As the national lockdown continues, most of the jobs that just require a screwdriver are done and you’re probably eyeing up some of the bigger projects you’ve been putting off for a while. With this in mind, we’ve been busy testing a variety of cordless drills and drivers that will take the stress out of DIY.
It used to be that cordless drills were heavy and underpowered, but with lithium batteries as standard they are now a surefire way to take the hassle and hard work out of a range of home improvement jobs.
However, your weapon of choice will depend on what you’re going to be drilling into. Combi drills are so called because of their ability to drill into wood, metal and masonry along with high torque ratings for driving in long screws.
We can’t talk about drills without talking about torque, which translates to the turning force that the tool can deliver – the more torque you have, the easier it will be for you to drill into harder materials, like masonry.
Ultimately, drills are all about power and the more you have at your disposal the more torque you will be able to muster, which is why 18V drills are ideally suited to heavy duty projects.
However, there are some 12V options that are great kitchen-drawer drills that are light and easily employed to deal with quick fixings around the house.
All of the drills featured here are powered by brushless motors, which provide more power, durability and usability.
We tested these tools on a range of drill materials and projects to see how they performed as well as getting each model to sink plenty of 3in screws to simulate bigger construction jobs, like fencing or a tree house for the kids. Once the dust settled, we were left with the best hand-helds to help get the job done.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Bosch advanced impact 18
This is a nicely compact, ergonomic tool with a brushless motor that delivered real power to jobs in wood, plastic, brick, metal and even limestone. We found the central switch on top made it easy to change working modes from screwdriving to drilling and the two LED lights indicate whether the drill is spinning forwards or backwards so you’re always working in the right direction.
The drill is loaded with innovative features like a magnetised base, which holds screws and bits so you’re not constantly scrabbling around for them mid-job. There’s also a magnetic cap at the chuck head, which holds screws in place, freeing up your other hand to hold whatever object you’re trying to fix. The package also includes three different attachments so that nowhere is out of bounds for drilling and you can use the tool in tight spaces and close to edges.
Buy now £170.95, Tooled-Up
Ryobi One+ 18V impact driver
The whole point of an impact driver is that it’s designed to power through screwing tasks that are too much for lesser drills. We used it to install 5in timber screws in solid wood, which it did it with ease. Also, if you’re taking stuff apart, rather than putting it together this tool will save you a whole lot of wrist ache. Added features include a good ergonomic handle, three LED lights to illuminate your job site, and the battery is compatible with the One+ system and can be used in a range of other Ryobi products. â
Buy now £103.95, Amazon
Wickes 18V combi drill
This excellent value for money option is more than adequate for all your occasional household jobs, from putting up hooks to taking the pain out of your latest flat-pack purchase. We didn’t experience any of the kickback when drilling into walls that you do tend to get with some of the cheaper models – where the drill rides up clockwise when the screw goes tight. An LED light, battery, charger and carry case are all included in the price
Buy now £45.00, Wickes
Bosch PSB 18V LI-2 ergonomic combi drill
What this combi lacks in torque it more than makes up for in design and the dual grip means that you can really lean in on a tough screwing task, like masonry.
Even with the battery on board, the drill only weighs in at 1.25kg, which means that it’s good for those jobs that take some time. The 18V lithium battery dishes out a very ample 2.5Ah and can be charged to 80 per cent in just 40 minutes. You only get one for your money, but a single charge was more than enough for us to get through a range of jobs both inside and out. An added bonus is that the battery is part of Bosch’s “Power4All” system, so it can be used on 15 other Bosch tools.
Buy now £70.00, B&Q
Worx WX373.9 20v max combi drill
A good all-rounder that delivers an impressive amount of power for tougher jobs in wood and masonry. The LED light illuminated the work area well and the tool was lightweight and well balanced so it was easy to work with over extended periods. It never stalled or struggled and was also sturdy enough for jobs that required a little more aggression – for example, when using the tool’s hammer drill function.
Buy now £30.00, B&Q
Hikoki DS36DAX 36V multi-volt cordless drill/driver
This drill/driver was light and comfortable to use and packed a powerful punch when we had to drill into harder materials. It felt good in the hand and the chuck bit down well, even on thinner drill bits, so it could handle a range of drilling duties around the home or in the workshop. For tougher tasks we used the side handle attachment which meant less fatigue, but more control. Manoeuvrable and nicely weighted, this is a real workhorse of a drill with the 36V battery providing the power of a corded tool with the flexibility of cordless.
Buy now £166.80, Hikoki Power Tools
Dewalt DCD778M2T 18V brushless cordless combi drill
This was one of the most ergonomic and comfortable drills on test, with good performance and power for a range of tasks around the house from flat packing to shelf hanging. The drill was also more than adequate when we needed it to up its game and be a bit more aggressive as we turned our hand to some decking repairs. Good LED positioning meant that we were never drilling in the dark and the soft-grip handle was well contoured and added to the overall usability.
Buy now £149.99, Screwfix
Milwaukee M18 CBLPD 18V brushless cordless combi drill
A nicely powered drill that can switch effortlessly between easier tasks, like tightening up some hinges, to bigger projects, like fixing some guttering. It’s a lightweight tool that will avoid aching arms and wrists if you’re using it for a couple of hours straight. The manufacturer has also got the details right with a nicely tapered handle; good balance and well-positioned LED work light.
Buy now £199.99, Screwfix
Black + Decker 18V hammer drill
A good value for money option that is a lot more than just a kitchen drawer drill and is more than capable of completing most medium-sized household jobs, from putting up hooks to installing some baby gates. The drill includes an automatic LED work light and comes with a sturdy kit box and a 1.5Ah lithium battery. Even though there is a three-hour charge time it kept its charge well when not in use.
Buy now £65.00, Homebase
Makita DLX2283TJ 2PC 18V combo kit
Bundled into a hard-wearing case are these two powerful drills, which will have you covered whether you’re putting down decking or putting up a fence. The kit features a high-powered 18V combi drill and a specialist impact driver both of which are robust enough to stand up to drops and knocks while being light enough to use all day without feeling like your arm is about to drop off.
Both drills have LED lights and the impressive torque outputs meant that we never had to worry about any kind of kickback that would throw us off balance while working – which is a real plus if you’re up a ladder trying to screw something at arm’s length. If you wince a little at the price, be advised that the kit also includes two powerful 5Ah lithium batteries and a fast charger that will restore the drained battery (which we found was more than adequate for a day’s work) back to 100 per cent in 45 minutes. With this kit you’ll never need to buy another drill again.
Buy now £363.00, FTX
The verdict: Cordless drills
The Bosch advanced impact 18 is a supremely innovative drill with lots of really handy features that take the hassle out of small, fiddly jobs, while providing plenty of power to make sure that the bigger jobs don’t get the better of you. It’s well priced for a versatile tool that will perform well during any looming lockdown DIY projects.