Best Cheap Cordless Drills
Published on By Maralyn Edid
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Ryobi HJP002K Review
From $79 Best
A compact, lightweight 12V cordless drill with a 3/8" chuck that wins strong endorsements from home users and some professionals for its power and torque and the run time of its battery. This model features 24 clutch settings and speed up to 600 rpm; it comes with two batteries, a charger, and storage case.
This cheap cordless drill claims fans among casual users as well as professionals. Ryobi 12V HJP002K reviews posted on Home Depot laud its well-balanced and light weight, compact size, power, and battery capacity. It holds its own when used to assemble ping pong tables, trim out construction jobs, and drill holes in ceilings. Users posting reviews report the battery lasts for days on a single charge and recharges within 45 minutes. It's also durable; one user reports no negative effects even when dropped from 10 feet. We did come across two minor gripes: A few Ryobi 12V HJP002K reviews express a preference for a tad more torque, and a couple of users say the chuck occasionally doesn't clamp down tightly. But overall, users like its gusto, responsive trigger, and sensitive clutch.
The Ryobi 12V HJP002K (starting at $79, Amazon) sports a 3/8" keyless chuck, 24 clutch settings, ergonomic handle, and magnetic holder for screws and bits. Its variable speed reaches up to 600 rpm and it weighs less than two pounds. The tool comes with two 12-volt lithium-ion batteries, a 45-minute charger, and a storage bag.
A Home Depot exclusive, the Ryobi 12V HJP002K would be a good investment for anyone undertaking basic drilling and driving tasks. Ryobi 12V HJP002K reviews enthusiastically recommend this model for light-duty projects, noting that it's easy to work with and handily fits into tight spaces.
Where to buy
Craftsman 17310 Review
From $100 Best
The Craftsman 17310 C3 with a 1/2" chuck and 19.2V is a powerful drill that stands up to the competition, beating most others in price for its size. Buyers appreciate the multi-chemistry charger that works with old and new battery types, two speed settings, and LED light, but note that it's a bit heavy.
The Craftsman 17310 19.2V cordless drill packs a wallop for a relatively cheap price. In Craftsman 17310 19.2V reviews on Sears, users compliment its power and torque and feel in the hand (although some say the six-pound weight wears on you after a while). The drill can be used for a wide variety of tasks, from mixing drywall mud (with a paddle attachment) for a remodeling job to delicate work on a computer to odd jobs around the house and garden. Some users even admit to dropping the drill but with no ill effect. Reviews also tout the LED light, which shines on the impact area, and the staying power and fast recharge of the lithium-ion battery; a few reviews, however, report a disappointingly short run for a fully charged battery (after tightening screws on eight chairs, for example). Still, one mechanic writes in a Craftsman 17310 19.2V review that this drill is at least as good as higher-priced models sold by specialty vendors.
The Craftsman 17310 19.2V (starting at $100, Amazon) keyless chuck takes bits up to 1/2 inch and drills holes and drives screws at speeds up to 440 rpm and 1,600 rpm; it boasts 24 clutch positions. It comes with one multi-chemistry charger that works for both lithium-ion and Ni-CAD batteries so you can switch them out if one loses its juice in the midst of a job. The drill is packaged with one lithium-ion battery and two screwdriver bits.
Buyers generally seem satisfied with this cordless drill. It wins our vote for the near professional-level features, good performance, and value pricing.
Porter-Cable PCL120DDC-2 Review
From $90 Good
The Porter-Cable 12V PCL120DDC-2 cordless drill comes from a family of quality drills, and this compact model offers welcome extras, including an LED light, belt clip, and two batteries. Reviewers compliment its balance of performance, features, and price.
