If you are in the market for a cordless drill, then we have put together this useful and helpful buying guide. We believe it will answer most, and hopefully all of your questions. We also know that your time is valuable so although this is a long and extensive guide, we have a table of contents just below.
Simply click on any of the content headings and you will be taken straight to that section. We do however try to cover the most important features of a cordless drill first.
There is a lot to cover as many features are important such as the battery type, the weight of the drill, the type of chuck, hammer drills and even torque settings. So let's get started.
Types of Cordless Drills
Not all cordless drills are made equal nor are they exactly the same. We wanted you the potential buyer to be clear about the different types available and more importantly what they are actually used for. So let's have a quick look at those.
There are essentially two types which are:
- Combination drills also called Combi drills
Let's have a look at each to see what this terminology really means for you the potential buyer.
These are the most popular as they combine high speed rotary drilling with screw driving and are ideal for most DIY jobs around the home. They have a higher speed for drilling and will also have a lower speed (or set of speeds) for use as a screwdriver. This makes them a very useful tool to have. They do however not have a hammer action, which is used primarily for drilling into concrete. These will usually be cheaper than the combination drills described below.
These combine high speed drilling, hammer drilling and can also be used for screwdriving. Now, as mentioned above most cordless drills combine the rotary and screwdriving elements, but it is the inclusion of the hammer action, that makes these classed as combination. This hammer element means basically that these types of drills can be used to drill through tougher materials and surfaces such as brick, cement and concrete.
Rotary Drilling And Its Uses
It is worthwhile to explain a little more what this term actually means. This is the speed, or range of speeds, that your drill will have. In simple terms, this means how fast the chuck will spin around. Ideally you need different speeds for drilling into different types of materials, so buying a cordless drill with variable speed is a very good option to choose.
The drill/driver option is ideal for the basic DIY tasks such as drilling holes to hang pictures, put up shelves, drilling into soft wood, plastic or light metals. If you plan on doing a lot of drilling through masonry, such as brick, mortar or concrete, then be absolutely certain that you buy a cordless drill with a hammer action. This is explained in more detail just below.
Hammer Drilling And Its Uses
The only thing you will ever need a hammer function in a drill, is to be able to easily drill through materials like concrete, brick, block, mortar or stone. You do not need a hammer function to drill through wood, metal or steel. In fact the hammer action should NEVER be used for that purpose, as it will damage your bits, and is not the most efficient method of drilling.
Now we believe that most people will at some stage have the need to do this, so you may as well buy one that has that function.The hammer action is measured in Bumps Per Minute (BPM). We all know that drilling is made possible by a sharp drill bit that is spinning at speed.(rotary drilling) The bit has flutes on it to allow the drilled material to escape out of the way.
When you engage the hammer function on your drill, then it also bumps up and down really quickly and mimics a hammering action.That in turn helps break down harder materials like brick and stone. If you would like to read a more detailed article on drilling through concrete with a cordless drill, then please click here.
So that is the basic information covered. Below we will have a look at the main features that you should look out for. If you know about these, then you will be able to buy the right cordless drill for your needs, at the best price point.
Which Brands Make Cordless Drills in the UK?
There are quite a few and we have listed them below:
- Black and Decker - this is a well known brand and their prices vary between £25-75
- Bosch - another well known brand and a quality one. Their prices vary between £50-100
- Dewalt - known as the professionals brand - high end drills and prices vary between £130-200
- Draper - A popular choice for some people - their prices vary between £30-100
- Einhell - Becoming a more popular choice and prices vary between £60-100
- Hitachi - A Japanese brand who are innovative and prices vary between £100-400
- Makita - Another higher end brand with prices varying between £70-150
- Ryobi - Known for their ONE+ branding and prices vary between £50-120
- Terratek - A recent new brand to the market and at the budget end. Their prices are between £35-45
Many of these brands will be household names and some may not be so well known. The better know brands are Black & Decker, Bosch, Dewalt and Makita when it comes to buying an actual drill. Brands such as Terratek and Black & Decker produce the more affordable drills, where as brands like Dewalt, Hitachi and Makita aim at the more professional and contractor's market.
I know that some people will have a favourite brand. Almost always they like to stick with that brand. That of course is a good thing to do if they have always delivered good tools. Professionals will use the more expensive brands such as Dewalt, Hitachi and Makita. Most home owners or those who like DIY, will buy something cheaper but also with good quality. Bosch fit this market really well.
Others who simply want a cordless drill for the odd job around the home, need only buy a small cheap drill. Black & Decker, Terratek and Draper will do that job very nicely.
How Much Will You Pay For A Cordless Drill?
You can pay anything between £20 to over £200, depending on exactly what you want to own. A good basic drill/driver will cost around £30-40.
If you want a more powerful combination style cordless drill that has all of the important features, then you will need to spend £70-100. This is what I think most people should be prepared to pay. That will give you a drill with the right features to be able to handle 90% of jobs around the home and garden.
You should also be aware that many brands also offer combination kits. These will include something like a drill and an impact driver. They combine these in a set so you are in essence able to buy two useful tools, which are stored in one box.
Many also provide accessory sets that contain bits and drills. For most people these will get the job done, though just be aware that these are not always the highest quality.
Important Cordless Drill Features to Consider
Battery Type, Power and Size
Older types of cordless drills used to use what are called NiCad batteries. For many years that was the industry standard. These have now been replaced with Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) batteries which has revolutionised the efficiency of all cordless tools.
