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Updated: 28 Apr 2022

How to buy the best cordless drill

Our expert cordless drill buying guide reveals the different types of drill available, typical prices and features, and our pick of popular drills
Tom Morgan
Man drilling wood in home

Whether you enjoy going hands-on with home improvement projects, or you only do occasional DIY, if you’re a homeowner you'll probably need a drill at some point. Our buying guide will help you pick the perfect drill for you.

The best drills around will hold their charge over long periods of time. Plus, they're easy to use (even if you're a DIY newbie) and capable of managing a variety of tasks. There are several different types of drill to choose from – drill-driver or combination, corded or cordless – so it can be confusing to know which one is best for you.

Keep scrolling as we explain how to choose the best type of drill, find out how much you should expect to spend and discover the best features and accessories to look out for.

If you're taking on a DIY project, consult our decorating and DIY advice for details on the best power tool brands, paint, screwdrivers and claw hammers.

Video: how to buy the best cordless drill

Types of drills

There are two main types of drill: drill-driver and combination (combi) drill. Here's our run-down of the pros and cons of both: 

Drill-drivers

What is a drill driver? Drill-drivers are specifically designed to drill holes and drive screws. They're useful for a range of different jobs around your home, from hanging shelves and picture hooks to constructing flat-pack furniture. They have a keyless chuck, which makes it quick to swap between different types of drill bit.

They are one of the most versatile home improvement tools you can get, and a great place to start when buying a drill. However, drill-drivers have no hammer-action function, so even the highest-power models will struggle with extremely tough materials, such as concrete.

Pros and cons of drill drivers 

  • Pros: Suitable for beginners, budget-friendly, easy to use
  • Cons: Typically don’t work on tougher materials (like concrete)

Combi drills

Combi drill

What is a combi drill? As well as drilling and driving screws, a combination drill also has a hammer-drilling mode for hard surfaces such as brick, concrete and paving slabs. Behind the rotating drill bit, two ribbed metal discs click in and out against each other, to push the bit forward with extra force. You'll need a hammer-action drill if your DIY projects involve masonry.

While there are specific heavy-duty corded electric drills available, these tend to be more powerful than required for the average household project, so a combination cordless drill is an excellent choice if you need a tool with a little more oomph that will still be useful for everyday tasks.

Pros and cons of combi drills:

  • Pros: Can be used on a variety of surfaces
  • Cons: Tend to be more expensive, heavier

What drill bit should you use?

Whichever type of drill you opt for, make sure you're using a suitable drill bit for the work you're doing.

If you're going to be drilling into extremely hard surfaces, such as concrete, you'll need to make sure you use tungsten-carbide drill bits. If you're using the hammer-action function on a combi drill, make sure you use a hammer-action drill bit.

If you'd rather get in a local tradesperson to do the job instead, use a Which? Trusted Trader:

How much should you spend on a drill?

Drill-drivers vary a lot in price, from as little as £40 to around £300.

Combination drills tend to start at a higher price, simply because they have more features. Make sure you check what you're getting before you make your purchase, particularly if you're shopping online. 

Cordless drills are sold in three ways:

  • Standalonecomes with one or more batteries and a charger 
  • Bare: just the drill with no battery or charger, which are sold separately 
  • Collection: as part of a series of other cordless tools in a kit
Cordless drills in a shop

Important drill features to look out for

Drill voltage

While a higher voltage doesn’t always translate to a higher torque and more effective drilling, a high-powered drill will tend to be more suitable if you're planning a lot of heavy-duty DIY work. If you're doing light, indoor DIY work, such as putting up curtain poles or constructing flat-pack furniture, a good low-power drill will be perfectly capable. Voltages generally range from 12V to 24V.

Battery capacity

Look for a battery that has a short charge time and a long life for the best of both worlds. Drill battery capacities are measured in Ah (Amp hours) – generally the more Ah a battery has, the longer its charge will last. Capacities range from around 1.5Ah to 4.0Ah.

Check out the cost of replacement batteries before buying a cordless drill. The battery can cost more than you paid for the whole kit, so go for a drill with two or more batteries, then one can be recharging while you carry on working with another.

Chuck size

The chuck is the hole into which you slot the drill bits, or other accessories such as rotary sanders or wire-wheel brushes. Most cordless drills have a chuck size of either 10mm (3/8 inch) or 13mm (1/2 inch). 

Maximum torque and torque settings 

The maximum torque is the maximum rotary turning force of the drill, which can be important if you will be drilling into tough materials such as masonry – for which you should consider a combination drill, with the extra force of a hammer-action function.

Torque settings are most important when it comes to screwdriving, as too much power can strip the screw head. 

Automatic locking chuck

Most drills lock automatically when the speed control is released, but some manual models require you to slide a switch into the central position to ensure that the bit has been securely attached to the chuck.

Brushless motor

Designed to reduce friction and resistance. Benefits include a higher power-to-weight ratio, higher speed, and greater electronic control. Brushless drills are more expensive, though.

Gears

Drills with two gears tend to be best for slow, controlled screwdriving.

