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Drill/drivers : 12volts or 18V?

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  • Drill/drivers : 12volts or 18V?

    So finally I have accepted that I might give up on my old drill/driver guns, and get a new set. I saw the Ridgid kit at HD that feels just right (and cheaper than at Amazon), but then I'm wondering, do I even need the weight of the 18V if the 12V would be much lighter? Anybody care to compare the two and tell me when the 12V does not measure up?

    The 12V that caught my eye was the Bosch, but feel free to point me elsewhere.
    It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
    - Aristotle

  • #2
    I've been using Ridgid 18V cordless tools for several years - all the way back to when the sets were NiCad battery based. I have modern batteries for them now. And I have a drill/driver with the newer "X5" brushless motor which is a bit lighter and easier on the batteries yet is stronger than the original cordless tools with "traditional" motors. Several months ago, when Ridgid had a promo on the smaller "12-Volt Hyper Lithium-Ion Drill/Driver and Impact Driver Combo Kit" I gave it a try and have been pleasantly surprised. MUCH lighter and the batteries last for more than a full shop day (granted, I'm not using either tool constantly) and overall I don't wish for more power. Like my 18V tools, the impact driver is more than strong enough to bust screws in half if you aren't paying attention and over-tighten the screw. Even #10 screws. I'd say they have about 70-80% of the torque of the GEN5X 18V big brothers that I own. Compared to my "traditional motor" tools & batteries/motors from about 5 to 10 years ago they're probably stronger and much lighter.

    For home woodworkers I'd think they're more than sufficient especially if you were satisfied with cordless tools from 5-10 years ago. I've driven 1/4" lag bolts (with proper sized pilot holes for most of the screw length) with the little 12V impact driver and had no strength issues - it buried the bolt heads into the 2x4s. I drove at least 50 of those with whatever battery charge was left in the impact driver - I didn't recharge it prior to the job and it didn't need a charge after the job either. The little drill did all the pilot holes on whatever charge was left in its battery too. I don't recharge them at the end of the work day... just toss 'em into the drawer. They don't need daily recharges the way I use them.

    I haven't used the 18V tools in a while now...

    Last edited by mpc; 09-14-2017, 03:27 AM.


    • #3
      I can't remember who it was but someone wrote on this once long ago, and it helped me understand a couple of important issues for some people. I am of mediocre build but like heft and power. 18v for me. He mentioned that "spring" clamps were hard for him to handle. He also liked 12v for lighter weight, smaller grip and less torque. Less torque so that he could handle it as he did not have strong wrists. 18v was too much torque for his lightweight wrist.

      I bought a PC 14.4V drill driver in 2000 and it had so much torque that it actually sprained my wrist when I tried to loosen a stuck bolt with it. Long term use such as 3 to 4 hours a day over several days would be more comfortable using a 12v. Most electricians that I have encountered use 12v simply because they have to carry it around 8 hours a day on a belt and because most of their work is not huge "torque" needy.

      And as MPC mentioned - the better batteries and more powerful motors in light weights today are almost equal to the heavyweights of 10 years ago.
      Hank Lee

      Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted!


      • #4
        Great info, guys, exactly what I needed to know.

        Since I'm not into construction, I guess the only time I'll really need power is for the hard surfaces of mortar/brick/cement etc, but a hammer drill works best for that.

        Having used the large and bulky 14.4 Craftsmen all this while, a lighter 12v is very appealing. I do see that even the 18v nowadays are not very heavy, but the small size of the 12v would allow me to get inside a narrow cabinet without looking for an right-angle drill, a definite plus.
        It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
        - Aristotle


        • #5
          After going down the Makita 9V stick battery road a very long time ago I thought I would never get hooked on the "one battery, many tools" option again.

          That changed as I got into more work at home instead of on the road. Also, arthritis in my hands made manual repetitive work harder.

          I started collecting the Bosch 12V tools any really liked them. I have stopped now. Along the way I have all the portable tools I need in my truck and at home. It is easy to use a small screw gun to lessen the pain in the fingers and have enough batteries around if I have a more demanding project.

          I hardly ever pick up the Craftsman 20 monster as it is way to heavy and can maybe break a wrist if not careful.


