It is once again time to tackle a question so many readers and power tool users are asking: I’m looking for a new cordless drill, what do you recommend?
There haven’t been too many new releases in the 10 months since last year’s Best Cordless Drills, 2014 Edition roundup, but the new cordless drills I have used and tested have influenced my recommendations enough to warrant a complete update.
There were only 9 recommendation categories last year. This year, there are 9 categories and 15 entries. Sorry, I can be a little indecisive, but hopefully the added categories will help with your purchasing decision process.
In the past couple of Best Cordless Drills roundups, Milwaukee took was the top pick in multiple categories. This is one thing that hasn’t changed since last year. Their M18 and M12 Fuel brushless cordless tools are still simply the best offerings from among the major professional-grade brands.
As with the other recommendations posts, these are based on my preferences and what I feel are the best cordless drills and drivers from among those I have tested and used. If you want to suggest a particular model for next year’s consideration, please let me know in comments.
Since cordless drills and hammer drills often share most of the same parts and features, most if not all of these recommendations could apply to hammer drills as well.
Since many of my recommendations are for brushless models, be sure to check out my post on the benefits of brushless power tool motors to help bring you up to speed. Simply put, brushless tools typically offer a balance of more power and longer runtime compared to tools with brushed motors. There are also no motor brushes to replace down the road, which means lower maintenance needs.
Do you agree with these recommendation? Disagree? Please let us know in a comment!
Table of Contents
Best 18V Overall
Editor’s Choice 18V
Extreme Torque 18V and Runner-Up
Best Compact 18V and Runner-Up
Best Budget 18V and Runner-Up
Special Mention 18V
Best 12V Overall and Runner-Up
Best Budget 12V and Runner-Up
Best 18V: Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2603
The Milwaukee M18 Fuel brushless drill/driver, model 2603, is my top pick for the third year in a row. It’s powerful, but not unwieldy. Pair it with a compact M18 Li-ion battery pack, and it’s reasonably compact. Swap out that compact battery for an XC extended capacity battery and you get more runtime AND greater torque thanks to Milwaukee’s “XC effect.”
This is one of my favorite drills, and is perhaps the most recommendable for anyone looking for top-notch performance.
Read More: Milwaukee M18 Fuel Brushless Drill Preview
Buy Now(via Home Depot)
Editor’s Choice 18V: Bosch DDS181
Bosch’s DDS181 is a boring cordless drill (pun not intended). There are no fancy bells or whistles, and it isn’t brushless. Despite these things, the DDS181 is what I use for drilling holes and driving fasteners, at least when I’m not testing out another model.
It offers decent performance, and delivers on those claims. There are applications where it just doesn’t have enough oomph, even with a 600 in-lbs torque rating, but that’s part of the tradeoff with lighter and more compact drills.
If you want the latest and greatest, check out Bosch’s brushless drill and driver lineup. But if you want a solid performer that won’t break the bank, Bosch’s DDS181 doesn’t disappoint.
Read More: Bosch DDS181 18V Cordless Drill Preview
Buy Now(via Amazon)
Buy Now(via Home Depot)
Extreme Torque 18V: Milwaukee M18 Fuel Hole Hawg
When you need to drill large holes, and many of them, and you want to do it safely, you might want to step up to the new Milwaukee M18 Fuel Hole Hawg, which is said to deliver corded-like performance.
There are two new Hole Hawgs, with both being designed for electricians. A Super Hole Hawg, designed for plumber’s needs and for boring larger holes, is in the works for this year. The 2707 Hole Hawg has a 1/2″ metal chuck, while the 2708 Hole Hawg has a keyless Quik-Lok 7/16″ hex shank chuck.
Read More: Milwaukee M18 Fuel Hole Hawg Preview
Buy Now(via Home Depot)
A potential alternative might be the Makita 18V LXT XPH07, which delivers nearly 1,100 in-lbs of torque. I haven’t tried it yet, and I’m almost afraid to. 1090 in-lbs is wrist-wrenching torque, but the Makita drill lacks any sort of protection device aside from an awkwardly long auxiliary handle.
Runner-Up Extreme Torque 18V: Bosch Anti-Kickback DDH181X
Bosch’s newest DDH181X heavy duty Brute Tough 18V drill features Active Response Technology that safely cuts power to the tool as soon as sensors detect that a bit or accessory has jammed up during drilling. That way, the tool stops before the drill could counter-rotate enough to create a dangerous situation.
When you’re drilling with bigger or longer drill bits, coming into contact with an unexpected screw, nail, knot, or other bit-jamming object, can be dangerous. If a bit should bind or jam, all of the rotational energy is transfer back to the drill, which will counter-rotate and take your hands and wrists along with it until pressure on the trigger is relaxed. Jammed drills have also been known to whack users and bystanders in the face. There’s even the potential to be knocked off a ladder.
So although the Milwaukee M18 Fuel drill/driver is top pick for best overall, I would feel a bit safer using a DDH181X for higher torque applications. The Hole Hawg provides a more controllable geometry, but the DDH181X also serves as a driver for fastening applications.
