In this how to buy a drill for electricians guide, you’ll learn what kind of drill electricians need for residential electrician drills and commercial electrician drills.
A drill is a working electrician’s most expensive tool to buy, so make sure to buy a good drill brand which has a long-warranty, and the battery can be used for other power tools, too!
In short, electricians need a heavy-duty hand-drill because of the MANY drilled holes in wood, metal, and other materials. The drill should be able to take a beating and last MANY YEARS.
I highly recommend a Heavy-Duty Hand-Drill and Impact Combo.
Now when buying a drill as an electrician, be careful because there’s different drill models. If you buy a lower-end tier, it will not be sufficient on the jobsite!
Lower-end drill models are good for homeowners, but electricians need a powerful hand drill so the motor doesn’t burn out, and easily handles any task of drilling into wood, and thick metal like electrical panels!
The Best Drills for Electricians
Let me quickly list the best hand drills for electricians from what I’ve experienced over my years in terms of brands, and workflow.
If you’re new, read really close here.. My highest recommendation is purchasing an electrician power tool bundle. This saves you TONS of money, often giving you a couple batteries, and even a power tool bag!
A power tool bundle usually consists of:
- Hand Drill
- Impact Drill
- 2 Batteries with Good Power
- Power Tool Bag for these tools!
As an apprentice electrician, this is a GREAT starting point which should last YEARS as you work your way to become an apprentice electrician.
But also understand that power-tool bundles often don’t give the top-of-the-line drill.. I went with the power tool bundle approach, and the extra power tools come in handy in my real life, then upgraded to a Heavy-Duty Drill Combo Kit around my 3rd year of my electrical apprenticeship.
To recap: I went for the power tool bundle for more tools at a lower cost, then when I started making more money later on in my electrical apprenticeship, I upgraded to the heavy-duty hand drill.
Let’s now discuss hand drill quality, because all drills aren’t the same.
Purchasing a bad drill, or a weak drill, will eventually burn out your drill motor because electricians are quite rough when drilling into material types like wood, plastics, and metals.
Best Hand Drill Brands for Electricians
When talking about Hand Tools for Electricians.. Klein Tools, Milwaukee, and Greenlee are definitely trusted electrician brands.
But what about power tools? And more specifically hand drills for electricians.
Remember I said each brand has model tiers for low-quality to high-quality hand drills?
Low-quality drills often have lots of PLASTIC PARTS.. which wear out over time, and sometimes even break! (Like the plastic chuck I’ll share later!)
High-quality drills introduce METAL PARTS, and are often called heavy-duty drills.
Heavy-Duty Drills can take a beating, usually offer longer warranty (like 5 years), provide MUCH more power, and if not careful, can cause serious injury!
Make sure you avoid pinch points, or breaking your wrist, due to bad drill positioning, before pulling the trigger with a heavy-duty hand drill! (Seriously, I saw someone hit themself in the face with a big drill, because of bad drill positioning, and came back with a HUGE black eye the next day.. almost a concussion!)
Milwaukee Drills for Electricians
I would argue Milwaukee is the most popular power tool company for electricians, and this is from first-hand experience working at various electrical companies.
This is important to take note of because most power tools today are powered by battery, not electrical power cords.
So, if your personal drill battery dies, you can grab a company battery until your battery is fully charged. This huge convenience is missed if you decide to go with another power drill brand, and your company is using Milwaukee power tools.
Now, I have had some problems with Milwaukee Tool hand drills, which is mainly the actual chuck which tightens down your driver bits and drill bits. The chuck will often loosen, causing the bit to fall out, making you retighten the chuck very often. (One time lost a drill bit in the wall because the chuck loosened and the bit fell into the wall!!).
I can verify this on-going issue with Milwaukee Hand Drills from owning two drill models, AND experiencing this with a friend’s Milwaukee Drill chuck! (Also one of my drill’s chuck’s broke, which Milwaukee’s warranty honored, but the chuck kept loosening and dropping bits!).
Is Milwaukee Tool the best drill for electricians? Well, their prices are fair, the drills are very powerful (at the high-end), and they are built really well, except for that chuck issue.
Milwaukee offers a HUGE selection of power tools with the same battery for workflow!
I personally used Milwaukee power tools, and had a great experience as an electrician because the companies I worked for also used Milwaukee Tool. I’d use company batteries or company power tools for an amazing workflow.