For the average homeowner who dabbles in do-it-yourself projects, this compact 12-volt drill may be just the thing. Porter-Cable PCL120DDC-2 12V reviews are few in number but those we found are strongly positive. On Lowe's, users tell of putting up shelves, making small holes in wood, and completing other light jobs with ease. In reviews on Amazon, this cheap drill is favorably compared to higher-cost competitors and praised for its power and hold on the bits. Cordless Drill Reviews ranks it in the top half of the 12-volt class for speed and the top fifth for power, but says it's less efficient in terms of the power-to-weight ratio than the average. Users' reports indicate that it falters somewhat with long screws or when matched against metal surfaces, but not enough to put them off this model.
The Porter-Cable PCL120DDC-2 (starting at $90, Amazon) is a two-speed 12V drill with a variable speed trigger that maxes out at 315 rpm and 1,200 rpm. It features a keyless 3/8" chuck, 20 clutch settings, and an LED work light. It comes with two lithium-ion batteries that are rated at 1.3 Ah, a 30-minute charger, one screw bit, a belt hook, and a storage case. The specs say it weighs 2.4 pounds.
Based on the Porter-Cable PCL120DDC-2 reviews that we read, this product offers a good balance among performance, features, and price. Homeowners, hobbyists, and even a few professionals needing to quickly drill a hole or drive a screw will be pleased with the results.
Ryobi 18V P815 Review
From $150 Good
The Ryobi 18V P815 is one of the better cheap and powerful cordless drills that users cheer for its light weight and fast speed (up to 1,600 rpm at high and 440 rpm on low). It features a variable speed trigger and comes with two batteries, dual-chemistry charger, and tool bag.
The Ryobi 18V P815 Cordless Compact Drill (starting at $150, Amazon) keeps the cost down and much of its customer base happy. Experts at Cordless Drill Reviews laud its light weight, fast speed, below-average price, and good durability but say its power and battery life don't compare as favorably to others in its class. Users are not deterred. According to Ryobi 18V P815 reviews at Home Depot, this drill has the power and torque to take on a wide variety of tasks: drilling holes for mounting bookshelves, spot cleaning carpets in a car with a brush attachment, or boring small holes in the ground. Reviews say it holds its charge well, recharges quickly, and is well-designed in terms of balance and weight. Both men and women take to this drill, and one review reports that the man of the house uses it for outdoor jobs while the woman of the house has dibs on it for inside jobs. Nonetheless, a few users gripe in Ryobi P815 reviews about limited run times for the battery and difficulty getting smooth, low speeds.
The Ryobi P815 kit includes two 12-volt lithium-ion batteries and a 60-minute dual-chemistry charger, the latter component a big plus in the eyes of several users because it lets you charge up and use either a lithium-ion or Ni-CAD battery. It also comes with a tool bag and sports a 1/2" keyless chuck, 24-position clutch, and variable speed trigger that gets you up to 1,600 rpm. If you already have batteries and a charger lying around, you can opt for the Ryobi 18V P202, which is the same drill minus the accessories, and sells for about $60.
A good all-purpose drill, the Ryobi P815 is also a good value buy.
PowerGlide 2186955 Review
From $41 Think Twice
This is another cheap cordless drill with the old NiCAD technology and a 3/8" chuck that isn't much of a bargain. Users like the variable speed but complain about weak motors and report problems with chargers and batteries going bad; users grouse that you can't buy these items separately.
According to Power Glide 19.2V cordless drill reviews, this model is easy to use -- when it works. Some posts on Ace Hardware say this drill is nicely balanced and sufficiently powerful, but others assert it's heavy and low on the power meter. But the biggest barbs are aimed at its overall quality. Reviews report problems like chargers that melt the batteries, overheat, or leak and batteries that don't hold their charge or prematurely give out all together. One user commenting in reviews on Amazon reports that the charger was useless after eight months and a replacement unit couldn't get the drill moving again, either. Note, though, that we read several Power Glide 19.2V reviews griping about having to buy a whole new kit -- drill, battery, and charger -- when one component failed because they're not sold separately.
The 19.2V Power Glide (starting at $41, Amazon) features variable speed up to 900 rmp, a 17-position clutch, and 3/8" keyless chuck. The set includes one NiCAD battery, a charger that takes three to five hours to juice up the battery, a carrying case, and a 13-piece accessory kit filled with screwdriver and drill bits and a screwdriver bit adapter.
