Milwaukee Vs Makita Drill: Which Should You Buy?

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Milwaukee and Makita have many devout power tool fans, especially in the flagship category where performance matters most for professionals. We built DIY Gear Reviews as a centralized source to compare power tools in apples-to-apples tests, so there’s no doubt we’re excited to explore the topic of Milwaukee vs Makita drills.

In this guide, we answer the question of which is better. Below is a detailed review of the drill platforms and battery technologies and head-to-head drill comparisons across various performance categories, features, and prices.

Pro tip

Our full drill reviews include in-depth commentary, pictures, videos, additional specifications, and test results worth considering when buying a new drill. Our global drill rankings are a helpful resource for comparing essential factors across all drills in our test fleet.

Platforms

Milwaukee and Makita have extensive drill lineups covering a range of cordless and corded options, from the best cordless drills and hammer drills to more specialty types, such as right-angle and electromagnetic drills. However, the two brands take a different approach to building out their power tool ecosystems.

Milwaukee offers two primary platforms, the M12 and M18 voltage lineups. Some Milwaukee drills in each lineup include Fuel branding, its most powerful models designed for prosumers and professionals.

The M12 drill lineup is highly compact compared to 12V drills from other brands, whereas the M18 lineup offers a mix of compact and non-compact drills across price points.

Makita offers drills across three platforms. The CXT platform comprises exclusively 12V models that cast a thin shadow and are compact. The primary downside is that most Makita CXT drills use brushed motors, explaining why these drills vastly underperform competing drills and why Makita has put the CXT drill lineup on the back burner.

Instead, Makita integrates its sub-compact drills onto the 18V LXT platform, which is its most robust ecosystem and includes Makita’s most popular non-compact drills.

The 40V XGT platform includes Makita’s most powerful and beefy power tools, though its drill lineup is limited to several drills and hammer drills. Makita’s XGT drills are also reasonably expensive compared to equivalent flagships from Milwaukee, highlighting why the XGT lineup is almost exclusively used by trade and construction workers.

Battery technologies

Milwaukee currently builds its batteries with more advanced technologies than Makita. Some Milwaukee and Makita use standard lithium-ion cells, the most widely used technology across brands.

But Milwaukee now builds some of its batteries using more advanced pouch-cell technology. These batteries hit the market in 2023 with Red Lithium Forge branding.

The advantages of pouch-cell batteries are that they are smaller, lighter, and have a longer life cycle. We haven’t tested the manufacturer’s claims, but Milwaukee promises the same output in a 6Ah Red Lithium Forge battery as a much beefier M18 Red Lithium 12.0Ah battery. Nicely, Red Lithium Forge batteries work with all M18 tools and chargers.

Makita doesn’t currently offer pouch-cell battery designs; instead, it relies on its 40V XGT platform for enthusiasts demanding performance.

12V drills

We’ll cut to the chase here. Comparing Milwaukee and Makita drills in the 12V class is not a contest. To emphasize this point, let’s briefly review the specifications and in-house test results for the Milwaukee M12 Fuel 3404-20 Hammer Drill and Makita 12V CXT FD09Z.

Milwaukee 3404-20 Angle 5
Milwaukee 3404-20 Hammer Drill
Makita FD09Z Angle 5
Makita FD09Z
Specs/Test ResultsMilwaukee 3404-20Makita FD09Z
PlatformM12 Fuel12V CXT
Drill typeHammer drillDrill driver
Drilling speed test results (sec.)27.651.8
Driving speed test results (sec.)14.833.5
Advertised torque (in-lbs)400.0250.0
Max RPM tested1,432.01,550.0
Bare weight (lbs)2.151.94
Chuck-to-back length (in.)6.0007.125
Motor typeBrushlessBrushed
Max BPM25,500.0N/A
Clutch settings1320
Speed settings22
Price at publishing$109$71

As you can quickly see after reviewing the specifications and test results, the Milwaukee 3404-20 outclasses the Makita FD09Z in every performance category.

The Milwaukee 3404-20 also offers far better build quality, a shorter tip-to-tail length, and includes a brushless motor. We don’t recommend the Makita 12V FD09Z for most buyers based on its underwhelming build quality and performance, albeit the price is low.

Arguably, this isn’t a fair head-to-head comparison since Makita’s 12V drill lineup is a barren wasteland of brushed models going up against Milwaukee’s high-end Fuel 12V hammer drill.

Jumping to one of Makita’s 18V LXT sub-compacts evens the playing field, but we want to stick with an apples-to-apples comparison of 12V drills here.

Check out our side-by-side comparison of the Milwaukee 3404-20 vs Makita FD09Z to dive deeper into comparing specifications and test results.

Mid-range drills

Jumping to Milwaukee and Makita’s mid-range drills offers a better glimpse into which drill manufacturer is best at the mid-range price point. Let’s review the specifications and test results for two comparable drills, the Milwaukee M18 2607-20 Hammer Drill and Makita 18V LXT XPH12Z Hammer Drill.

Milwaukee 2607-20 Angle 5
Milwaukee 2607-20 Hammer Drill
Makita XPH12Z Angle 5
Makita XPH12Z Hammer Drill
Specs/Test ResultsMilwaukee 2607-20Makita XPH12Z
PlatformM1818V LXT
Drill typeHammer drillHammer drill
Drilling speed test results (sec.)16.025.4
Driving speed test results (sec.)13.111.2
Advertised torque (in-lbs)500.0530.0
Max RPM tested1,686.01,934.0
Bare weight (lbs)3.032.72
Chuck-to-back length (in.)7.7507.250
Motor typeBrushlessBrushless
Max BPM28,800.030,000.0
Clutch settings1821
Speed settings22
Price at publishing$129$154

Importantly, both drills include a brushless motor. Outside of the motor design, we were impressed with both hammer drills throughout testing for different reasons.