The older Nicad batteries were known for not holding their charge, and also for losing their charging capacity over time. The newer Li-Ion batteries have none of those problems. The reason I mention that in my buying guide is that there are still some of the older types out there.
MY ADVICE - DO NOT BUY ANY DRILL THAT USES A NICAD BATTERY
Many people say that a cordless drill is just about the battery. That is not strictly true, but it is the number one factor you should consider, before buying one. The size of a battery is measured by its voltage and its current (Amperes) A general rule of thumb is that bigger is so much better. For cordless drills this can vary quite a lot from as low as 3.5 volts and all the way up to 36 volts.
There are two very popular battery sizes which are 18 volts and 20 volts.The battery powers the motor which in turn spins the chuck which does the actual drilling. So the more power your battery can produce, then the more speed and torque your drill will have. If I was drilling through a piece of wood using a small 12 volt battery, it would take longer than if I was using an 18 volt battery, all other things being equal.
Ideally you want a battery that will last for a long time without having to be recharged. Manufacturers normally call this the battery life. This is just how much use you can get from your drill, before the battery runs out, and will need to be recharged. This can vary a lot from drill to drill. Those with better and more powerful batteries will clearly last longer than those with smaller less powerful ones.
Weight of Batteries
Initially this may not sound that important, but believe me it is. Most drills are heavy enough, and when you add a battery to them, then they can get pretty heavy. If you are using your drill a lot, then that can use hand and arm fatigue.That is why manufacturers have designed the newer Lithium-Ion slim line batteries, which still retain their power, but are smaller and lighter. Having one of those makes a big difference, however, you will pay slightly more for the pleasure.
It can be very frustrating if you have to wait a long time for your battery to fully charge. Ideally you want a battery that will charge quickly. You do not want to be half way through getting a job done, and then wait ages on your drill battery charging, before you can get finished. Some of these drills have what is called rapid charging, and that is what you want, if you only have one battery for your drill.
Two Batteries Are Better Than One
Ideally you want to have two batteries. That means that one can be charging when you are using the other one. Now that will add to the expense, but at least you will not lose out on time, or getting frustrated because you can not finish a job quickly.
What Is The Purpose of Gears?
Most cordless drill make use of two gears. The first gear has a low speed with a higher torque setting and that one is used for screwdriving. The second gear changes to higher speeds for standard rotary drilling. If a drill only has one gear, it’s unlikely to be able to be successful at both drilling and screw driving.
Understand the Importance of Torque
Most cordless drills come with variable torque settings. Torque is essentially the strength of the twisting action when it comes to screwdriving. If you are using your drill/driver to screw into soft wood, then the torque setting will be lower, than if you were driving into a piece of harder wood like mahogany.
When you master the torque settings, the clutch on your drill will disengage the drill motor when the screw is flush with the surface. That means the wood surface will not get damaged, and you will not strip the head of the screw.
Many people confuse torque with speed. They believe that the higher they set the torque, the faster the drill will go. Torque is actually about the amount of power delivered to the chuck, and onwards to the drill bit.
The Importance of The Chuck
Most older drills came with a chuck key. This key was used to open the jaws of the chuck to accommodate the different sizes and thicknesses of drill bits. There were two problems with those.
Firstly, they were very easy to lose, and over time they wore down the actual chuck which caused slipping.These days almost all cordless drills come with what are called keyless chucks. So it is a welcome goodbye to the days of searching for a chuck-key.
The chuck is the part of the drill that holds the drill bit. It has a set of jaws which clamps the drill securely into place, and ensures that it does not spin or move. With keyless chucks, the drill bits are attached and removed simply by twisting the chuck.
There are 3 types of keyless chuck which are:
Double sleeve keyless chuck - this one need both hands to open and close the chuck
Single Sleeve keyless chuck - this one needs just one hand to open the chuck
SDS chuck - only found on hammer drills and you would need to use special SDS drill bits
For most people the single sleeve is the best as it is super simple to use. Only professionals would ever use the SDS type of chuck.
Chucks come in different sizes with the most common being 1/2" and 3/8". The reason for this is that drill bits some in different styles and thicknesses. For the bigger and heavier duty drill bits, you will need a wider chuck, so you would use the 1/2" rather than the smaller 3/8 " chuck size.
So that is pretty much all you will ever need to know when it comes to buying a cordless drill. The main thing to consider always is what you will be using your drill/driver for? If it is for general work around the home then a drill/driver will be ideal. If you plan on also having to drill through brick or concrete, then go for a combi cordless drill as that has the hammer action.
Keep in mind that the bigger the voltage the more power you will have. The most common choice by a very long way is the 18 volt cordless drill. I would also recommend going for the slightly bigger chuck size of 1/2" (13 mm) rather than the 3/8" size (10 mm) as that will allow you to get bigger size drill bits into the chuck.
After that it will come down to your budget and your preferred brand. If your budget allows, then also get variable speed, torque and gears as that just gives you a wider range of drilling and driving capability. I hope you found the guide useful and helpful.
Useful Related Links
Having read this cordless drill buying guide, you should now have a much better understanding of what is available in the UK market. A good place to start your search is to do that by how much you can afford, or are willing to spend. Below we have included links to pages on our website. These pages have picked out the best buyer rated drill/drivers by price, within a specific budget.