This drill looks good on the price front but falls down on performance and features. It's built around the older and less costly NiCAD battery, which is also heavier, takes longer to charge, and doesn't hold a charge as long as newer lithium-ion batteries. In addition, user reviews attesting to problems with the power pack that surface shortly after purchase suggest this is one deal that's really no deal at all.
SKIL 2240-01 Review
From $51 Think Twice
The Skil 12V 2240-01 cordless drill relies on the older NiCAD battery technology, which is a definite minus in our book. Its variable speed up to 700 rpm and good pricing win some fans, but others gripe about limited power, slow recharge, and no extra battery in the kit.
Skil cordless drills are the lesser cousins of the well-regarded Bosch line. Owned by the same company, Skil and Bosch drills diverge in price and some would say quality, as well. In a comparative review of 12 cordless drill brands, J.D. Power and Associates ranks Skil alongside Black & Decker with a score of two out of five for overall satisfaction. Skil 12V 2240-01 reviews are OK, but not overly enthusiastic. Users posting reviews on Lowe's, for example, say it's helpful around the house. Reviews at Amazon echo that assessment, adding that there's ample power and it suffices as an entry-level drill. More than one user, however, insists there's not enough power to drive screws into a wall stud. Others gripe about needing several hours to recharge the NiCAD battery and about the absence of a back-up battery in the kit.
The Skil 12V 2240-01 (starting at $51, Amazon) features a 3/8" keyless chuck, 15 clutch positions, variable speed trigger, and maximum speed of 700 rpm. It comes with one double-ended bit, a carry bag, one 12V NiCAD battery and one charger. If you're concerned about running out of juice in the midst of a job and want the insurance of a second battery, a few extra dollars will buy you the Skill 12V 2240-02, which includes two batteries.
Although cheap enough, we're not sold on the Skil 2240-01 due to mediocre reviews and its older-technology NiCAD battery. Lithium-ion batteries are the big new thing in cordless drills and deliver superior performance at prices that still sit comfortably within the cheap range. You're better off looking in that direction.
For occasional DIY types, there's a plethora of cheap cordless drills on the market but little guidance in the form of expert and user reviews that could point you to the best cheap cordless drill. So the first thing you need to know is that battery technology has evolved, which means you should beware of old-style cordless drills selling for discounted prices. The second thing you need to know is that a good cheap cordless drill with all the necessary features and performance attributes, including sufficient power, light weight, and durability, can be had for less than $160.
Cheap Cordless Drills Buying Guide
People buy cheap cordless drills to make holes or drive screws with speed and minimal effort. How much you spend on a cordless drill depends largely on how you plan to use it. Bigger holes or screws need bigger bits, which require more torque, which means more power, which in turn leads to a higher price tag. That said, there's not much difference in price between a 14.4V cordless drill and an 18V or 19.2V model, so if you think you'll ever need more power, you might as well step up from the get-go.
Power in a cordless drill is determined by the voltage, which may be as low as 6V or as high as 36V. A small 6V cordless drill that runs on AA batteries costs less than $20 and is good enough to hang a few pictures or put together a piece of mail-order furniture. But if you do any kind of maintenance around the house, you'll need at least 12 volts of power. We focused our research on cheap cordless drills that offer this kind of versatility and expanded the scope to also include cheap 18V and 19.2V cordless drills, which just about make the grade for the professional trades. Prices vary widely for each voltage, ranging from about $35 for a cordless 12V drill up to nearly $200 and from $90 or so to about $400 for a 19.2V cordless drill. The best cheap 12V cordless drills start at about $75 and the best cheap 18V or 19.2V cordless drills start at about $100.
