Whether you’re a DIYer or a full-time pro, you’ve probably gone cordless for most of your handheld power tools – it’s just too convenient to miss.
However, as with many things, the choice of cordless power tools for sale can be bewildering. 12 volt, 18 volt, consumer, professional – it looks like just too much. To narrow down your search to what’s right for you, here’s a handy guide on how to choose cordless power tools from WBC.
How to Choose Cordless Power Tools – Battery Voltage
To start off, let’s narrow down battery voltage. The old 14.4V models are going out, as the latest 12V tools are already powerful enough. 24V and 36V are great for heavy-duty pro tools, but are more expensive and less popular for average use.
Therefore, for most of us, 12V or 18V batteries will do – they’re the most popular and widely available cordless tools. 20V is actually closer to 18V – 20V is mostly a marketing term for how the tool runs at full tilt with no load, with the real power being closer to 18V.
As for which voltage is best for your job, it depends on what you’re doing. If your a heavy-duty pro, you might want to look at powerhouse tools up to 24V and 36V. On the other hand, if you’re just a weekender driving a few screws here and there and cutting a few 2×4’s, 12V might be enough. If you’re in the latter class and need beefier tools a few weekends a year, you still might want to go corded for those tools – no use having a powerful 18V tool that sits on the charger most of the time.
Perhaps the best compromise (particularly for most pros and serious DIYers) are the 18V tools. They’re heavier than 12V but lighter and less expensive than 36V and versatile enough to handle everything from light duty tools like flashlights to power-hungry ones like hammer drills or recip saws. These advantages are why they’re already one of the most popular type of power tool, and one with a vast array of tools offered by manufacturers.
For the type of battery, drop nickel-cadmium (NiCd) and nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries and do lithium-ion (Li-ion) ones instead – the only advantage nickel batteries have is cheap prices. Li-ion ones are lighter, offer more runtime, and are pushed more by the manufacturers, so nickel battery tools are becoming scarcer, while the Li-ion tools selection is expanding constantly.
Stick to One Manufacturer and Battery Type
When you do make the plunge and buy new cordless tools, or if you find yourself in need of new ones, choose carefully. Make sure you invest in a tool platform that you can afford to expand on. Don’t spend a ton on one tool and find yourself needing to switch manufacturers to round out your tool collection – it’s better to have a toolset that uses comparable batteries, and they’re not cross-compatible between manufacturers. If you go Craftsman then you’re stuck with them unless you start over with another company.
If you already have a bunch of NiCd tools, it’s best to stick with that manufacturer if their chargers are backwards compatible and can charge both NiCd and lithium-ion. Bosch took battery technology a step further with their wireless charging systems, and remained backward compatible with their current li-ion lineup.
Premium tool companies like Makita sell their tools without battery (“bare tools”) so you can buy new tools without paying for expensive batteries each time. After all, if you’re going to be the only one to use your tools most of the time, why keep more than 2-4 batteries?
Get Your Hands On It
Just because a tool gets good ratings online or in a magazine doesn’t mean that it’s a good fit for you. Drop by your local WBC and try out as many power tools as you can. Handle the tool as if you were using it: twist it with your wrist, squeeze the grip, feel the trigger pull. Check the tool’s balance, weight (with battery) and see what else it features: belt clips, LED placement and battery style (either flat bottom so the tool stands upright or cartridge style that requires the tool lay on its side) are all possible.
Comfort trumps almost everything. If a tool is cumbersome, then it will just sit on your bench.
The advantages of new brushless tools coming out appeal to pros, who have to get the greatest performance from each job. The average DIYer, however, probably won’t notice the difference for small projects.
Perhaps the best way to start your collection is combo kits. Kits are less expensive than buying tools one at a time and can give a great jumpstart by providing the most commonly used tools out the gate.
To celebrate Makita’s 100th anniversary, WBC is now running a special on Makita combo kits – get your choice of a FREE 18v LXT® Li-Ion 4.0 Ah battery or bare “Z” tool when you buy any qualifying (already discounted) 18v LXT® Combo Kit. Or, if you’ve already started your collection, you can get a FREE 18v 4 Ah Li-Ion battery with select (already discounted) bare tools or FREE Li-Ion Dual Port Rapid Optimum Charger with select 2 battery bare tools.
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Build a Charging Station for Cordless Tools
If you have a bunch of cordless tools already, or if you’re planning on expanding your collection, you might want to consider: how am I going to keep all these tools, chargers, batteries and accessories and keep it charged?
One solution is Popular Mechanics’ cordless tool charging station. It allows several batteries to charge at once and keeps frequently used tools within easy reach. It can be built of simple 1×4 and 1×6 lumber and birch plywood, as well as a few bells and whistles to make it fun: armored 4-foot-long fluorescent work light, slanted charger shelf, swiveling casters, and shallow accessory drawer.