Read More: Bosch 18V DDH181X Drill/Driver with Active Response Technology
Buy Now(via Amazon)
Best Compact 18V: Dewalt 20V Max DCD790
Dewalt’s DCD790 20V Max brushless drill/driver wasn’t included in last year’s recommendations. The test sample was late, and I also didn’t think the roundup needed another category for best compact cordless drill.
The DCD790 grew on me, and there’s new competition in the compact high performance drill arena. This is a solid performing model that has all the makings of a great drill – a comfortable and ergonomic grip and a great power-to-size (and weight) ratio. Runtime is quite good too, as is the norm for brushless tools.
No, the DCD790 won’t impress your friends, but it’s a recommendable compact drill/driver for light and medium duty drilling and driving tasks.
Read More: Dewalt 20V Max DCD790 Preview
Buy Now(via Amazon)
Runner-Up Best Compact 18V: Milwaukee M18 Compact Brushless 2701
Comparing Dewalt’s 20V Max DCD790 and Milwaukee’s new M18 2701 compact brushless drill/drivers is no easy task. Both are very capable cordless drills, but I favor the Dewalt’s ergonomics a hair better.
Do you want to buy into Dewalt’s 20V Max lineup, or Milwaukee’s M18? The answer to that should be your deciding factor.
This model offers good performance and runtime, but it lacks some of the premium features of Milwaukee’s Fuel drills. It’s not a poor man’s brushless drill, but is instead positioned as a mid-level performer in between the brand’s updated brushed model and their premium Fuel brushless model.
Compared to Milwaukee’s M18 brushed motor drill (2606), the 2701 delivers comparable torque (500 in-lbs) in a smaller package.
Read More: Milwaukee M18 Compact Brushless Drill 2701 Preview
Buy Now(via Home Depot)
Best Budget 18V: Bosch Compact DDB181
The Bosch DDB181 18V compact drill/driver is a tricky beast. It’s meant to be a basic cordless drill, but it’s also incredibly compact and lightweight. It’s not as powerful as any of the other 18V-class professional-grade mainstream drills mentioned here, but it’s also appreciably smaller and still capable of handling less demanding work.
I’m not in love with the DDB181’s grip, but it’s not offensive or uncomfortable either. The grip just isn’t as contoured as I have grown accustomed to, but it does taper a little from the gearbox towards the battery.
Last holiday season, many retailers were selling the DDB181-02 (2) battery kit for just $99, which was an incredibly bargain. Its price is higher now, but maybe it will drop back down for Father’s Day and the next winter holiday season.
Read More: Bosch DDB181 18V Compact Drill/Driver Preview
Buy Now(Kit via Amazon)
Buy Now(Kit via Home Depot)
Runner-Up Best Budget 18V: Hitachi DS18DSAL
Hitachi’s DS18DSAL 18V drill/driver kit is oh so ugly, but it’s comfortable and performs well for a tool its size. If the looks don’t bother you, rest assured that there are few better cordless drills for the money. If there was a best brushed motor compact cordless drill category, the DS18DSAL would be in the shortlist for top honors.
Buy Now(DS18DSAL via Amazon)
Special Mention 18V: Dewalt Premium 3-Speed DCD990
In a head-to-head between the Dewalt 20V Max DCD990 and Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2603, I prefer the Milwaukee. But that’s not to say that the DCD990 isn’t recommendable, because it is. I have never been a fan of Dewalt’s premium 3-speed drills, because they have traditionally been big, bulky, and heavy. This one, with its brushless motor, is surprisingly compact – compared to previous generations of 3-speed drills – without sacrificing any application speed or power.
One of these years, the DCD990 might unseat the Milwaukee M18 Fuel cordless drill from its status as best overall cordless drill/driver, but not this year. At the least, I find Milwaukee’s overall ergonomics to be much better, especially when the auxiliary handle has to be attached.
Read More: Dewalt 20V Max DCD990 Drill and DCD995 Hammer Drill
Buy Now(via Amazon)
Buy Now(via Home Depot)
Best Automotive: Ingersoll Rand
Ingersoll Rand’s 12V cordless tools made it into my top 5 favorite new tools of 2013 list because they are great performers and meticulously designed. I was already impressed with IR, and recent experiences have only built upon this.
The Ingersoll Rand IQV12 D1130 3/8″ cordless drill is a fabulous drill that can also be used outside of automotive shops. It’s lightweight, compact, and delivers decent power. It lacks some of the polish of pro construction brands’ offerings, and it’s not quite as powerful, but it should offer greater chemical resistance and impact protection.
Buy Now(via Amazon)
Shortly after last year’s best cordless drills recommendation roundup was concluded, I received a new model by Ingersoll Rand that I put to the test – their 20V Max D5140 cordless drill.
IR’s new drill, as well as their other cordless tools, are powerful and specially designed for automotive users. Even the 20V D5140 cordless drill kit’s hardshell case is tailored for automotive professionals. One of the hinges has a spring-loaded pin that allows the entire lid to be removed so that you could put the whole shebang right into a toolbox or cabinet drawer! If your kit needs to be portable, reattaching the lid takes seconds.
