We Review the Best Cordless Drills: Heavy Duty 18V & 20V

18v heavy duty cordless drill reviews

Imagine the power to plow through anything from a 2×4 to solid concrete all at the tip of your index finger.

​Even better, you’re no longer restrained by a heavy, corded drill. You have the same power but with complete freedom of movement. Driving deck screws, cutting holes, and even drilling through solid concrete can be performed with one tool.

​Sounds too good to be true right?

​If you’re stuck in the old-school world of NiCad (or older) battery technology, you’re dealing with longer charge times, shorter usage times, and a lot less power and torque.

​It doesn’t have to be that way.

The perfect drill for your needs is out there.  And all the information you need to find it is just below.

Because in this post we highlight the best performing cordless drills on the market. We’ll cover the must-have options, the fluff you can do without, and everything in between.

Today’s best cordless drills offer significantly more power and battery life than anything previously manufactured.

Best Cordless Drills of 2017

When it comes to purchasing a drill you may as well go for a heavy hitter. This means the 18V category which utilize lithium-ion batteries. The price to performance difference between this category makes it well worth the extra money.

If you’re looking for a less expensive options there are some great 14V cordless drills on the market. We review them in a separate section below.

torque comparison chart for 18V cordless drills

There are plenty of stand-alone drills out there that are priced at or below $100. And while you can spend less and get more power with a corded model, the convenience of cordless simply can’t be beat.

The last couple years have seen dramatic improvements in battery technology allowing cordless models to match the power of their corded brethren. Combined with the extra run time you’ll get from Lithium Ion batteries this makes your buying decision that much easier.

So the only question left to answer is who makes the best 18V cordless drill? Let’s find out.

Cordless drills are now surpassing the power ratings of what used to be considered a standard drill. There are several products on the market that surpass the 1,000 inch pound of torque threshold.

Tasks like hole hogging that used to require a massive 120V drill can now be performed with a variety of 18V models currently on the market. And due to their incredible strength, even heavy duty bits like forstners can be utilized with the high torque outputs of these remarkable tools.

Must Haves for Any Cordless Drill You Might Buy

Before we get to the cordless drill reviews​ let's look at some of the features that you should consider must haves for any drill you're looking to purchase. 

Lithium Ion Battery

All the drills in this competition utilize lithium ion batteries.  While lithium-ion batteries used to be cost prohibitive, they're now much more competitively priced. 

There are several important advantages that lithium-ion batteries have over previous generations of power tool batteries such as NiCad.

lithium ion batter from a Makita cordless drill

Key Benefits of Lithium-Ion Batteries

- lighter weight

- no self discharge (meaning they can be stored for months without losing any of their charge)

- longer use and more power (this is due to the efficiency of the tools more so than the battery,  most newer tools use brushless motors that generate more power and are more efficient.

- they resist the "memory effect" of NiCad batteries so they can be recharged even without fulling discharging them first

- operate more effectively in a wide range of temperatures

Variable Speed Trigger

Ever stripped a screw because you applied too much power or speed?  Us too.

A pressure sensitive trigger allows you to more accurately control the speed of the drill. The farther your depress the trigger, the more power is delivered. This is especially helpful in lower torque situations.

This feature can be especially helpful when driving both screws or lag bolts.  If you don't drill your pilot hole deep enough​ you'll want to be careful when tightening the last few rotations as it's possible to rip the head right off the screw.  A variable speed trigger will help prevent this.

Brushless Motors

Brushless motors have been around for a while, but they’ve only recently been inexpensive enough to be used in consumer power tools. They have a couple important advantages over brush-based motors.

First and foremost they are significantly more efficient. Circuitry within the motor can sense the load and draw only the amount of power necessary from the battery. This translates to significantly improved battery life and performance.

The brushless design also allows for less internal friction. This means more power and a longer life for the motor.

Common Features of Cordless Drills

Chuck jaws: Max capacity on many drills is 3/8 inches. All these 18V drills can handle up to a 1/2-inch-diameter bit.

Clutch: controls the amount of torque applied to whatever you’re drilling. Flexibility is important here. Different jobs require different amounts of torque.

Speed-range switch: Higher speeds are for drilling. Lower speeds are for higher torque needs such as driving lag bolts or screws.

Forward/reverse switch: absolutely must be easy to use with one hand. Sometime you have to drill in precarious positions. The last thing you want is to have to use one hand to hold the drill and the other to switch directions.

