Cordless Drill/Driver Buying Guide
Cordless drills/drivers should be included in any list of required do-it-yourself tools. The applications and uses are endless and they are extremely simple to use. If you’re going with the convenience of cordless you can use the tool to drill holes and easily change bits to drive screws with the added bonus of not having to look for outlets near your workspace.
We’ve written this handy buyers guide for choosing a drill/driver that works best for you. We’ll start with drill/driver features and then move into applications and cost.
Drill/drivers are setup as a pistol grip with the trigger activating the tool. These grips can vary in size, surface material and comfort. It’s important to get a good feel for the tool before purchasing it. Grab the drill and move your wrist around and even hold the tool above your head. Note how heavy it is and if it feels awkward to move in any direction.
The grip should also be secure and the surface should be of a non-slip material. DIY work leads to sweaty palms and you don’t want your drill slipping from your hand.
Also feel for the drill/driver directional button which should be near your thumb and easily depressed with one finger in each direction.
The clutch is the adjustable dial located at the end of your drill just before the area where your drill bit attaches which is the chuck. The clutch serves as a backstop that disengages when too much resistance is felt and gives you control so you don’t strip a screw or overdrive it once your screw is tight. The motor will also last longer with a properly adjusted clutch.
You may see clutch settings from 10-28. Usually the higher setting the better as it allows you to really fine tune the settings for drilling tiny screws to larger and heavier screws. Most clutches will also have a drill setting that will lock the bit into place and drive the motor at full power.
Today’s drills are variable speed and controlled by the force of your finger on the trigger. Cheaper drills might just run at two fixed speeds but the variable speeds are really what you should look for. Drills that function at an RPM of 1500 or more are great if you are going to be doing extensive drilling but for general household use and using the drill at as a screwdriver an acceptable range is 300-1200 rpm.
For 90% of household tasks a brand name 12-18 volt powered drill will do the job. The higher the voltage the more power the drill can generate but higher voltage typically means a heavier battery and motor.
The bigger consideration is the battery type.
We recommend choosing a drill/driver that runs on a lithium-ion battery. It’s been the next generation battery for some time now and the only thing keeping it from being the only battery of choice is the higher-price point. Cordless drills/drivers running on the older technology such as Ni-Cad can be found at almost a 1/3 the cost of a lithium-ion model but the advantages for going with lithium-ion powered tools outweigh the higher cost.
Lithium-ion batteries are lighter in weight, work well in cold, have increase lifecycles and charge faster than previous types of batteries.
Many brand name tools now come with LED lights built-into the drill which are handy for seeing what you are working on in low-light conditions. Bit holders, levels and battery indicator lights are also common and handy extra features to look for.
Before you even start shopping for your drill envision what you’ll be using it for and buy accordingly. If you think you’ll only be using it to hang screws in drywall you might want to look for a smaller powered screwdriver and if you think you’ll be going into brick or working on heavier projects you should go with a hammer drill or corded model.
But for most tasks the 12-18 volt models of today are up for it.
A recap of what to look for in a Cordless Drill
1. Grip: Comfort and feel
2. Forward/reverse switch: Should be easy to operate with your thumb and trigger finger.
3. Speed-range switch: High is for drilling; low is for driving screws. Look for the widest range between them.
4. Clutch: More settings give you greater control of the depth screws are driven.
5. Chuck: Make sure it’s keyless and only operates by hand turning. The chuck jaws should be at least 3/8 inches but larger drills can accommodate 1/2 inch bits.
6. Power: Stay in 12-18 volt range
7. Battery: Go with lithium-ion and get two so you’ll always have one ready
Where to Buy
You’ll find a ton of options at your big box retailers like Home Depot, Lowes and Sears. We suggest going in store to hold the tools and if you can find a better deal then go online later to purchase.
Our latest review and recommended purchase is the Craftsman C3 19.2V Cordless Drill.