“a consumer reports for the cheap” — the new york times
In this review:
  1. Best Cheap Cordless Drills
  2. Drill Size, Drill Power
  3. Cordless Drill Battery
  4. Drill Speed
  5. Cordless Drill Reviews
  6. Discount Cordless Drills Features Comparison Table

Cheap Cordless Drills Buying Guide

For occasional DIY types, there's a plethora of cheap cordless drills on the market but little guidance in the form of expert and user reviews that could point you to the best cheap cordless drill. So the first thing you need to know is that battery technology has evolved, which means you should beware of old-style cordless drills selling for discounted prices.

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The second thing you need to know is that a good cheap cordless drill with all the necessary features and performance attributes, including sufficient power, light weight, and durability, can be had for less than $160.

People buy cheap cordless drills to make holes or drive screws with speed and minimal effort. How much you spend on a cordless drill depends largely on how you plan to use it. Bigger holes or screws need bigger bits, which require more torque, which means more power, which in turn leads to a higher price tag. That said, there's not much difference in price between a 14.4V cordless drill and an 18V or 19.2V model, so if you think you'll ever need more power, you might as well step up from the get-go.

Power in a cordless drill is determined by the voltage, which may be as low as 6V or as high as 36V. A small 6V cordless drill that runs on AA batteries costs less than $20 and is good enough to hang a few pictures or put together a piece of mail-order furniture. But if you do any kind of maintenance around the house, you'll need at least 12 volts of power. We focused our research on cheap cordless drills that offer this kind of versatility and expanded the scope to also include cheap 18V and 19.2V cordless drills, which just about make the grade for the professional trades. Prices vary widely for each voltage, ranging from about $35 for a cordless 12V drill up to nearly $200 and from $90 or so to about $400 for a 19.2V cordless drill. The best cheap 12V cordless drills start at about $75 and the best cheap 18V or 19.2V cordless drills start at about $100.

Cordless drill size is denoted by the size of the chuck (the end of the drill that holds the bit). Common chuck sizes are 3/8" or 1/2", which is another way of saying that the chuck can hold bits as large as 3/8 inch or 1/2 inch, respectively. In most cheap cordless drills, the chuck size coincides with the voltage. That is, 12V drills almost always have a 3/8" chuck and 18V and 19.2V drills almost always have a 1/2" chuck.

One of the major complaints lodged against cheap drills concerns batteries that don't recharge well or hold their charge for very long. This is important because consistent, even power is critical. If the battery is dying or dead, you can't drill a hole or drive a screw properly. The newest and best cheap cordless drills, however, contain quick-charging, long-lasting lithium-ion batteries instead of the older, heavier, and less efficient NiCAD (nickel-cadmium) and NiMH (nickel-metal-hydride) batteries. The charge on lithium-ion batteries also holds though long periods of inactivity and the charge capacity doesn't diminish if you don't fully recharge the battery. Not surprisingly, lithium-ion batteries are pricier than the alternative battery technologies.

Experts at J.D. Power and Associates give top grades to brands like Bosch, Makita, Milwaukee, and Craftsman Professional for drill performance, battery performance, ease of use, versatility, warranty, and overall user satisfaction. Other well-regarded names in the power drill market include Hitachi, Porter Cable, Ryobi, and Ridgid. Most of these companies make cordless drills in a variety of voltages that sell at a variety of price points targeted for different segments of the market.

Review continues below

Our research into the best cheap cordless drills turned up several 12V and the more powerful 18V and 19.2V models that are well-priced given their capabilities. Our top picks incorporate the new lithium-ion battery and garner strong user reviews. At the head of our list sit the 12V Ryobi 3/8" HJP002K (starting at $79) and the Craftsman 17310 19.2V C3 (starting at $100) for their overall performance and value pricing. Next on our list are the Porter-Cable PCL120DDC-2 Cordless Compact Lithium-Ion 12V 3/8" Drill (starting at $90) and Ryobi 18V P815 Lithium-Ion Cordless Compact Drill (starting at $150), which perform well but not quite at the level of our first two choices.

Two cheap cordless drills we would bypass are the Skil 12V 2240-01 (starting at $51) and PowerGlide 19.2V 2186955 (starting at $41), both of which incorporate the older NiCAD battery and just don't make the grade when stacked against the top four despite their lower prices. User reviews indicate the PowerGlide, in particular, suffers from problems with the battery and charger.

As you shop for the cheapest cordless drill that suits your needs, you've got a few additional options. A complete drill kit, like those that we researched, comes with one or two batteries (one to run the drill and one as back-up for long jobs) plus a battery charger. A less costly "bare tool" is just that -- a drill packaged by itself that uses batteries from another complimentary tool; bare tools cost less than the full kit. You can sometimes find real bargains on reconditioned models of upmarket brands, like DeWalt or Bosch, but read the warranty carefully to make sure you aren't getting stuck with someone else's problem. And watch for drill manufacturers and vendors trying to offload NiCAD battery cordless drills for bargain prices -- no disrespect meant for the tools themselves, but you may not get the same customer service from manufacturers that have moved on to the newest battery technology.

by Maralyn Edid (Google+ Profile)

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Best Cheap Cordless Drills

Ryobi HJP002K
Gold Medal

Ryobi HJP002K

A compact, lightweight 12V cordless drill with a 3/8" chuck that wins strong endorsements from home users and some professionals for its power and torque and the run time of its battery. This model features 24 clutch settings and speed up to 600 rpm; it comes with two batteries, a charger, and storage case.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
Craftsman 17310
Gold Medal

Craftsman 17310

The Craftsman 17310 C3 with a 1/2" chuck and 19.2V is a powerful drill that stands up to the competition, beating most others in price for its size. Buyers appreciate the multi-chemistry charger that works with old and new battery types, two speed settings, and LED light, but note that it's a bit heavy.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »

Good Cheap Cordless Drills

Porter-Cable PCL120DDC-2
Gold Medal

Porter-Cable PCL120DDC-2

The Porter-Cable 12V PCL120DDC-2 cordless drill comes from a family of quality drills, and this compact model offers welcome extras, including an LED light, belt clip, and two batteries. Reviewers compliment its balance of performance, features, and price.

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Ryobi 18V P815
Gold Medal

Ryobi 18V P815

The Ryobi 18V P815 is one of the better cheap and powerful cordless drills that users cheer for its light weight and fast speed (up to 1,600 rpm at high and 440 rpm on low). It features a variable speed trigger and comes with two batteries, dual-chemistry charger, and tool bag.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
 

Don't Bother

SKIL 2240-01

The Skil 12V 2240-01 cordless drill relies on the older NiCAD battery technology, which is a definite minus in our book. Its variable speed up to 700 rpm and good pricing win some fans, but others gripe about limited power, slow recharge, and no extra battery in the kit.

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PowerGlide 2186955

This is another cheap cordless drill with the old NiCAD technology and a 3/8" chuck that isn't much of a bargain. Users like the variable speed but complain about weak motors and report problems with chargers and batteries going bad; users grouse that you can't buy these items separately.

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