Hand grip: the texture and shape of the hand grip should be comfortable and allow you to solidly grip the tool at all times.

Voltage: the higher the voltage the more power you can apply. But this also means added weight.  Most of the drills in this comparison will be 18 volt.

Battery: two words: lithium-ion. More power and a longer charge. DO NOT settle for less.

Trigger: while gripping the drill make sure you can comfortably depress the trigger. Some drills offer variable speed based on the pressure applied. This is an AWESOME feature that can keep you from snapping the head off of a lag bolt or worse.

Keyless chuck: a no-brainer. All you need to do is turn the chuck to lock down the bit and hold it securely in place.

Common Functions of Cordless Drills

One of the most important factors in determining which drill is best for your needs is the work you plan on performing with it.

Drilling

Obviously one of the most common tasks will be drilling. Many of these tools are capable of drilling through everything from wood to metal and even concrete. Speed and torque are two of the most important features when it comes to drilling.

You need a tool that has the torque and speed to quickly push through whatever material you’re working with.

Features like a hammer functionality can be extremely helpful when working with masonry or concrete. This feature “hammers” the bit while it’s spinning helping to push through denser materials.

Driving

Just as important as drilling is driving. Even though these 18V heavy duty drills are capable of torquing a lag bolt into the densest of woods, they can also work at much lower torque levels to drive a drywall screw.

The best models will also offer a variable trigger that allows you to increase or decrease the speed based on the pressure you apply to the trigger.

Boring

Sometimes you need a bigger hole than you can get with a drill bit or even an auger. This is where boring with a paddle/spade bit or forstner bit comes into play.

These applications require both speed and torque and can be a serious test of both the power of a drill and it’s build quality. Hitting a knot in a 2×4 with a forstner bit can put serious strain on the structure of the drill itself and anything that’s not well built can quite literally fall apart.

Cutting Holes

In applications where paddle bits aren’t big enough or you need a cleaner cut a hole saw makes more sense. These types of cuts don’t require as much torque but can still test the power of a drill as it requires consistent speed and torque to power through thicker materials.

Generally speaking most drills are rated to handle 3” hole saw, but it really depends on the density of the material you’re cutting and its thickness.

Stirring

Yes you read that right. You can use a drill for stirring.

paint mixer attachment for a drill

While not as well known, painters regularly use drills to mix paint when on jobsites. This activity requires very little in the way of torque, but high speed is a must. Some of the models we’ll be covering can spin at 2,000 RPM under minimal load. This translates to a heck of a time savings over older, slower drills.

It’s also helpful to have a variable speed trigger so you can slow the mixer and “spin off” some of the excess paint.

How Will You Use Your Cordless Drill?​

Just as important as the types of tasks you might perform with your drill is the load of work it will have to handle.  Generally we would break this down into:

  • DIY (occasional usage)
  • Semi-Pro (medium usage)
  • Professional (heavy usage)

Our top 3 drills will work for any of the above categories.  They're intended for heavy usage, have durable gears, and solidly built chassis.  They're also small, powerful, and light weight so they can be used in a wide variety of applications.

The other models we review in this comparison are cheaper, but are not built to the same level of durability.  This isn't a knock on these products, but they just aren't designed to hold up to the use and abuse that professional tools sometimes take.

For the most part the features set between the models is the same.  Where you pay the difference is in the expected life of the product.

Our Top Pick:  Makita's XPH07M 18V Hammer Drill Review

Makita 18V cordless drill review

Overview

​The Makita XPH07M is one of the most powerful drills in this comparison.  Given it's price point it also offers the best value.

​One of the first things you'll notice when opening this drill kit is the crowbar-like auxiliary handle attachment.  With 1090 inch-pounds of torque available it is a good idea to have both hands on this tool when drilling under a heavy load.  Using only one hand there's no way you'd be able to stop it from snapping around should the bit bind up or jam while drilling.

Some might argue that this much torque is totally unnecessary in a cordless drill.  We take a different tack.  If this is the one drill you own this power gives you a great deal of flexibility.  On the other hand, if you already own a hole hog or right angle drill it's probably overkill.

The variable speed trigger is easy to work with allowing you to apply as much power or speed as you want in various applications.  There's a light that comes on when the trigger is depressed, helping to illuminate darker work spaces.

Performance​

​At only 8 1/4" inches in length the Makita has the ability to get into some pretty tight spots.  This comes in handy in a variety of applications.

