After researching over 100 different models, we bought the 20 best drills on the market today and tested them side-by-side to find out which tool came out on top. During our comprehensive testing process, we drilled over 400 holes and drove in more than a thousand screws, all to help you find the best tool to meet your needs and budget, so you finally tackle that DIY project. We pushed these tools to their torque and battery limits with enormous lag screws and giant hole saws, as well as comparing their ease of use before deciding on the award winners. Check out our complete review to see which drill we crowned best of the best, which is the most budget-friendly option, and which we found to be the most rugged.
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|Pros||Great for driving fasteners, heavy-duty, efficient use of battery life||Great at driving fasteners, short length, good battery life||Phenomenal driving performance, solid drilling power||Excellent drilling performance, tons of driving power, decently convenient||Powerful, great battery life, fantastic integrated worklight|
|Cons||Heavy, takes some force to swap batteries||Struggled with the larger hole saw||Subpar battery life||So-so battery life, somewhat pricey||Expensive, only includes a single battery|
|Bottom Line||If you are looking for a top-tier drill to go with your existing Milwaukee batteries, this is your best bet||This drill scored quite well across the board, though it is a bit on the heavy side||A good option if you value driving performance above drilling power||One of the best drills we have seen, though it is held back by under-performing in battery life||The highest scorer in our group, this is a heavy-duty drill that can keep up with all your toughest projects|
|Rating Categories||Milwaukee M18 Fuel...||Makita 18V LXT Brus...||DeWalt 20V Max Comp...||DeWalt 20V Max Comp...||Kobalt 24-volt Max...|
|Battery Life (20%)|
|Specs||Milwaukee M18 Fuel...||Makita 18V LXT Brus...||DeWalt 20V Max Comp...||DeWalt 20V Max Comp...||Kobalt 24-volt Max...|
|Included Battery Pack(s)||Tested w/ 2 Ah||Tested w/ 2 Ah||1.3 Ah||1.5 Ah||2 Ah|
|Drill Model Tested||2803-20||XFD14Z||DCD771||DCD777||KDD 524B-03|
|Box Model (Kit) Tested||Tested tool-only, no kit||Tested tool-only, no kit||DCD771C2||DCD777C2||672823|
|RPM||Low: 0 - 550
High: 0 - 2000
|Low: 0 - 550
High: 0 - 2100
|Low: 0 - 450
High: 0 - 1800
|Low: 0 - 500
High: 0 - 1750
|Low: 0 - 550
High: 0 - 2000
|Peak Torque (manu)||1,200 in-lbs||1,250 in-lbs||300 UWO||340 UWO||650 in-lbs|
|Measured Weight||4 pounds 1 ounce||4 pounds 7.7 ounces||3 pounds
Best Overall Drill
Kobalt 24-volt Max 1/2-in Brushless Drill KDD 1424A-03
Claiming one of the top performances out of the entire group, the Kobalt shows that voltage makes a difference when it comes to performance with these products. This cordless drill did exceptionally well across the bulk of our tests, handing in definitive results in our hardest tests, like boring through a 5" solid-core door. In addition to excellent drilling performance, the tool is also great for driving fasteners, not struggling at all with larger lag bolts. On top of that, it has an excellent battery life, so it can keep on driving screws and drilling holes long after the other products have called it quits.
This model doesn't come cheap, though its price as a kit (with the included battery, charger, and soft case) is lower than several top-shelf drills we tested. We recommend regular users buy a second battery to avoid over an hour of recharge time if the battery dies mid-project. Still, the 2 Ah battery produced some of the most impressive scores of all models in our battery life tests, so you get a lot out of that single battery. This tool is our top recommendation for anyone who wants a powerful drill that can handle any DIY project you throw at it.
Best Tool-Only Drill
Milwaukee M18 Fuel 1/2" Drill Driver
If you are on the hunt for a heavy-duty cordless tool and are looking for a tool-only option, then the Milwaukee M18 FUEL is a great option. This tool is a fantastic choice for heavy-duty applications, with more than enough drilling and driving power for just about every task imaginable. It also makes very efficient use of its battery, boring more holes and driving in more screws than other tools when using the same capacity battery.
Unfortunately, this tool is definitely on the heftier side, weighing quite a bit more than some other products. It can also be a bit more expensive, so it might be out of the budget for someone who isn't looking to use a drill regularly or might not need the drilling and driving power for heavy-duty applications.
