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Best Electric Drills

Updated September 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 8 Models Considered
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 162 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best electric drills

    Last Updated September 2018

    A good electric drill has been part of home and professional tool sets for decades. Whether you’re driving screws into the kids’ new swingset or drilling a few holes in the wall to hang some artwork, an electric drill is an indispensable tool.

    It's not practical for you to test dozens of different models before making a decision, but we have our own workshops set up to do exactly that.

    If you'd like more information about electric drills – or if you want some pointers on how to select the best one for your home or workshop – read our shopping guide.

    Or select from the electric drills we found to be the very best.

    A set of HSS drill bits in various sizes is a good general-purpose purchase. A small selection of masonry bits is also nice to have.

    Why buy a corded electric drill?

    Although cordless drills have made great advances, you're still reliant on a battery when you use one. A corded electric drill works anywhere there's a power socket – and it works all day and night if you need it to. Performance doesn't deteriorate like it does with cordless drills, and torque is usually higher, too.

    Opinion is divided as to which is lighter, the cordless or corded drill. In truth, it depends on the size of drill you buy. Ergonomics is another issue. Cordless drills are more ergonomically designed than they once were, but there's still a heavy battery on the end of the grip. That's never a problem with a corded drill.

    Then there's the financial saving. Many electric drills can be bought for less than the cost of the battery that goes in a cordless drill. When you consider the fact that a cordless drill battery will eventually wear out and need to be replaced, it’s easy to see why some people prefer to use an electric drill.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Large drill bits can wander, making it difficult to drill an accurate hole. Use a smaller drill bit to make a pilot hole first. Then, use this hole to guide the larger bit.

    Electric drill power

    Amps

    Corded electric drill power is measured in amps. An entry-level model for light-duty DIY tasks will be rated for around three amps. At the other end of the scale, general-purpose drills of professional-grade quality are rated at up to nine amps.

    The tougher the job you do, the more power you need. If you're putting up shelves in internal drywall, a three-amp model would suffice. If you need to make holes in brick or concrete, you'll want an electric drill with six amps or more.

    Brush vs. brushless motor

    When you're looking at cordless drills, much is made of the difference between brush and brushless motors. The latter is more efficient but also more expensive. The amount of energy available is not a consideration with corded drills – there's no battery to run flat – so the majority use brush motors. It keeps costs down without adversely affecting performance.

    Torque

    Torque almost always relates directly to the amount of power available, but manufacturers don’t always supply torque data. A drill’s torque might make a difference if you were choosing between two closely matched drills, but we wouldn't normally consider it to be a deciding factor.

    Some electric drills come with a depth gauge, but you can make your own with a piece of tape. Just wrap it around the drill bit at the depth you need. When the tape reaches the item being drilled, you're there.

    Electric drill speed

    When evaluating the speed of an electric drill, consider that maximum speed is less important than variable speed. If you have a small drill bit and want to make a 1/16-inch hole in a piece of aluminum, you need high speed. However, if you're using a 1/2-inch spade bit in wood, you need slower speed.

    The speed on a basic electric drill is controlled by how much you squeeze the trigger. On better models, you will also find variable speed settings. Variable speed is useful when you’re using the drill as a driver. Corded drills don't have a clutch setting like you’d find on a cordless, so low speed gives you the control you need. It requires a little more care than a clutch, but you soon get used to it.

    Low-power corded drills usually have a speed range up to 1,000 or 1,500 rpm. More powerful models run up to 2,500 or 3,000 rpm. The control dial may be built into the trigger or another part of the drill body. If it's not in the trigger, it could be adjusted on the fly – and some manufacturers claim this as a benefit.

    Electric drill chucks

    There are two types of chuck: keyed (also called Jacobs) and keyless. Keyed chucks have been around since the invention of the electric drill. The use of a key allows you to apply more force to tighten the drill bit. In practice, though, a lack of force is seldom an issue, and many who have used a keyed chuck can attest to the fact that it’s frustrating when you can’t find the key!

    As a result, keyless chucks – tightened quickly by hand – are the more popular choice. While the jaws of a keyless chuck are invariably metal, the mechanism itself can be metal or plastic. We favor metal for durability, although plastic is also adequate.