Cordless drill size is denoted by the size of the chuck (the end of the drill that holds the bit). Common chuck sizes are 3/8" or 1/2", which is another way of saying that the chuck can hold bits as large as 3/8 inch or 1/2 inch, respectively. In most cheap cordless drills, the chuck size coincides with the voltage. That is, 12V drills almost always have a 3/8" chuck and 18V and 19.2V drills almost always have a 1/2" chuck.
One of the major complaints lodged against cheap drills concerns batteries that don't recharge well or hold their charge for very long. This is important because consistent, even power is critical. If the battery is dying or dead, you can't drill a hole or drive a screw properly. The newest and best cheap cordless drills, however, contain quick-charging, long-lasting lithium-ion batteries instead of the older, heavier, and less efficient NiCAD (nickel-cadmium) and NiMH (nickel-metal-hydride) batteries. The charge on lithium-ion batteries also holds though long periods of inactivity and the charge capacity doesn't diminish if you don't fully recharge the battery. Not surprisingly, lithium-ion batteries are pricier than the alternative battery technologies.
Experts at J.D. Power and Associates give top grades to brands like Bosch, Makita, Milwaukee, and Craftsman Professional for drill performance, battery performance, ease of use, versatility, warranty, and overall user satisfaction. Other well-regarded names in the power drill market include Hitachi, Porter Cable, Ryobi, and Ridgid. Most of these companies make cordless drills in a variety of voltages that sell at a variety of price points targeted for different segments of the market.
Our research into the best cheap cordless drills turned up several 12V and the more powerful 18V and 19.2V models that are well-priced given their capabilities. Our top picks incorporate the new lithium-ion battery and garner strong user reviews. At the head of our list sit the 12V Ryobi 3/8" HJP002K (starting at $79) and the Craftsman 17310 19.2V C3 (starting at $100) for their overall performance and value pricing. Next on our list are the Porter-Cable PCL120DDC-2 Cordless Compact Lithium-Ion 12V 3/8" Drill (starting at $90) and Ryobi 18V P815 Lithium-Ion Cordless Compact Drill (starting at $150), which perform well but not quite at the level of our first two choices.
Two cheap cordless drills we would bypass are the Skil 12V 2240-01 (starting at $51) and PowerGlide 19.2V 2186955 (starting at $41), both of which incorporate the older NiCAD battery and just don't make the grade when stacked against the top four despite their lower prices. User reviews indicate the PowerGlide, in particular, suffers from problems with the battery and charger.
As you shop for the cheapest cordless drill that suits your needs, you've got a few additional options. A complete drill kit, like those that we researched, comes with one or two batteries (one to run the drill and one as back-up for long jobs) plus a battery charger. A less costly "bare tool" is just that -- a drill packaged by itself that uses batteries from another complimentary tool; bare tools cost less than the full kit. You can sometimes find real bargains on reconditioned models of upmarket brands, like DeWalt or Bosch, but read the warranty carefully to make sure you aren't getting stuck with someone else's problem. And watch for drill manufacturers and vendors trying to offload NiCAD battery cordless drills for bargain prices -- no disrespect meant for the tools themselves, but you may not get the same customer service from manufacturers that have moved on to the newest battery technology.
Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table
Drill Size, Drill Power
As you sort through the available options, keep in mind the old saying: "You aren't buying a drill, you're buying a hole." So answer the following before making your selection: How often will you use the drill? How wide and how deep do you want the holes to be? What kind of materials will you be drilling into? What size screws will you be driving, and into which materials? How much power do you need to make all this happen?
Drill Size.A cordless drill's size is denoted by the largest size bit it can hold; the bit is held in place and rotated by the chuck. Cheap cordless drills that are useful for a variety of home maintenance chores and DIY projects come in two standard sizes: 3/8" and 1/2", and the specs will say something like 3/8" chuck or 1/2" chuck. Most 12V cordless drills, like the Ryobi HJP002 Compact Drill (starting at $79), Porter-Cable PCL120DDC-2 Cordless Compact (starting at $90), and SKIL 2240-01 (starting at $51), come with a 3/8" chuck. Larger 18V cordless drills and 19.2V cordless drills, like the Craftsman 17310 C3 (starting at $100) and Ryobi P815 Lithium-Ion Compact Drill (starting at $150), typically come with a 1/2" chuck. The PowerGlide 2186955 (starting at $41) features an odd combination of small 3/8" chuck and powerful 19.2V battery.
