5 On Your Side

Buying the Best Cordless Drill for Your Needs

Posted December 3, 2007 6:16 p.m. EST
Updated December 3, 2007 8:52 p.m. EST

— Whether you are a serious do-it-yourself person or just need to hang a shelf, a cordless drill is real handy.  One can also make a great gift.

“You don't have to have the hand strength to turn the screw or loosen the screw. The drill does all the work. It's about the right tool,” cordless-drill user Carole LaColla said.

Consumer Reports tested 48 cordless drills including ones from DeWalt, Black & Decker and Panasonic. The drills cost anywhere from $50 to $500. Cordless screwdrivers were also included in the test.

“The cordless screwdrivers are handy and they're easy to use, but they're aggravatingly slow and they're very inefficient,” Consumer Reports tester Peter Sawchuck said.

To check power, testers used a device called a dynamometer. It was connected to a computer to ensure accurate measurements. Another machine measured the twisting force of the drill.

To measure speed, testers drilled hundreds of 1-inch holes. They also drove hundreds of 3.5-inch lag screws into 4x4 pine boards.

Consumer Reports said performance, not price, should guide your choice.

“Select a drill based on the jobs that you intend to do,” Sawchuck said.

For simple jobs, Consumer Reports recommended an $80 12-volt Hitachi. It weighs just over 3 pounds and has two speeds. Plus, it comes with two batteries, and they recharge quickly.

For bigger projects, Consumer Reports recommended a $95 Craftsman. While it is nearly 2 pounds heavier, it has very good speed and power.

Consumer Reports suggested that before you buy, check the grip for comfort – and lift the drill to shoulder height – just like you would when you are drilling.

A drill that weighs too much to handle  – no matter how well it performs – will be no good to you in the long run.