We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
A cordless drill is a basic part of any homeowner’s toolbox. It’s the essential handheld power tool, and we think everyone should have one handy for home repair and DIY tasks.
Not surprisingly, there’s a wide selection of cordless drill available on the market, offering many different features and capabilities, at significantly varied prices. Which one is right for your toolkit?
That’s where BestReviews comes in! We tested the market’s top-performing and most popular cordless drills in the BestReviews lab. We bought our drills at the same places you do – we never accept free samples from manufacturers, so you can count on our analysis to be fair and unbiased. Our ultimate goal is to become your go-to source for trustworthy product recommendations whenever you’re faced with a buying decision.
If you’d like to learn more about cordless drills, as well as how to evaluate one for your own potential purchase, continue on to the product guide below.
If you’re ready to buy now, check out our recommendations in the product matrix at the top of the page.
You might think the uses for a cordless drill are limited, but it’s actually a highly versatile tool for many situations. Here are just a few of the capabilities you’ll find in a cordless drill:
A good set of screwdriving bits allows you to work with traditional Phillips-head screws, slotted, or more specialty screws such as Pozidrivs or triple-squares.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Makita 18V Compact Lithium-Ion 1/2"
The Hitachi 18-Volt cordless drill topped all of our tests, performing well in every category. Buyers love it as well, commenting on its long-lasting battery, reliable performance, and strong torque. It comes with a second battery, flashlight, and belt clip. Customers report that the battery life is excellent, and that the power allows them to drill cleanly through both masonry and steel.
Yes, you can even find attachments to thoroughly mix paint (or, if your drill is powerful, cement!) to ensure your new living room walls look perfect.
A good paint job starts with well-mixed paint. You can buy an attachment for your cordless drill that mixes up paint right in the gallon can.
Cordless drills can turn drill bits as easily as screwdriving bits.
With a set of socket-driving bits, you can work with all manner of fasteners.
Many types of sanding attachments are available, making your cordless drill and excellent tool for smoothing furniture or even restoring car headlights.
Some cordless drills come with a belt hook, which makes working on a ladder both easier and safer.
Believe it or not, you can actually till soil, dig holes, and pull weeds with a cordless drill.
There are plenty of brush and sponge attachments. Let your drill put the elbow grease into cleaning.
Never wear baggy clothing when working with a power tool. Avoid dangling necklaces, bracelets, or anything else that could become tangled in your drill.
Battery power is measured in volts. The more volts, the more powerful the drill, and the more torque it can muster. The majority of cordless drills are either 12-Volt or 18-Volt. The 12v models are sufficient for most household tasks, but if it’s within your budget, you can’t go wrong with the extra power offered by 18v.
Let your drill do the work. Avoid pushing or applying too much pressure – this can burn out the drill’s motor, or cause it to slip as you work.
A built-in LED light is very handy when you’re drilling in a dark or recessed location.
Many quality cordless drills come with two batteries, so one can charge while the other is in use.
A second battery ensures that your work won’t stop when a battery needs to be recharged.
While you can still find drills powered by nickel cadmium (NiCd) batteries, they’re not as common as lithium-ion (Li-ion) models. In general, Li-Ion batteries provide longer run time, more power, and don’t contain cadmium, an environmentally harmful metal. Li-Ion batteries are also lighter than NiCd batteries. They do cost more, but we only recommend drills powered by Li-Ion batteries.
Nothing is quite as frustrating as putting your project on hold because your cordless drill needs several hours to recharge. Luckily, chargers for Li-Ion batteries are generally fairly fast: you’ll be recharged and on your way in an hour or less, even if you didn’t invest in spare batteries.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Hitachi 18-Volt 1/2
The Hitachi 18-Volt Compact Pro Driver Drill offers amazing power, 460 in/lbs of torque. Couple that with the impressive 22-setting variable clutch, and you’ve got both the power and precision to accomplish virtually any job. It weighs 3.5 pounds with the battery inserted, and the balance is excellent, allowing you to work comfortably for long periods of time.
Typically, cordless drills have low- and high-speed settings. Low speed provides more torque (twisting power) for driving screws, while high-speed is used for drilling holes. Some models also have a variable-speed lever so you can set a more specific speed.
A cordless drill’s clutch stops rotation of the drill bit once a set resistance is reached. This prevents stripping or over-tightening a screw. Variable clutch settings let you tailor the resistance for your needs: usually, a low resistance is for small screws, a high resistance for large screws.
A variable clutch allows you to set the maximum resistance for the drill, preventing over-tightening of a screw.
The chuck is the part of the drill that holds the bit. Some less expensive models only have a ⅜-inch chuck, but most cordless drills have a ½-inch chuck, which is far more versatile.
Some cordless drill kits include a belt hook, which can be very handy when you’re working on a ladder or walking around a project site.
You can find plenty of basic cordless drills for $100 or less. These may or may not include a carrying case, but should have lithium-ion batteries. Features such as variable clutch and LED lights will vary from model to model in this price range. These drills are often a bit more compact and lightweight than other cordless drills, and are often advertised as sufficient for “light duty” jobs.
Cordless drills between $100 and $200 should come with more features and often, more power. They often include a second battery, so that you can charge one battery while using the other. Drill bit sets are usually part of the package for drills in this price range, too, and they’ll almost always come with a carrying case.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
DeWALT 20V MAX Lithium-Ion 1/2"
When it comes to performance versus price, it’s hard to beat the DeWalt MAX. Its compact, lightweight design makes it a breeze to reach into tight areas. Owners indicate that the batteries last longer than other drills they’ve tried, and they’re particularly pleased with DeWalt’s unique approach to lighting: the LED light on most drills only shines when the drill is actually rotating. DeWalt, however, allows you to turn the light on independently of the drill operating. The batteries charge quickly, and they deliver power all the way through the battery life; no tapering off as the battery drains. The DeWalt MAX may not provide the power needed for heavy-duty construction, but for the typical homeowner it’s more than sufficient and an excellent value.
Drilling a hole to a specific depth? Wrap a bit of colored tape around your drill bit at the desired depth. When the tape hits the hole, you’re there.
Not sure what size drill bit you need? It’s better to err on the side of too small than go too large. After all, you can always make the hole bigger, but it’s hard to make it smaller once you’ve over-drilled.
Always start drilling on a low speed, and then increase as needed.
Typically, your drill will have a lever to set the direction forward (driving screws in) or reverse (unscrewing screws). If the lever is set in between the two directions, it’s locked. So if you can’t figure out why your drill won’t spin, check the direction lever.
Remember that the larger the drill bit, the more powerful the torque.
Hold your drill so the bit is at a right angle to the work surface. This will prevent the bit from skittering or breaking as you work.
Stay safe: wear eye protection when you use any power tool. Dust from paint, wood, drywall, or masonry can all do serious damage to your eyes.
If you’re drilling a deep hole, periodically pull the bit out and dust or blow away the accumulated sawdust and grit.
Unless you’re drilling into a wall or similarly fixed object, make sure to clamp the item before starting to drill.
A good, basic set of drilling and driving bits should accomplish just about anything the average homeowner or casual DIYer needs to do. Common types of drill bits include:
Phillips head for use with that type of screw
Metal, or high-speed steel (HSS) for drilling into metal
Auger for deep holes
Spur point for wood
Tile or glass bits for working with those materials
Spade bit for large holes in wood
Hole saw for even larger holes in wood
Masonry bit for concrete, brick, or stone
Countersink – these cut a tiny bit of extra space for the screw’s head
Sanding bits – these are wrapped with sandpaper and are extremely useful for smoothing surfaces before painting, priming, etc.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.