Older drills need a type of key to unlock the chuck to change the bits. Newer models, including all the cordless drills we researched, are keyless -- you can open and close the chuck with your free hand, or, depending on the model, with the handle trigger. Occasionally the chuck on a cheap drill wears out; eHow provides instructions for replacing the chuck instead of buying a new drill.
Drill Power.The denser the material you're drilling or driving into, the more power you'll need. Higher voltage drills generally produce more torque. So, if you need to drill one medium-sized hole or drive a lot of little screws in material like drywall, a small 12V cordless drill like the Porter-Cable PCL120DDC-2 or Ryobi HJP002K should do the trick; the Bosch PS21-2A Pocket Driver (starting at $105) also works well for quick and easy jobs. But if you're building a deck or a tree house, you'd be better off with a more powerful drill. An inexpensive 14.4V or 16V cordless model might suffice, but most knowledgeable DIY-ers turn to 18V drills like the Ryobi P815, Craftsman 17310, or Hitachi DS18VF3 (starting at $116).
Cordless Drill Battery
Cordless Drill Battery.If you expect to use your drill for relatively long work sessions, you need a battery that lasts. The length of time a cordless drill battery runs before needing a recharge is measured in ampere hours (Ah). The specs for the cheap cordless drills on our list that mention amp hours peg the number at 1.3 Ah, 1.4 Ah, or 1.5 Ah, although some product review sites say cordless drill batteries can run for about two hours straight, depending on work load. Such test results are only a rough guide, though, because users generally don't run a drill non-stop. Indeed, a battery's discharge time depends on several factors, including the efficiency of the motor, whether the drilling is constant or intermittent, and the material the drill is battling. Under certain conditions, a drill can go days or weeks on one charge.
Even so, the best insurance against running out of power at a crucial moment is having a back-up battery (but remember to keep it fully charged). Among the cordless drills that we researched, the Ryobi HJP002K 12V and P815 18V, Porter-Cable PCL120DDC-2 12V, and Bosch Pocket Driver PS21-2A 12V come with two batteries. The Craftsman 17310 C3, PowerGlide 19.2V, and Skil 2240-01 12V come with just one battery; the Skil 2240-02 12V is the same as the 2240-01 but features two batteries and costs about $10 more.
Many 12V, 18V, and 19.2V cordless drills come packaged as a kit; that is, with at least one battery and a charger. (All of the models we researched qualify as kits.) The charger is often specific to a battery technology (e.g., lithium-ion or NiCAD), but the Craftsman 17310 C3 and Ryobi P815 come with dual-chemistry chargers that power-up either type of battery, which can then be used in your cordless drill. If you have a compatible battery and a charger lying around, you can save money by buying a "bare tool;" that is, one without a battery or charger. The Ryobi P202 18V (starting at $59), for example, is the same drill that comes in the pricier Ryobi P815 "kit." By contrast, if you need a replacement battery or charger for the PowerGlide 19.2V, you're out of luck. We read several reviews by disgruntled owners who note on Ace Hardware that this model is sold only as a complete kit.
The new lithium-ion batteries deployed in increasing numbers of cheap drills, including our favorites, have many advantages over the older NiCAD and NiMH batteries. For one, lithium-ion batteries hold their charge longer while in use and in between chargings. Charge time is significantly faster -- usually less than an hour compared to several hours with the older battery technologies, although there certainly are exceptions. (Specs for the 18V Hitachi DS18VF3, for example, boast a 35-minute charge time for its NiCAD battery.) Lithium-ion batteries also deliver consistent power until the juice runs dry, whereas power from NiMH batteries diminishes as the battery wears down and tends to flag in cold weather. Moreover, the new-technology batteries can be removed from the charger before they're fully juiced up, but experts caution that if you repeatedly take NiCAD batteries off the charger before the process is complete, the battery may never fully recharge. Lithium-ion batteries are also lighter than the older battery types, making for a more ergonomic power tool. On the other hand, cordless drills that rely on NiCAD or NiMH batteries are often cheaper; the NiCAD-powered Ryobi P850 18V starts at $79, for example, compared to the triple-digit price tag for the 19.2V Craftsman 17310 C3 and 18V Ryobi P815.