          • #6
            My quick Electrical engineer's perspective on this topic:
            Nowadays we have two choices for battery packs as engineers and consumers.
            (lets forget about NiCad completely)

            NiMH and Lithium Ion.
            The NiMH usually come in a Sub-C (smaller than C-size) and 1.2 V per cell.
            The Lithium Ion come in more sizes but the ones used for stuff are the 18650 bigger than AA size but also carrying 3.7 volts.per cell.
            Now these sizes and voltages affect granularity - how big the pack is how many cells etc.
            For a NiMH pack of 12V it takes 10 cells, for 19.2 it takes 16 cells. If they are made of sub C cells, then it takes a 60% bigger and heavier pack,
            For a Lithium pack it takes 3 cells for 10V, or 5 cells for 19.2 volts.
            So the cells being smaller and higher voltage the 19.2V Lithium pack is much smaller. About half.
            Doubling the cells (or using larger higher capacity cells) can give you twice the run time for about the same physical size as the 19.2 NiMH

            Fortunately the lithium cells are denser in watt hours -the number that counts to run time. So basically they will be half the weight for equivalent energy.
            Both types have good low internal resistance for high torque.
            But the Lithium battery has one significant advantage: The batteries retain charge much longer - months vs. days for NiMH. So a charge Lithium pack will be good for much longer if you grab that driver that's been sitting 2 weeks since you last used it.
            Also reliability is determined by the number of key parts in series (one cell breaks, the pack fails.) with 5 cells vs 16, which pack is more reilable if the battery cell failure
            rate is the same?

            So for my money, there's no question the higher price of lithium is worth it. Don't even think about NiMH.

            Loring in Katy, TX USA
            If your only tool is a hammer, you tend to treat all problems as if they were nails.
            BT3 FAQ -


            • #7
              Have you looked at the Makita 18V drills? Mine is very light.

              18V has a LOT more power and battery life and I'd never want to go back to 12V


              • #8
                I have both, Rigid 18 v drill / driver and impact drivers. for drilling I use the drill / driver and for screws and bolt heads I use the impact driver. It makes me squirm every time I see someone using a drill / driver to shoot Phillips head screws. Sure it does the job, but when the screw bottoms out you can hear the bit bouncing in and out of the screw, rounding the crisp points on the bit and tearing out the top of the screw. This creates an unsightly buggered up screw head and razor sharp points on the screw head.

                For most everday use my go to battery powered screwdriver is a $29 Black and Decker rechargeable. It's very light and does a good job. It doesn't have the speed of a drill driver so it doesn't bounce the bit in and out of screw head and mess up the screw head.


                • #9
                  The impact driver is easier on the hand/wrist as well. It makes more torque than a drill but does it in short bursts. So, when the bolt is tight, there is no sudden rotational heave of the driver trying to mangle your wrist. Years ago, when I first got the Ridgid 18V cordless impact driver, I had a buddy of mine try it out - I gave him a 5/16ths diameter lag screw, about an inch and a half long, and told him to buzz it through a thin sheet metal piece (my car workbench) and into ancient 2x12 boards that are about as hard as a rock. No pilot hole. The driver had no issue buzzing through the metal and into that tough old board... without requiring any arm or wrist strength while running the tool. "Wow, that was so easy Janie could do it!" was his reaction, referring to his very petite wife. If you've never used a cordless impact driver - only used a drill/driver - you'll be stunned at how much easier it is on your hand/wrist and how much better it works. The only gotcha is the impact driver won't have a torque limiting clutch... you have to pop the trigger switch on/off/on/off and sneak up on the screw/nut as it gets tight. Most modern impact drivers are somewhat variable speed based on how far you squeeze the trigger so it's easier to control than it sounds.

                  With a drill/driver driving screws, as soon as the bit slips or pops out of the screw head, the RPMs often jump up and the bit grinds away at the screw head as capncarl noted. With impact drivers, the motion actually stops for an instant (between impacts) so the bit has a pretty decent chance of popping back into the screw head before it become a screw-head-grinder.

                  The modern 12V kits, with two similar batteries, charger, drill, and impact driver are pretty sweet overall.

                  edit: one other observation: the new little 12V impact driver will stand up (the battery has a brick shaped base) but the drill will not since it's battery fits inside the tool's handle. My old 18V drill would stand up... but was rather precariously balanced and more than once it responded to a slight bump by tipping forward and either busting small drill bits in the chuck or gouging my workbench (or project!) with beefier bits. The 12V drill won't stand up in the first place.

                  Last edited by mpc; 09-14-2017, 10:21 PM.


                  • #10
                    I have four cordless drill drivers; the original 9.6-Volt NiCad Ridgid "Pivot Driver" and the little 4-V Li-ion Ryobi; both of these are great for light weight work. The latter uses a 4-Volt cartridge. For heavy duty work I have the original model of the Ridgid 14.4-Volt Ni-Cad drill/driver and a Ridgid 18 Volt NiCad Hammer Drill. The 18-V is simply too big and heavy to want to use with any repetitiveness and the 9.6-V Ridgid and 4-V Ryobi are only good for small projects around the house.

                    I do like my Ridgid 14.4-V, and just finished rebuilding and installing pickets along 40 feet of fence for my neighbor. I used screws for the whole thing and the 14.4 drill/driver worked really well, even though those batteries are now about twelve years old. Unfortunately, I think that Ridgid dropped the 14.4-V series quite some time ago.

                    Think it Through Before You Do!