The drill is very well balanced in terms of weight, and at only a little over 5lbs with the battery, you won't wear out your arms holding it up. 

The grip leaves a bit to be desired, but it certainly wasn't uncomfortable by any means and it never caused any issues during use.

The speed and power of this drill are truly impressive.  Vibration during work is almost non-existent.  The brushless motor offers tons of power and improved battery performance. 

Read Our Full Makia 18V Drill Review Here

It plowed through everything we threw at it including a 1" auger through a stack of 2x4's, and a 1 1/2" forstner through the same.  This tool has tons of power and the battery pack to keep it running all day.

Pros

  • Tons of torque
  • Variable speed trigger with work light
  • Brushless motor for more power and longer battery life
  • Reasonably priced to other 18V models

Cons

  • Cumbersome auxiliary handle
  • Grip could be a bit more ergonomic

Specifications

  • ​Transmission:  2 speed
  • Maximum Torque Output:  1090 inch-pounds
  • Maximum Speed: 2100RPM (no load)
  • Battery Charge Time:  40 minutes
  • Battery: 4.0Ah (amp hour)
  • Weight:  5.9lbs (with battery)
  • Warranty:  3 Year Limited

​Final Thoughts

The Makita is a great product.  In a category that contains some pretty stiff competition it offers great value and impressive power.  It might be a bit overkill for the average DIYer, but you never know when you're going to need that extra power.

Runner Up:  Milwaukee 2704-22 M18 Fuel Review

Milwaukee 2704-22 drill kit review

Overview

We've always been a fan of Milwaukee products.  They're build quality and customer support has never let us down. 

This hammer drill in the M18 series is no exception.  In addition to solid construction it offers the most power in the group.  It offers 1200 inch/lbs of torque and a maximum speed of 2,000RPM. 

Like all the other kits in this competition the Milwaukee comes with an auxiliary handle for heavy torque applications. 

It also comes with two batteries rated at 4.0 Amp Hour.  So long as you charge one while using the other, you should encounter almost zero downtime with this unit.

Performance

With an overall length of only 7.75" the Milwaukee is one of the most compact drills in it's class.  This is especially handy when working in tight spaces. 

One feature we really like is the switch between hammer, drilling, and driving is on a separate ring from the torque.  This saves time when you need to change back and forth regularly. 

On the downside, the forward/reverse switch is placed just a little to far back to be able to quickly hit it with your thumb when you're working in tight spots where two hands aren't an option.

The brushless motor combined with the 4.0 Amp Hour batteries offer a ton of power and great run time.  You'll be hard pressed to run through one battery before the other has fully recharged.

The Milwaukee was also one of the louder drills in our test group.  Not a deal breaker by any means, but something to be aware of if you're working in tight quarters.

The Milwaukee had a bit more vibration than the Makita when working at higher speeds, but the drill is very well balanced and plows through just about anything.

Pros

  • Lots of torque
  • Variable speed trigger
  • Brushless motor
  • Separate Mode Change Ring

Cons

  • Louder than the rest in the group.
  • Directional switch poorly placed

Specifications

  • ​Transmission:  2 speed
  • Maximum Torque Output:  1200 inch-pounds
  • Maximum Speed: 2000RPM (no load)
  • Battery Charge Time:  40 minutes
  • Battery: 4.0Ah (amp hour)
  • Weight:  5.0lbs (with battery)
  • Warranty:  5 Year Limited

​Final Thoughts

The Milwaukee M18 Fuel cordless hammer drill is a top notch product.  The only reasons it placed behind the Makita were the placement of the directional switch and the noise/vibration that was above and beyond the Makita. 

The batteries offer long use-time and charge quickly.  If you're a fan of Milwaukee products you can't go wrong with this unit.

Third Place:  Hilti 18V Cordless Drill Review

hilti cordless drill review

Overview

While not as well known as some of the more popular consumer brands, for professional grade tools Hilti is one of the best in the business.

One of the first things you'll notice about the Hilti SF-10W-18 is that it's the only unit in the comparison that doesn't utilize a brushless motor.  While this has some impact on the performance in terms of efficiency, the SF-10W-A18 is still a phenomenal product. 

In terms of build quality Hilti is second to none.  This unit is no exception.  The SF 10W-A18 is designed to last.  It has the feel of a professional grade power tool.