Yes, the D5140 is a little heavy. Yes, it’s larger than many cordless drills designed for the construction tool industry. But it’s a dream to use. There’s plenty of power to spare (it’s rated at 700 in-lbs), and the housing is specially designed to withstand exposure to many automotive chemicals and fluids. The Ingersoll Rand D5140 is also tough enough to endure drops onto hard garage floors.
As with the D1130, I would go so far to say the D5140 could also be an excellent model for industrial settings.
Buy Now(via Amazon)
There are some other options in the automotive-specialty cordless tool arena, such as Mac’s Dewalt-powered lineup, and Chicago Pneumatics’s recently announced cordless power tools. I think that Chicago Pneumatic’s new offerings look very appealing, but haven’t seen them in person yet. There are also plenty of offerings by other automotive tool brands, such as Snap-on, Matco, and ACDelco.
Best 12V: Milwaukee M12 Fuel 2403
Milwaukee’s M12 Fuel brushless drill driver stands well above competing brands, and not just because of the more efficient motor. Just check out the M12 Fuel drill and driver specs to see what I mean.
In addition to well-tuned ergonomics, the M12 Fuel drill delivers the highest torque I’ve seen in a 12V-class drill, and it features a 1/2″ chuck. Most 12V-class drills are engineered with smaller and occasionally lighter duty 3/8″ chucks.
On top of all that, the drill is compact and lightweight. It’s shown here paired with an M12 XC 4.0Ah extended capacity Li-ion battery, but the standard kit also comes with a compact 2.0Ah battery. This gives you the flexibility to choose between minimum size and weight or maximum runtime, depending on what the day’s jobs call for.
Read More: Milwaukee M12 Fuel Brushless Drills and Drivers Preview
Buy Now(via Home Depot)
Runner-Up 12V: Bosch PS32
I really like Bosch’s PS32 12V brushless drill. But… I like Milwaukee’s better. While Milwaukee focused on power and premium features for their M12 Fuel drill, Bosch focused on size and seemingly runtime.
The PS32 is a miniscule drill, but it gets the job done. If there’s a task that you considered delegating to a compact 12V-class drill, the PS32 could do it.
Read More: Bosch Brushless Drill and Driver Launch
Buy Now(via Amazon)
Best Budget 12V: Bosch PS31
Although the Bosch PS31 12V drill has been out for more than half a decade now, it’s still a superb model. Good ergonomics (although not as good as with their new brushless model), balanced power, size, and weight, and a low price make this a fantastic budget pick. The 2-battery kit is currently priced at $99, which is hard to beat most of the year.
The PS31 continues to be a great value, and it is sometimes available as part of discounted Bosch L-Boxx tool box bundles around Father’s Day and winter holiday shopping seasons.
Read More: Bosch 12V PS31 Drill/Driver Review
Buy Now(via Amazon)
Runner-Up Budget 12V: Milwaukee M12 2407
I recommended the Milwaukee M12 2407 drill/driver in a best drill for DIYers post, and also in a previous best drill and screwdriver combo for homeowners and woodworkers post. So why is the 2407 kit only a runner-up here?
Around major tool-buying holidays and certain other times of the year, the combo is $99. Right now, it’s $129. Not that $129 is not a good price, because it is for what you get, but $99 is better.
The 2407 is a solid performer and also serves as inexpensive entry into Milwaukee’s M12 cordless power tool lineup. It’s not as well spec’ed as Milwaukee’s M12 Fuel model, but it does benefit from having similar ergonomics.
If both Bosch and Milwaukee’s 12V-class brushed motor compact drill driver kits were priced at $99, my recommendation would be for the Milwaukee. Although Bosch has been expanding their 12V tool lineup, Milwaukee’s is far stronger. Just check out some of the latest Milwaukee M12 tool news and reviews to see for yourself.
Buy Now(via Home Depot)
What about all those other brands?
Ridgid’s X4 drill/driver was runner-up for best overall in 2013, and remains an appealing model. Even so, it doesn’t really hold its own against newer Milwaukee, Bosch, and Dewalt offerings. The new Ridgid Gen5X 18V drill might be an improvement, but I haven’t seen it in action yet. Right now only a Gen5X hammer drill is available, as part of a combo kit, and it features an integrated “Chuck Light” LED worklight that looks like it toes the line between innovation and gimmick.
Ryobi and Craftsman both continue to offer decent cordless drills, but you have to be careful as to which one you buy. Their drills range from “performs worse than a compact 12V drill” to “great performance and max bang per buck.”
More “Best Tool” Guides
Shopping for a different type of tool? Here are a couple of other buying guides I’ve put together:
Best Cordless Drills Under $100
Best Cordless Circular Saws
Best Cordless Impact Drivers
Best Cordless Oscillating Tool
Best Power Tool Brand
Do you agree with my recommendation? Disagree? Or is there a different cordless drill you’d like to recommend? Please let us know in comments!
Ah, you beat me… I was actually going to email and “suggest”/”request” the possibility of breaking up these lists into brushed/brushless categories!
Nonetheless, a very well-done and helpful reference. Thanks!
I considered doing that, but it gets murky when you differentiate tools like that, not to mention longer.
Totally understand, Stuart. Far be it from me to bicker with free (and good) content!