Read review: Milwaukee M18 Fuel 1/2" Drill Driver
Best Bang for Your Buck
Craftsman V20 1/2-In. Drill/Driver Kit CMCD700C1
This tool is one of the less expensive options out there but holds its own against tools that cost quite a bit more. The Craftsman V20 1/2-In Drill/Driver did surprisingly well in some of our toughest tests, boring holes up to 5" in diameter without issue and offering plenty of control when it came to setting countersunk fasteners to the appropriate depth. It isn't overly heavy and would be a great complement to the occasional DIYers or a homeowner's toolbox.
The Craftsman isn't our top recommendation if you are shopping on a budget and looking to use this tool as the foundation for your eventual cordless tool collection. We don't think the library of compatible tools is as popular or readily available as other battery systems, and it's overall much smaller as well. Combined with the fact that you usually only get a single battery, we suggest investing a bit more if you plan to procure more cordless tools in the future. Despite that, we were overall impressed with the performance of the Craftsman given its affordable nature and would readily recommend it if you're planning to buy only a drill.
Read review: Craftsman V20 1/2-In. Drill/Driver Kit CMCD700C1
Great for Tight Budgets
Black+Decker 20V Max Drill/Driver LDX120C
If you are shopping for a new drill on a limited budget and only looking to do light-duty DIY projects around your home, then we would recommend the Black+Decker 20V Max Drill/Driver LDX120C. This tool costs significantly less than the top models and has more than enough power for most tasks, all in a compact form that is easy to stash in a drawer. It's lightweight and easy to handle, making it the perfect option for beginners or entry-level DIYers, and it is very convenient and user-friendly.
However, the LDX120C is severely deficient in drilling or driving power and pales compared to the top-tier products. We were thoroughly unimpressed with its performance when using larger hole saws or driving in big bolts. We aren't sure we would recommend using this device for these types of tasks if you want to prolong its life. The battery delivered an uninspiring performance in our battery life tests, and we thought it seemed less durable than other drills overall. Although it's not the best for heavy-duty applications, it's our top recommendation if you want a bare-bones drill on a limited budget.
Read review: Black+Decker 20V Max Drill/Driver LDX120C
Best 12-Volt Option
Bosch 12V Max Drill/Driver Kit PS31-2A
If you are shopping on a budget and like the pistol grip style and compact size of a 12-volt drill, then the Bosch 12V Max Drill/Driver Kit PS31-2A is a fantastic option for you. This model is a great option for the average homeowner who might want to undertake a fair number of DIY or home improvement projects but isn't doing any major renovations. This pint-sized device packs plenty of punch, doing quite well in our drilling and driving evaluations, all while being one of the more convenient tools to operate. This handy cordless is lightweight, ergonomic, and a great addition to any DIYers arsenal. Being smaller and lighter, this tool fits nicely into tight and dark spaces that larger tools cannot access, and it doesn't take up as much space on a tool bench.
Unfortunately, the Bosch PS31-2A can't quite compare to the drilling and driving performance of the top-tier, higher voltage tools. The 12-volt Bosch struggled to drive the ½" lag screw in and complained when getting the 5" hole saw to its full depth. The battery life here is also somewhat lackluster. The Milwaukee M12 Fuel 12-volt model barely outscored the Bosch overall. Still, we found the price of the Bosch to be more enticing than the marginal improvement the Milwaukee offers. This Bosch tool is a compact option that's a good bargain and more than capable of handling light-duty tasks and house projects.
Read review: Bosch 12V Max Drill/Driver Kit PS31-2A
Why You Should Trust Us
Over the years, we've purchased for testing more than 30 cordless drills. Our exhaustive testing puts each model through multiple and repeated performance analyses to rate drilling, driving, battery life, and more. In total, we put each drill through more than 46 individual tests. We drilled hundreds of holes in both metal and wood with these tools, using everything from standard twist drills to paddle bits and giant hole saws. We drove in over 1000 screws — everything from standard #9 wood screws to hulking ½" lag bolts.
The most critical metric is drilling, comprising 35% of the overall score. This metric is made up of drilling with a 5" hole saw (50% of total metric score), 1" spade bit (30% of score), and 16 ga Steel with twist bits (20% of total).
