There's a lot to consider when you buy tools, and purchasing a drill is no different. One of the biggest questions is whether to buy a corded or cordless drill. In fact, it's often the starting place as you begin your shopping.
This article will help you determine the differences between corded and cordless drills, how their differences impact the type of work they perform, and some of the functional differences between the two. We'll also recommend a few of our favorites to help you begin your shopping research.
Corded vs Cordless Drills: How Are They Different?
Corded and cordless drills both perform the same basic tasks, but there are two main differences between them. Although, there are many different factors to consider, it can be summarized simply as power vs convenience.
If you're looking for power, your best option is a corded drill. However, if you want convenience, a cordless drill is the way to go. This article will take a deep dive into many of the other factors you should consider, but in the end, these two differences are fundamental on which drill is the best fit for you.
Hands down, corded drills simply can not compete when it comes to convenience and mobility. Without the need for electricity to operate, a cordless drill can be used anywhere. Toss it in your tool box, snap it on your belt, or take it to a location without electricity, you'll always have power as long as you have a charged battery.
When it comes to power, there's little doubt that corded drills pack a powerful punch. Since they are connected directly to an electrical source, they simply have more power, and more consistent power because corded drills are not limited by a .
Types of Corded and Cordless Drills
There are five main types of drills on the market today. Each type is designed to perform a specific role. Let's take a closer look at each:
Chances are, when you think about a drill, this is the first type that comes to mind. This is your standard drill designed to drill holes in wood, metal, and plastic, and if it's classified as a drill/driver, it's also able to drive screws. This type of drill is your classic multi-purpose tool which is found in nearly every tool box and workbench.
You'll be able to find quality drills in both corded and cordless models with a large range of power options and sizes. If your budget is tight, the Black + Decker DR260C Corded Drill is a solid performing drill at a very reasonable price. However, if you can afford to spend a little more money, the DeWalt DWD115K is an excellent choice.
These handy tools are more compact and lightweight than a power drill, and they're also available in both corded and cordless models. The cordless models range from 12-volts up to 20-volts, with the higher voltage being capable of delivering more power and speed.
A quick-change clamp is used to secure the drill/driver bits with a hexagonal shank instead of using a chuck. Impact drivers are designed to direct their force downward, which makes them far more comfortable to use than a drill over longer periods of time.
Although typically not as powerful as a standard drill, they're excellent for driving screws and bolts. Available in both corded and cordless models, we recommend the cordless because of their small compact size and portability. Whether you're working in a tight space or want a lightweight driver that you can always have with you, an impact driver can fit the role. The Bosch PS32-02 Cordless Impact Drill Driver is an excellent choice.
Rotary Hammer Drill
Both the hammer drill and rotary hammer drill pound while the bit is spinning, which allows the drills to pulverize concrete, brick and stone, but the rotary hammer uses compressed air for the force necessary to drive the bit.
Professionals typically prefer using rotary hammers because of their powerful strength and excellent shock-absorbing ability. The bulky, larger tool is often overkill for the occasional user, however if you have a mid-range project you might want to consider the Bosch Bulldog Xtreme 11255VSR. It's a solid performing rotary hammer drill that's great to have if you enjoy getting into larger projects.
A right-angle drill is designed to help the user get into difficult and challenging spots. The head is set at a 90° angle and is typically much shorter than traditional drill/drivers. Right-angle drills are without a doubt a specialty tool and more often seen among professionals, but if you're a DYI'er who frequently finds yourself tackling challenging projects, it may be a nice addition to your tool box.
Plumbing, electrical, cabinetry, and working between floor joists are all some projects where a right-angle drill will come in handy. Right-angle drills are available in both corded and cordless models, Bosch makes a nice cordless model with a 5-position pivoting head.
Pros and Cons of Corded and Cordless Drills
As you might expect, both corded and cordless drills have strengths and weaknesses, and how you use your drill will play a big part in determining which one is best for you. Let's take a look at some of the fundamental factors to consider when purchasing a drill and see which style excels in each.