No love for the Metabo drills? Pretty much the size of the compacts with the power of the Makita. Their brushless drill is lighter still, about a pound lighter than the M18 Fuel, with more torque and way more features like the removable chuck, electronic clutch, impulse mode, accelerometer based light, right angle adapter, etc etc.
Makita isn’t on this list, and if Metabo is comparable to Makita then why should Metabo be on this list? I personally love that Bosch holds so many places here, I’ve been a big Bosch fan for a long time. Now I want to see an Impact Driver listing.. .
dominic van lievenoogen
Well this is Stuarts personal view/ opinion on best drills.
If you want a realistic approach where indeed all brands and their tools are considered, next to only the brands stuart knozs/ has tried, then you should look further then ‘ best drills….’
Understood that it’s a personal opinion, but as a tool blog, I’d like to see some effort made to sample as many the offerings on the market as possible. Isn’t this why we read blogs? Learn from others more informed than us?
If I wanted a survey of what’s most popular on the market/who can make the most noise about their brand of choice, I’d just pull up one of the hundreds of threads on any tool forum.
Anyways, I thought it would be an interesting consideration because the Metabo came out on top of the latest shootout performed by Oz Tool Talk, and maybe because I just bought one too and need to feel good about my purchase. 😉
I have made such efforts. =)
What would you have me do to get access to even more?
As far as what’s most popular on the market, many tools are popular for a reason. Some are popular because they’re the cool tool to have, others because they are simply top performers. I can’t really help it if there’s some overlap between what I recommend and what’s popular.
If I could only have access to two cordless drills, I would pick the IR 12V and Bosch 18V with anti-kickback tech.
Regarding Metabo, nope, never used one. They have some interesting innovations going on, but it took a lot of effort for anyone at Metabo to answer my questions. I believe they promised to send out some samples once or twice but never did.
Is there a particular model that you are incredibly fond of? I’ll add it to the post in the Reader’s Choice section.
Makita’s cordless drills are okay, but not king of the hill. There are many more reasons why I prefer other brands’ offerings. Someone buying into Makita’s 18V platform will find plenty of good options, but if you’re looking for a new drill and aren’t married to any one platform, other brands’ drills are more compelling.
BS 18 LTX BL is the brushless variant. They all have electronic clutches w/ variable speed, plus a quick button to shut it off, instead of cycling through all your clutch settings to get back to drilling mode. Impulse mode is kinda neat too, though I haven’t used it. Mostly to prevent skating while drilling on tile, or removing damage fasteners.
797 in-lbs, removable chuck w/ a hex recess available, plus right angle attachments, quick hex chucks, and 3x torque multiplier chucks available.
The chucks are actually universal along their latest range with quick chucks.
The BS 18 LTX is brushed, but will belt out 987 in-lbs.
Replace BS with SB model numbers if you’re looking for the hammerdrill version, but unlike some other brands, it adds a noticeable 1″+ to the drill.
I was watching AusToolTalk on youtube and they recommended the Metabo As the best of the brushless drill and the Makita as the second best. If you don’t include at least the makita a big player (metabo is less mainstream in non-Europen markets) then the test though still usefull, is giving a very incomplete picture.
I’ve used and tested a couple of Makita drills, just not the latest one. Makita’s drills are fine, but not particularly noteworthy.
I can’t claim to have tried as many tools as you have, but my experience (and the ratings of other tool comparisons I’ve seen) suggest that Makita’s drills are quite notable. Testing of torque and battery life puts their latest products, which I don’t have (yet), at or near the top of the list.
For me, the deciding factor is probably the charger and batteries. The charger has a fan and, probably because of the fan, charges batteries much faster. I’ve also gotten great reliability and durability out of Makita’s batteries and tools. Milwaukee’s cordless drills have impressed me less and the batteries on my drill lose all their charge fast when the drill binds. That probably doesn’t happen on their newer drills, but it adds to my general sense that Milwaukee’s cordless drills suffer from some corner-cutting.
I love Milwaukee’s heavy corded product though.
Also, I totally agree that the safety of the Bosch that cuts power when it binds should be an important factor in choosing a powerful drill.
Dwain (OZ Tool Talk)
tool reviewers can only rank what they have access to though. it was our finding that both the Makita and Metabo beat out all the above premium drills, but others may disagree. i totally agree with Stuart’s compact recommendations.
I agree. No mention of Makita either? I used a new, out of the box Bosch and broke the anti-wrist-braking technology on the first trigger pull. I used a beat up Makita (1090in/lbs of torque) with an 8″ dull auger and drilled through 33″ of ice during ice fishing. That was power!
What do you have against Makita, Stuart? Once again you do a “best of 2015” list and don’t include some of the top rated tools because you haven’t tried them yet. Makita’s XPH07 has come out on top of most comparisons I have seen. How can a drill be the “best” when you don’t compare it against the other brands leading tools?
Never tried it. Asked for a test sample but never heard back. I said I was willing to work with a loaner.
The XPH07 is completely unsuitable for my needs, and so I wouldn’t purchase one, and I don’t buy and then return tools just for testing purposes.
The XPH07 has potential as an extreme torque model, as already mentioned in the post, but it also has a very awkwardly sized auxiliary handle. When you’re talking about nearly 1100 in-lbs of torque, that huge aux handle isn’t optional – you’re going to want to keep it on the drill. That’s bound to make the drill bulkier and possibly even unwieldy.