We put these tools to the test in both controlled side-by-side evaluations and used them for various home renovation projects. We also did an exhaustive battery test to see just how many holes we could make, or screws you could drive, with each device before they ran out of juice. Finally, to finish our tests, we scored each power tool's ergonomics, comfort, and convenience features. In addition to our own extensive experience with these products, we also consulted with other contractors and professionals, as well as other dedicated DIYers, to get their opinions on picking out the drills that had the most potential and designing our scoring and testing plan.Our drill testing is divided across four rating metrics:
- Drilling tests (35% weighting)
- Driving tests (35% weighting)
- Battery Life tests (20% weighting)
- Convenience tests (10% weighting)
To test and review drills, we bought all of the tools we tested. At GearLab, we never ask for or accept any free products from companies to ensure that you have total faith that our reviews aren't compromised by any financial incentives. We buy all the products we test from major retailers at standard prices — just like you! Our testing team consists of Austin Palmer, David Wise, and Matt Spencer. Austin has extensive experience using tools in both an industrial and DIY setting, having worked on an oil rig and undertaking extensive renovations on his own home. David has formal training as a mechanical engineer and has used cordless drills on all sorts of projects, ranging from deepwater surveying robots to Formula SAE race cars. He also has apprenticed and assisted his dad on various job sites — a general contractor of over 30 years. Matt is currently studying engineering and has worked on GearLab projects such as pressure washers and other outdoor tools.
Analysis and Test Results
To see which model is the best of the best, we researched and compared specifications of all the top tools around, then bought the most compelling to test side-by-side. We rated and scored these tools in tons of different tests, grouping them into four weighted rating metrics — drilling, driving, battery life, and convenience — with our results discussed below.
If you are shopping for a new drill on a budget, you will notice a pretty direct correlation between the cost of the tool and its performance. However, this doesn't mean you should start to despair if you are on a tight budget because many people don't need the drilling or driving performance that the premium products offer. Even some of the cheapest models in our test offer enough power for homeowners without a ton of DIY aspirations. The Black+Decker LDX120C is our top recommendation for searching for a drill without spending a ton. If you do a reasonable number of DIY and home improvement projects but still want to save some cash, then you should consider the Craftsman CMCD700C1 or the Bosch PS31-2A. These models cost a bit more but offer better overall performance than the LDX120C. If you are a serious DIYer or use tools in a professional capacity, you will want to be shopping in the higher echelon of these tools. The Kobalt and the Milwaukee M18 FUEL are our favorites, and when used frequently, their performance advantages outshine the upfront costs.
The first thing we looked at — and pretty much the first thing that comes to mind when you think of drills — is how well they did at making holes. This metric, which accounts for 35% of the total score for each tool, is based on how well each product did when drilling holes with a paddle bit, drilling through steel, and using a giant hole saw. Specifically, we used a ¼" and ½" twist drill in each tool to make holes in the equivalent of a 16 ga. steel sheet, a 1" spade bit to make tons and tons of holes in a standard 2x12 (wood), and saw how each model handled a 5" hole saw in a solid-core door. To award points, we looked at how long it took each tool to accomplish each drilling task and how much it struggled while doing so.
The Kobalt KDD 1424A-03 and the DeWalt DCD777C2 delivered top-notch performances and tied for the top spot for drillin' like a villain. Both of these devices crushed it with our hole saw test, powering through the door like a hot knife through butter in less than 20 seconds. We didn't even have to shift into the lower gear.
Both of these devices also did very well with the 1" spade bit, though the Kobalt drilled a little faster than the DeWalt DCD777C2. The DeWalt also struggled a little in its higher gear, while the Kobalt had no issues at all. Both of these powerhouse tools punched through the steel plate exceptionally quickly, each taking only 1-2 seconds with the ¼" drill and 3-4 seconds with the ½" drill.
The Milwaukee M18 FUEL, Milwaukee M18, and DeWalt Atomic followed suit for their impressive drilling performances. The Milwaukee M18 did well-drilling holes with the paddle bit, but it took a bit longer than the top drills to drill to the full depth of the hole saw. The top models did it in about 17 seconds, whereas it took the Milwaukee M18 30-35 seconds to drill to the same depth. We found it to be prone to stalling when using the higher gear. We did eventually make it all the way through without downshifting, though it took quite a bit of convincing on our part. It easily drilled through the steel plates with the twist drills, but it again took just a couple of seconds more than the top DeWalt and the Kobalt.
