The 6 Best Electric Drills to Turn Your House Into a DIY Home – Gear Patrol
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We got hands-on with some of the top names in the home improvement game.
Whether you’re a homeowner, apartment dweller, you live in a shotgun shack in the middle of the woods or you’re a villain hiding out in a secret volcano base, you’ll probably want to make your house feel a bit more like home, especially if you spend a lot of time there. Accomplishing that goal can be as simple as hanging up some photos or as complicated as building an addition to the back of your dwelling. But one thing’s for sure: whatever DIY tasks you’ve got lined up will be far easier to tackle if you have an electric drill.
Once a somewhat inconvenient novelty (thanks largely to unwieldy power cords), electric drills have become one of the most essential do-it-yourself tools anyone can own and utilize. Get the right one and you’ll make short work of simple and unnecessarily complex tasks (we’re looking at you, IKEA furniture) alike. But finding the perfect electric drill isn’t a quest you have to take on alone, because we’ve gotten hands-on with some of the best on the market and rounded them up below.
It should go without saying that you need to figure out a few things before you go shopping. Still, it bears repeating. First and foremost, you’re going to want to set a budget, as power tools can run the gamut of prices and, while you should definitely consider a drill to be an investment, it can still be somewhat of a shock to realize you’re about to drop potentially hundreds on a kit.
Secondly, you’ll want to take an inventory of the kinds of work you plan to do. If the extent of what you’re doing is stuff like hanging pictures and artwork (and perhaps some light furniture construction), you’re not going to need an industrial-strength drill and, therefore, may be able to save some money. However, if you’re looking into getting into carpentry or larger craftsman projects, you’re going to probably need something that offers more power, torque, etc.
Finally (and this one is very important), you should educate yourself at least a little bit on the specs of any given drill — or at least the metrics by which a drill is measured. This will help you better figure out which one is right for you and also may save you from either accidentally getting one that’s far more robust than you need (and likely quite expensive) or getting one that’s not nearly capable enough for your jobs. You can check out the metrics to pay attention to in the following section.
Battery: The two biggest factors to consider when looking into the batteries an electric drill uses are capacity and voltage. Capacity determines how long you can use your drill between charges (or battery swaps) and voltage (arguably the more important of the two) plays a big part in the torque (AKA rotational power) of a given drill. For reference, lower-end voltages (5-11V) are usually sufficient for simple tasks, like driving screws into a wall, whereas higher voltages (12-18V) are much better for more complex tasks, like carpentry. There are even higher voltages than that available, but these tend to be found more in commercial industries than consumer endeavors.
Torque: As mentioned, this will largely be determined by the voltage of a drill’s battery. However, it’s still important to understand how much torque a drill will require to adequately complete around-the-house and DIY tasks. Higher-torque drills are capable of much more difficult and complex projects, but they can actually sometimes be too powerful for simpler tasks (if you’ve ever driven a screw into drywall just to watch the screw spin and spin and slide right out, you know what we’re talking about). As such, its important to know both the low- and high-end torque capabilities of the drills you’re considering.
Chuck: A type of cylindrical clamp, this is the part of the drill into which you’d slot your drill bit and will determine how securely that drill bit stays in place, as well as how easy and convenient it is to swap out. There are two main types: keyed and keyless. The former requires a special tool called a key in order to remove/change the bit and they’re extremely secure but less convenient, whereas the latter is somewhat less secure but far more convenient. An increasing number of electric drills released over the last few years are keyless, as most people seem to value convenience over security.
Motor: As is the case with chucks, there are two main types of motors that drive electric drills: brushed and brushless. While they both function much on the same principle, they do have some significant differences in design, performance, durability and longevity. There are a lot of technical differences but what you need to know is that brushed motors, which were the standard for a very long time, tend to be quite inexpensive, reliable and often have a high torque ratio — but they wear down quicker and more frequently require maintenance. By contrast, brushless motors cost more but will last longer, require virtually no maintenance and virtually never overheat — giving them a lot more longevity than their brushed counterparts.
Attachments and Accessories: More supplementary than any of the other factors (but still important), it’s important to know what bits, batteries, cases, attachments and other accessories come with your drill. Most electric drills come with at least one bit and battery, but some come with nothing other than the device itself and others, especially those that come in sets, typically have a fuller suite of accessories and attachments (though they do typically cost more). This probably matters most if you’ve narrowed down your search and you’re trying to decide which of your options suits your needs best.
Drills of any kind are best judged by putting them through their paces and completing a variety of DIY home improvement tasks. With that in mind, we had our testers take these drills to said tasks — using them for everything from the utterly simplistic (drilling some screws into drywall) to the much more daunting (like HVAC and auto repair). Our testers also paid special attention to their ease of use, convenience, durability, longevity, power/torque, accessories/attachments and more in order to get a full picture of their electric drill’s overall value therein.
For as small as it is, our tester found that this DeWalt drill driver still packs quite a punch. On top of that, they also found that the battery life is better than they anticipated and that it continues to deliver great performance, even at higher torque levels. Furthermore, it’s lightweight and balanced, making it a perfect option for ladder work, and it comes with an integrated LED that helps with getting into darker spots. If you need just one drill for all your household DIY, you can’t go wrong with this one.
With its simple operation, intuitive controls, integrated bit storage, decent battery life and more, this Black+Decker cordless drill driver is perfect for those that just have some small DIY tasks around the house — ranging from hanging art and shelves to putting together IKEA furniture. It’s not perfect (the keyless chuck has a bad habit of vibrating loose), but our tester found that it gets the job done reliably enough that they’d be happy to purchase this drill again.
Milwaukee is known to have one of the most sterling reputations in the world of tools, power or otherwise. So it should come as no surprise that the brand’s fan-favorite FUEL lineup made it onto our list. With an incredible topped-out torque rating of 1, 200 in-lbs of torque, this might be the best non-commercial drill you can get for home projects (or at least its the most trustworthy high-torque option available to most consumers at this price point). If you’ve got difficult tasks on your DIY horizon, this drill might be your best option.
Our tester was already a fan of brushless drills and drivers for their overall longevity, but they were sold even more once they got their hands on this Makita set. Well-balanced and easy to hang on your tool belt when not in use, the hammer drill has a bevy of different modes and levels to cycle through (which they found simple and convenient), and the impact drill is lightweight enough to make it perfect for quick jobs around the house, garage, workshop and wherever else you need a quick fix.
Our tester discovered, upon trying out this Craftsman drill, that it was exceedingly simple to use for around-the-house tasks like shelf installations and furniture construction. They were also surprised by just how reliable the battery is; it holds a charge after even months without use. Furthermore, it has some driver bit storage built right in. The one problem: it gets a bit hefty once you’ve attached the battery, which could lead to some fatigue across time-consuming tasks. Otherwise, this drill is rock-solid.
Size might not be a significant consideration for many when choosing a drill and/or driver. But we’d suggest that saving on space and weight can actually make a huge difference, especially if you’re big into DIY projects and find yourself using your drill a lot. This one, while not exactly pocket-sized, is noticeably smaller than some of its similarly-featured siblings and that means its more portable, easier to use, and might just edge out some of your other options if cumbersome drills bother you.