Which is the best cordless drill for at-home DIY? Do you need a hammer drill, a combi or an impact drill?

Whatever drilling and driving tasks you face, there’s a tool to handle the job at hand - here is what our expert recommends

<p>Best cordless drills: DIY with hammer drills, combi and impact drills</p>

Best cordless drills: DIY with hammer drills, combi and impact drills

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If you’re about to embark on a spot of DIY, there’s a good chance that a drill will be towards the top of your ‘must buy power tools’ list. And with rechargeable batteries going through a big increase in performance over recent years, a cordless drill might well suit you best.

Besides allowing you to work where you want, rather than at a cable-length from a power source, they’re much safer to use – those cables have a habit of getting in the way when twisting around furniture and ladders.

As with most DIY products, spending more will usually get you a better drill – more power, greater performance, enhanced features and longer battery life. But if you’re only an occasional DIYer there’s no need to dismiss the cheaper models, as many of them will comfortably power you through an afternoon session of shelf-fitting without a hitch.

In this list we’ve covered a range of price points for various DIY requirements but, before you delve into our recommendations, there are a few technical terms it’s worth knowing to help you decide on what’s right for you.

Best drills at a glance

What’s the difference between a drill and an impact driver?

A drill does the first task of drilling the hole, and the impact driver (often shortened to simply ‘driver’) is used to drive the screw into the hole (and in many instances, without needing a hole drilled first).

Drivers use rapid bursts of high rotational power which are much better at forcing screws into place than drills. If you’re only ever fastening the occasional small screws into pre-drilled holes then most drills should suffice; if, however, you have a large wood-based project to complete, such as a shed or decking, then a quality driver will save you lots of time and effort.

What is a hammer drill?

A hammer drill vibrates in a rapid hammering action while it’s rotating. This action is advantageous when drilling holes into bricks or concrete, and you’ll need a special drill bit to make it work effectively. The hammer action is built into some combi drill models, so you can switch between standard drilling and hammer actions as you require.

What is a brushless drill?

‘Brushless’ refers to the motor used within a drill. Without going into the technical aspects of how brushed and brushless motors differ, the latter tends to suffer less from wear and tear and gives you more power, efficiency and control. Inevitably, it also makes your power tool more expensive.

Drill and screw bits

You could own the best cordless drill in the world, but if your screw and drill bits are substandard then you’ll struggle to do a decent job. Always use top quality drill bits (the attachments that actually make the holes) and make sure they’re the right ones for the material you’re drilling into (eg wood, concrete or metal).

It’s equally as important to ensure that you have screw bits that are appropriately sized for the screws you’re working with.

Don’t forget the battery

Before you buy you’ll need to check to see if batteries and chargers are included in the price. If there are more items on your power tool list then it’s worth opting for a brand that covers all your needs and provides interchangeable battery packs and chargers, as this will save you money in the long run.

In this list we’ve picked out some of the best rated cordless drills, from many of the most respected brands, and highlighted the benefits you’ll get from using them. To help narrow our selection we consulted some expert tradesmen for their opinions and tested numerous drills and drivers ourselves. So, whatever drilling and driving tasks you’re about to embark on, there should be something here for you.

Key specs:

Battery and charger included Battery 2 x 2.0Ah Li-ion batteries Power 18V Brushless

Pros: Excellent combination of power, precision and ergonomic design

Cons: Some busier DIYers may wish to upgrade to more powerful bateries

DeWalt’s range of DCD778 drills has been keeping DIYers and trades people busily drilling for years. Their products are tough, long lasting and well balanced for drilling comfort. Within the range you’ll find brushed and brushless motors, with varying power and battery options, all well pitched for price.

This 18V combi drill comes with two 2.0Ah Li-ion batteries so you can charge one (it takes 90 minutes) while you drill with the other. The power should see you through most DIY projects around the house and, being one of the lighter drills on the market, it’s well suited to a full day of drilling.

The 15 torque settings, keyless chuck and spindle lock all click in place with a reassurance of quality and it’s easy to use. More serious tradesmen might want to check out the full range for an upgrade in battery power – and the only downside we could find is that not every model has a belt clip.

Key Specs:

Battery and charger includedBattery: 2 X 4.0Ah Li-ion batteriesPower: 18VBrushed

Pros: Excellent performing combi drill and driver in one pack

Cons: Not a brushless motor

If you want to buy a combi drill and separate driver in one go, then it makes sense to stick to one brand for interchangeable batteries.

We’re big fans of Milwaukee’s drilling range for professional performance at great value (not to mention its racey red livery) as exemplified by this set, which has a separate drill and driver in one very sturdy carry case.

The 18V combi drill can cover most drilling needs in wood, metal and masonry, while the separate 18V impact driver gives plenty of thrust to screws.