Even if I manage to test one, that’s no guarantee that it’ll make it into the next Best Cordless Drills update. Would you prefer if I pandered to you and lauded the XPH07 over other drills just because it can deliver more torque according to on-paper specs? I would much rather provide practical recommendations than tell you and brands what they want to hear. Perhaps that’s why Makita has yet to respond to my request.
Practical is a subjective term. What may be practical for you may not be practical for others, and vice-versa. How do you know if the side handle of that Makita is as cumbersome as you say if you haven’t tried it?
A major point of “practicality”, in my opinion, is availability. The Makita XPH07, while being a “extreme torque model” as you suggest, is available off the shelf at any HD store and is in the same class as other top rated 18V brushless drills. If memory serves, it may even be a little less expensive than the Milwaukee?
Remember, these top-dog drills are only putting out their rated torque when in low speed, so unless you’re using them in low speed with large bits and/or in a situation where jamming is a concern, then their torque rating should not be something to be scared of.
Agreed, the Bosch safety system seems like a great idea, but most corded drills are more powerful than many of today’s highest torque cordless models, and people have been using them for decades without breaking bones… just because it’s available doesn’t all of a sudden make it a necessity.
If you can’t get your hands on a drill model for testing that’s one thing, but saying you don’t want to test it because that brand’s products don’t appeal to you or that it doesn’t appear to fit your personal needs is another. I would understand if it was some special application tool with limited appeal, but an XPH07 is a pretty basic tool and is the top model in what is one of the most popular, longest running and widely available tool platforms out there.
I find it a little funny that you can publish an article titled “Best Drill” if you don’t at least test all of the commonly available product. If you can’t get all of the correct models for testing, your article should read “My favorite drill of the ones I’ve tried”.
Otherwise, I agree the Bosch 12V line is nice. I have most of their 12V lineup as well as a bunch of 18V Makita stuff. The Milwaukee 12V lineup looks incredible, and if Bosch doesn’t add a lot of stuff to their lineup real quick I may be tempted to switch sides… I’ve been waiting for a higher torque brushless 12V impact driver from Bosch for FAR too long! The M12 Fuel impact looks like about the only 12V model that could survive without an 18V big brother for backup.
Thanks for your feedback, it’s much appreciated!
Maybe I’ll try again to get my hands on one for the 2016 revision, to see if a couple hours of use could change my mind.
If you read carefully, I do say:
As with the other recommendations posts, these are based on my preferences and what I feel are the best cordless drills and drivers from among those I have tested and used.
I’ve tested even more models for 2016, but most of these recommendations are still valid.
Thanks Stuart, looking forward to the next round.
Stuart your site is awesome as are you, but this list falls way short of good drills. Metabo will blow all of these drills out of the water. And Makita’s newest bad boy will break all of these in half. Come on now! Milwaukee and DeWalt are way behind. And all the newest Bosch power tools are seriously falling short of the Bosch name they once were. More like Chinese production made mistakes is a better name for Bosch these days.
I have a list of drills I’d like to test in time for consideration in the next revision, but when we’re talking about $300-500 per kit, there’s no way I could or will budget for all of them. Some brands, such as Panasonic and Metabo, have difficulty answering even simple technical questions, let alone coordinating test samples or loaners.
If or when I open my wallet to buy additional cordless drills for testing, the Makita is far from the top of the list.
Just because Makita has bragging rights for highest torque in a pistol grip drill doesn’t automatically make that the best model. I’m willing to keep an open mind about it, but I’m not going to waste any more time trying to get one for testing.
This really says it all:
“If or when I open my wallet to buy additional cordless drills for testing, the Makita is far from the top of the list.”
I’m not here to tell you what to buy, but iuf you’re going to publish lists of the “best” drills, a drill that is doing very well in almost every other comparison of cordless drills should be at the top of your list of tools you need to try.
If you’re refusing to try Makita’s latest brushless drills based on some prior bad experience with another Makita (killed your dog? stole your wife?), you should rename your list something like “A Bunch of Pretty Good Drills that I’m Willing to Try from Brands that I Like, Especially Bosch.”
No need to credit me when you use that name next year.
I’m glad to see that my nearly 3 year old M18 Fuel drill is still on top of the list. I’ll admit though that I prefer the more flexible positioning of the DeWalt side handle, but it’s not worth the trade-off in compactness (IMO).
I was disappointed to see that the DeWalt 12V Max drill missing from the list. If I were to have only one drill – a 12V model – I wouldn’t recommend it; it’s too weak. But as a lightweight alternative to my 18V Milwaukee, its ergonomics place it far above anything else I’ve tried (including Milwaukee’s M12 Fuel).
I’ve lost a lot of my fondness towards Dewalt’s 12V Max drills and drivers. They’re great tools, but they don’t quite match up to Bosch and Milwaukee model, and Dewalt doesn’t seem to be interested in expanding or improving their 12V Max offerings. I happen to like Dewalt’s 12V ergonomics as much as I like their 20V Max tools, but that’s pretty much the only area where they come up ahead.
