We tested more than 50 tools to find the best cordless drill among dozens of brands. After comparing scores of models and doing countless cordless drill reviews, we’re ready to release our Pro recommendations. Regardless of whether you want the most power, the fastest drilling, or the very best value, we can help you understand what is the best cordless drill for your needs.
Plus, after running various torque and speed tests, as well as real-world applications, we know the best cordless drill driver may not be the same for everyone. Because of this, we break it all down for you and recommend models that lead in performance, features, ergonomics, and value. After all, the best cordless power drill for an electrician may be different than the model we recommend for serious DIYer.
Whether you are a professional handyman or simply enjoy doing DIY projects in the comfort of your own garage, a drill is something that you will need at some point in time. Drills are useful for mounting cupboards or TVs, installing doors, building bed frames, and many more tasks. The best cordless drills in 2021 give you an opportunity to cut holes in wood, walls, and metals regardless of where you are.
What is a cordless drill?
A cordless drill, if you haven’t already guessed, is just like your standard drill, but without the infuriating cables. Cordless drills don’t need to be tethered to your mains socket, which makes them even more versatile than their rudimentary predecessor. These drill batteries are sometimes supplied with an electrical charger that works in the same way as your phone or razor charger. Simply plug it into the wall and give your drill a few hours to recharge before use.
Why do I need a cordless drill?
As aforementioned, you need a cordless drill if you do any sort of manual labor, woodwork, or odd jobs around the house. These tools have two main functions. The most obvious one is their ability to put holes in tough surfaces such as wood and brick. They are also a great way to fix screws and fasteners onto a particular surface. In addition, you may also use your drill to assemble furniture. The most powerful cordless drills can help you with even the most arduous home improvement tasks.
How to Buy the Best Cordless Drill
To ensure you are buying the best cordless drill for your budget and purpose, you should pay attention to voltage, battery capacity and torque, as well as the various buying options available.
- Bare drills: this is the tool only, and does not include a battery or a charger (which is fine if you already own a compatible battery and charger from a tool from the same manufacturer).
- Base or standalone kits include the tool, a battery and a charger.
- Advanced kits can include interchangeable chucks, several batteries and a multitude of accessories.
- Batteries are available with various capacities, allowing you to use lighter, lower capacity (Ah) batteries when keeping the weight of the tool down is important, or heavier, higher capacity batteries when you want to achieve the maximum run-time between charges. Two or more batteries are ideal, so you can have one in use and one on charge at all times.
It can also be useful to compare cordless drills on their no load speed (the maximum speed it can reach when it’s not drilling hols or driving screws) — as once in use, the speed will depend on how demanding the task is.
How we picked
For a general around-the-house drill, we recommend a 12-volt brushless drill kit that comes with a pair of lithium-ion batteries. These drills offer the best combination of power, maneuverability, run time, and cost. They aren’t designed for all-day aggressive use, but they are more than capable for basic home maintenance and repair, and if needed they can sink a 3-inch screw on occasion. They’re still compact enough to take up hardly any space in a hall closet or even a kitchen junk drawer.
We’ve been testing drills since 2015, and we’ve come to the conclusion that the 12-volt drills from quality manufacturers all have more than enough power for standard household tasks. It’s not uncommon for one to be able to sink over 80 3-inch screws through solid wood on a single battery charge or to drill more than 20 1-inch holes through a 2-by-10. In our most recent, 2020 testing, most of the drills had similar performance numbers—similar enough that we wouldn’t choose one over another based on power. They were all within the margin of error.
We also tested a number of 18-volt drills. These offer more power but tend to be more expensive, and we don’t feel that added power is worth the heavier weight for simple around-the-house tasks. But these drills do have their place, which is why we have recommendations for both the larger and smaller classes of 18-volt drills below.
With the power question settled, we focused our attention on ergonomics. We wanted a drill that was small, comfortable to hold (for both large and small hands), relatively light, and nicely balanced. This is where the best drills really distinguished themselves. Some felt like boat anchors, while others seemed perfectly molded for our hands. Comfort makes a huge difference, especially when you’re reaching overhead with the tool for extended periods or doing a repetitive task like replacing deck boards or putting together a piece of knockdown furniture.
Compared with a traditional brushed motor, brushless motors allow for a smaller tool with better battery life and more power. Once an expensive outlier in the industry, brushless tools are now coming down in price, and there is no question that companies are trending toward brushless. We anticipate that major manufacturers will be making moves to discontinue their brushed lines in the future. Even brands traditionally associated with homeowner-grade tools, such as Ryobi and Skil, now offer brushless drills.
Most drills come with additional features like a belt clip and an LED light, but they’re not all the same. We wanted a belt clip that was wide and easy to use, and an LED that effectively lit up the workspace.
Brushless 12-volt drills from reputable manufacturers typically cost between roughly $120 and $160 (but are occasionally available for less). Given the benefits of brushless—most notably the reduced size and weight—we think this is an appropriate cost. Quality brushed drills, such as our runner-up, the Bosch PS31-2A, linger around the $100 to $120 mark. So there’s often an upcharge for brushless, but it’s not a huge one, especially when you consider the long lifespan of the tool.
