Bits and Pieces: The 8 Best Cordless Drills

Aug 5, 2015

Category: Gear

A hammer, a roll of duct tape, a cordless drill, and a suitcase of Pabst is all that is required for most home repairs. Whether you’re hanging a picture frame, building a deck, or fixing your marriage, those tools will typically get the job done. While almost any hammer will do, duct tape is a dime a dozen, and PBR should already be in your fridge, it can be much harder to choose the right drill.

These might seem like they should be simple. If they turn, they should work, but that is not true. Some turn too fast, some are better for driving through metal while others have the light touch for drywall. Sometimes you need maximum torque to bolt your daughter’s chastity belt shut and other times you need just enough to power to put screws into that piece of abstract art from IKEA that claims to be a hutch, whatever a “hutch” is. No matter what your DIY needs, one of our 7 best cordless drills will give you the perfect power, torque, and battery life for your project.

Hitachi DS10DFL

Hitachi DS10DFL

Flyweight Belt Holder: Technically, this is a 10V, but you can redline it and get 12V without any difficulty. Hitachi created this tool to fulfill a very real need in the world of shrinking spaces and “less-is-more” ideologies. It offers a limited amount of power in a lightweight package that reduces user fatigue, particularly for jobs in tight quarters. It is just over 2 pounds so even if you are working at an odd angle or over your head, you won’t wear out quickly. Despite the small size it still offers 195-inch-pounds of torque and variable speeds. Since it uses 12V max charge batteries, the power life is long so you won’t ever get caught needing a charge while trapped in the air ducts during a heist again. [Purchase: $80]

Milwaukee M12 Cordless

Milwaukee M12 Cordless

Power in a Small Package: Ordinarily the scales shift toward power or toward portability, they rarely find a balance between the two. This little wonder kicks out a full 275 inch-pounds of torque which is only slightly less than you would get from a 14V. The streamlined handle doesn’t have the typical large footprint. That can be a blessing when you need to maximize your space, but it won’t sit upright for the grab-and-go design you will find with other options. The gearbox has 2 speeds with one offering between 0-400 for power and the other putting out 0-1,500 for fast and dirty work. The best part is the easily visible battery gauge so you know how far away you are from Miller Time. [Purchase: $129]

Makita LXFD01CW

Makita LXFD01CW

Mighty Mouse: From the moment you pick up a LXFD01CW, it will become clear that you are holding a work of art, not merely a piece of equipment. It is extremely light for an 18V, or for any cordless drill, since it is only a few ounces over 3 lbs. While many competitors are running toward brushless motors, Makita is using a four-pole that offers more punch in a smaller package. You can expect to get 480 inch-pounds of max torque or 290 pounds of PIT torque, giving the Makita sufficient twist-and-shout for most standard jobs while not quite enough for extremely heavy work, but unless you plan on boring through concrete, it will work fine. The battery and charger combo are one of the crowning glories of the Makita line. Somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes is all the time needed to get you back to work. The soft handle will help reduce fatigue over time and is very comfortable, though the overall small size of the drill coupled with its powerful motor can make continuous use tiring. [Purchase: $156]

Hitachi DS14DSFL

Hitachi DS14DSFL

Power Miser: The impressive aspect of the DS14 wasn’t the torque – though the 300 inch-pounds isn’t bad – but rather the battery. It uses a sustained output that means that throughout the entire battery cycle, you get consistent performance with none of the gradual reduction in power or sudden stops and starts as the life drains away. The battery is also a Li-Ion which is lighter than the NiHMs used in higher voltages by most other brands. It charges quickly to minimize down time and will give you a surprisingly long life. The clutch is a 22+1 stage adjustable with 22 drive settings so it can tackle projects ranging from basic home repairs to heavier professional use. [Purchase: $78]

Milwaukee 18V FUEL

Milwaukee 18V FUEL

Pro’s Choice: It is possible the FUEL is the best overall battery on the market, but don’t tell the others we said so. Naturally it is heavier than the lower voltages, but still very light for a 18V – only a hair over 4 lbs. – and still pushes out 725 inch-pounds of torque. The ergonomic design is comfortable for long periods of time and the usual cordless drill shimmy that makes your bones vibrate is greatly muted in the FUEL. The brushless motor will give you sustained output as you use it so your work is always consistent. The FUEL is certainly a cordless with serious stones. As with all professional grade tools, you’ll be paying slightly more. [Purchase: $88]

Craftsman C3 Compact

Craftsman C3 Compact

Most for the Money: Craftsman power tools no longer have the Shock and Awe appeal that they once did. Now they’re much more shock and awwww! Be that as it may, if you need more power but aren’t ready to spend your hard-earned dollars on a workhorse, the C3 is happy to oblige. You’ll get 340 inch-pounds of torque on this quaint little compact along with a quick 30-minute charge that will get you back in the trenches faster. It comes in at less than 4 lbs. so extended use is easy and the reasonable power output means average users won’t feel strained using it. Don’t think of it as a bad 19V, think of it as a really good 14V with the price tag to match. [Purchase: $78]

Ryobi ONE 18V

Ryobi ONE+ 18V

One to Grow On: The ONE+ is very good by itself, but it gets catapulted into the stratosphere when you see the line of ONE+ products that it is attached to. This is a gateway drug into the impressive world of ONE+ which is beloved by pros and are some of the easiest tools to use. If you are ready to get serious about power tools then this line will not disappoint. You’ll get 1,500 inch-pounds of torque and a 24 position clutch on this bad boy. The only drawback is the gearbox only gives you two speeds with a maximum RPM speed of 1,600. It can recharge in just 30 minutes, which is good because the impressive power sucks juice out of your batteries fast. [Purchase: $110]

DeWalt 20V MAX XR

DeWalt 20V MAX XR

The Grail: If you’ve ever been on a construction site, you’ve seen a few dozen of these laying around. There’s a reason for that. Though much of their lower-grade budget line leaves much to be desired, like a price tag that doesn’t make you ill, when you absolutely need the crème de la crème, you need the MAX XR. Just don’t let the guys on the job hear you say “crème de la crème.” This can be used for projects around your house or taking care of that squeaky step, but that’s like using a nuclear bomb to pick your teeth. You’ll get 1,500 inch-pounds of torque along with a full 3 speed gearbox that can get up to 2,000 RPMs. Despite the impressive power, it has one of the longest run times of any drill on the market. It’s costly but brings that special DeWalt shine to any project. [Purchase: $150]

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