Pro: Cordless Drills
This is where cordless drills really excel. Since you won't be tethered by an extension cord and limited by the location of electrical outlets, you can literally take your cordless drill anywhere. In addition, you'll have increased maneuverability since you won't be tugging on the cord as you position your drill for use.
Con: Corded Drills
Corded drills are limited by the length of their extension cord and power source. If you're working on a workbench, this isn't such a big issue, but when the project requires onsite work, your movement will be restricted by the power cord. And be careful, extensions cords are known to create tripping hazards!
Pro: Corded Drills
Since corded drills are connected to a continuous power source, they're able to deliver more torque than cordless drills. In addition, their performance is more consistent since you won't need to worry about lower torque as the battery drains.
Corded drills are also more reliable than cordless since they're not limited by voltage. The voltage will not change throughout the job, regardless of how long you're working. If you are working with hard materials, such as metals or glass, the high voltage and greater torque make a corded drill the ideal choice because of their high voltage and greater torque.
Con: Cordless Drills
Cordless drills are always limited by their battery life. If you have an extra battery or two you can always swap them out for longer tasks, but in the end, you'll need to recharge eventually. As mentioned above, corded drills simply are able to provide more consistency in torque.
This is because the twisting force in torque is best powered by a constant flow of electricity. The use of a battery just isn't able to deliver the same consistency. Although, it should be noted that there are some very high quality cordless models on the market today that are able to perform quite well.
Pro: Corded Drills
If you're just drilling a quick hole, the weight of your drill probably doesn't matter much, but if you're working for hours on end it's something you should definitely consider. Typically, a corded drill weighs less than cordless models.
Con: Cordless Drills
Cordless drills often start out light, but by the time the heavy and bulky battery is attached they frequently weigh more than corded models. One thing to keep in mind, is the more power a drill is capable of delivering, the heavier the battery. When buying a cordless drill, look for a comfortable ergonomic handle and trigger to help make up for the added weight.
Pro: Cordless Drills
Cordless drills often come with a storage case for the drill and batteries. This adds to the overall portability of the drill, and you won't need to worry about securing the power cord.
Con: Corded Drills
Corded drills are simply not as easy to store as cordless drills. The majority of corded drills do not come with storage cases. You may need to pick up a storage bin or build a wide shelf to keep your drill safe when it's not being used. In addition, extra care should be taken to protect the power cord from damage.
Pro: Corded Drills
Whether you use your drill twice a year or everyday, a corded drill will work with the same power and performance as the last time you used it, and with a little care, a corded drill will last for decades.
Con: Cordless Drills
One of the biggest weaknesses of a cordless drill is the battery. Although, battery technology has improved the life span, at some point, the battery will wear out and need to be replaced. Many manufacturers discontinue battery styles as they upgrade their drills, and even if you can find the right battery, it's often quite expensive.
Another concern is the battery's health with extended storage. If you don't use your drill often, you should check the manufacturers recommendation for storing your batteries. Some are designed to automatically discharge to a safe level to prevent premature aging, but others are not.
Pros: Corded Drills
Although, it's true you can spend a lot of money buying a corded drill, as a general rule, you'll get "more drill for your money". It's also important to note, that at some point you may need to replace the cord, but it's almost always less expensive than purchasing a new battery!
Cons: Cordless Drills
Typically, cordless drills are more expensive than corded tools. However, one thing to consider is if the batteries are universal among the same brand. Many manufacturers such as DeWalt use the same battery for many of their tools. Although, you'll still pay a premium price for the drill, if the battery can be used on another tool it will definitely add to the convenience and likely improve the health of the battery.
Buying Considerations of Corded and Cordless Drills
Whether you're purchasing a corded drill or a cordless, there are a few things you should consider.