They feel well built and solid to hold, enabling them to stand up to the rigors of a busy DIY site, while being able to switch between the two tools means you can work to a far greater efficiency than with a single combi drill.

Key Specs:

Battery and charger included Battery: 1 x 4.0Ah Li-ion Power: 20V Brushless

Pros: Good range of settings and comes with side handle

Cons: Quite weighty with battery attached

This drill not only offers good power and performance for the DIYer (with a high 23 torque settings) but it also comes with a side handle for increased drilling precision. The large battery makes it a little heavier than some of its more expensive competitors, but we found it comfortable to hold and, when the side handle is attached, drilling effort was minimised.

It has a 2-speed gearbox plus reverse and can be set for rotary drilling, hammer drilling or screw driving, and is designed for use with wood, metal and masonry. A bright worklight sits beneath the keyless chuck and all attachable moving parts feel safe and secure while in use. This is a very decent combi drill, and a pack with the battery and charger included offers good value.

Key specs:

Battery and charger included Battery: 2 X 6.0Ah Li-Ion batteries Power: 12V Brushless

Pros: Top performance combi drill with power and versatility

Cons: A bit pricey for the occasional DIYer

This is a highly versatile tool that will have you drilling holes where other drills can’t reach. It has three interchangeable chuck heads that allow drilling at right angles or offset for tight corners, besides more conventional straight-down-the-middle drilling.

As with most good combi drills it has a 2-speed gearbox and settings for standard drill or hammer drill, and comes with a range of 16 torque settings. The two 6.0Ah batteries, which take around 90 minutes to charge, give it plenty of power and contribute to its high price tag, but it makes light work of loads of drilling jobs.

Key Specs:

Battery and charger not included Battery: Activ Energy 20V/40V Power: 20V Brushless

Pros: Great performance at low cost

Cons: You need to buy the battery and charger separately

If you’re in need of a separate impact driver, but don’t want to shell out a fortune, then Aldi’s Ferrex Pro is well worth considering. We found its powerful performance comfortably drove screws into some wood panels that considerably more expensive drivers struggled with.

At this price you don’t get loads of settings, and you’ll need to spend extra on a charger and battery (a little over £40), but you do get a reliably secure keyless chuck, LED light and switch for forward and reverse mode.

It comes in a carry case with three screw bits, belt clip and room for the battery and charger – and even with the extra price of these items you still have yourself a bargain.

Key Specs:

Battery and charger included

Battery: 2.5Ah Li-ion

Power: 20V

Brushless

Pros: Solid performance and comes with drill bits

Cons: Bulkier than other drills

We’ve always been impressed with Gtech’s range of garden tools, so it’s good to see their foray into the world of power tools has resulted in a combi drill that is of a similarly high standard. Like most of their tools, this offers solid performance and good comfort in an affordable package.

It has an LED light that sits above the battery and comparable settings to most combi drills (switch between drill, hammer or driver, 21 torque settings and two speed settings). We were impressed by the ability to control drill speed through the trigger, although it’s a bit bulkier than some pricier options which made it a little harder to keep steady at full throttle.

The 20V battery has enough guts and run time (approx 40 mins) for most DIY jobs, putting it on a par with its better known competitors. The package also includes six drill bits for wood and metal and a further three for masonry, which makes it even more appealing for the DIY beginner.

Key Specs:

Battery and charger included Battery: 2.0Ah Li-ion Power: 3.6V

Pros: Small, ergonomic tool that is charged by a Micro USB

Cons: Limited power and functionality

Bosch’s latest IXO screwdriver is small enough to keep tucked away in a cupboard drawer, making it ideal for those people who need a quick DIY fix around the house. It’s hand-sized and has sleek, ergonomic curves that make it easy to use.

At 3.6V it’s some way shy of the power provided by others in this list, but it’s perfectly adept at taking some of the strain out of flat pack furniture assembly.

This lower power also means its diminutive, in-built battery can be charged with a Micro USB (provided), saving you space, weight and money on heftier chargers.

Its settings are restricted to forward and reverse, but we do like the dual LED lights that conveniently sit directly at the base of the drill bit. It comes with 10 screwdriver bits or you can upgrade to a set that includes right angle and offset drill adapters – and you can even buy accessories that turn it into more tools including a cutter and BBQ blower.

Key Specs:

Battery and charger included Battery 1 x 4.0Ah Li-ion Power 18V Brushless

Enhell’s Power X-Change brushless impact driver is a tough, no-nonsense tool that has ample power at a good price. According to the manufacturers, the 4.0Ah battery will see you secure 560 screws (6x60mm) into soft timber per battery charge, which sounds like a good day’s work to us.

The varying speed settings allow for more delicate screwing if needed, and it’s well weighted and easy to control so you shouldn’t inadvertently send screws in the wrong direction. If you’ve got a shed to build or a fence to construct then, at this price, it makes for a great investment.