I reviewed that model a few years ago (https://toolguyd.com/dewalt-12v-cordless-drill-review-dcd710s2/), and there was nothing about it that really disappointed me. But compared to what’s on the market now? At best Dewalt’s 12V drill would be a 2nd runner-up in the best budget category.
I too was surprised by the 12V Milwaukee beating out the 12V Dewalt. I have the both and reach for the Dewalt every time. It’s got as much or more power and much better feel and balance.
Might be the only 12V tool Dewalt does better, but they do.
Thanks again for another great post. I think you were open and honest to say “these are based on my preferences and what I feel are the best cordless drills and drivers from among those I have tested and used.” It’s hard to test everything. Harder still to test under all sorts of uses and conditions – or for extended periods.
When we scrapped our Dewalt NiCad tools and bought into the Makita 18V LXT lineup – it seemed a logical choice based not only on drills – but also what else was available from Makita – not brand loyalty. What we found was that the early Makita 18V batteries (we’d buy them in lots of 10 or more) had some issues either with bad cells or with charger handshaking. While this was frustrating, we and Makita seemed to get beyond this problem. I bring this up – because the problem did not appear immediately – so a short-term test probably would not have found it.
We also had some problems early on with the early M12 (pre Red Lithium) batteries from Milwaukee. Luckily these seemed to show up quickly- sometimes on the first or second re-charge – so returns were much easier.
If I were buying new cordless drills now, I would still be looking at the other tools included in the battery platform – as much as which drill itself was “best” in various tests. I’d try to read tests with an eye towards what’s important to me – and I applaud you for trying to lay out different “bests” for different applications. As some of the different lineups have expanded, If I were buying for a business now – I think our choice of 18V Makita tools might still stand up – but Milwaukee– would also be in the hunt. While I hear good things about Metabo – and their cordless burnisher, cordless band file, pipe grinders and other grinders have some appeal – their lineup here in the US still seems a bit slim to me to make them the platform of choice for a GC
Eh. I favour DeWalt anyways. I don’t like the design of Milwaukee, Bosch, Makita, or any of the others. And I have learned in my life that every innovation is worth waiting for the bigger names to come out with the RIGHT application of that innovation. The first is usually the one full of problems, and Milwaukee, Makita, Bosch, and Metabo all scream “We Were Here First!” and it sends up red flags for me.
The way they’ve been releasing things, I think DeWalt may be slowing down the 12 Volt line in favour of 12 Volt Testing/Instrumentation. There’s a new DCT419 Wall Scanner, and they’re releasing lighting, and thermometers, and the like. The 20 Volt and Hand Tool/Mechanics Tool offerings are getting all their attention these days. Which is only good in so far as they release more to the 20 Volt Max/XR family as they go along.
You can rate tools across the different lines all you want, but if the end user has different needs, there’s no pleasing everyone. It’s all fine and good that individuals who posted here have a favourite of their own, but Stewart is just one person. If you’re going to go with Metabo, Hilti, or Festool, you’re talking the most expensive brands you can own. The biggest possible feature they have is “My Owner Could Afford Me” bragging rights. Stewart doesn’t need that. He’s a trusted name on the Internet for Tool news and the like.
This site is great. Keep doing what you are doing! Glad to see you mentioned the Ridgid X4. I just received mine for Christmas, and so far its been great for all my needs. It was your reviews and recommendations that helped push me towards it. And it just felt right when holding it.
I am just a homeowner/budding DIY’er. So I can’t speak to the needs of a tradesman. The other major brands all have their pro’s and con’s. But I can’t justify the need for brushless or top of the line anything. To mean Ridgid seems like a perfect mix. Pro like performance and features with a more homeowner price point. Thoughts?
I have been satisfied with all of the Ridgid power tools I’ve used and tried. Some of their accessories are hidden gems as well, such as their hole saws.
Pro-like performance is a tricky description. I would go as far to say that many or even most Ridgid tools are designed around pro-grade performance. What I like about Ridgid is that they are more willing to take chances.
And when I say Ridgid, I refer to their power tools segment which is under TTI control and management.
There are just too many recommendable drills to fit into a single post. I tried to widen the categories this year, but any more additions and the roundup would have been even longer and even messy. Maybe I’ll change the format next year to fit more models.
Even though it’s only mentioned briefly in this year’s roundup, I still consider Ridgid’s X4 drill with high regard. It offers a great balance between price and performance, but these days it does live in the shadow of other brands’ more appealing developments.
Brushless motors bring many advantages, but you’re right in that it’s not something everyone needs. My personal drill, the Bosch DDS181 mentioned as an editor’s choice, has a regular brushed motor. I sometimes do use brushless drills more, but I remain attached to my Bosch.
I can see where pro like performance becomes a very slippery slope. I think all your reviews are fair and honest. And based on your posts/reviews and other’s comments, I have kept Ridgid power tools under consideration when looking to purchase something new.
From what I can tell it seems like you have a broad section of craftsmen, tradesmen, maker’s, hobbyists, DIY’ers and everything in between. With that in mind you will never be able to please everyone. But don’t despair, just keep doing what you are doing. Excellent work!
