Shop Talk

How to Choose the Right Drill



    Yes, choosing a power drill can be a bugger. At very least, with more than a handful of manufacturers, features, and models to choose from, the process can be time consuming. But, in the long run, it’s a process you’ll be very glad you endured. Find out how to more quickly and efficiently find the power drill that best suits your individual requirements and preferences.

    STEP 1. Understand what you need from your power drill

    First, its important to determine the work you plan to use the drill for. Degree of use is a huge factor in both the type of drill that you want, and the way it will perform under certain conditions. If you use the drill only for simple home repairs or maintenance, you likely don’t need too much more than a good-quality bare-bones power drill. Of course you may want more, but, in most cases, drilling a few screws about the house doesn’t require an industrial grade power drill. However, if you use the drill often and heavily, you’ll definitely want a bigger drill with some more features – one that will stick around for a while. 

    In the tool business, quality and price almost unfailingly go hand-in-hand, so I feel safe saying that the more you spend, the better the drill – usually.

    STEP 2. Choose between corded and cordless power

    Choose between a corded and cordless drill. Corded drills are often more powerful, lightweight, and don’t rely on (sometimes unreliable) battery power. They are, however, tethered to a wall which means less mobility and more hassling with power cords – this is especially inconvenient during overhead drilling. Cordless drills, on the other hand, are free-wheeling and always convenient, but they do rely on battery power and a good charge. This isn’t a problem if you stay atop your charging cycles, but for some it can be a nuisance. If you do choose a corded tool, look for one with a longer cord. The more space you have, and the less often you need to use an extension cord, the better.

    Click here for more information on the differences between corded and cordless drills.

    STEP 3. Understanding power tool batteries

    If you choose a cordless tool, you’ll need to decide between NiCad, NiMH, and Li-Ion batteries. Li-Ion, or Lithium Ion batteries, are by far the most popular battery choice, and for good reason. They are extremely lightweight, powerful, long-lasting, fast-charging, and simply boast an unmatched high-performance. All this goodness comes at a price though rendering NiMH or NiCad a more affordable option. Despite price, however, many craftsman would rather pay a bit more for their first lithium ion battery, than buy a replacement for their NiCad or NiMH drills. Still, NiMH and NiCad batteries are perfectly suitable for most applications.

    Click here for more information on power tool batteries.

    STEP 4. Determining your power requirement

    Voltage. Determine how much power you want from your drill. Mild to moderate users should do just fine with a 12 – 14 volt power drill, while moderate to heavy users should definitely opt for 14 – 18 volts. Of course your applications also play a role in the voltage you’ll require from a drill. If you use the tool every day but only for tightening the loose electrical outlet behind the back-door – you don’t necessarily need to invest in an 18 volt drill. Similarly, if you only use your drill once per year, but every time you use it you build a deck or a tree-house, you’ll want those 18 volts and a bigger, high-power/performance tool.

    STEP 5. Extra features

    You should also think about the features and inclusions you want in a power drill. Some folks don’t want anything but a screw gun, and for a lot of people, that’s all they need. Others require all the perks a tool can offer like reversing, variable speeds, a keyless chuck, or LED light (all of which are really good to have). Most industrial workers and frequent users prefer a drill that can make each job a bit easier, and for the most part, the more features you have on the drill, the more pleasant your working experience. Also, many drill kits include 2 batteries, a charger, tool bag, and etc. You may not need these things, but if you do, look for kits. Although they are initially more expensive than the tool alone, you’ll save money and stress in the long run. 

    STEP 6. Research

    Research brands to find which one meets the most of your needs. Many craftsmen are already loyal to a specific brand, this shouldn’t stop you from cross checking other manufacturers to ensure you’re getting the most for your money. Additionally, not all tools or manufacturers are created equally; just like you, most manufacturers have a specialty, or a tool they build best – I tend to like Makita, and Milwaukee for drills. Do a bit of searching and you’ll find a tool and manufacturer you like. This is important particularly if you buy cordless. Often you can use batteries interchangeably between tools of the same manufacturer. This helps you save money and certainly time if you have more than one battery.

    STEP 7. Set a budget

    After a bit of poking around you should prepare a budget. It is far too easy to both under and over-spend when buying a drill. If you have a budget prepared before-hand you’re much more likely to keep your cool among super-sales and even a super-dazzling, but too expensive drill. Keep in mind that, in the world of power tools, you almost always get what you pay for; a cheap drill can fast turn into a bad, regretable investment. Likewise, a drill on the more expensive side might be too much for both your budget and your basic needs.

    STEP 8. Warrannty

    Finding a good warranty is another piece of this puzzle. Investing in a drill that includes a good warranty indicates its manufacturer has faith in their tools and their ability to do their jobs right; this kind of guarantee is always comfortable to work with. Most of the high-end manufacturers include a one year warranty on chargers, batteries and corded tools, and around three years on their cordless equipment. Its also worth noting here that Hitachi includes a ten year warranty on most of their cordless lithium-ion line.

    STEP 9. Tinker

    Lastly, before you take the plunge, if you can, it’s good to hold the drill to ensure the tool is comfortable and functional in your hands. Of course, this isn’t always necessary or possible, but still food for thought.