- Home Improvement
7 Tips to Buying the Best Power Drill
Which Power Drill is Best for YOU?
Since their inception back in the early 1900s at Henry Ford's Model-T automobile assembly line, the power drill has not changed much. Ford needed a tool for a specific purpose and so he had one designed and specially manufactured. Well, that's not something that the everyday person can do today.
Confusion at the Hardware Store
While the basic rotary power drill hasn't changed much, the technology used to create power tools has grown exponentially. Just head down to the local store and you'll likely see a wide selection of available options and features that make the modern power drill a "must-have" tool for anyone's toolbox.
That very wide selection of features, options, functions, power levels, chuck sizes, etc., is precisely what makes selecting just the right power drill so difficult.
With that in mind, here are 7 tips to consider when you're out looking for your next power drill.
What is the Purpose of the Power Drill?
Seems like an easy enough question, but when you're standing in the power drill aisle at your local home improvement superstore, the initial purpose of the power drill for which you are looking can get a bit clouded. After all, there are SO many choices, right?
OK, so think for a minute about the purpose of your power drill - what are you going to be doing with it? Are you a person who just does the occasional repair around the house on weekends?
Maybe a low-power screwdriver is best for you. If you're a weekend DIY project person who likes to get into all aspects of doing it yourself, maybe a 3/8-inch 18-Volt cordless power drill is just the thing.
Got some masonry, concrete or stone that needs drilling or boring? A powerful hammer drill is going to work best in that situation.
If you're going to be drilling through metal, then you're going to need a high-speed power drill with a lot of torque to handle harder materials.
If you're going to use your power drill to drive a lot of screws - like when you're building a deck - a power drill with a multiple-setting clutch that can countersink screws without stripping them is going to come in real handy.
The wide range of options and features make it critical for you to decide how your power drill will be used before you make a final selection.
Corded or Cordless Power Drill
Once you have decided what the main purpose or uses of your power drill will likely be, you have to decide if you want a corded electric power drill or cordless power drill. Each type has their own advantages and disadvantages.
Corded electric power drills have a lot more power than their cordless cousins. Corded electrics can also go longer and provide more consistent power over the long-term. For example, for mixing drywall mud or drilling through masonry, a corded drill is going to be a much better choice than a cordless variety.
Cordless power drills have the obvious advantage of not having an electrical power cord to get in the way. There is a trade-off with overall torque and consistent power. In recent years, cordless drills have become increasingly powerful and provide longer battery life with the introduction of Lithium Ion batteries and power cells.
Power Drill Chuck Types and Sizes
Probably the most common and widely used chick size for consumer power drills is the 3/8-inch chuck. The 3/8-inch chuck will handle a lot of different tools, bits and attachments used in completing just about any type of job at home.
Larger 1/2-inch chucks are also available on more powerful drills. Typically, the larger the chuck, the more powerful the drill is going to be. Power drills with larger chucks will almost always cost more.
Keyless chucks are best because they can be opened and closed using only your hands. Some chucks require a chuck key, which is simply a small wrench with gear-like teeth used to further tighten and open the chuck. Keyed chucks are typically found on drills that require more power to hold the drill bits, tools and attachments in place.
Choosing the Right Power Drill
Consider the Grip
I hear people asking why the grip is so important when considering the purchase a power drill. Well, think of it this way; if you're likely to be using and tightly gripping a power tool all day long, your hand will experience fatigue.
Your muscles will get tired of gripping the tool and you'll quit working sooner.
Now, if you want (or need) to work longer, it's very important that your power drill has a grip or handle that is designed to make it easier to hold the tool comfortably for a longer period of time. Look for power drills that have soft grip material or those that are ergonomically designed.
Power drills that are used in places where more power is needed will typically have additional handles or grips positioned in places that allow the operator to get more leverage when drilling. You can see that extra handle on the Bosch HD21-2 (blue, upper right).
The angle of the drill and handle is also important, especially if you're going to be working in tight, enclosed spaces. The DeWalt DWD155K (yellow, upper right) has a handle positioned in the middle of the power drill rather than on the back end. It also has a specially designed "Comfort grip." It's perfect for working in areas with limited space.
Batteries Have Come a Long Way
As I mentioned earlier, the power cells or batteries used in today's modern power drills have improved a great deal in just the last few years. Nickel Cadmium (NiCad) batteries and power cells have been replaced by the more powerful Lithium Ion (LIon)
If you buy a cordless drill these days, it is only going to be as good as the batteries. So, make sure you get a power drill that has batteries or power cells that can hold a lengthy charge and can be recharged in a short time.
Some of the newer power drills available today that employ the latest power cell technology can power a drill twice as long, hold a charge four or five times as long and be recharged in just a few minutes.
Be sure to look carefully at the features of the power drill to get all the information regarding battery power.
Voltage in a Power Drill
Most corded electric drills will have sufficient power and torque to handle just about any job. Voltage ratings primarily refer to cordless power drills. It's really pretty simple - more volts will deliver more torque and higher rotational speeds.
Cordless power drills range from the low-end 3.6-Volt mini-drivers all the way up to the 36-Volt monster cordless drills. For most folks, an 18-volt cordless power drill is going to be able to handle just about anything - without breaking your budget.
DeWalt has a great deal at Amazon.com on a quality 18-volt cordless power drill. It's been a best-seller at Amazon for more than a year because the price is about half of retail. A great deal on a cordless drill if you're in the market.