Aside from a few reports about disappointing performance, drill reviews by experts and users agree that the new lithium-ion batteries meet all the necessary requirements: consistent power, long run time, and rapid recharge. Indeed, drill reviews give top marks to the batteries in our top picks. Concerning the 12V Ryobi HJP002K, users posting reviews on Home Depot say the battery holds its charge through a variety of jobs, be it driving hundreds of screws or trimming out electrical fixtures on a remodeling project. One user reports that the Ryobi HJP002K just keeps on going, and others note that even when it finally quits, the battery recharges in less than 45 minutes. The Porter-Cable PCL120DDC-2 garners similar praise on the Lowe's site, where one user notes that you'll tire out well before the 12V cordless drill battery wears out. A quick recharge for the single cordless drill battery accompanying the Craftsman 17310 C3 is most welcome, say drill reviews on Sears, as is the dual-chemistry charger. Many users comment on the Craftsman 17310 C3 's decent battery life, although one user gripes that the cordless drill battery pooped out after tightening screws on eight chairs and another says 30 minutes of intense drilling did it in. The other 18V cordless drill on our list, the Ryobi 815P, also holds its charge well and boasts a quick recharge, so you're never short of power, according to drill reviews on Home Depot.
The older NiCAD batteries, found on the Skil 2240-01 12V and the PowerGlide 19.2V don't fare as well in users' estimation. For one thing, it takes at least three hours to fully recharge the batteries, so you could be twiddling your thumbs for quite a while if you don't have a charged-up extra. Users' drill reviews for the Skil 2240-01 on Amazon say you get about a week of low-level use from one charge but caution that you need to drain the battery completely and then recharge completely for maximum utility. The PowerGlide really falls down on the job, according to reviews on Ace Hardware. Users report that the battery doesn't hold its charge and may completely die within months, and that the charger often malfunctions and in at least one case, leaked white foam.
Drill Speed and Torque.Once you've settled on the optimal amount of power, you'll need to consider the related issues of speed and torque. Many larger and some smaller cordless drills have two maximum speeds -- low for higher torque when driving screws and high for lower torque when drilling. The 19.2V Craftsman 17310 C3, and the 18V Ryobi P815 and Hitachi DS18VF3 boast two speeds -- the low maxes out at 440 rpm and the high at 1600 for the Craftsman 17310 C3 and Ryobi P815, and 400 rpm and 1200 rpm for the Hitachi DS18VF3. The 19.2V PowerGlide features variable speed up to 900 rpm.
The Porter-Cable and Bosch PS21-PA Pocket Driver are 12V cordless drills with two speeds; the former with a maximum 315 rpm and 1200 rpm, and the latter with a maximum 350 rpm and 1300 rpm. Other 12V cordless drills feature variable speeds; the Ryobi HJP002K reaches 600 rpm and the Skil 2240-01 hits 700 rpm. The cordless drills we researched also feature a reversible drive that lets you back the drill out or remove screws.
Good cordless drills also offer numerous clutch positions. The clutch is handy when using a range of bit sizes for one project -- lower numbers for small screws and larger numbers for big screws. The clutch disengages and the screwdriver bit stops spinning when the screw is sufficiently tight, which This Old House explains ensures that you don't strip the screw or over-tax the motor. Our picks for best and good cheap cordless drills have either 20 or 24 clutch positions; the Skil 2240-01 incorporates 15 and the 19.2V PowerGlide has 17.