The M18 Fuel did very well with the spade bits and twist drills, delivering top-tier results. It only took around 15 seconds to drill the hole saw to the full depth but seemed to catch and stall more in the higher gear than some of the other drills.
The Ryobi ONE+ HP 18V made quick work with the hole saw, chomping through the door faster than most other models in our review with a measured time of 20 seconds. When we used this model to make 1" holes with a spade bit into a 2 x 12 board, we found that it hardly struggles and drills very quickly provided that you are in the appropriate gear setting. When we used twist bits, the PBLDD01 was quick and easy with the ¼" size with a measured time of 1 second but slowed down to 4 or 5 seconds with a ½" bit.
The DeWalt Atomic matched the performance of the Kobalt and the DeWalt DCD777C2 at drilling through the steel with the pair of twist drills, quickly and easily making holes with no struggle at all. It also made short work of the 2x12 with the 1" spade bit, only stalling for a brief moment right as it punched through the wood.
However, the Atomic couldn't quite match the ease at which the Kobalt drilled into the solid door with a 5" diameter hole saw. The Atomic performed very inconsistently during this test, boring into the door effortlessly in one trial and then binding up and taking almost twice as long in others. We aren't entirely sure what caused this inconsistency, but it happened often enough to be mildly concerning.
The DeWalt DCD771C2, Bosch GSR18V-190B22, and DeWalt DCD791D2 20V Max XR all ranked next when it came to our drilling tests. These tools drilled ¼" holes in the metal sheet in less than three seconds, and the ½" holes took less than nine seconds. Neither the Bosch nor either DeWalt 20-volt versions struggled with the big hole saw, drilling nice and smoothly, but they took about 10 seconds longer than the Milwaukee M18.
If you're in the market for a 12-volt version, both the DeWalt DCD701F2 Xtreme 12V Max and the Milwaukee M12 showed some strong results during our drilling assessment especially considering their lighter and more compact designs.
Our next series of evaluations focused on how well these devices performed at driving in fasteners. These assessments were given equal weight to our drilling tests, accounting for another 35% of the final score for each tool. Scores were based on the results of two different tests: wood screws and lag screws. We compared how quickly and easily each tool drove in wood screws to a pair of stacked dimensional lumber boards, checking if they could countersink the heads flush. We also attempted to drive in a monster lag screw — ½" diameter, 5" long — completely, starting with the appropriate pilot hole.
When it came to driving in screws, the DeWalt DCD771C2, the Milwaukee M18 Fuel, and the Makita XFD14Z distinguished themselves from the rest. These devices did exceptionally well in both tests in this metric, earning a perfect score for their top-notch performances. They did a great job driving the screws to their full depth without any difficulties, even the giant lag screw. We also love how these tools offer plenty of control to set the countersunk heads to their proper depth.
The Kobalt KDD 1424A, the Ryobi ONE+ HP 18V, DeWalt DCD777C2, and Milwaukee M18 (non-Fuel version) each earned high marks for their driving efforts. Of these three, the Kobalt took the lead when it came to driving in lag bolts, matching the performance of the DCD7771C2. However, the Kobalt isn't as proficient as some other models at driving standard screws. For the most part, it drives the screws in quickly and easily, but if the hole isn't pre-drilled, it occasionally struggles to set the countersinks — an issue that we didn't have with the top-performing devices in this metric.
The DeWalt DCD777C2 didn't struggle at setting the countersinks. It's fast and strong at driving in standard screws while still feeling very controlled. It also didn't struggle with the lag bolts a bit. When driving in a lag bolt, the Milwaukee M18 is almost identical to the DeWalt DCD777C2, but it's slightly inferior with standard screws. It's solid and doesn't struggle while driving, but it isn't the fastest. However, it won't lock up if you stop and restart while the screw is only partially driven in.
The Ryobi ONE+ HP 18V was very fast and easy at driving 3" wood screws. It was easy to get the screwheads flush with the board, and this model had great speed control during this part of our assessment. When we performed the lag test with this model, it was able to drive the screw head about ¼" short of all the way to the board without stopping. With multiple trigger pulls, the PBLD01 was able to drive the lag the rest of the way.