First and foremost, you likely have a budget, and there's a wide price range for both types of drills. But if you're looking to get the biggest "bang" for your dollar, a corded drill is the way to go.
If you're simply looking for a cheap drill to use and abuse, then the manufacturer doesn't really matter. But if you're looking for quality, you want to get the most for your money, and that means buying a drill from a reputable manufacturer.
There's quite a few top notch tool manufacturers for both corded and cordless drills. It's generally worth your time to check the warranty offered as it'll not only tell you how many years of coverage you have, but also the ease of having warranty work done.
The handling and balance of a drill may not be an important factor if your drill is only used for a few minutes every so often, but if you're working on a project that requires hours of drill work you'll definitely want to consider it's ergonomic design.
The drill's grip plays a huge role in this area, and larger drills often have a second handle to help balance the drill and improve the ease of use.
As a general rule, corded drills are typically smaller and lighter than cordless. This is largely because the battery will add to the weight and bulk of a cordless drill, which also means that it is balanced differently.
Regardless of which type of drill you decide to buy, it should feel comfortable to hold. The weight should be reasonable, and the drill shouldn't be so large that you won't be able to perform the task easily.
Clearly, mobility is a top reason why cordless drills are purchased. You'll be able to get into tight places without dragging a cord around, and if you're working on a project without a nearby electrical source, you won't even need a generator to power your drill. Your only limitation will be battery life.
When considering overall performance it's important to consider the drill's power, speed, and torque. Each of these factors play a part in the drill's baseline power, power consistency, and which tasks the drill will be able to accomplish.
Since corded drills have an endless supply of power, they clearly outperform in this area. Cordless drills have come a long way in recent years, but the simple fact is, what makes a cordless drill so appealing is also it's greatest weakness. A low battery can cause power inconsistencies and may even delay your work while you wait to recharge, and they just don't have the same power as a cordless drill.
Cordless Drill Batteries
The fact of the matter is that cordless tools are improving every year, and the convenience of not being tethered to a power cord is hard to ignore. But when shopping for a cordless drill, it's really important to consider the type and quality of battery. Here are a few things you should consider:
Types of Rechargeable Batteries
There are three major battery technologies used for rechargeable tools: Nickle cadmium (NiCd), nickle metal hydride (NiMH), and Lithium ion (Li-Ion). Let's take a quick look at each:
Nickle Cadmium (NiCd) - NiCd batteries are inexpensive, tough, and have a long cycle life. They also use the oldest technology, and NiMH and Li-lon batteries typically outperform them. But don't count them out, they're still a solid performer. With their strong current flow, 1,000 charge cycle life, and durable design they provide excellent value and they're less expensive than the other rechargeable battery designs.
Unfortunately, NiCd batteries are also the heaviest out of the three types. In addition, they have a lower capacity, and are very sensitive to loss of memory capacity. They're also extremely environmentally unfriendly due to the cadmium component, so proper disposal is crucial.
Nickle Metal Hydride (NiMH) - NiMH batteries are basically an upgrade to the NiCd design. They're slightly lighter, have a higher energy density (2 to 3 times longer between charges), and with proper care, can have excellent cycle life. They're also less toxic to the environment, but proper disposal is still highly recommended.
However, just like the NiCd battery, they require high maintenance when it comes to storage and discharge. If the battery sits for long periods without use, or it's run low (known as a deep discharge), the lifespan and storage capacity is shortened. Both the NiCd and NiMH batteries should be recharged when they reach 70% capacity.
Lithium ion (Li-lon) - Li-lon batteries are the next "new thing" in rechargeable battery technology, and when it comes to performance, they leave the other two types in the rear view mirror. But, it comes at a price, because they are expensive.
Li-Ion batteries are light weight when compared to the other two types, and have a high energy density, which gives them a long life. They also do not lose memory by charging or storage. With use and age the internal components and electro-chemical processes simply wear out. Heat is the number one enemy of Li-Ion batteries. It accelerate the deterioration and shortens their service life.