The Milwaukee 2607-20 drills faster under demanding loads. The Makita XPH12Z is slower under load but pushes out more torque to avoid bogging down as frequently. The Makita XPH12Z is also lighter and far more compact tip to tail.

The Milwaukee 2607-20’s nose is comically long and frustratingly doesn’t stand upright well with a battery inserted into the base. The Milwaukee M18 2801-20 is a great alternative for a shorter Milwaukee drill, though it doesn’t include a hammer drill mode.

Ultimately, price is the deciding factor of a Milwaukee vs Makita drill at this performance tier. The Milwaukee 2607-20 offers exceptional value for the price, whereas the Makita XPH12Z is priced like a flagship drill.

Flagship drills

The Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2904-20 Hammer Drill and Makita 18V LXT XPH14Z Hammer Drill are comparable flagship drills that go toe-to-toe on performance and feature sets.

Milwaukee 2904-20 Angle 5
Milwaukee 2904-20 Hammer Drill
Makita XPH14Z Angle 5
Makita XPH14Z Hammer Drill
Specs/Test ResultsMilwaukee 2904-20Makita XPH14Z
PlatformM18 Fuel18V LXT
Drill typeHammer drillHammer drill
Drilling speed test results (sec.)10.811.8
Driving speed test results (sec.)7.67.6
Advertised torque (in-lbs)1400.01250.0
Max RPM tested2,055.01,935.0
Bare weight (lbs)3.263.65
Chuck-to-back length (in.)7.0007.125
Motor typeBrushlessBrushless
Max BPM33,000.031,500.0
Clutch settings1621
Speed settings22
Price at publishing$143$144

Let’s dive into the most relevant details at this price point: the performance. Under load, the two drills are similarly powered, offering some of the best results in our drilling and driving speed tests. The Milwaukee 2904-20 and Makita XPH14Z blazed through our tests and rarely bogged down compared to other 18V drills in our test fleet.

Pro tip

Check out our full reviews to see videos demonstrating how each drill performed in our drilling and driving speed tests. Find the reviews by clicking on the product names listed in this guide.

The BPMs are also exceptionally high compared to competing drills.

But we can’t overlook that the Milwaukee 2904-20 was slightly faster in drilling speed tests, likely due to its higher RPM profile and ability to sustain those RPMs under load.

The 2904-20 also pushes out more torque, helping it to avoid binding in the most demanding drill tasks, such as boring 3/4 inch and wider holes with forstner and spade bits.

The 2904-20 extends its lead in other essential categories. It is far lighter, is shorter from tip to tail, and is more svelte measured in different orientations. You can instantly feel the footprint and resulting agility difference when holding both drills.

The Milwaukee 2904-20 and Makita XPH14Z are powerful drills, so it makes sense that an auxiliary arm is included in the box. However, the Milwaukee 2904-20 takes the cake with user safety by including kickback control technology.

The Milwaukee 2904-20’s Autostop technology instantly stops the drill when binding to avoid over-rotating. Given the similar pricing, it’s a clear nod to the Milwaukee drill for better user safety value.

Check out our side-by-side comparison of the Milwaukee 2904-20 and Makita XPH14Z to dive deeper into comparing specifications and test results.

Price

The pricing comparison chart below highlights two trends when comparing Milwaukee and Makita drills.

Firstly, neither Milwaukee nor Makita drills are cheap. This theme is consistent across both of the manufacturer’s power tool lineups.

Secondly, the Milwaukee drills we’ve tested and compared here generally offer more value than Makita’s drill due to better performance and higher editorial ratings for the price.

Warranties

Milwaukee and Makita offer outstanding warranties for their batteries. But Milwaukee notches a significant edge with its class-leading five-year tool warranty.

Drill ManufacturerTool WarrantyBattery WarrantyFree Servicing
Milwaukee5 years2 to 3 years, depends on the modelNo
Makita3 years3 yearsNo

Unlike the best Dewalt drills, Milwaukee and Makita don’t offer free power tool servicing. If free servicing is important, compare Dewalt vs Milwaukee drills and Dewalt vs Makita drills.

Milwaukee vs Makita drill final takeaways

Milwaukee and Makita rightly have swarms of power tool fans singing their praises. But this is a head-to-head comparison, and leaving you with that final insight may be underwhelming.

So, here’s what we generally recommend when deciding between a Milwaukee and Makita drill. There’s no competition in the 12V class. Milwaukee’s M12 lineup vastly outperforms Makita’s 12V drills, whether you’re buying a Fuel or non-Fuel-branded drill.

It’s a more nuanced decision at the mid-range, but Milwaukee offers better value with well-built drills that perform well for the price.

Jumping to the flagship tier, Milwaukee gets a slight edge if you value performance for the price, user safety features, a more compact footprint, and a lighter weight.

FAQ

  • Are Milwaukee or Makita drills more powerful?

    At the flagship tier, Milwaukee and Makita drills are similarly powerful. In our testing, the Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2904-20 Hammer Drill and Makita 18V LXT XPH14Z Hammer Drill blazed through speed tests, which is a credit to their designs. Reviewing the specifications sheets, the Milwaukee 2904-20 has more torque and a higher hammering rate, and it generated higher RPMs in our no-load tests.

Nathan Hamilton
Nathan Hamilton
Nathan Hamilton is the founder of DIY Gear Reviews and a recognized expert in the home and DIY space. He has over 200 bylines covering topics such as power tools, hand tools, and woodworking. Nathan is the strategic director for DIY Gear Reviews, deciding everything from the content covered to designing the testing methodologies for lab-tested reviews. He can be emailed at nhamilton@diygearreviews.com.

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