This is a question we hear every now and then. The wording varies, but in essence the question drills down to – is now a good time to start buying cordless tools?
Brian wrote in:
I haven’t used any cordless equipment for about 3 or 4 years, maybe longer. How are cordless tools coming along? I’ve used some cordless where I spent more time recharging batteries than I did working. I really, really hate that. I know they will never compare equally as the battery will eventually run out of power. I’m just asking how much better are they now. I would be looking at either Dewalt, Milwaukee, or Ridgid. I know Ridgid did have a lifetime battery guarantee. They other thing I don’t like is that I’m committed to one companies tools once I buy in. That bugs me too as one company doesn’t make the best tools across the board. I have Dewalt, Bosch, Ridgid and Skil depending on the tool. All corded.
This is not an easy question to tackle. Cordless power tools have never been better, making this a great time to buy into one or more cordless tool platforms.
How are cordless tools coming along? I’ve used some cordless where I spent more time recharging batteries than I did working.
Lithium-ion battery technology is leaps and bounds better than Nickel Cadmium and Nickel Metal Hydride technologies from a few years ago.
Today’s battery packs are more compact, lighter in weight, and have greater charge capacity. Runtime is often quite good.
These days, I rarely ever reach for my corded drill. There are still reasons to keep it around, but most of the time there isn’t much my cordless drill/driver or impact driver cannot handle.
Battery charging times are quite good too. Even today’s high capacity 4.0Ah battery packs charge up in 45 to 90 minutes. We put together a chart detailing various brands’ battery charging times.
Certain tools still drain battery packs quite quickly. Circular saws, reciprocating saws, cut-off tools, angle grinders, and other such heavy-duty tools typically deplete battery packs quickly under continuous use.
Brushless motor technology provides for unprecedented corded-like power and longer-than-ever cordless tool runtime, but thus far Milwaukee is the only brand to have brought brushless cordless saws and grinders to market.
There is no doubt in my mind that now is a great time to buy a cordless drill, hammer drill, impact driver, or impact wrench.
It’s also a great time to buy cordless saws, grinders, or oscillating multi-tools but runtime could be an issue when these tools are used continuously.
I would be looking at either Dewalt, Milwaukee, or Rigid. I know Ridgid did have a lifetime battery guarantee. I’m committed to one companies tools once I buy in.
Yes, Ridgid still has their lifetime battery guarantee program (more details, via Home Depot).
That’s still another unfortunate limitation about cordless power tools – each brand has their proprietary batteries and chargers. Different tools that best fit your needs might be from all different brands.
If you want a Dewalt drill, Milwaukee impact driver, Bosch oscillating multi-tool, Ridgid saw, and Makita sander, you will need to invest heavily in batteries and chargers to fit each tool.
Right now, Bosch is my favorite cordless tool brand. I feel that Dewalt is also a good all-around brand (despite the growing but still limited selection of their 20V Max lineup), and Milwaukee is the best high performance brand. Milwaukee has the greatest selection of brushless tools (under M12 and M18 FUEL branding), and has proven themselves to be a market leader in regard to cordless innovation and advancements.
Ridgid is a good brand as well, but their product selection is limited and they are somewhat slower than their competitors in bringing cordless innovation to market.
Following are the tool categories I use most often, and whether I use corded or cordless versions most of the time:
- Drill: cordless
- Drill/Driver or Screwdriver: cordless
- Impact Driver: cordless
- Impact Wrench: cordless
- Jig Saw: corded
- Plunge Circular Saw: corded (because there’s no cordless track saw yet*)
- Circular Saw: cordless
- Angle Grinder/Cut-Off Tool: cordless
- Rotary Tool: corded
- Rotary Hammer: cordless
- Reciprocating Saw: cordless
* As per comments below, there is at least one cordless track saw (Dewalt 28V) on the market.
It is possible to use cordless and corded tools side by side.
If I were in a trade where I had to pick one cordless brand to stick with, it would be Milwaukee.
For many corded tool users, now is the BEST time to start looking at cordless options. It might not be a good time to switch over each and every tool, but this depends on personal usage tendencies and preferences.
Runtime and power considerations aside, cordless tools are often more compact, lighter, and engineered with additional features. For instance, it is rare to find a corded drill with adjustable clutch, or a corded impact driver with multiple speed and torque settings.