How to buy the best cordless drill
Whether you enjoy getting hands-on with home improvement projects or you only do occasional DIY, if you’re a homeowner you're likely to need a drill. A good one will hold its charge, have easy-to-use controls and be able to handle a variety of tasks.
There are many types of drill available – drill-driver or combination, corded or cordless – so it can be confusing to know which one is best for you.
Use our expert advice to help you choose the best type, find out how much you should expect to spend and see the best features and accessories to look out for.
Video: how to buy the best cordless drill
Types of drills
Drills come in two main types: drill-driver and combination (combi) drill. Here's our run-down of the pros and cons of both:
Drill-drivers are specifically designed to drill holes and drive screws. They are 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.
- Suitable for beginners
- Easy to use
- Typically don’t work on tougher materials, like concrete
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 drill is an excellent choice if you need a tool with a little more oomph that will still be useful for day-to-day tasks.
- Can be used on a variety of surfaces
- Tend to be more expensive
What drill bit should you use?
Whichever type of drill you opt for, make sure you're always using a suitable drill bit for the work you're doing. If you are 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.
How much should you spend on a drill?
Drill-drivers vary a lot in price, from as little as £40 to over £300. Combination drills tend to start at a higher price, simply because they have more features.
Cordless drills are sold in three ways, so make sure you check what you're getting before you make your purchase, particularly if you're shopping online:
- Standalone: comes 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
Drill features and accessories
- 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 are 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bits - A drill bit is simply the drill point, which bores into the surface you're drilling to create the hole.
- 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.
- Tungsten carbide - 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.
- 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.
Where to buy a drill
Both generalist 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.
Scroll down for details of some popular drills. Or, if you're ready to make your purchase now, the links below will take you to the drill sections of popular DIY retailer websites:
We don't currently test drills but Wickes, Homebase and Argos are some of the most searched-for retailers for drills at the time of writing. We asked each retailer to tell us which are its most popular drills. Below is a selection of different types and styles from those picks.
Makita DHP453FX12 18V Cordless Combi Drill Set
- Price: £148
- Type: Cordless combination drill
The 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.
Task 500W Hammer Drill
- Price: £22
- Type: Corded combination drill
If you’re on a budget, this drill from Homebase might be for you. It can work through wood of up to 25mm thickness, masonry of up to 13mm and steel of 10m. It also has a variable speed trigger which should you give you more control. It's corded, so you'll need to stay near the mains while you work.
Ryobi R18PD3-0 Cordless Combi Drill
- Price: £115
- Type: Cordless combination drill
This Ryobi combi drill has a two-speed gearbox and can be used on lots of different surfaces. It has an LED light which helps if you plan to work in areas with poor lighting. Other features include an integrated drill storage clip for drill bits and two batteries so you carry on working while the battery charges.
Wickes Hammer Drill
- Price: £30
- Type: Corded drill driver
Suitable for wood, masonry, steel and plastic, this corded driver is great if you don’t want to spend a fortune on a new drill. Bear in mind this tool is designed for lighter DIY jobs, and doesn't have a hammer setting. It’s also corded so you’ll need to make sure you have access to electricity while working.
Video: how to use a drill
Top tips: how to drill a hole
- Hidden pipes and cables Always check for hidden pipes or cables before drilling. The areas above below and either side of a switch or socket are no-go areas.
- Battery costs 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 batteries.
- Drill bits Choose the right drill bit for the job: masonry, metal or wood.
- Hammer drilling Don't select the hammer action if the drill bit is rotary and non-hammer.
- Drilling hard materials On hard materials such as concrete, prevent the drill bit overheating by regularly withdrawing from the hole.
- Avoid drills jamming When drilling downwards pull the drill out regularly to clear the dust and prevent the drill bit jamming.
- 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.
- Using a drill 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.
- Cheap drill bits Avoid drill-bit sets that offer hundreds of pieces for less than £20. They’re likely to make your drill work harder than it should.
- Cooling 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.
How we selected prices and retailers
We've chosen these retailers and drills based on popular UK search terms, availability and what the retailers told us were popular. Prices correct as of 12 October 2020 and obtained from each manufacturer's own website where possible; otherwise, obtained from third-party retailers listed on Google Shopping.