Toolmonger reader Ron writes: “I’ve heard a lot of people talk about 12 volt drills and I was wondering if I should pick one up. I currently have an 18 volt Ryobi drill (yes the recalled one) and impact driver. When I asked the person at HD he said I would be disappointed with the ‘downgrade.’ Is it something I need or just G.A.S. striking again?”
Great question, Ron! Here’s our take: The new 12V market grew from the need for less powerful — yet still durable and long-lasting — drills. Let’s take a look at the torque specs for some representative models.
DeWalt publishes drill power output in “unit watts out” (UWO) instead of in-lb, but you can see the relationship pretty easily: Their new 12V Max drill driver (DCD710SU) delivers 189 UWO versus 350 UWO for the 18V 1/2″ model (DCD760B). The Bosch 12V Max Li-Ion Driver (PS31) delivers 265 in-lbs vs. their 18V Compact 3/8″ Drill/Driver (DDB180)’s 400 in-lbs. On the other hand, both of these 12V models are surprisingly feature-rich. Both include two-speed transmissions, long-running batteries, and a nice, sturdy large-drill feel.
So the question is: How much torque do you really need? For years we’ve recommended 18V models — and most recently the 18V compact models — to homeowners, as they’re pretty darn powerful and not too heinously large. But if you’re pretty certain that your applications won’t exceed the torque capabilities of the new 12V models, there’s nothing wrong with making your next purchase a 12V. Why carry around the extra bulk when you don’t need the performance?
265 in/lbs will easily handle most around-the-house tasks, with the notable exception of masonry drilling. If you really need to drill holes in concrete, you’re going to need more drill than most of the 12V models offer. Of course, you’ll also need a hammerdrill, so you’re probably back up into the 18V range regardless.
Bottom line: We suggest that as a homeowner you buy a little more drill than you think you’ll need. But you can pass on the 400+ in-lb monsters. If you’re a professional of some type, you’ll know exactly what kind of applications you’ll see, and we advise buying a drill no larger and heavier than you must to get that job done. You’ll find a lot of quality 12V models on the market, so we recommend selecting a battery system that includes other tools you might like — even if you don’t plan on buying all the tools up front. Your first “new” drill purchase is almost always a battery-system purchase as well, so keep that in mind.
And let us know what you buy, why, and how happy you are with it!