Cordless Drills Frills.Some manufacturers pack on a few extras. LED lights to brighten the target areas and belt hooks for keeping the cordless drill by your side grace the Porter-Cable PCL120DDC-2 and Craftsman 17310 C3; the latter also features an "add energy indicator" for the battery that users say they appreciate. All the cheap cordless drills we researched sport some sort of magnetic bit holder for a convenient quick change when you're in the midst of a job, and most come with a storage/carry bag. Drill bits are usually sold separately, but the Craftsman 17310 comes with two screwdriver bits, the Porter-Cable PCL120DDC-2 and Skil 2240-01 each come with one, the Hitachi DS18VF3 provides seven bits, and the PowerGlide comes with an accessories kit that includes multiple bits.
Cordless Drill Reviews
Users who post cordless drill reviews typically advise their fellow drill users to go to a store and take a good hard look at the tool before buying. Try the handle. Try the trigger. Try pulling the battery out and putting it back in. Try the charger. Reviewers also advise that you try changing the bits and speeds and working the reverse mechanism. If you have any questions, ask someone before investing. The Internet hosts cordless drill reviews written by all manner of users, from sporadic to hobbyists to DIYers to professionals, who dish on the effectiveness of their cheap cordless drills. Even though the top-rated cordless drills occasionally prove to be lemons, the cordless drill reviews we found indicate that the vast majority of users are well-served by the best and good models on our list.
Overall Performance.But for the odd home handyman or tradesman who nitpick the torque or grip of the chuck, users of all stripes seem perfectly content with several 12V drills that we researched. The Ryobi HJP002K drills and drives with gusto, say cordless drill reviews on Home Depot. Users report this cheap cordless drill is well-suited to assembling play forts and game tables, roughing-in residential construction, maintaining commercial aircraft, and tackling home repair tasks, although we did come across a few cordless drill reviews grumbling about slow speeds that limit the drill's usefulness to smaller screws and shorter nails. The speed and power of the Porter-Cable PCL120DDC-2 earn it an above-average grade from experts at Cordless Drill Reviews, who note that its performance in these two dimensions surpass most other 12V drills. Reviews on Amazon comment on the Porter-Cable PCL120DDC-2's impressive power, which drives four-inch screws into birch without a hitch; a review on Lowe's, however, says the drill stumbles when matched against metal and long screws. Reviews for the Skil 12V 2240-01 indicate this model is less versatile than our favorites. Commenting on Amazon, users say the Skil 2240-01 has enough power for small home projects that a novice would take on, but little else; a user posting on Epinions reports that he struggled to drive a screw into a stud when trying to mount a towel holder.
Despite acclaim for these cheap 12V cordless drills, many users still prefer more powerful 18V and 19.2V models. The Craftsman 17310 C3 is one strong drill, according to cordless drill reviews on Sears, with the right amount of torque and speed to manage jobs like hanging sheetrock, building a workbench, and upgrading computers. Although we noted a couple of comments about inadequate torque, there were several posts from mechanics who say this model stands up to those sold by specialty vendors. A maximum speed of 1600 rpm places the Ryobi P815 above average for 18V drills, according to Cordless Drill Reviews, even as its power lags the average by 25%. Some users assert this model could use a bit more oomph, but most cordless drill reviews on Home Depot say it's more than adequate for tasks like driving lag bolts into lumber, boring holes into rocky and ice-cold ground for spring bulbs, mounting bookshelves, and (with the appropriate attachments), detailing autos. Still, one user grouses that the speed can be inconsistent and very low speeds are hard to set, and another says the motor burned up after just a day of hard drilling. The PowerGlide 19.2V cordless drill irks users on a variety of counts, one of which concerns inadequate power, according to some cordless drill reviews on Ace Hardware. The occasional user might be pleased with this model, but units seem to burn out quickly when put to the test.