With a cycle life of 300 to 500 cycles, a Li-Ion battery has the shortest overall life cycle of the three, and they're also the most expensive. However, because this battery technology is still relatively new, there are still advancements being made, so hopefully some of these shortcomings will be improved.
Batteries come in a variety of shapes. The common ones you'll see are the pod, stick, and slide. The shape of the battery doesn't really matter when it comes to performance, but it will impact to the overall balance of the tool.
One of the main advantages of Li-Ion batteries is they can be designed with the tool's balance in mind, since they're not restricted to block-like shapes like NiCd and NiMH batteries. The ability to contour the battery to the drill's design plays a big role in the way the weight and balance of the drill feels in your hand.
Corded vs. Cordless Drills: Which is Better?
When it comes to choosing the best drill, it really boils down to personal preference and how the drill will be used. If this is your first drill, you may want to go with a corded drill. They're typically less expensive and deliver more power, plus they have a much longer service life. However, because they require a power cord they're less mobile and unable to get into tight spaces. In addition, they tend to be noisier.
On the other hand, with the advancements in battery technology, cordless drills are more popular than ever. They're extremely convenient, but they are heavy and bulky, and you'll always need to monitor your battery power. Although, it's hard to over look the huge benefit of being able to work with a power tool anywhere . . . whether there's electricity or not.
In many ways it boils down to where we started. If you're looking for mobility and convenience, than a cordless drill is an excellent choice. But if power and performance is your ultimate goal, than a corded drill is a no-brainer. However, there's no reason why you can't have the best of both worlds and own one of each.
Top Pick Reviews
As you can see there are many different types of drills available on the market. Each has specific tasks that they are designed to do. We've zeroed in on the most basic and common type of drill, and we've taken a close look at both the corded and cordless styles. Both of these are great drills and would be an asset to any toolbox. Let's first take a look at the corded drill:
DeWalt Corded Drill DWD115K
The DeWalt Corded Drill DWD115K is designed to handle challenging jobs. It has a powerful 8 Amp motor that delivers 0 - 2,500 rpm speed, making it the perfect tool for heavy and meticulous drilling tasks. The 3/8" all-metal, ratcheting, keyless chuck makes it possible to achieve better bit retention.
The specially designed mid-handle grip provides better balance and control, and since the grip is soft, it'll be comfortable during use. In addition, the ball bearing construction provides long lasting durability. If you want to protect your investment when it's not being used, you can purchase the drill with the Touch System Case.
The DeWalt DWD115K is a no frills workhorse corded drill. It's simple to use, lightweight and capable of operating for long hours without slowing down or overheating. It's ideal for simple tasks around the house or projects that require long hours of drill use such as decking or roofing.
If you're looking for a cordless drill, the Kobolt KDD1424A-03 is a great choice and well worth your time to check out:
Kobolt Cordless Drill KDD 1424A-03
The Kobalt Cordless Drill KDD 1424A-03 definitely belongs in the powerful line-up of cordless drills. The brushless motor delivers 650-inch-pounds of torque, and the 2-speed gearbox allows you to both drill and drive at two variable speeds: 0-550 rpm and 0-2,000rpm.
The 24-volt max. 2.0-Ah Li-ion battery has a built-in charge indicator, making it easy to check the battery life. The drill comes with a soft carry case, 24-volt Li-ion battery and charger, a belt clip, double-ended driver bit and holder, as well as an auxiliary handle.
The Kobalt Cordless Drill KDD1424A-03 is a very powerful and competitively priced drill. For what it lacks in fit and finish, it more than makes up for in sheer power. There are more expensive cordless drills from high-end manufacturers available, but when it comes to power, the Kobalt is hard to beat. With two speed settings, this drill is excellent for driving screws and heavy duty carpentry, and since the clutch has 23 different torque settings you shouldn't have a problem finding just the right setting to prevent stripping or damaging your screws or work piece.