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Consumer Reports' Survey on Cordless Drills and Tool Kits

Consumer Reports latest tests of cordless drills and tool kits uncovered top heavy duty models that deliver speed and twisting power at a great price. Shoppers can pay around $300 for a pro-grade DeWalt or Makita--or just $100 for Porter-Cable's 18-volt PC180DK-2, which scored near the top in Consumer Reports' tough tests.

"For shoppers in the market for a cordless drill, it's important to know that a high price doesn't guarantee high performance for these tools," said Peter Sawchuk, project leader at Consumer Reports. "Our testing demonstrated that some of the latest drills priced closer to $100 pack lots of speed and heavy duty performance for way less than a professional-grade drill."

A Drill For Every Need

Testers drilled more than 1,300 holes and sawed more than 1,100 feet of wood during testing. Top drills for general use include the Consumer Reports Best Buys, Porter-Cable PC180DK-2, $100 and Craftsman 11588, $120. Both delivered drilling speed and power for driving and loosening screws that matched some of the heavier-duty drills. For lighter duty-jobs where top power and run time aren't critical, the Hitachi DS12DVF3, $80 is among the lightest, lowest-priced drills you can buy, yet it's still reasonably fast with quick recharging.

Drills for the serious do-it-yourselfer include the DeWalt DCD 940KX, $280, which was tops in speed, power, and run time. You'll also find four $200 Consumer Reports Best Buy drills in that category: the Hitachi DS18DMR, Bosch 33618-2G, Makita 6347DWDE, and DeWalt DCD 920KX, all with comparable performance. The recommended impact drivers include the Makita 6980FDWDE, $220, for its light weight, and the Ryobi P230C, $130, for its low price. Both add power and, like other impact drivers, enough noise to require hearing protection.

Consumers shopping for a multitool kit can check out the Consumer Report's Best Buy Porter-Cable PCL418C-2, $300. This kit drove screws and sawed 2x12s nearly as well as the $450 Hitachi KC18DBL. A lower-priced pick: the Porter-Cable PC418C-2, $160, which includes the top, PC180DK-2 drill and two light-duty saws for just $60 more than the drill alone.

How to Choose the Best Cordless Drill

  • Check the battery - Lithium-ion batteries deliver more speed and power per pound than nickel-cadmium (NiCd) cells, but some NiCd models come close for less money.
  • Look for time-savers - The recommended models include a second battery that lets the user keep working while the first one recharges. Multiple speed settings allow for low-speed to high-speed drilling, and a drill with a 1/2-inch chuck accepts larger bits than one with a 3/8-inch chuck.
  • Don't buy solely by voltage - Many of the best tools are 18-volt, but the lower-voltage Panasonic drill and Makita impact driver still deliver top performance.
    Try the drill out before leaving the store - Hold the drill: its nose should point straight down without tipping up or down. Then raise it to make sure it isn't too heavy for overhead tasks.
  • Pass on cordless screwdrivers - While they weigh 1 pound or less and fit in a shirt pocket, testing has found that even $100 models are slow and short on power.


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