Drills Rating Methodology

Drill Rating Methodology Featured Image

We’re building DIY Gear Reviews as one of the top online resources for in-depth power tool reviews.

Equal in the importance of producing reviews with unmatched firsthand insights, we believe in full transparency, including detailing how we rate each drill.

Some might consider revealing our rating methodology as giving out our secret sauce. But we see it as the right thing to do with our goal of full transparency and building trust with our community.

Below, we cover the critical factors included in our drill rating methodology so our readers have an in-depth understanding of the features we covet most when picking the best cordless drill.

Factors assessed

Once testing is complete and all data is compiled in our database, we bucket the most critical results into six sub-categories outlined below.

Each category is assigned a rating based on performance in various tests assigned to that category. All category ratings are weighted and summed to provide the final editorial rating displayed within reviews and best-of lists.

Ratings versus rankings

In addition to providing a single overall editorial rating, we also provide global drill rankings in our reviews and best-of lists.

Our rankings are a handy additional resource to reference to understand how each drill performs in a given key test for all models in our test fleet.

The rankings are particularly useful for buyers looking for the best model in a specific area important to them.

In contrast, our editorial ratings provide insights into the best overall picks based on the mix of features we think are most important.

Category 1 – Performance

The performance category comprises several data points from our testing, including speed, hammering functionalities, and noise output, as well as performance-oriented features offered. We detail below the performance category data points included in our rating methodology.

Drilling speed total time: Our speed tests are designed to push drills to their limits and understand how rapidly they complete various tasks under load. We test drilling speed by boring five 1/2” holes in three stacked 2x6s in the drill mode setting for maximum torque and RPM.

We use the total driving time in the forward setting as an input in our rating methodology.

Review our drilling speed test results for more information.

Driving speed total time: We further test speed in a standardized driving test where we drive five 5/16“, 5 1/8“ long GRK structural screws into three stacked 2x6s in both forward and reverse and measure the time to complete each task.

We use the total driving time for all five fasteners in the forward setting as an input in our rating methodology.

Review our driving speed test results for more information.

Maximum RPM: We don’t rely on advertised RPMs to inform our ratings. We test RPM in-house using a contact tachometer. RPM is measured in an array of standardized combinations of speed settings, drill and hammer drill modes, and forward and reverse.

However, our rating methodology only uses the maximum RPM readout in the forward setting as an input.

Review our drill RPM test results for more information.

Hammer drill mode: We are biased toward recommending drills with a hammer functionality versus a standalone drill. A hammer drill is usually more versatile and isn’t much bulkier or more expensive than its non-hammering counterpart. This preference explains why one performance rating data point is whether the drill includes a hammering functionality.

Kickback control technology: Our heavy-duty rating methodology rewards a drill with a higher rating if it includes kickback control technology, such as Milwaukee’s AutoStop feature. Powerful drills can be dangerous, making kickback control technology an important safety mechanism we covet.

Our light-duty rating methodology doesn’t include this criterion since compact, lightweight drills are safer and not designed for brute-force power.

Auxiliary arm: Auxiliary arms further reduce the risk of injury when using a powerful drill. Increased user safety is why we reward drills with a higher rating if they include an auxiliary arm in the box.

Our light-duty rating methodology doesn’t include this criterion since compact, lightweight drills are safer and not designed for brute-force power.

Maximum noise under load: We test each drill’s noise output using a digital sound meter during our drilling speed tests.

While we also measure each drill’s noise output in a no-load scenario, we only include the result under load in our rating methodology.

Review our drill noise test results for more information.

Category 2 – Battery charging time

Charging time varies based on the specific brand and charger used, explaining why we standardize our charging tests with the most popular chargers included with power tool kits.

Charging time is essential for power tool owners since downtime costs money on the job site and cuts into the daylight hours available for weekend warriors. We include the following data point in our drill rating methodology.

Charging time per Ah: We record how long it takes to charge a battery from zero to full capacity in a temperature-controlled environment. We commonly test the charging time for each brand using a 2Ah and 5Ah battery or their closest equivalents. We can then estimate the charging time per Ah with the charger models most commonly sold online and included in power tool kits. This data point is included in the rating methodology.

Review our drill charging test results for more information.

Category 3 – Durability

A drill’s external build quality and internal parts primarily determine the usable life. We measure durability using a mix of data points that touch upon design, build quality, and the internals.