One bad thing thing is sometimes co-workers may use your battery without your permission.. so if you choose another power tool brand like DeWalt, Makita, Bosch, or Rigid, you may not face that issue as much (but generally people respect if you say don’t use my battery!)
In short, yes, I would say go for a Milwaukee Drill as an electrician.
This is the Heavy-Duty Drill & Impact Combo I recommend.
Note, the FUEL Milwauke line-up is what you want in power tools as an electrician!
DeWalt Drills for Electricians
If I were to personally start over as an electrician and have to purchase my power tools today, I’d really be tempted to go with DeWalt, and this is from personal experience of trying other electrician’s drills over the years on the jobsite.
However, DeWalt only offers 3-Year Warranty compared to 5-Years (those last 2 years is when things start happening to a drill.. which I had two things happen on my Milwaukee Tool drill 4-Years in, which Milwaukee honored in my 5-Year warranty!)
What stood out with DeWalt? Why would I say something so bold to consider DeWalt over Milwaukee as electricians for power tools?
The DeWalt tools felt more thought out, such as having 3 lights on their Impact Drill providing amazing lighting while drilling in dark spaces.. whereas Milwaukee Tool’s impacts (at the time) only have one light, which casted heavy shadows in dark spaces.
Milwaukee has now released this in their new impact model.. but understand, DeWalt released this before Milwaukee, and that was about 5 years ago at the time of writing!
I will admit, 1 light on the drill was good enough, but this is the type of innovation and quality which made me quite impressed at DeWalt’s approach.
I would also say the build quality of the high-end DeWalt tools felt stronger and powerful (this was in 2017 I experienced this.. and things change FAST in these industries).
But you may ask why I still suggest the Milwaukee Fuel Impact & Drill Combo.
Now.. both DeWalt and Milwaukee have a HUGE assortment of power tools to use with your existing batteries, but most electrical companies I worked for used Milwaukee.
So the ability to use company batteries made a HUGE difference to keep me working if my batteries had to be recharged, or if I’d rather use a company tool with my own battery to protect my own drill from a really intense drilling situation.
In short, DeWalt makes very nice high-end drills for electricians, which I’d recommend.. and even though the problem with Milwaukee Tool Drills Chuck becoming loose and dropping bits, I just really made sure the chuck was very tight before drilling (and checking it during drilling). The ability to use company batteries was a huge advantage (if your company also uses Milwaukee Tool).
Why not go with DeWalt? Only 3-Years of Warranty is bad compared to 5-Years of others, and if your electrical company uses Milwaukee, you’ll miss out on being able to switch out company tools with your own stuff in a pinch.
But when I tried the high-end DeWalt Drills, they felt REALLY nice. If you go with DeWalt, make sure to get their XR model so it’s brushless like this DeWalt Drill + Impact Combo.
Bosch Drills for Electricians
Whenever Bosch was mentioned on a jobsite, most people typically classified Bosch as a premium power tool brand!
For example, their Impact Driver allows both normal driver bits for screws, and attaching sockets, too.. that’s innovative! (It seemed reviews weren’t too good on their latest model, however 😟)
Many of my electrical companies used their high-end corded hammer drills for both heavy-duty and light-duty hammer drilling.
The odd time I’d see an electrician using a Bosch Hand-Drills, and they always seemed to really enjoy their experience with Bosch.
But again, using the same power tool brand your electrical company uses gives such an un-matched workflow.. this definitely a big deciding factor of what brand to go with.
At the time of writing, it seems Bosch offers the industry-standard 5-Year warranty on their hand drills.
But like any electrician hand drill, make sure to buy one with a metal chuck, which I’ll explain below in our recap.
Hilti Drills for Electricians
Hilti was what most electricians would salivate over 🤤.
Hilti has some of the coolest innovation in their tools, built to an immaculate standard.
The only problem.. they’re EXPENSIVE!
The odd time your company may buy or rent a Hilti tool, which you will then understand, and remember, what I wrote here.
Any of my seasoned journeymen would talk about Hilti with a VERY high standard, more-so than almost any other construction brand!
How to Buy a Drill for Electricians
So ultimately, I’d recommend Milwaukee Tool Cordless Power Drills for the best experience as an electrician.. their power tools are quality, with various power tools to use the batteries on, and using company batteries is such a nice convenience to have.
Now that we’ve talked about best hand drill brands.. we need to talk about how to buy a drill as an electrician.