    CAUTION

    Small-diameter bits break easily. Go slowly, and try to keep the drill at a 90° angle to your workpiece.

    Other electric drill features

    • Weight: General-purpose corded electric drills weigh anywhere from three to six pounds. That’s not particularly bulky, but it could be a consideration for users with reduced hand or arm strength. It's worth checking the weight of a drill before you buy, because high performance doesn't always mean a heavier drill. Conscientious manufacturers often put some effort into reducing the weight of their product.

    • Drilling capacity: Some manufacturers quote drilling capacity: maximum sizes in wood or steel. It may sound impressive, but these figures have little practical value. They don't tell you what kind of wood or what type of steel you’d be using, and the specific material makes a big difference.

    • Cord length: Electric drill cords are usually between six and eight feet long. A cord shorter than that would be restrictive. Regardless of cord length, it is still likely that you’d need to use an extension cord with your electric drill much of the time.

    • Grip: A rubberized grip makes the drill more comfortable in the hand and ensures you've got a firm hold when using full power and large drill bits.

    • Lock-on button: A lock-on button (sometimes called a stopper) means you don't have to keep the trigger pressed to maintain power.

    • On-board storage: Some drills offer on-board storage for a screwdriver bit. This is a nice added convenience.
    EXPERT TIP

    Saw-toothed and Forstner bits are versatile additions to your toolbox. They allow you to drill larger holes than normal, as well as recesses for the kind of hinge you find in kitchen units.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Electric drill prices

    • $30 or less

    If you’re in the market for a low-cost electric drill, you can find a good one from a trusted brand like BLACK + DECKER for $30 or less. We advise potential buyers to stick with known brands with a proven track record for durability and reliability.

    Other brands we like include, but are not limited to, DEWALT and PORTER-CABLE.

    • $70 or less

    Even the most powerful drills we looked at were still very economical, ranging from $60 to $70. That’s good news for buyers, because you have a world of choice for a relatively small investment.

    Safety tips

    • Be careful with the cord or extension lead attached to your electric drill. To keep it out of the way, consider looping it over your shoulder.

    • When drilling large holes (with a spade bit or hole saw, for example), make sure you have a good grip with both hands. Some electric drills are unexpectedly powerful, and if the bit catches the workpiece, it could twist suddenly, and one hand might not be enough to hold it.

    • Always wear eye protection. When drilling wood or man-made materials, a dust mask is also a good idea.

    • When working outdoors, plug corded tools into a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlet. This instantly cuts power in the event of cable damage or if water gets into a connection.

    Warranty length, returns periods, and money-back guarantees can be confusing; make sure you understand what your product offers before you buy. It's unlikely you'll have to return your drill, but if you do, you don't want to find time has run out because you left it in its box for a month.

    FAQ

    Q. What is the difference between a 1/4-inch drill, a 3/8-inch drill, and a 1/2-inch drill?

    A. The dimension refers to chuck size. Specifically, it refers to how wide the jaws will open and the maximum size shank you can fit. Mind you, that's not the same as the maximum size drill bit, because a one-inch spade bit might only have a 3/8-inch shank.

    A 1/4-inch chuck will be found on a light-duty DIY drill. A 3/8-inch chuck is the most common size and is used on a variety of models, from modest homeowner drills to high-performance pro tools. Chucks of 1/2 inch are often found on hammer drills.

    Q. Would a hammer drill be a better all-around option?

    A. Hammer drills are more powerful than electric drills, and they are particularly good if you drill a lot of masonry or concrete. However, they are larger, heavier, and more expensive than general-purpose electric drills. A hammer drill is a great tool, but the models featured in the matrix above offer an excellent combination of power and value.

    Q. What does HSS mean?

    A. HSS stands for high-speed steel. This is the material typically used to make general-purpose drill bits, also called twist drills. Carbon steel bits are also available, and they cost less, but they're really only for drilling wood.

    HSS drill bits are sometimes coated in titanium nitride to improve performance. These are better for drilling metal. Beware, though: some manufacturers produce gold-colored drill bits because they look special. They might be coated, but it might just be color. Check before you buy.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Bob
      Bob
      Writer
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor
    • Samantha
      Samantha
      Writer

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