Chuck material: Drills with an all-metal design receive higher ratings than drills with plastic chuck sleeves. The tip of a drill is one of the most likely parts to take a beating when dropped on a hard surface. An all-metal chuck is also more durable than a hybrid plastic and metal chuck since metal is more durable, which is especially critical for the chuck sleeve that is frequently adjusted and banged up.

Motor type: Drills with brushless motors receive higher ratings than older brushed motor technologies. Brushless motors are more durable for several reasons, including being more efficient and having fewer moving parts coming into contact with each other during operation.

Category 4 – Warranty length

Our drill rating methodology includes several other key data points regarding each drill’s build quality and usable life. We include the following additional data points in this methodology.

Tool warranty: The length of the manufacturer-provided warranty for the tool itself.

Battery warranty: The length of the manufacturer-provided warranty for the battery itself.

Category 5 – Portability/footprint

The portability and footprint category aims to reward the most compact, agile, and lightweight drills in their class with the highest ratings.

However, there is a balance to strike with weight and size, especially for heavy-duty jobs requiring performance only available with a beefed-up design. Our portability and footprint category ratings are designed to balance these tradeoffs.

Below, we outline the testing data points used to rate drills in our test fleet regarding their portability and footprint.

Bare tool weight: We test each drill’s bare weight on a commercial-grade scale and include this data point in our rating model.

Review our drill weight test results for more information.

Maximum height: We use digital calipers to measure each drill’s height with a 2Ah or close equivalent battery inserted. This data point helps to understand the spaces each drill fits into and how agile it is for everyday use.

Review our drill footprint test results for more information.

Tip-to-tail length: We measure each drill’s length from tip to tail using digital calipers. To ensure consistency, we fully extend the chuck jaws in each measurement. This data point helps to understand the spaces each drill fits into and how agile it is for everyday use.

45-degree interior clearance: We dreamed up a test to understand in practical terms how the tip-to-tail length affects the corners and tight spaces each drill fits into. We measure the 45-degree interior clearance using a specialty-made apparatus created in our lab.

Review our drill clearance test results for more information.

Category 6 – Additional features

Several essential drill add-ons improve versatility and convenience, including the following items in our drill rating methodology.

Configurable work light: Drills with a configurable work light receive higher ratings. Examples include the Dewalt 20V Max XR DCD805 Hammer Drill, which has a three-position light with several custom lighting modes.

Belt hook: Whether or not a belt hook is included in the box. Including a belt hook in the box that attaches to the drill enhances convenience and portability.

Lanyard slot: Whether or not the drill has an integrated slot to insert a lanyard. Including a lanyard slot enhances convenience and portability.

Mobile app integration: Whether or not the drill includes a native Bluetooth app integration or if one can be added in the after-market. Popular power tool app integrations, such as Dewalt’s ToolConnect and Milwaukee’s OneKey, offer valuable features such as tool fleet tracking, theft deterrents, tool diagnostics, and customizable performance profiles.

Category weightings

We apply different weightings to the six categories depending on the tool’s voltage. This approach ensures our rating model outputs an overall result that correctly characterizes the intended usage for each class of drills.

We define the two approaches as our light-duty and heavy-duty rating methodologies.

We include the rating methodology used for each drill in proximity to our editorial ratings in a given best-of list or review. This way, readers can easily understand the rating methodology applied and how well a drill performs compared to competing models in the same class.

Light-duty methodology

Our light-duty methodology is applied to 12V drills, emphasizing performance, portability/footprint, and durability. We adjust the category weightings per the table below to reflect this approach.

Additional features5.0%

We also don’t consider whether the drill offers kickback control technology or an auxiliary arm for our light-duty rating methodology. Compact, light-duty drills aren’t designed for brute-force power. There is little value in including kickback controls and an auxiliary arm to reduce injury risks.

Heavy-duty methodology

Our heavy-duty methodology is applied to all drills that are 18V and higher. While the category weightings aren’t drastically different from the light-duty weighting, we emphasize specific performance characteristics, including drilling and driving speed. These two areas are critical in this class, where speed and power are the most important features many users covet.

We adjust the category weightings per the table below to reflect this approach.

Additional features5.0%

Does price influence ratings?

The short answer is price doesn’t influence our numerical editorial rating. We don’t include in our official rating methodology factors such as performance for the price. One goal with our ratings is understanding the best models available, regardless of cost.

After reading our reviews, readers can determine what drill fits their budget and if the value offered is worth it.

While we don’t include a price-to-performance metric in our methodology, it doesn’t mean picks on our best-of lists aren’t influenced by price. When two equally-performing models are candidates for a best-of list, we are biased toward including the lower-priced version for the better value offered.

Picture of 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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