A basic drill has these common features:
- Brushes/Windings (Brushed vs. Brushless Motor)
- Drill Batteries (Power Amp-Hour & Battery-Life)
- Speed Adjustment Control
- Metal vs. Plastic
While, a more expensive drill may offer:
- Grip Attachments (Not very useful for a normal drill)
- Hammer Drill (Rotary Hammer Action)
Cordless Hand Drill Types:
As an electrician, you should buy a Heavy-Duty Cordless Drill because of its metal chuck, powerful motor, and longer warranty.
But if on a budget, you can get away with a Medium-Duty (General-Purpose) Drill, but you’ll notice your drill take a beating on a commercial construction jobsite.
Light-Duty Drill / Medium-Duty Drill (General Purpose)
I’d really recommend going into a local tool shop to buy a hand drill because they typically carry top-of-the-line drills for electricians.
Remember, Home Depot is usually aimed at home owners, so while they do sell both light-duty and heavy-duty drills, you’ll find the very best drills at a local tool shop. (Here in Canada KMS Tools is a great store!)
When looking online to buy a hand drill, the pictures are REALLY hard to tell the difference between the heavy-duty premium model of hand drills and the medium-duty drills if you don’t know what you’re looking for!
So make sure to know the model number of the hand-drill, impact driver, or combo. I’ve done the research for you with this Milwaukee Drill & Impact Combo.
But.. what is a Light-Duty Drill?
A light-duty drill will usually consist of a plastic chuck (as you drill into metal, this will wear out fast), and a much weaker motor (which will get quite hot for the amount of drilling electricians do into wood studs, metal studs, and thick metal like junction boxes and panels).
Sometimes it’s so bad that you have to treat the light-duty drill very careful with how you drill, or you’ll burn it out QUICK.
Can a medium-duty drill be okay for an electrician?
Sometimes these medium-duty drill can be termed “compact hand drills”.
These often have a metal chuck, and a bit more power than light-duty.. and you can get away with a medium-duty drill! (In intense situations, just borrow the company drill, like drilling into an electrical panel for your EMT Pipe.)
But.. as you progress and start making more money on your way to becoming an apprentice electrician, you’ll want a Heavy-Duty Cordless Power Hand Drill.
Heavy-Duty Drill Explanation:
What makes a heavy-duty better drill?
I suggest apprentice electricians look at heavy-duty drills to allow their money go a lot FURTHER (with a solid 5-Year warranty with most companies!)
These heavy-duty hand drills for electricians are designed to take a beating, and handle almost anything you throw at them in the life of an electrician.
Heavy-duty drills will most often have:
- Very powerful motors (Nowadays you want Brushless Motors)
- Metal Chucks
- Powerful Battery with LARGE Ampacity
- Rotary Hammer-Drill Action
- 5-Year Warranty from most manufacturers
Heavy-duty drills are heavy, but it’s important that your drill is designed to drill through almost any task so your drill lasts for years to come.
The biggest innovation in recent years regarding hand-drills has mostly been bigger battery size, which you get to take advantage of in your purchase.
The more Amp-Hours (Ah) the battery has, the more torque that can be sustained for a longer period of time, which is very important for your battery-operated power tools to drill powerfully or cut with force!
If you have a weak battery, it will struggle to finish cuts, or die all the time on more demanding workloads! You do not want anything under 4.0 Ah these days.. most companies are now offering 5 Ah Batteries!
A heavy-duty drill may cost $150-200 more.. so if you are only a first or second year apprentice, you can get a medium-duty drill, but if working for a company that’s cheap and makes you use your own drill for the many holes electricians drill for wires, you’ll burn out the medium-duty FAST.
Brushed Motor vs. Brushless Motor for Drills
Around 2014 Brushless Motors for Drills started to become popular, and still remain the most popular motor for hand drills today!
Prior to that Brushed Motors were the then standard, and suffered its carbon brushes wearing out (which were replaceable). These brushes also relied on friction, causing “drag”, and reducing a drill’s power and battery life! (These can also be called old-school brushed motors).
This makes brushless hand drills today’s standard for power and efficiency, and is a big part of why hand-drills are now so powerful!
Best Drill Batteries (Amp-Hours & Battery Life)
Brushless Drills are very efficient and smart by only providing the required power needed while using the drill.
