The Makita, Bosch, and DeWalt tools come with battery end caps to protect the battery terminals when not in use. I wish all the tools shipped with these; they help your battery terminals last longer, especially if you carry bits together with the batteries.

Bosch's unit comes with a neat metal D-ring, like a carabiner, so you can hang the tool from belt hooks like the Monster Hook or Bigg Lugg. You also can hook right to your belt. DeWalt has the only three-speed tool in the bunch, which enables you to customize your speed and torque to match your work.

And a few of the tool companies actually provide good tool boxes with their drills. My ideal storage box is made of heavy-duty blow-molded plastic, opens easily, and has obvious compartments for a booklet, extra bits, drill, batteries, and charger. I also want it big enough (but not too big) to hold the drill with a driver or short drill bit attached. Unfortunately, I haven't seen my ideal box yet. Milwaukee and Bosch provide tough boxes with stout clasps and include good bit carry-alls inside. Makita and Metabo thought ahead, allowing room to store the drill with a short auger or spade bit attached. And while Craftsman includes a bit storage container in its box, it could use some improvement.


Choosing a winner from this bunch is tough. My final four include the Bosch 33618, DeWalt DW987K-2, Milwaukee 0622-24, and Porter-Cable 9984. The Milwaukee's great power, all-metal chuck, outstanding handle, and slick battery exchange give it the edge in my book. Next comes Porter-Cable's 19.2-volt drill. It's got top-notch power and, again, an all-metal chuck. The Bosch and DeWalt models tie for third in my mind. The Bosch tool drilled more holes than the DeWalt and has the best low-end torque, but that's countered by DeWalt's super fast cutting speed. Each of these tools performed so well, however, that these distinctions are small. You can't go wrong with any of these four tools. Following these are the Hilti 15.6-volt tool, Metabo's 18-volt model, and Panasonic's 15.6 volter, and then the Hitachi, Craftsman, and Makita tools.

Rex Cauldwell is a licensed contractor, master electrician, plumber, and home inspector from Copper Hill, Va.

Tools of the Trade has arranged with the companies in this test to donate their tools to Habitat for Humanity.