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How to Choose a Power Drill

Power drills are among the most common household tool, and are probably the first tools purchased by do-it-yourselfers. Get the right one for your needs.


  • Step 1: Determine chuck size Determine the chuck size that best suits your needs. The chuck is the part of the drill that bits and other extensions fit into. They are typically 1/4-inch, 3/8-inch, or 1/2-inch. Three-eighth-inch drills are best for having around the house; 1/4-inch drills are good for very light-duty work, but are small and have less torque; 1/2-inch drills have more torque, but are slower.
  • TIP: Speed is important if you'll be using sanding, grinding, or wire wheel attachments.
  • Step 2: Decide to go corded or cordless Determine whether you want a rechargeable drill or a cordless one. Cordless drills are more convenient, but they're also more expensive and have a limited run time before they have to be recharged.
  • TIP: If you need a longer run time and don't want to recharge batteries, make sure your corded drill has a long enough cord that you don't have to run from outlet to outlet.
  • Step 3: Drilling holes or turning screws Decide whether you'll do more boring or screwing. If you're doing construction around the house -- remodeling a room or constructing a deck -- you'll want a "hammer drill," which can chisel as well as drill. If your purposes are light maintenance -- tightening loose screws or minor household repairs -- all you'll need is an "electric screwdriver."
  • Step 4: Decide on battery type Decide on a battery type. Nickel-cadmium (NiCd) batteries are being replaced by more efficient and earth-friendly batteries, such as Lithium-ion (Li-Ion) and nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH).
  • Step 5: Decide how much power you need Determine your power requirements. Cordless drill power is measured in battery voltage. High-end models are available in 18 volts and more; battery power voltage also includes 6, 7.2, 9.6, 12, and 14.4 -- 12 volts is generally enough for most jobs.
  • Step 6: Visit hardware stores Visit hardware stores or home centers to get a feel for several models. Try different drilling positions to get a feel for comfort. Handles may be pistol-grip, T-handle, or right angle.
  • FACT: Waldmar Jungner invented the nickel-cadmium battery in 1899.

You Will Need

  • Chuck size
  • Battery type
  • Voltage determination
  • Hardware stores
  • Long cord (optional)

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