I too like the Ridgid-branded hole saws – but I think that some of the one’s I’ve bought at Home Depot were likely manufactured by Disston-Blu-Mol – or at least their UPC prefix 035781 provides a hint to that effect.
Also worth considering for those trying to keep their toolkit small is getting just the equally amazing Milwaukee m12 Fuel 1/4″ hex impact driver and the $12 chuck adapter on Amazon (or alternatively buying impact-rated bits with 1/4″ hex shanks). I do a lot more driving than drilling and this has worked out well for me for both.
That’s a fantastic tool too, and at the top of my 12V impact driver recommendations too (https://toolguyd.com/best-cordless-impact-drivers/). I don’t like drilling with impact tools though.
I too prefer to do most of my drilling with a dedicated tool (drill) designed for the purpose. For masonry – I prefer to switch to a roto-hammer rather than a hammer drill – finding the latter slower and more fatiguing. The few exceptions come when hand drilling with larger bits or into heavy steel where torque reaction can be an issue. I have not tried any of the new drills (e.g. from Bosch) that are designed to obviate this potential wrist sprainer/breaker. I have used corded and cordless impact guns and drivers with ship augers for drilling timbers and with twist drills on steel wide flanges where a magnetic drill press was not practical. Last summer, working on a series of timber projects in the garden , I decided to buy a Milwaukee 2765-20 (7/16 hex) cordless impact driver. I used it instead of running extension cords or air hoses for both some of my drilling (7/16 hex shank auger bits) and driving (using a Proto J7121 hex to square adapter) tasks. I found it to be powerful enough for my needs – and very convenient to use.
No love for the Dewalt 12v drills? Is that because they don’t have a brushless version in 12v? I have to say the ergonomics of this line are incredible. I do wish the LED position was different, but that’s a minor thing.
Hello, I’m in the market for a cordless drill for general household use. I’m looking at the Milwaukee 2603 but what is the difference with the 2604? It appears the 2604 would be heavier duty through concrete etc, but would the 2603 do the same? Pricing is basically the same and I will probably combo with an impact model as well.
Also, I failed to mention I plan to use for finishing my basement, so framing into concrete will be needed.
2604 is simply the hammer drill version of the 2603. Similar features and performance otherwise.
2603 wouldn’t work well with masonry bits. You need that vibratory hammering mode to really drill through brick or concrete. Rotary-only masonry bits are available, but are much slower and frustrating to use.
Hammer drills are great for cordless drill applications and for occasional holes in masonry materials. But if you have a LOT of masonry holes to drill, you’ll want an SDS drill. A true rotary hammer works a LOT better than a hammer drill, and usually with far less hand/wrist/arm vibration too.
“At the least, I find Milwaukee’s overall ergonomics to be much better, especially when the auxiliary handle has to be attached.”
I did some deep digging a while back and the ergonomics go to dewalt with no ifs and whats about it. You can do a comparison on non-tool enthusiasts people to see which feel better in the hand and i’m sure dewalt would win in the comfort zone.
Also, you do realize Milwaukee’s auxiliary handle is at a static position while dewalts, you can pretty much set it at any angle degree? = If dewalts’ handle can be set to any degree angle you desire and Milwaukee’s handle can only be set to a static degree, then dewalt wins in that perception clearly. 🙂
Milwaukee’ s aux handle can be attached in a couple of positions, and I find it to be far easier to afreesh and remove.
Dewalt’s ergonomics are great, but with the drills I like Milwaukee’s a notch better.
Makita XPH07M is the best drill, by a long shot. The drill can mix mud, drill into stainless, and drill 3″ hole saw in wood without skipping a beat. The handle is big, as it should be with almost any of the top drills today, but that isn’t a reason to say it isn’t top dog.
Jimmy is the first person to bring up the Makita XPH07. It is truly a world beater. I have the fuel line as well as the new 3 speed DeWalt and the Bosch brute 1/2″ lithium ion. I like them all. I use them interchangeably. They all do the work BUT Hands down the Makita spanks everything. The metabo did drill a few more holes in the tests but it had an unfair advantage with the 5.0 batteries when everyone else had 4.0. So if the Makita had the 5.0 battery at the time it would have won that particular test because it was already very close. The torque of this monster is unsurpassed. It’s more than the Hole Hawg. It blows through tough drilling tasks faster than anything else. For such a heavy hitter to be skipped in your reviews casts doubt on your credibility.
The XPH07 is mentioned in the post. Did you miss it? I hadn’t tested it, and still think the long aux handle would get in the way. I asked Makita for a sample back in November, and they never got back to me. So what would you have me do? There’s a very long list of tools I’m willing to buy for testing purposes, and the XPH07 isn’t anywhere near the top.
If you feel so strongly about this, you are more than welcome to send in any drill/driver that you feel should be tested in consideration for the mid-2015 or 2016 update.
Hey your forgetting the ultimate cordless tools if you can afford them, innovation, quality, power, and battery life
Hey, I’m a girl and I have no clue about tools at all. I’m trying to buy my boyfriend his first power tool to start his collection and I need help. What do you recommend for a man’s first power drill? Thanks
What’s your budget?