Our Top Picks
The section above gives a comprehensive introduction to the key features found in all the best drills. Now we need to apply those factors to real-world choices. The following meet a wide variety of needs. They represent many of the top brands, known for their reliability and value. For quick reference, we have divided them into a number of different categories.
1. Bosch PS32-02
This 12-volt drill is one of only three models with a brushless motor in the general-use category. That means the Bosch PS32-02 can deliver a tad more power than if it used a traditional “brushed” motor. It also means it will run longer on a charge and probably have a longer life span.
The Bosch is highly rated for handling, too, because it weighs only 2 pounds, less than half the weight of a number of heavy-duty drills we tested. The slim pistol-grip profile makes it easy to wield but also prevents it from standing upright when not in use. The compact size lets you maneuver the drill into the most awkward of positions and accommodates a built-in LED light and bit storage.
2. DEWALT 18V XR BRUSHLESS COMPACT LITHIUM-ION COMBI DRILL
There’s a reason you see so many Dewalt tools on sites: they’re rock solid, reliable and cleverly designed, and this XR Brushless Compact is no exception.
It’s been built specifically for working in tight spaces, with a quick and simple bit change, a bright white LED so you can see what you’re putting holes into, a steel belt hook and magnetic bit storage to keep everything to hand. It’s built to survive the lumps and bumps of proper work, and its two-stage aluminium transmission is built to last.
There’s just one battery pack in this version, a 4.0Ah XR Li-ion battery, but what you lose in batteries compared to other Dewalt deals, you gain in functionality. The XR Brushless Compact has 14 torque settings and a powerful hammer function for tougher jobs.
Just beware: first gear is comparatively quick compared to many other drills so if you’re driving screws you’ll need to be that bit more careful.
3. Makita DHP458Z 18V Cordless Hammer Drill
The Makita DHP458Z hammer drill is a top end cordless drill that can be used for DIY tasks or home or on a busy building site.
It has a two-speed metal gearbox and a no load speed of 2000 RPM, which allows for drilling into almost all materials. And the hammer feature, at 30000 blows per minute, allows for the drilling of holes in masonry as well.
Plus, Makita’s XPT technology helps to prevent dust and moisture ingress, the single sleeveless chuck allows for easy bit installation, and there are LED lights to aid working in darker areas.
The battery isn’t included, but the tool is compatible with the vast range of Makita LXT batteries from 1.5Ah to 6Ah, so you can save money if you already own a Makita tool.
4. Ryobi 18V RID1801M ONE+ Cordless Drill
The powerful motor of this cordless impact driver from budget-brand Ryobi delivers 220Nm of torque making it a great solution for more demanding DIY tasks.
It offers variable speed settings (including reverse and break modes) giving you complete control at all times, and its three integrated LED lights light up your work space and eliminate shadows at any angle.
It also has a magnetic on-board bit storage which can be really convenient especially if you are working at height or in a confined space, and easy bit changes are achieved thanks to its 6.35mm keyless hex drive.
Sold as the bare tool, it is part of Ryobi’s ONE+ range, so again, if you already own other Ryobi tools and already have a 1.5Ah (or above) battery — this is a great buy. If you don’t own other tools from the range, then starter kits including the tool, battery and charger are available.
5. Terratek 13 Piece 18V Cordless Drill Driver
If you’re looking for a cheap drill to throw into the toolbox and have on standby for a quick DIY project or your next flat-pack furniture assembly task, then this low-cost kit is worth a look. It comes with six drill bits, six screwdriver bits and a bit adaptor, so you’re ready to go right out of the box, and while the accessories aren’t as good as stand-alone kits or products, they’re good enough to tackle basic household needs and light repairs.
Of course, there are areas where it falls down next to the pricier models. It’s not powerful enough to do much work in metal or brickwork, and its speeds are more those of a decent electric screwdriver than those of a serious combi drill. Most importantly, the lithium-ion battery takes three to five hours to charge and with an 800mAh capacity isn’t going to last as long. Still, it’s lightweight, pretty versatile and hard to miss if left around the house. For this price, it’s hard to grumble.
Our in-depth investigation of technologies and specifications should have you feeling better equipped to choose the best power drill for your needs. That valuable information is underlined by examples of some of the top cordless drills currently available. Nevertheless, with so many options available, a few questions might remain. The following are answers to the most common.
What can a cordless drill be used for?
The primary use of a cordless drill is for drilling holes and driving screws. However, you can also get numerous attachments. There are stirrers for mixing paint and other liquids. You can also fit a sanding drum, a wire brush for rust removal, or a polishing bonnet. We have produced a handy guide to cordless drill uses here.
Are cordless drills less powerful?
Corded models were once the more powerful tools. But today, equally powerful cordless models rival them. However, cordless models lose some of their power over the course of the charge while corded models perform at a consistent level for as long as they’re plugged in.
Which brand of cordless drill is the best?
New and improved models enter the market all the time, so it’s difficult to say which brand is best overall. Brands with a reputation for high quality tools include Bosch, DeWalt, Makita and Milwaukee though almost all modern cordless drills are pretty durable and reliable.
How long do cordless drills last on a single charge?
It very much depends on the Amp hours of the battery and how hard the drill is working. It can be as little as 15 minutes, though many will run between 30 minutes and an hour. Buying a spare battery means you simply swap one out and carry on working while the other charges.