With the battery pack attached it is very well balanced.  It's a bit on the heavy side, coming in at 6lbs ready to go.  If you're looking for a drill that is comfortable to hold in tight spaces or above your head, you might want to explore other options.

No other unit in our comparison has as much built in protection for the housing either.  There is rubber molding that extends all the way up the back of the housing protecting it from impact.  This also provides some added grip if you tend to push on the back of your drill for more leverage.

The Hilti is also the most expensive model in our comparison, so you pay for what you get.

Performance

With 1062 inch/lbs of torque the Hilti is capable of keeping up with any other drill in the comparison. 

The smaller battery (3.3Ah) coupled with the lack of a brushless motor means discharge times will be shorter than they could be.  That said, this unit certainly doesn't fall behind on power or use-time.

This drill has no problem with hole saws of up to 6", high speed steel bits of up to 1/2", and paddle/spade bits of up to 1 1/2".  We wouldn't typically recommend going much beyond 1" with spade bits on a cordless drill, but the Hilti is well-built and powerful enough to push through.

As with just about any drill in this comparison the Hilti has a ton of torque.  The included auxiliary handle is a must when performing any task during which the drill might bind.  There's no faster way to injure your wrist or elbow.​

Pros

  • Lots of torque
  • Variable speed trigger
  • Very Solid Construction
  • 4 Speed Transmission
  • Fleet Management for bigger operations.

Cons

  • Lacks a brushless motor
  • 3.3Ah battery is smaller than competition
  • Heaviest in the competition

Specifications

  • ​Transmission:  4 speed
  • Maximum Torque Output:  1062 inch-pounds
  • Maximum Speed: 2100RPM (no load)
  • Battery Charge Time:  40 minutes
  • Battery: 3.3Ah (amp hour)
  • Weight:  6.0lbs (with battery)
  • Warranty:  2 Year Limited, Fleet Options for Businesses

Final Thoughts

The durability and build quality of the Hilti are second to none.  It offers lots of torque and a great deal of flexibility with it's 4 gear transmission.  If you're in the market for a professional grade tool and don't mind paying the premium, this could be the heavy duty cordless drill for you.

Dewalt DCD995M2 20-Volt Max XR Review

Dewalt DCD995M2 20-Volt drill kit review

Overview

With 700 inch/lbs of torque the Dewalt 20V is a pretty serious step down in terms of power capabilities.  ​

The Dewalt has 3 speeds and 11 different clutch settings for different torque requirements.  The max chuck size is 1/2". 

It comes with an auxiliary handle, charger and two 20V lithium-ion ​batteries.  Compared to previous Dewalt cordless drill this unit offers a great deal of power.

The settings and controls are easy to use and easy to see.  The switch for hammer drill and standard drilling is directly above the chuck so a quick look let's you know you're in the right mode. 

The work light stays on for 20 seconds once the trigger is depressed.  This allows for plenty of time to make sure you're properly lined up when working in conditions that are less than ideally lit.

It offers a very comfortable grip and with the battery inserted it is very well balanced.

Performance

One of the first things you'll notice is that the run-time on this unit is fantastic.  The XR in the product description stands for "extreme run-time" and​ we were not disappointed with the Dewalt's capability to go and go, and go.

Unlike the Hilti that can power a 1 1/2" spade bit through a 2x4, the Dewalt is somewhat lacking in the torque department compared to the other units in this comparison.  But for a home DIYer it might be just the ticket.  You can even get it in a kit with an impact driver for the perfect team of drilling and driving.  See the kit here.

Pros

  • Extremely long runtime
  • Variable speed trigger
  • Well laid out controls
  • 3 Speed Transmission

Cons

  • Lacks power of other units
  • Build quality not up to Hilti and Makita
  • Heaviest in the competition

Specifications

  • ​Transmission:  3 speed
  • Maximum Torque Output:  ~700 inch-pounds
  • Maximum Speed: 2000RPM (no load)
  • Battery Charge Time:  40 minutes
  • Battery: 4.0 Ah (amp hour)
  • Weight:  4.7 lbs (with battery)
  • Warranty:  3 Years

Final Thoughts

While the Dewalt doesn't offer the same level of performance as the Makita or build quality of the Hilti, it would make a solid tool for the vast majority of DIYers.  It offers a decent amount of power, simple controls, and extremely long battery life.  If you're looking for a good cordless drill for your garage, but don't need the absolute best, the Dewalt is a great choice.