Drill modes

  • Screwdriving mode  a mode all drills use to screw slowly and effectively
  • Rotary-drilling mode – a mode all drills use to bore holes
  • Hammer-action mode – exclusive to combination drills, a hammer action uses short, rapid thrusts to ‘hammer’ hard material such as concrete, resulting in quicker drilling with less effort. It's sometimes also called impact drilling mode.

Drill accessories

Tungsten carbide bits

If you’re working with extremely hard materials, such as concrete, paving slabs or metal, make sure your drill bit is tipped with tungsten carbide. This is approximately twice as strong as steel, and better able to withstand heavy-duty drilling.

Belt clip

If you're going to be using lots of different tools on a home improvement job, a belt clip will allow you to hang the cordless drill from your belt, so you can keep it by your side with both hands free.

LED light

Dark, compact spaces can be difficult to work in, but an LED light will help shine light on the task at hand – allowing you to work more precisely and confidently.

Where to buy a drill

Both general retailers and dedicated builders merchants offer a wide range of drills. To make sure you're buying a drill that's well made and safe to use, only shop with trusted sellers online or in-store.

Ideally, you'd get to see the drill in-store before buying, but if this isn’t possible, find out as much information about it as possible before investing.

Popular online retailers that stock drills include:

  • Amazon sells drills from a range of big-name brands including Black & Decker, Bosch and Worx.
  • Argos stocks hammer drills and drill-drivers. Expect to spend anywhere between £20 and £200.
  • B&Q sells standalone drills and kits that come with multiple drill types.
  • Homebase has a selection of corded and cordless drills, the majority of which are made by Black & Decker and Bosch.
  • Screwfix stocks drills from Bosch, DeWalt, Mac Allister and various other brands. Prices start at around £30 and rise as high as £1,000 for heavy-duty pro models.
  • Wickes offers a range of drills, some of which are bundled with packs of drill bits.

For more details on shopping online safely and getting refunds for faulty equipment, see our online shopping advice.

Popular drills

We don't currently test drills, but Argos, B&Q, Screwfix and Wickes are some of the most searched-for retailers for drills (based on popular UK search terms). We asked each retailer to tell us which are its most popular drills.

Ryobi One+ 18V 1.5Ah Li-ion Cordless Brushed Combi drill

  • Price: £85
  • Available from: B&Q
  • Type: Cordless combination drill
Ryobi ONE+

This cordless combi drill from Ryobi comes bundled with a pair of batteries. It has 24 torque settings, a two-speed gearbox, plus a ratcheting chuck that ensures this model is compatible with all standard accessory bits up to 13mm. According to the B&Q website, it takes around three hours to charge fully.

DeWalt XR 18V 1.5Ah Li-ion Cordless Combi drill

  • Price: £95
  • Available from: B&Q
  • Type: Cordless combination drill
DeWalt XR

The DeWalt XR has drill and hammer settings for multiple tasks, along with two speed settings and 15-position adjustable torque control. There's a bright white LED for improved visibility in low light, along with a rubber grip to keep the drill still while you're working.

Bosch GBH 18V-21

  • Price: £199.99
  • Available from: Screwfix
  • Type: Cordless combination drill

This drill is suitable for hammer drilling and chiseling. It features a brushless motor that aims to reduce the need for regular maintenance. Other features include an electronic clutch, an all-metal gearbox and a claimed charge time of around 50 minutes.

Makita DHP453FX12 18V Cordless Combi Drill Set

  • Price: £128
  • Available from: Wickes
  • Type: Cordless combination drill
Makita DHP453FX12 18V Cordless Combi Drill set

This Makita combi drill has three different settings: drill, hammer drill and screwdriver, which makes it great for people who want to use their drill for a variety of jobs. It also comes with a battery, charger and a 101-piece tool set built into a box you can carry around.

Need other DIY tools? Discover the best claw hammers.

How to use a drill: top tips

  1. Check for hidden pipes and cables before drilling – the areas above, below and either side of a switch or socket are no-go areas
  2. Choose the right drill bit – this will vary depending on whether you're working with masonry, metal or wood. Don't select the hammer action if the drill bit is rotary and non-hammer.
  3. Be careful when drilling had materials – on hard materials such as concrete, prevent the drill bit from overheating by regularly withdrawing from the hole.
  4. Prevent jamming – when drilling downwards, pull the drill out regularly to clear the dust and prevent the drill bit from jamming.
  5. Look after tungsten drill bits – don’t plunge tungsten carbide-tipped drill bits into cold water to cool them. If you do this, it could crack the weld.
  6. Choose the correct speed – select different speeds for drilling brick, metal and wood; low speeds for brick, and higher speeds for metal and wood. Most brickwork can be drilled with rotary drill bits without hammer action
  7. Cool the drill – if the motor on your electric drill starts to warm up too much and smell, remove the drill from the hole and run it at full speed with no load. This will draw air into the motor to cool it down.

If you're planning a larger home improvement project and need professional help, head to Which? Trusted Traders.

Prices above correct as of April 2022.