Q&A OF THE WEEK: Tips for Choosing a Cordless Drill

Q: What kind of basic cordless drill do you suggest for home use? I have a 12 volt model bought in 2010, but it’s not as powerful as it used to be. I need something more.

This particular 18 volt cordless drill is a good choice for basic home use. Prepare to spend more money if your needs extend beyond this.

A: There are a number of good brands out there, so there’s lots to choose from. You can get a very good basic 18- or 20-volt homeowner-grade drill for a little more than $100. You could spend $200 or $300 for a better model that’s stronger, longer lasting, more powerful and with a couple of batteries as part of a kit. Ryobi is one brand that combines a lot of value at economical prices. Craftsman recently came out with a very nice 20 volt cordless drill for $100 (that’s what you see above).

Your old 12 volt drill probably has nickel cadmium batteries so you’ll notice a big jump in power and run time because of the lithium-ion batteries found in all cordless power tools these days. To learn more about choosing and using a cordless drill, watch my video tutorial below.

One little known fact about cordless power tools has to do with stated voltage. Most general purpose cordless drills have an 18 volt electric system, while DEWALT has 20 volt. Many people mistakenly believe that DEWALT’s 20 volt system gives a little more power than 18 volt equivalents but this isn’t true. All 18 volt power tool batteries put out a little more than 20 volts when fully charged and at rest, as does DEWALT. I know because I’ve tested. But when that power tool is put under load, battery voltage drops to a little more than 18 volts for all tools including DEWALT. So DEWALT’s 20 volt system is no higher than competing 18 volt tools, it’s just a different way of measuring the same voltage. I understand the laws in Europe prevent DEWALT from marketing no-load voltage, so the same 20 volt tool in North America would be sold as 18 volts in the European Union.

Watch the video below for a lesson on the basics of a cordless drill.