When you ask your drill to perform a high-demand task, this is where you will find out if your battery is powerful enough.
When looking at a battery for your drill, there’s two measurements you’ll be looking at: Volts and Amp-Hours.
For a heavy-duty drill, DO NOT BUY ANYTHING LESS THAT 18V. (Maybe in the future we will see higher voltage for the standard, but for the last decade, it’s been 18V).
Now.. for Ah (Amp-Hours), you really want to make sure you’re buying AT LEAST 5.0Ah batteries to really let your drill have that sustained performance when you hold down the trigger for a long period of time (such as cutting hard wood, or drilling thick metal).
At the time of writing, 5.0 Amp-Hour Batteries are standard that come with a heavy-duty drill combo. (When I first started, 3.0 Amp-Hours were standard).
Another really awesome feature of hand-drill batteries is the health indicator button.
You simply press it to see the life of the battery. If the battery is charging, it will show how far along the charge is!
We recap step-by-step how to buy a drill at the very end. The best way is with either a Hand-Drill & Impact Combo, or a multi-power-tool combo.
Drill Speed Adjust Control Switch
Almost every drill today will have a minimum of 2 drill settings.
- Setting 1 – Slow but LOTS of Torque
- Setting 2 – Fast, but Less Torque
Torque is what you have to be really careful of regarding pinch points, breaking your wrist, or really hurting yourself.
Torque is the oomph when you pull the trigger that rips through that really hard stuck part when drilling.
Most of the time we operate on Setting #2 for a fast drill, even if it’s a little hard to drill through. But when something is REALLY hard, we switch to Setting 1 for that torque to power through.
The odd drill out there may have 3 settings, but this is not common, and not something to buy a drill for specifically.
Two speed settings has been the standard in hand drills for years.. and as you practice with a drill, you’ll learn to control your trigger finger with a drill’s variable speed trigger. (When you pull a drill’s trigger lightly, it will spin less!).
Plastic Chuck vs. Metal Chuck for Drills
If you’re starting out, ANY drill gets you going as an electrician!
Have a drill with a plastic chuck? Don’t be embarrassed! We all have to start somewhere! (Notice the plastic chuck cracked in my image above!)
But once your paychecks start coming in, start saving for a heavy-duty drill with a metal chuck, and it will last you WELL into your journeyman years!
A plastic chuck is often on homeowner drills that are cheaper.. People who intend to use the drill maybe once or twice on the weekend to screw in a piece of wood.
As an electrician you will shred the plastic chuck because electricians often have to drill deep holes which will eat into the plastic chuck.
A metal chuck is meant to take a beating.
As electricians drill into very thick metals, a metal chuck will still get grinded down, but should last YEARS for the typically commercial electrician construction worker.
A metal chuck comes standard on heavy-duty hand drills for electricians.
Now usually both plastic and metal-chucks allow for the standard 1/2″ for most drill bit sizes you’d use in a typical drill.
To open and close the drill chuck, you simply just use one hand to twist it open or closed (and as you get better, you’ll pull the trigger at the same time).
What is a Drill Clutch?
A drill clutch is not something you really need to understand, but let’s quickly cover what is a drill clutch on a drill!
Ever noticed numbers around a drill? What do these numbers on a drill mean?
We call this the drill clutch, which makes a drill stronger, or slips on purpose.
Why would you want a drill clutch to slip?
Let’s say you’re screwing in a wood screw that you want to be flush.
If you set the clutch to drill mode, you could literally hold down the drill until the whole screw head comes out the other side of the wood!
But if you set a drill clutch to a low number, the drill will start to click (slip), not allowing you to drill any further!
For an electrician example of where to use a drill clutch..
Let’s say you’re screwing down a bond screw in a junction box.
If the drill clutch is set to drill mode, you can squash the wire and break it!
Simply adjust the drill clutch to slip and never screw up and drill the wire too hard! (It’s perfect if you’re new, and don’t have control over your trigger finger, yet!)
Cordless Drills often have tons of clutch settings, and it’s not something you will play around too much, especially in the electrical rough-in stage.
Drill Handle and Special T-Handle Hammer Drill Handle Attachments
If you put a light-duty or medium-duty drill to the test, you may find the plastic handle start bending (cheaply made).
Even heavy-duty drills can suffer from this, too, because at the end of the day, hand drills are made of plastic! (But heavy-duty drills are definitely built stronger, and you may only experience this if you’re pushing the drill REALLY HARD).
