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Drill or Driver? Let Your Work Decide

Cordless power drills and impact drivers seem like they could sub in for one another in a pinch. They can’t.


At first glance the similarities between cordless drills and impact drivers outweigh their differences. Squeeze the trigger and both machines create speedy, rotational forces. They have a similar shape, operate identically and in a pinch, one can double for the other. For years now, the newer breeds of power drills have come equipped with clutches, engaged via the chuck, that could temper twist to entice handymen to set screws as easily as they add holes. It makes a driver seem unnecessary, but it’s not.

Setting screws with a drill is like making a mason use a spade to lay bricks: the results will suffer. That’s because, at their core, these two triggered tools are actually polar opposites: one was designed to add material, the other, to take it away. Here are the best cordless choices for each of those worlds, to make sure both holsters pack the power you need.

The Drills to Pay the Bills

Like Hiring an Electric Apprentice

Bosch 18v DDS 182

Best For Handymen on the Fly: The Bosch DDS 182 is light, compact and ergonomically balanced — essentials when it comes to wielding its 600 inch-pounds of torque. Credit Bosch’s new, high-output brushless motor to deliver that grunt in a space- and weight-saving footprint. A variable speed trigger, LED work light and single-handed, ratchet-action half-inch chuck round out the normal list of features, while its wireless charging ability will be the talk of the toolbox at break.

Buy Now: $199

Milwaukee M18 Fuel Hole Hawg

Best Rough-In Rotator: With the ability to bore through 150 two-by-fours on a single charge, the Milwaukee Hole Hawg may be the electricians’ (or plumbers’) new favorite apprentice. 30 percent lighter than its corded stablemate, the Hole Hawg is easy to maneuver and its right-angle design makes roughing-in the smoothest stage of any reno.

Buy Now: $539

DeWalt 20V Max DCD980 M2

Best Bare-Knuckled Borer: Part of DeWalt’s Premium line, the DCD980 M2 benefits from a three-speed, all-metal transmission to deliver its twist the most efficient way possible. That means more power and longer run times from its 20-volt lithium ion battery. The metal construction also means this just may be the one junior gets handed down, if you’re feeling generous.

Buy Now: $249

Drivers that Deliver

Enough Torque to Make Your Miata Jealous

DeWalt 20V Max DCF886

Best For Screwing Around All Day: The brushless motor housed within the DeWalt DCF886’s rubberized ergonomics delivers up to 57 percent longer run times than its “brushed” predecessor. Combine that with 125 lb-ft of maximum torque and few jobs will be left to finish the next day. Three LED work lights surrounding the one-handed chuck illuminate dark recesses and they stay lit for 20 seconds with a squeeze of the variable speed trigger.

Buy Now: $269

Bosch IDH182 18v Hybrid

Best Multi-Function Torque Twister: The Bosch IDH182 bridges the gap between impact drivers and impact wrenches by tipping toes in both pools. Its chuck features a half-inch socket adapter as well as a quarter-inch hex-bit receiver, so it can go from driving deck screws to spinning lug nuts in less time than it takes to be talked into doing either job. And, to keep things in check, three speed settings help temper the 1,650 inch-pounds of torque on tap from the brushless motor.

Buy Now: $326

Makita 18v LXDT06

Best Beginner’s Driver: One test “drive” with the Makita LXDT06 is all it will take to convince you. That’s because of a little innovation known as Quick-Shift Mode. While most drivers leave speed control to you, the Makita Quick-Shift electronically slows its spin prior to driving a screw home. That means you won’t end up burying every screw head halfway through the board — or worse yet, stripping them clean. The Makita also houses a brushless motor and features impeccable dust and water resistance.

Buy Now: $358

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