                    • #11
                      I looked at the 12v Ryobi tonight and they were lighter than the 18v. They look great for around the house work but not quite strong enough for building in home/shop fixit stuff where I tend to help this person, that person or another. The Ryobi 18V does not have the power of a DeWalt, Bosch or Milwauike or Makita 18V, IMO but does good for what I described. That said, I would like the know the comparison between the Ryobi 12V, 18V and DeWalt, Bosch, Milwaukee, or Makita 12V. I have a hunch that the big named 12V are as powerful, or close to it of the Ryobi 18V.

                      I do know for a fact that the Porter Cable 14.4V of 2000 (with nicad) was more powerful than the Ryobi 18V tools NiCad and Lithium.
                      Hank Lee

                      Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted!


                      • #12
                        Good discussion!

                        I went into my local HD today and tried out the feel and heft of these tools. The Ryobi is lighter and smaller in size than all the others of corresponding voltage (they even have one at 8v!). Of the others the Dewalt felt more compact than Ridgid, Makita or Milwaukee. HD's stock of 12v drill/drivers was depleted, while the 18/20v abound. While the 18v Li-Ion tools felt a shade lighter than my old Craftsmen, they still felt heavier than what I had imagined by their specs; the Ridgid is a solid tool, and feels so. So, looking at the minimal work I have around the house and wanting to go lighter, I am now settling for the 12v. Of these, it would be between the Dewalt (for price and form-factor) and the Milwaukee (for 'power' as reported in reviews). I read somewhere that Ridgid's LSA is not valid if not bought at HD, but that might be moot now.

                        It's amazing how much more expensive these tools are at HD compared to online - the price of a single tool would fetch me a combo of two (drill + impact) for a simple wait of just a couple of days for delivery. Even their online offerings are a clear 30-40% higher than other places! Not sure if anybody at HD is calculating the cost of lost sale because of this.
                        Last edited by radhak; 09-16-2017, 06:41 PM.
                        It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
                        - Aristotle


                        • #13
                          I should take that last back: while HD the store is impractically expensive, their online store does seem to have good options with sensible savings; I am sure what I am seeing this moment was not there yesterday, but at this point HD is comparing favorably with Amazon, which is heartening.
                          It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
                          - Aristotle


                          • #14
                            My experience with cordless drills is with a refurb Ryobi 12V Lithium, Ryobi 18V Lithium, and Makita 18V Lithium (and.a Dewalt drill at work).

                            The 12V is a great size but it feels underpowered and the RPM seems slow. It is has a built in light which I think is a must for any drill I'm going to buy and is good for tight spaces that dont require a lot of torque. I think I got it for $25 from a tool store at the outlets.

                            The Ryobi 18V is huge and has no light (impulse black Friday purchase). It has good power, but RPM still feels low. Both Ryobis have 2 hand chucks and the bottom ring is narrower than the width of my thumb and forefinger wrapped around it making it difficult to tighten the chuck. I have a lot of drill bit slippage. Both Ryobis are less than 3 years old.

                            Then I have my 11+ yo Makita kit. I still like these the most. The light actually stays on after the trigger is released, not just when the trigger is pulled like on the Ryobi. I like that a lot. The one handed chuck never slips. The RPMs and torque are excellent. After 11 years, though, I can tell the batteries are on their way out which is too bad because replacement batteries are very expensive.

                            The Dewalt at work, I think is at least 18V, is a beast. It feels like it's made from a solid chunk of metal. It definitely doesn't lack power or speed, but it's so heavy I would never want to lug that around all day.

                            Although the 12V is the smallest, it's really not that much smaller than 18V so I would go for the 18V.


                            • #15
                              Update: bought a 12v, found it under-powered.

                              I went ahead and bought the Milwaukee 12v kit. The drill part works fine, and the hammer-drill is a bonus, though slightly weak. The impact driver though, is a bit too loud, and not powerful enough for me.

                              This picture is of drilling two different type of screws (2" zinc 'wood' screws, and 1.5" harder 'deck' screws) using my old Craftsman drill/driver, and the new 12v impact. The wood was a thick (2"?) scrap cedar, and I did not use pilot holes.

                              Click image for larger version

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                              As you can see, the 12v just stopped half-way with the zinc screw, and would not go any further. The deck screw was easier - maybe because the metal is harder? The older driver sank both screws fully.
                              This could be seen as a deficiency of the type of screw - I've found zinc screws poor all around, and am working to eliminate them from my stock - but since the bigger driver managed it still, I'd say the 12v does not come up to what I would be using it for. While the general homeowner might not encounter this all the time, I will, and hence the 12v is not sufficient for me.

                              Yesterday I went in and got another set - the 20v Dewalt. It works great, and the impact sank both the above screws nicely, and even is less loud. I guess I will stick with this set and return the 12v. A pity, seeing the big discounts I got on that set, with a spare set of batteries! But the Li-Ion recharge is real fast, so I may not need spares.
                              It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
                              - Aristotle