Unless you’re handling strictly light-duty tasks, you’re likely to be disappointed with the least-expensive models. Here’s a guide to the types of cordless drills and drill kits to consider.
These are best for fast drilling and most screw driving. NiCd-powered models can handle most jobs, but Li-Ion and NiMH tools performed best in our tests. The 18-volt drills (typical these days) weigh about twice as much as 9.6-volt models.
These are best for driving long fasteners or loosening stuck ones, thanks to their added torque, or twisting force. Most can handle the lug nuts on car wheels and other tough tasks without twisting out of your hands. But all the models we tested required hearing protection. They also require special hex-shank bits for drilling holes, and were slower than most cordless drills in their drilling mode.
These models are small enough to fit in your pocket and typically weigh 1 pound or less. Bendable power heads make them convenient for tight spaces, and the lithium-ion batteries in some are supposed to hold a battery charge for as long as 18 months. But cordless screwdrivers are adequate only for the lightest of tasks. You’ll find more-capable, if larger and heavier, drills for the same or less money.
Along with a drill, reciprocating saw, and circular saw, many kits include a work light and some an auxiliary tool. And all share the same battery, which helps to make kits less expensive than the tools, batteries, and chargers would be if bought individually. But our tests revealed significant differences in performance, especially when the price dips below $300. Indeed, you could wind up with a collection of sub-par tools, particularly when it comes to circular saws. Only the best we tested can rival corded versions.