Best Cordless Drill for Homeowners 1

The Best Cordless Drill For Homeowners

A cordless drill is arguably the most valuable power tool that every homeowner has to have. There are literally hundreds of jobs around the house that are made easier and quicker with a cordless drill. For most people, a cordless drill is the first power tool purchased, so it’s a good idea to consider the platform that stands behind the tool, because future tool purchases are much more economical if you buy tools that are compatible with batteries and chargers you already have.

The average homeowner might not need the same kind of power or the ability to stand up to daily abuse as the ones I use every day at the jobsite, but there is no reason not to purchase a reliable and well-made tool that will last for years. So with that criteria in mind, let’s take a look at my top picks.

THE BEST OVERALL

Makita XFD131

MAKITA XFD131

The Makita XFD131 is packed with pro quality features at a DIY-er price. It has the fastest RPMs (1,900) of any drill in our lineup, plenty of power (440 inch-pounds of torque), and enough adjustable torque settings for a full range of applications, from large fasteners to small delicate screws. The brushless motor provides a longer run time on the included 3.0 amp-hour battery, and the 30-minute charge time means more time working and less time waiting.

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MAKITA BRAND and HISTORY

Makita was founded in 1915 in Nagoya, Japan. At first, the company repaired lighting equipment, motors and transformers. Later in the 1920’s, they began to manufacture their own motors and electric generators. The late 1950’s and early 1960’s saw the introduction of portable electric planers and a circular saw. Makita began selling products in the US market in 1970, eventually creating its first cordless drill in 1978. While they didn’t invent the brushless motor, Makita was the first company to use them in power tools, first for the aerospace industry in 2003, and then producing a brushless impact driver in 2009.

BEST OVERALL

Makita XFD131

MAKITA XFD131

The Makita XFD10R has the best mix of features and performance in a kit that is a solid value. It’s a great choice for drilling and driving fasteners for the user who wants a drill with an outstanding power-to-weight ratio. The 440 inch-pounds of torque in a compact 3.8-pound package will make anybody smile at the thought of working overhead for extended periods of time. Compatibility with any Makita 18V Lithium-Ion battery with a Star symbol, the XFD131 is part of a platform that includes well over 200 products and makes it a great first tool of a future collection of cordless power tools.

The Good: High RPM brushless motor, Quick charger

The Not So Good: Only one battery included in kit

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MAKITA

XFD131
BEST OVERALL
  • 18 Volts
  • (1) Lithium Ion Battery 3.0 ah
  • 440 in-lbs Torque
  • 1,900 RPM
  • Brushless Motor
  • 1/2" Chuck
  • 22 Clutch Settings
  • 30 Minute Charger

RYOBI

P208
BEST VALUE
  • 18 Volts
  • 0 Lithium Ion Battery 2.0 ah
  • 350 in-lbs Torque
  • 1,600 RPM
  • Brushed Motor
  • 1/2" Chuck
  • 24 Clutch Settings
  • No Charger

DEWALT

DCD777C2
BEST TORQUE
  • 20 Volts
  • (2)Lithium Ion Batteries 1.3 ah
  • 500 in-lbs Torque
  • 1,600 RPM
  • Brushless Motor
  • 1/2" Chuck
  • 16 Clutch Settings
  • 90 Minute Charger

BLACK+DECKER

LDX120C
BEST BUDGET
  • 20 Volts
  • (1) Lithium Ion Battery 1.3 ah
  • 115 in-lbs Torque
  • 650 RPM
  • Brushed Motor
  • 3/8" Chuck
  • 11 Clutch Settings
  • 2 Hour Charger

Bosch

PS31-2A
BEST COMPACT
  • 12 Volts
  • (2)Lithium Ion Batteries 2.0 ah
  • 265 in-lbs Torque
  • 1,300 RPM
  • Brushless Motor
  • 3/8" Chuck
  • 21 Clutch Settings
  • 60 Minute Charger

CORDLESS DRILLS WORTH CONSIDERING

BEST VALUE

Ryobi P208

RYOBI P208

Ryiobi has figured out a way to produce products that perform well and deliver them at great prices. While not the most powerful, the P208 has enough torque for any light to medium duty tasks. They’ve included some really nice convenience features like the built in magnetic tray to hold screws and the on board bit storage holder. As part of the 18V ONE+ system, the P208 is compatible with hundreds of different batteries and tools, even ones from Ryiobi’s older generation.

The Good: Great speed, Great price

The Not So Good: A little low on the torque

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BEST TORQUE

DeWalt DCD777C2

DEWALT DCD777C2

Another quality offering from DeWalt in the DCD777C2. Great power (500 inch-pounds) and speed (1,600 RPM), with a brushless motor that runs much more efficiently than their brushed counterpart (DCD771C2). If it wasn’t for the 90-minute charger included in this kit, the DCD777C2 would have landed at Best Overall. If you’re looking for a pro grade tool that is part of an outstanding cordless platform, you can’t go wrong with the DCD777C2.