When driving 3" wood screws, the DeWalt DCD791D2 20V Max XR was as fast and powerful as any other model in our review. However, when we tested this model's lag screw driving capabilities, it fell short of many top-performing models in this assessment.
The M12 Fuel did the best of the 12-volt cordless drills in this metric, holding its own against the higher voltage models when driving standard screws, matching their speed, and easily setting the countersinks in a controlled manner. It could also drive many more screws in succession without heating up as much as other 12-volt models would.
The Craftsman CMCD700C1 did just a little better than the Milwaukee M12 FUEL with the smaller screws, driving them in slightly faster. However, it lacked the torque to seat the lag screw fully, leaving a little more than a half-inch of the bolt above the surface. No matter what we tried, we couldn't coax it to finish.
After assessing drilling and driving performance, we next ranked and compared the battery performance of each of these cordless tools. We tested how efficiently each device used its battery power, alternating between driving in 16 screws and boring three 1" holes through a 2x12 with the spade bit until each product died. We awarded points based on the number of sets completed. We used the included batteries for the test or a comparably-sized battery from the manufacturer if the device was purchased as a tool-only option. We used the standard manufacturer's charger for the charging test to compare charge times.
Many manufacturers and third parties produce rapid chargers for cordless tool batteries. If you frequently wait for your batteries to charge, consider getting a rapid charger to reduce your charging time.
Both the Milwaukee M18 Fuel and the Makita XFD14Z did exceptionally well in this metric. They completed nine cycles and a partial tenth before the battery was exhausted. We used a two amp-hour battery for both of these models for this test.
We also liked that both of these battery brands charged very quickly, with the Milwaukee taking 25 minutes and the Makita taking 23 minutes.
The Kobalt KDD 1424A followed, completing ten complete cycles, outperforming the Makita XFD14Z and the Milwaukee M18 FUEL. However, it took quite a bit longer to charge, 75 minutes. Because of this substantially longer recharge time, we give the battery life nod to the Makita and Milwaukee M18 Fuel.
The DeWalt Atomic made it through a respectable seven full cycles and 12 screws into the 8th before dying. A completely dead battery took 68 minutes to fully recharge in our test. Showing nearly identical results, the Ryobi ONE+ HP 18V completed seven full cycles and 14 screws into the 8th round before running out of juice and could fully charge in 63 minutes.
The final model worth mentioning for this section of our review is the DeWalt 20V. It completed seven rounds of screws but died partway through the third hole of this cycle. This model showed a commendable time of 34 minutes to go from completely dead to fully charged.
For the remainder of device'svices total score, we rated and scored all the features that make these products easier to use, examining everything from the size of the chuck to the ease of swapping batteries.
The Porter-Cable stood out for being chock full of handy features. It has a maximum chuck size of ½", built-in LEDs, a belt clip, a battery level indicator, and two different speeds.
The Kobalt, the DeWalt DCD777C2, the DeWalt DCD771C2, the Atomic DCD708C2, DeWalt DCD791D2 20V Max XR the Milwaukee M18, the Milwaukee M18 Fuel, the Makita XFD14Z, the M12 Fuel, the Ryobi ONE+ HP 18V and the Craftsman CMCD700C1 all have a chuck that can expand up to ½".
The Bosch 12V Max Drill/Driver and DeWalt DCD701F2 Xtreme 12V Max Brushless chucks are limited to ⅜". All of the devices in this group have two different speed/torque operating ratios and an integrated work light that we found moderately handy. The light on the Craftsman CMCD700C1 also isn't our favorite — if you're in a pinch, it will work, but supplemental lighting will be appreciated.
The higher voltage models tend to weigh the most. The 12-volt models (Bosch 12V Max and M12 Fuel) are slightly lighter, weighing under three pounds. These models also have a battery indicator except for the DeWalt Atomic DCD708C2, DCD771C2, and DCD777C2 models.
Only the Kobalt, Atomic, M18 Fuel, Makita XFD14Z, and the M12 Fuel have a belt clip. It is relatively easy to swap batteries on all of these devices, though we found the locking tabs on the M12 Fuel and the Craftsman CMCD700C1 to be stubborn.
Whether you are a professional looking for a top-tier premium tool or a beginner looking for the bare minimum to get started, we believe this side-by-side comparison of the top drills can help you find the perfect tool to match your project requirements and budget.
— David Wise, Austin Palmer, and Matt Spencer
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