I think that the Milwaukee M12 drill that goes for $99 during the holidays (Buy Now) is a great starter drill. It’s small, but will tackle a great majority of a homeowner or DIYer’s drilling and fastener driving needs.
If your BF doesn’t appreciate it, remind him that it’s not the size of a tool that’s important, but how it’s used.
If you think he’ll want a “regular sized” drill, the Dewalt DCD771 (Buy Now) is a popular choice that’s also $99 for Father’s Day. It’ll likely drop to this price again next winter.
There is also a Makita promo kit (Buy Now) that’s at the $99 price point. If it’s between the Dewalt or Makita, the Makita seems like the better buy.
Thank you so much. I was thinking of a budget between $150 and $200.
With the higher budget in mind, I would point to Milwaukee’s recent drill and impact driver combo. It’s discussed at-length here, and the promo is still available at Home Depot (Buy Now). For $169, you get a cordless drill, an impact driver which works better for speedily driving fasteners, 2 compact batteries, a charger, and a case.
The 2-tool combo offers the best bang-for-the-buck at the $150 to $200 price point. If your BF needed a more powerful or more premium drill, chances are he would have bought it for himself already.
If you just want a cordless drill kit, there are better options, but closer to the $200 price point. He might not need or want the impact driver right away, but they’re incredibly useful and powerful, and they do come in handy.
I brought this Bosch DDB181-02 18 V compact 1/2 in. drill/driver before I looked you up on the internet. I have not opened the box yet, I’ll be using it mostly around the house. In a year it’ll spend more time in the box than in my hand. I would like your opinion.
Enjoy your new drill? I’m not sure what you’re asking.
He’s merely asking should he take it out the box and start using it or get one of your recommendations instead, (once he starts using, it will be more difficult to exchange)
On another note your omission of Makita (everyone elses market leader) DOES put your credibility in question. You can always purchase one to complete your “roundup” you know, they’re not that expensive. Your excuses are woeful, and by the way the auxiliary handle can simply be removed.
The DDB181 is one of my recommendations, and is a good option for around-the-house work. Without knowing his needs, there’s no basis for additional opinions.
I’ve tried that Makita drill briefly recently, and if I had unlimited funds, sure, I’d buy one for further comparison testing purposes. But it was awkward to use with the handle, and with its torque rating, I wouldn’t want to use it without an aux handle in the absence of anti-kickback sensors. There are many more tools I’d rather spend my tool budget on, than Makita drills, but I do appreciate your input.
If you think absolutely believe that Makita’s drills should be considered more closely for the next update of this roundup, I would gladly accept your PayPal or Amazon gift card donation.
Okay, this my question may seem silly, but I have absolutely no knowledge of drill brands. I’ve just always used my dad’s equipment without really paying attention to what brands he had. But I recently decided to get my own, and searched ‘cordless drill’ in Amazon. Almost everything that comes up is Black & Decker.
So my question is, is Black & Decker actually a good brand or is it just one of the most popular? Also, would I be more likely to get a good quality drill in a store rather than online? Or should I look at a website dedicated to power tools rather than Amazon?
I was a desalt and bosch man for years but my wife bought me a festal drill for xmas, It came with four different chucks. I was not really impressed by its power as it seemed weak. I built and installed some cabinets with it and fell in love. There is so much control and smoothness. I got festool fever shortly after! I went and bought a HILTI impact and all I can say is it changed my life!
I am looking to buy my first drill and wanted a cordless possibly drill/driver combo in the $100 range not sure if I need 12v or 18v and brands such as hitachi …mikita …Dewalt. ..Milwaukee. ..I also wanted brushless motor …metal gears …good speed torque …battery life etc with 2 batteries and something my girlfriend would be able to use safely if needed …
Any ideas? Thanks Kevin
You’re not going to get a brushless motored drill in a 2 battery kit for $100. The Bosch DDB181 mentioned above as a budget choice will likely drop back to $99 in a couple of weeks for the holidays.
That’s pretty much your only mid-to-high tier level option for $100.
If you want more options, you need to consider 1-battery kits, or increase your budget.
Makita’s entry-level kit (https://toolguyd.com/makita-18v-hammer-drill-deal-092014/) is another $100 option. It only comes with 1 battery, but it’s a high capacity one.
As for your gf or anyone else being able to use it – as long as they uses proper safety gear (e.g. safety glasses or goggles and whatever else the application calls for), and read the manual as to proper use, they should be just fine.
DEWALT DC970K-2 is a great drill that really accomplishes anything I throw at it. I’ve been able to easily screw in 3″ construction screws into dry fir. Great for flooring applications and really nice slow speed to make sure you’re starting steady. And ijus checked on amazon, its on sale. you should try that one.
The two batteries that come with this kit are great. I’ve been able to go a full day without swapping. The only time I need to swap more often is if I’m using a 1″ wood drill bit going through very dry fir beams/joists. I’ve been able to use an 18″ long 1″ wood drill bit without so much as a slowdown. Very impressive for a drill this size. It’s my general use drill that I use for pretty much anything.
Is there such a thing as a universal torque gun. in an assembly setting here. There is a need to have a torque gun for screws on the left and right side of each part. 1 person for each side. In a moving assembly line.
Handling the torque gun is awkward from 1 side to the next.