Porter-Cable PCCK600LB 20-Volt Cordless Drill Review

porter cable PCCK600LB drill kit

Overview

As with the other cordless drills in this comparison the Porter-Cable PCCK600LB 20V comes with a standard list of features.  The one thing missing is the brushless motor.  This is one of the trade-off's of it's more budget friendly price.

Variable speed trigger, LED work-light, and quick directional switch are all standard.  It offers approximately 300 inch/pounds of torque which is considerably less than our top three. 

It's small size allows it to get into spaces that other drills can't.  At just 7.75" long it's one of the smallest in this competition.​

It's rated for 1/2" holes in steel and 1" holes in wood.  This is fairly standard for drills in the Porter-Cable's price category.​

Performance

The rubber grip on t​his drill offers great purchase.  It's very comfortable, lightweight, and the directional switch is easily accessed using a thumb or forefinger when there's no room for a second hand.

The brushless motor is efficient and powerful compared to previous generations of this drill but it won't offer the same performance as the Makita, Milwaukee, or Hilti.

1" auger holes were no problem, but we did notice a bit of binding when attempting the same diameter hole with a spade bit.

Battery life can be quickly checked by looking at the gauge at the bottom of the drill.

All in all we were happy with the performance of the Porter-Cable PCCK600LB.  For the price it is a solid investment for a serious DIYer or for lightweight professional use.

Pros

  • Comfortable grip with lots of rubber overmolding
  • Variable speed trigger
  • Very Solid Construction
  • 2 Speed Transmission
  • Small size for tight work areas

Cons

  • Far less torque than competition in this comparison
  • 1.5 Ah battery is smaller than competition
  • No brushless motor

Specifications

  • ​Transmission:  2 speed
  • Maximum Torque Output:  1062 inch-pounds
  • Maximum Speed: 1600RPM (no load)
  • Battery:  1.5Ah (amp hour)
  • Weight:  3.5lbs (with battery)
  • Length: 7.5"
  • Warranty:  3 Year Limited

Specifications

While it's not in our top 3 products the Porter-Cable is still a solid drill.  It lacks a brushless motor and hammer drill functionality but it is well built, and offers enough power for most DIY projects.  If you're looking for a budget cordless drill this is a great place to start.

Ridgid R86116SB 18-Volt Hammer Drill Review

rigid R86116SB cordless hammer drill

Overview

One of the first things we noticed about the Rigid was that the clutch has 100 settings.  This seems a bit excessive as trying to remember which setting goes with which task would be more than laborious. 

The rest of the features of the R8611SB are pretty standard.  There is a three speed transmission for drilling, driving, and hammer modes.

The unit comes with an auxiliary handle and offers 480 inch/pounds of torque.  This is more than enough for most DIYers and even many professionals.

The unit does utilize a brushless motor, but this kit comes with only one lithium-ion battery and charger. 

Performance

Though it doesn't offer nearly as much power as the Makita or Milwaukee the Rigid still offers competent performance.

Drilling a 1" hole through 2X material was no problem with an auger bit.  It also performed quite well with a 1" spade bit. 

Changing modes between drilling, driving, and hammer mode is simple and straightforward.  Obviously we didn't test each of the 100 clutch settings, but you can guestimate approximately what setting you need based on the load.

The grip is comfortable though not as secure as the Hilti or Makita. 

Pros

  • Comfortable grip with lots of rubber overmolding
  • Variable speed trigger
  • Very Solid Construction
  • 3 Speed Transmission
  • Small size for tight work areas

Cons

  • Far less torque than competition in this comparison
  • 2.0 Ah battery is smaller than all but the Porter-Cable

Specifications

  • ​Transmission:  3 speed
  • Maximum Torque Output:  480 inch-pounds
  • Maximum Speed: 1600RPM (no load)
  • Battery: 2.0Ah (amp hour)
  • Weight:  4.2 lbs (with battery)
  • Warranty:  3 Year Limited

Final Thoughts

Like the Porter-Cable and the Dewalt the Rigid makes a fine DIY tool.  It's probably not up to the task of handling heavy loads all day long like the Makita, Milwaukee or the Hilti.  Still good entry point into brushless motors and 18V lithium-ion batteries.

References:

https://www.ridgid.com/us/en/gen5x-brushless-18v-compact-hammer-drill-and-impact-driver-kit

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Jason
 

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