How to Choose a Lithium-Ion Cordless Drill

Cordless drills are a standard item in the tool collection of both the average weekend warrior or professional tradesman, alike. Cordless drills are available in a myriad of sizes and configurations and it is common to find stores stocking 50 + different cordless drills, alone.

For some, shopping for one of these “Man Tools” can be a daunting task. One thing is for sure – you do not want a tool that is inappropriate your intended job. To help you make sense of this, I will discuss the various types of cordless drills and drill features.

Battery Type

Traditionally, cordless drills have been powered by nickel-cadmium (NICAD) batteries. The main problem with NICAD batteries was the inevitable development of “memory effect”. The battery packs develop the tendency to accept only a partial charge as full and you are left with a battery that has greatly diminished run-time.

Newer lithium-ion (Li-Ion) batteries are starting to be available in more and more cordless drills. Li-Ion batteries offer some distinct advantages over NICAD batteries including no memory effect, longer run times, longer service life, and higher power output. In addition, lithium-ion cells contribute less weight than an equivalent NICAD cell.

Drills are available with battery packs in a range of voltages commonly between 9.6 and 24 volts. The higher voltage packs (18-24 volts) are almost exclusively used in industrial grade hammer drills and impact wrenches.

Frankly, I would not even consider a cordless drill without a lithium-ion power system. They are a little more expensive than NICAD counterparts, but, well worth the cost given the added benefits listed above.


Drill-Drivers are easily the most common type of cordless drill. The are useful for most common household tasks as well as light construction work. These drills are available with either a 3/8 or 1/2 inch chuck. For most weekend-warriors, a cordless drill with a 3/8 inch chuck is suitable. Drills with 1/2 inch chucks offer greater diversity in usage and more torque, but, at a price of greater weight and bulk.

Compact Drills

Compact drills are a newer offering since the development of Lithium Ion battery technology. Compact drills are basically miniature versions of their drill-driver counterparts. They are useful for both professionals and home handyperson who require a drill capable of reaching confined areas in light to medium drilling applications. As an added bonus, some compact drill models can comfortably fit in in your pants or jacket pockets. Finally, because of their compact size and light weight, many women find these drills much easier to use than their full-size cousins.

Impact Drivers

Impact drivers are used only for nut/bolt driving applications. They are ideal for automobile technicians who need to change tires or who do a lot of work on brakes. Because of the drills transmission, they are usually not suitable for applications such as boring wood. However, some models are available with variable transmissions which allow the user to switch between boring and driving applications.

Hammer Drills

Hammer drills, a.k.a. hammerdrills are the “Big Daddy” of cordless drills and some models even equal the size and power of their corded counterparts. These drills are primarily used to bore holes in concrete or light masonry work. They are commonly used in home construction when wood studs need to be fastened to concrete.

I hope I have given you a little more insight as to what to look for in a new cordless drill. By getting the right drill for the right job you will save a lot of time and money in pursuit of your “Man Tool”.