When buying a heavy-duty drill, you have two options.. either just buy the Drill Driver, or buy the Hammer-Drill / Drill Driver version.
The Hammer-Drill version usually comes with an additional T-Handle Hammer Drill Attachment.. which I’ll explain more in a moment.
When buying a drill, I personally buy a heavy-duty drill with hammer drill, so I know my drill is the best quality and can take a beating, but leave the T-Hand at home.
Does the hammer-drill feature work good on hand-drills?
Even though heavy-duty drills offer a rotary hammer drill, they are often pretty weak when compared to a REAL hammer drill.
A hand-drill hammer drill is good for light-duty stuff, or in a pinch!
I really want to tell you a funny story of my hammer-drill on a hand-drill experience..
The jobsite only had 1 real hammer drill, but 2 hammer drill bits..
I thought to myself, “My drill has a hammer drill option!”.. my boss told me, “Don’t wreck your drill, that’s meant for light duty hammer drilling like into cinder-block”.
Being the “good apprentice” I was, I tried to sneak this hammer drill bit into my own drill and tried it out.. but since drilling into concrete isn’t quiet, my boss heard, and looked over.. and what I told him was, “It’s like my drill is a Fisher-Price toy!”.
In short, I had to wait my turn for the REAL hammer drill..
So just understand that this hammer drill feature in your drill isn’t going to help you too much, but there may be times where it helps you out in a pinch!
But in terms of handle quality, all cordless hand drills powered by battery are about the same quality because they are plastic! (But heavy-duty should be durable!)
How to Buy a Drill for Electricians Step-By-Step
Alright, so here’s my STEP-BY-STEP Guide for Electricians looking to Buy a Drill!
- Either buy a Drill & Impact Combo or.. a Multi-Power-Tool Combo
- Make sure you have a metal chuck
- Make sure you have minimum 5.0Ah Batteries
To clarify on the combos..
A Multi-Power Tool Combo often has medium-duty tools, but your money goes a long way with them. (Sometimes companies offer heavy-duty multi-tool combos..)
Now, understand most multi-power-tools, like a skillsaw or sawzaw, you should not bring to work. You want to make sure to use company tools as much as often.
So, just a Drill Driver and Impact Combo will give the best quality.
A Drill Driver is what we use for putting big drill bits in for big holes.
But.. wait.. you may have noticed the “combo” includes both the drill driver (above), and an impact driver?
So what’s an impact driver then?
An impact driver is very handy because it’s REALLY light to carry, the battery will last a super long time, and it drills in screws with its hammer-action feature.
Do you need both a heavy-duty hand drill and an impact driver as an electrician?
Most of the time we use an impact for drilling in screws and heavy-duty fasteners because of its hammer-action motion, which makes it super powerful (and loud).. and it’s also so small and lightweight to carry around all day! (You’ll also notice your battery life last WAY longer, too!)
A drill is what we use for drilling holes with various drill bits because of the torque and consistent spinning action. However, because it’s quite heavy to carry around.. we typically bring it out when we really need it.
You can get away with just a heavy-duty hand drill, but you’ll see the impact driver is such a joy to work with, even though it is very loud. (Wear your ear plugs!)
In a Drill & Impact Combo you also usually get 2 batteries and the charging kit, so you’re all setup! (I do recommend to have 3 batteries when you bend EMT Pipe.. one battery on the impact, one battery on your hackzall, and one that’s always charged!)
Also note, that these combos sometimes come with a big plastic carrying case, which is honestly pretty pointless.. it takes up A LOT of space just for two power tools.. I personally like these big construction bags.
Wrapping Up: How to Buy a Drill for Electricians
So what’s the BEST Drill for an Electrician?
It’s best to get a heavy-duty drill and impact driver combo.
I personally recommend this combo by Milwaukee:
Here’s four reasons why:
First, it keeps up with the competition.
Second, you can often switch your battery with your company’s battery when yours becomes low, allowing you to keep working.
Third, the price is quite fair for what you get, with various power tools to use your batteries in (same with other brands, too).
Fourth, I’ve personally owned and used Milwaukee my whole electrician career.. it has its ups and downs.. everything was good, except for the chuck loosening and dropping bits.
Alternatively, here’s the best DeWalt Drill Combo for Electricians.
I hope you enjoyed my best drill buying guide for electricians!