If you’re serious about DIY as a hobby or a potential career, it’s essential you have a decent toolkit. One of the most used tools in a DIYer’s kit is the good old drill. In years gone by, we’d need an electric outlet close by (or a very long cable) to work comfortably. These days, cordless drills make a DIYers life so much easier.
But what should you look out for when buying a cordless drill? You don’t want to buy a dud. Take a look through our buyer’s guide for some helpful tips and ideas.
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How will you use your drill?
Knowing how you’ll be using your drill immediately limits your options when it comes to choosing the right type of machine for you.
If you’re mainly interested in doing little jobs around the house, such as hanging pictures, putting up shelves and building flatpack furniture, a drill driver will probably be the best option for you as these double-up as powered screwdrivers.
If you think you might one day need to drill into concrete or brickwork, the drill driver won’t have the capabilities to handle this type of work. You’ll need, at least, a combi drill to do that.
Don’t worry, we’ll be covering the various types of drills in a little while.
Cordless drills are more versatile than corded ones but you might need a spare battery
For many DIYers, cordless drills are the best option. You have extra flexibility and can freely move around the work area without fear of the cable getting in your way. The negative side of a cordless drill is battery power. Once the battery runs down, you’ll need to charge it to carry on working.
Not ideal if you’re in the middle of a job.
For this reason, it makes sense to have a fully-charged spare ready to take over while you re-charge the flat one. Especially if you do a lot of DIY or you’re working on a large project, such as fitting a kitchen, laying decking or building a summerhouse.
Some drills come with a spare battery, but many don’t. Be sure to check this when making a buying decision.
The types of cordless power drill currently on the market
A cordless drill typically falls into one of the following categories:
- Combi drill
- Drill driver
- Impact driver
- Hammer drill
What to look out for
- The higher the voltage, the more powerful the drill. Most home DIYers will get adequate service from an 18v machine, but if you’re in the trade, you should choose a 24v or higher drill. For light work, a 12v machine is fine.
- Battery capacity is rated using an Ah measurement. Ah stands for ampere hour or amp hour. The higher the Ah number, the more powerful the battery (and weightier too!).
A combi (combination) drill is a great all-rounder. It performs a lot of tasks such as drilling into wood or metal, driving screws and, when you switch to the hammer action, drilling into concrete and masonry.
If you use it for drilling concrete or masonry, you’ll need to use the right drill bits for the job (diamond or tungsten carbide tipped).
Pros of combi drills
- Versatile machine with the ability to drill into wood, metal, masonry and concrete
- Can be used as a drill, hammer or driver
- A wide range of choices with prices to fit every pocket
- Usually more expensive than drill and impact drivers
- Lower torque and speed compared to impact drivers
Drill drivers don’t quite have the power or versatility of the combi drill, but they’re a good choice for drilling into wood and metal and for driving screws. They don’t have the power to tackle concrete or brickwork, though.
So if you think you’re going to be drilling into brick walls or concrete posts in the future, the drill driver isn’t the right choice for you. If light DIY jobs around the home are your thing, it’s certainly worth considering a drill driver.
- Quite cheap compared to combi drills
- Use on metal and wood
- Doubles up as a powerful and efficient screwdriver
- Not suitable for heavy work such as drilling into masonry
- Not as strong as a combi drill
Which? tested combi drills and drill drivers at different price levels and found the cheaper ones didn’t perform too well. Which? recommends spending around £100 on a drill driver and £120 – £150 on a combi drill if you want a decent tool that performs well.
Impact drivers add a bit of clout when needed. They’re high torque machines designed to do one job only – drive screws. Which they do faster and easier than any machine currently on the market. With that said, they can also be used for drilling but you’ll need a set of hex shank drill bits to match the chuck of the typical impact driver.
- Ideal for high torque applications
- Awesome screwdriver
- Compact design makes them versatile
- Not suitable for drilling masonry
- Not as versatile as combi drills or drill drivers
Hammer drills are used for drilling into brickwork, stone and concrete. They use a hammering action that provides short, powerful and rapid blows to the material’s surface. With the proper masonry bit and sufficiently powered machine, you’ll drill a hole in no time.
- Perfect for drilling into brickwork, stone and concrete
- Can’t be used on wood or metal
- Not as versatile as a combi drill or drill driver
- Typically bulky and heavy
When you’re buying a drill, always shop around for bargains. There are plenty to be had if you’re in the right place at the right time. Choose a machine that matches the kind of DIY work you do, and always spend as much as you can afford at the time.