bosch does come with a screwdriver bit, but this is an almost comical inclusion in an otherwise great package). Our favorite aftermarket set is actually two small sets: this one for drilling by DeWalt and this one for driving also by DeWalt.
Carrying Case – Having discussed extra batteries, drill bits and accessories, don't forget a place to put everything. While all of the options in today's comparison (with the exception of the Black + Decker) come with a carrying case sufficient to store the items included with your purchase, only the DeWalt comes with a case that is big enough to store a (small) set of bits and accessories. If you want a place to store all of your gear in one place we recommend models by Workpro.
At Four Best we try to be practical people (although we don't necessarily always listen to our own advice—we're only human after all). A mentioned above, a cordless drill for tasks around the house is likely one of those situations where less is more. Specifically, most home users overestimate the range of tasks they will use a drill for—that is, despite our grand DIY ambitions, we typically only use drills for simple tasks like assembling furniture and hanging fixtures. Four Best recommends being realistic about what you will use your drill for—this will enable you to tailor your purchase decision and maximize your hard earned cash.
And PSST, if you have a really big job sometimes it really is better to hire a professional. If you don't believe us, try to hang a door on your own . . . we did and it's IMPOSSIBLE!
Why Four Best?
We started Four Best on the premise that a great deal of the information required to properly evaluate a given product is already right in front of your (and our) eyes. In fact there is too much information! A crucial skill necessary to picking the best products is instead the ability to cull through the available information, focusing on what should really drive a purchase decision.
To make those crucial determinations as to what matters and what doesn’t, we begin by thinking through what really matters to us when we use a particular product. We then use the that type of product to further refine the features we care about and that we think you will care about too. Next we search the web, looking to manufacturer’s websites, product specifications, consumer reports, expert blogs, research reports and the like to obtain crucial insights and the facts.
Finally, we distill the results of our research and combine it with our own experiences as consumers, professionals, techies, mothers, fathers, hobbyists, designers, software engineers, attorneys (sorry) and more. Ultimately, this process results in the reviews we present to you. We hope you enjoy!
- Photo of woman with drill from iStock.
- Photo battery cell from iStock.
- Photo of drill accessories in case from iStock.
- Photo of man installing door from iStock.
- Photo of group jumping in office from iStock.
*Images have been cropped and/or resized.