Choosing the Best Cordless Drill for DIY Jobs

You want the right drill for the job to get it done faster with less strain on your wrist

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No toolbox is complete without a cordless drill. But if you're an avid DIYer, you might want or even need several. CR’s resident home improvement guru, John Galeotafiore, has three drills in his personal collection.

“I got away with using one general-use cordless drill for some time but started adding more drills as my projects became more ambitious,” says Galeotafiore. “An impact driver can make the job easier when you’re working with a lot of screws, a heavy-duty drill with a hammer mode is essential if you’re working with masonry, but that same drill is going to kill your arm if you need to work overhead, so a small drill can be quite handy, too.”

More on Cordless Drills

The main criteria in our lab tests are power, speed, and run time, but we also assess drills for battery recharge time, handling, clutch settings, size, and weight—all factors that can make one drill more suited than another for certain projects.

Whether you’re installing curtain rods on drywall, mounting shelves to a brick wall, or building a deck, here are the best cordless drills for each job. CR members can see the ratings and details for each model from our tests featured below.

For more on cordless drills, check out our buying guide and complete ratings and recommendations.

Best Drill for Small Projects

A lightweight drill like the Makita below is all you need for odd jobs around your home, things like putting up wall shelves, hanging pictures, assembling furniture, and installing curtain rods. A big battery isn’t necessary when you’re drilling only a few holes or driving a handful of screws. Plus, a smaller battery can lighten your load by a few pounds.

Best Drill for Tight Spots

Drills with long handles and bulky batteries can be unwieldy in tight spots, like under a sink or in corners. They can also cause fatigue when working overhead. The best drill in these cases is a compact pistol-style model like this Bosch.

Best Drill for Hard Materials

If you need to drill into masonry, cinder block, brick, or stone sometimes, a hammer mode like the one in this Ridgid would be handy. This mode uses rapid hammer-like blows to bore into hard materials—sort of like a drill and jackhammer in one. You'll want to upgrade to an actual hammer drill if you often drill into poured concrete or work with hard materials.

Best Drill for Contractor-Level Work

When working on big projects, you could be using your drill for hours at a time. So you want one that scores high in our ratings for speed and power and has a long run time and a quick battery recharge time. A brushless motor is a must here—it’ll optimize battery usage and reduce heat generation compared with a brushed motor, which means more power and a longer drill life. You’ll also want to opt for a high-voltage drill (at least 18 volts).

The higher the voltage, the stronger the drill’s torque, or twisting power, which comes into play when inserting different sized screws into different materials. More torque is needed, for example, to insert large screws into dense hardwood than to insert finishing screws into a baseboard. This Milwaukee checks all the boxes.

Headshot of Perry Santanachote, editor with the Home editorial team at Consumer Reports

Perry Santanachote

A multidimensional background in lifestyle journalism, recipe development, and anthropology impels me to bring a human element to the coverage of home kitchen appliances. When I'm not researching dishwashers and blenders or poring over market reports, I'm likely immersed in a juicy crossword puzzle or trying (and failing) to love exercise. Find me on Facebook