What type of power tool do you use most often? Most people will say their cordless drill. Would you answer differently?
In past years, I tackled the question of “which is the best cordless drill?” in different ways. Last year, I went a little overboard, with too many recommendations. Most of those recommendations are very bit as valid now as they were then, but I wanted to pare things down a little bit this year.
This roundup reflects my opinions, based on all the drills I’ve used and tested these past few years. Every year I test more and more models, and while so many can be recommended for different user preferences, needs, and wants, I wanted to limit this year’s recommendations to the best of the best.
Several new models just landed on my test bench, and I will revisit these recommendations in a couple of months in case anything changes. Maybe at that time I’ll have a complete roundup posted.
If you’re looking for expanded best cordless drills recommendations, check out these other roundups and recommendations:
Do you agree with the following recommendation? Disagree? Please let us know in a comment!
Best 18V Cordless Drill: Dewalt DCD991 3-Speed Brushless
The Dewalt DCD991 20V Max Brushless 3-speed drill is one of the last models I had tested in time for this round of recommendations, and it quickly grew on me.
The previous model, DCD990, was discussed last year as a special mention. So what changed since then? I went on a Dewalt USA factory tour, and went home with a new DCD995 (the hammer drill version) that I “built” myself.
I hadn’t touched the DCD995’s hammer drill functionality, but I found myself using that drill more and more, in place of any other drill unless I was purposely testing another model. Maybe I had developed an attachment to that drill because it had my name on it, or maybe it was because I had misplaced my Bosch DDS181 and was too busy to look for it.
Ultimately, I got used to the DCD995 and quite liked it.
Then the DCD991 and DCD996 came out, Dewalt’s second generation 20V Max premium 3-speed brushless drills.
The DCD991 is more powerful than its predecessor, and has a new LED worklight function that has grown on me.
I am also quite fond of Milwaukee’s 2nd generation M18 Fuel brushless drills, and perhaps if I hadn’t used my Dewalt DCD995 as a go-to for a few months, the Milwaukee Fuel would have taken top honors for 4th year in a row.
On paper, the Milwaukee M18 Fuel drill, model 2703, is the most powerful cordless drill on the market. But I have yet to come across a task that my DCD991 sample cannot handle.
And there’s also that LED worklight, which can be used independent of the drill. It most definitely has come in handy, despite my initial doubts.
With the Dewalt DCD991 brushless drill, you get a lot of power, fast drilling and driving, and great ergonomics.
If I were to have multiple “best 18V cordless drill” categories this year, Milwaukee’s newest M18 Fuel and M18 One-Key drill – with its customizable settings and torque control – would have both been runner ups. I wish I could convey how difficult it was to determine this year’s best overall cordless drill.
It took a lot of going back and forth between the Dewalt DCD991 and Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2703 before I ultimately went with the Dewalt.
Both are excellent models, but if it’s one or the other, I prefer the Dewalt a little more.
I have found that the new kit, DCD991P2, is priced the same as the previous kit, lower even at some places, and it also comes with 5.0Ah battery packs instead of 4.0. Usually I would recommend looking at the previous model to save a few bucks, but in this case it’s almost a no-brainer to go with the latest and greatest.
Best 18V Compact Cordless Drill: Dewalt DCD791 Brushless
Dewalt’s DCD791 20V Max compact brushless drill/driver is the successor to the DCD790 that was my top 18V-class compact drill pick last year.
The new model is more powerful, slightly more compact, and like the premium drill it too has a new high power LED worklight that can be operated independently.
If you needed a compact drill with great power, exceptional runtime, and great ergonomics, this is the one to get. The DCD791D2 kit is the same price as for the DCD790D2 kit ($199). Maybe the DCD790 kit will drop in price at some point, but until then there’s no reason not to go with the latest and greatest model.
If I needed just one cordless drill, I would go with the Dewalt DCD991. If I knew I had a corded drill available for backup should higher power needs arise, I would go with this DCD791.
The ergonomics are just perfect.
Buy Now(via Amazon)
Although I said I wanted to pare things down in this year’s best cordless drills recommendations, it would be unfair to not mention Milwaukee’s M18 compact brushless drill, model 2701. I like this one a lot as well, and it was last year’s runner up as well.
It’s very capable, and while not any less expensive than the Dewalt DCD791, it’s the next best choice.
Buy Now(via Acme Tool)
Shown here is the Milwaukee M18 compact brushless hammer drill, 2702, which I think would be my 18V-class compact hammer drill of choice.
Best 12V Cordless Drill: Bosch PS32 Brushless
What’s so good about 12V-class drills? They’re compact, lightweight, and capable of most light and medium duty tasks.
Without a doubt, I prefer Milwaukee’s M12 lineup over all others. They have the broadest compact cordless tool selection, great specs, decent prices, comfortable ergonomics, and thoughtful features.
When it comes down to 12V cordless drills, I like Milwaukee’s a lot. But I simply like Bosch’s even better.
Bosch’s PS32 brushless drill is very compact and delivers incredible runtime. It’s not the most powerful 12V-class drill, but it can still do quite a lot. And when more power is needed, that’s what 18V drills are for.
The brushless PS32 costs a little more than the PS31, which is still a great model, although I prefer the PS32’s handle ergonomics. The difference is slight, but noticeable.
Buy Now(via Amazon)
Read More: Bosch Brushless Drill and Driver Launch
12V-class drills are sometimes economical alternatives to 18V drills, but not always. Here are some $100 cordless drill/driver recommendations, but keep in mind that most of the better deals and sale prices only come around winter holiday and Father’s Day shopping seasons.
Editor’s Choice Cordless Drill: Metabo BS18 Quick
My first cordless drill was a Black & Decker Firestorm 12V NiCd model, with a drill chuck that removed to reveal a 1/4″ hex driver. This Metabo BS18 18V Quick drill/driver has a similar feature. Perhaps that’s why I like it so much, or maybe it’s the compact size and affordable price point.
It’s easy to get hung up on specs. When I upgraded from my Black & Decker drill years ago, it was partly because I needed more power, and partly because I needed to upgrade to a 1/2″ chuck.
These days, when you see a 3/8″ chuck in an 18V cordless drill, that’s often a sign that it’s a budget model with dialed-down specs.
There’s nothing dialed down about the Metabo 18V BS18 Quick drill/driver. It delivers 425 in-lbs of torque, which is pretty decent for a compact 18V model. And the kit comes with (2) 2.0Ah Li-ion batteries.
While in testing and subsequent use I didn’t remove the BS18 Quick’s chuck very often, having a built-in 1/4″ hex driver did come in handy. It’s quicker to swap the chuck on and off than to swap drill bits and bit holders, and more convenient too.
Some users find it convenient to use 2 drills, or a drill and a cordless screwdriver, to avoid frequent bit changes. The Metabo BS18 Quick can in some cases replace 2 tools with just the 1.
I find it somewhat unbelievable that Metabo is selling this kit for $149, but I’m not complaining. This is one of the best professional cordless drill kit bargains out there.
Buy Now(Kit via Amazon)
Do you agree with my best cordless drill picks? Disagree? Let’s hear your recommendations!