Ease of Use.Imagine holding a drill over your head for hours and you'll know why ergonomics are important to drill users. Almost across the board, users of these models report that they're easy to use, well-balanced, feel good in your hand, and don't tire your arm. Most manufacturers are now incorporating the lighter weight lithium-ion batteries in the best cordless drills; most of the cordless drills on our list weigh less than five pounds. About the only negative attributed to the Craftsman 17310 C3 is its hefty 6.1-pound weight (despite the lithium ion battery), although one user asserts it does a woman's tool box proud. The 18V Ryobi P815 also appeals to handy women, one of whom gives a shout-out in a cordless drill review on Home Depot to the yellow-green color and calls it a "life-changer." Another woman reports that male colleagues in a cabinet shop initially dismissed the 12V Ryobi HJP002K as a toy, then asked to borrow it, and then bought their own. On the other end of the spectrum, the Skil 2240-01 takes some heat in cordless drill reviews on Amazon for an uncomfortable trigger that controls the speed on this 12V cordless drill.
Additional Products We Considered
Hitachi DS18DVF3 Review
Another budget-priced cordless drill that has its pros and cons is the Hitachi 18V DS18DVF3. Reviews of the Hitachi 18V DS18DVF3 (starting at $116, Amazon) praise its power and 400 in/lb torque but gripe about its power pack and chuck. On Amazon, for example, most users like this drill for its value, comfort, compact size, and drilling punch. Hitachi 18V DS18DVF3 reviews say it works for jobs indoors and out, for home chores and small professional tasks; one woman with carpal tunnel says it's the only 18-volt drill that's light enough to use without strain. On the other hand, we read numerous reviews, particularly on Lowe's, that express disappointment with the staying power of the battery and the tendency of the chuck to slip, which forces you to stop and retighten.
Like some other cheap cordless drills, the Hitachi DS18DVF3 draws its juice from a NiCAD battery rather than the newer-technology lithium-ion battery. Although the battery on the Hitachi DS18DVF3 apparently charges up in little more than half an hour, some users report that well-used and aging batteries drain in as little as 10 minutes. We also noticed that the more critical reviews were posted more recently than the positive reviews.
The Hitachi DS18DVF3 comes packaged with two batteries, a charger that works with other Hitachi tools using NiCAD batteries, a hard-shell case, a flashlight, and seven bits. It features a 1/2" chuck, 22 clutch positions, two speeds (400 rpm and 1200 rpm), a belt hook, and magnetic bit holder.
Mixed reviews concerning the battery's staying power and the chuck's holding power are reasons for caution. There are other cordless drills with the latest battery technology and stronger customer assessments for just about the same price.
Where to buy
Bosch PS21-2A Review
Bosch is one of the premiere brands in the cordless drills market and this new (2010) compact and lightweight model doesn't disappoint. More driver than drill, the Bosch 12V Pocket Driver PS21-2A (starting at $105, Amazon) is powerful and fast, according to Bosch 12V Pocket Driver PS21-2A reviews. Tool Guyd says this short-nosed driver lives up to its advertising claims and surpasses the performance of its well-received PS20-2A predecessor. It also scores high in users' reviews on Amazon. Users rave about its 1.8-pound weight and 5.6-inch head, noting it slides into a pocket, fits into most any space, and doesn't cause hands to cramp. The battery's staying power draws applause in reviews, as does its ability to drive screws with ease and its precision control. But perfect this cordless tool is not. Users express a desire for a battery gauge, say the universal bit holder is in reality less than universal, and the slight delay after pressing the trigger (when the LED light goes on) takes some getting used to.
The Bosch 12V Pocket Driver PS21-2A features a variable speed trigger and two reversible speeds (0-350 rpm and 0-1,300 rpm), a 1/4" bit holder, and 20 clutch settings. The tool comes packaged with two lithium-ion batteries, a 30-minute charger, and a carrying case.
This model does OK as a drill but really shines as a driver. It boasts enough torque and speed to suit the needs of home hobbyists and DIYers as well as seasoned professionals, including maintenance mechanics. If your project plans call for heavy use of screws, this one's for you.