The Good: Great power and speed, (2) 1.3 ah batteries included

The Not So Good: Charger a little slower than Makita

Click here to see today’s price on Amazon

BEST BUDGET

Black + Decker LDX120C

BLACK + DECKER LDX120C

The Black and Decker LDX120C doesn’t have impressive specs compared to more pro quality tools like the Makita or Dewalt, but what it lacks in performance, it more than makes up for when it comes to price. If you’re looking for a cheap drill for light duty work, the LDX120C is roughly half the price of the XFD131, and it sure beats driving screws with a screwdriver.

The Good: Super low price

The Not So Good: Slow on the RPMs, Low torque, Slow battery charger

Click here to see today’s price on Amazon

BEST COMPACT

Bosch PS31-2A

BOSCH PS31-2A

The Bosch PS31-2A is my favorite compact drill. It has a surprising amount of power for such a lightweight (just over 2 pounds) drill. The kit comes with the brushless drill, (2) 12 volt batteries, charger and a gig bag. A great example of precision German engineering at a price that won’t break the bank.

The Good: Compact and lightweight

The Not So Good: Nada

Click here to see today’s price on Amazon

Why Trust Me?

I always chuckle when I see the websites with the reviews of tools when they say “we spent over 20 hours evaluating these tools, trying to simulate real world conditions in our test lab” and that is somehow supposed to convince you that that makes them some kind of authority on the subject. And because they’ve spent all that time, you therefore should trust them to recommend the Best Cordless Drill.

I guess maybe there is some value in knowing that a brand new tool was able to drive 143 screws into a piece of wood before the battery ran out, but you might want to know how well that tool performs after it’s a few years old. Or you might want to know if the tool can hold up to daily use and abuse like it is subjected to in the actual real world.

Over the last 30 plus years as a general contractor, I’ve been making my living using these tools at jobsites day in and day out. My crews and subs make their livings using these tools too. And we all talk. Word quickly gets around about an innovative new design, and probably even more quickly when someone made the mistake of buying a piece of junk.

There’s nothing worse than spending your hard earned money on a tool that you are expecting to make it easier and faster to tackle all kinds of projects around the house, only to find out that the tool comes up miserably short of meeting your expectations. My goal here is to keep you from buying that piece of junk.

Why You Need A Cordless Drill

It should come as no surprise that the cordless drill is the most popular power tool in the world. It’s versatility, portability and ease of use make it an essential tool for both Do-It-Yourselfers and professional tradespeople alike.

There are actually two types of cordless drills- a cordless drill is used for drilling holes and a cordless impact driver for driving screws and lag bolts (click here for my review of the best cordless impact driver). The cordless drill operates on a fast speed to allow the drill bit to bore holes into wood, metal or plastic. The cordless impact driver has more torque to make it easier to drive screws and lag bolts.

In a perfect world you would have one of each so you don’t have to switch out the drill bit and replace it with a screw tip every time you want to pre drill and then drive a screw. If you are not ready to invest in both tools right now, a cordless drill driver has two speed range settings so it can do both jobs, hence the name “Drill Driver”.

Best Cordless Drill for Homeowners 3

Cordless Drill Features- What's What and What's Important

Power

Power is measured in two ways: torque and speed. Torque is how much force acting on an object causes that object to rotate and is measured in inch-pounds. More is definitely always better because it makes driving a screw easier. Speed is measured in revolutions per minute or RPM. When drilling holes, the smaller the diameter hole, the faster the speed is better. In other words, drilling a 1” hole in a piece of soft wood is best done safely with a speed of around 1,000 rpm, while a 3/4” hole should be around 1,400 rpm. Here’s a handy reference chart with recommended speeds for all types of bits and materials.

Batteries

Battery power is measured in volts. While there are numerous manufacturers producing 12-volt batteries, the majority of them fall into the toy category and aren’t worth considering, with the exception of the Bosch PS31-2A. The 18-volt and 20-volt models are the most popular, and rightly so, because they have plenty of power for most any task.

Battery capacity is expressed by how many Amps for how many hours a battery will last before needing to be recharged. Typical quality batteries will be rated between 1.4 ah to 3.0 ah.

There are two types of batteries commonly used in cordless tools- Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) are the old technology containing environmentally unfriendly cadmium, and the far superior Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) models. Lithium Ion batteries provide longer run time, more power, and are lighter than NiCd batteries. They cost a bit more, but are worth it.

Charging Time

There’s nothing quite as frustrating as putting your project on hold because your battery needs charging. I recommend buying a kit with two batteries, so you can always have one charged and ready to go. Charging time varies greatly, but most are reasonably quick, in the 30 to 90-minute range.

Brushed or Brushless?

Is brushless really better or is it just the latest trendy “must have” marketing feature? To be Honest, it’s yes to both questions. Brushless motors in cordless drills are technically better because their design reduces the friction involved with the brushes, providing a little more power and extending the battery run time. Will you notice the difference in power? Probably not. The downside to brushless motors is they cost more, but they are undoubtedly better. For a more detailed look at the differences, click here for my article on brush vs brushless drills.

Steve Wright

Steve Wright is a general contractor who over the last 30 plus years has built hundreds of new homes, ranging from first time affordable homes to multi-million dollar custom homes and everything in between.

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