Disclosure: We may earn commissions at no cost to you from qualifying purchases made via the product links in this article.
Last updated on January 14th, 2021
Lately, I have been receiving a lot of questions from people on whether to buy a corded or cordless tool. Those who have had a chance to use battery powered tools speak very good of the mobility and freedom these tools provide. On the other hand, those who have been married to the cords for years express their valid uncertainties with cordless tools. Most of them cast doubt on the power of battery tools as compared to wired tools. Others are worried about the future of cordless tools in relation to battery technologies. This dilemma makes it difficult to decide whether to invest in a cordless or corded tool.
Luckily, that dilemma of choosing between battery or electric tools ends here. You can now have it easy deciding whether to stock your toolbox with cordless or corded tools. Thanks to the hours of thorough research I have invested to put up this list of important factors to consider when choosing between corded and cordless tools. These 8 factors summarize my experience with both worlds of tools and the experiences of other professionals and tool enthusiasts I have talked to.
10 Factors to consider when choosing corded and cordless tools
The following factors will guide you on how to choose between corded and cordless tools for your work.
1. Power needs
Cordless tools are powerful but most of them do not hold a candle to the corded alternatives. The sheer amount of power you get from heavy duty corded tools such as the rotary hammer for drilling holes and woodworking tools like the miter saw and routers cannot be matched by any battery powered tools. This is what makes cordless electric tools mostly convenient for small projects and light jobs and wired electric tools big projects and heavy-duty applications.
Tools are not cheap. However, comparatively, corded electric tools cost way less than battery tools. Unless you just want some inexpensive cordless power tools for a small project. For those ones, you will not break the bank but you will also not be confident with them. Otherwise, if you are looking for quality tools with a limited budget, plug in tools is the way to go. You can even get good ones at a better price from people who want to go cordless. This is the trick that has gotten me some very good quality wired tools for almost half the market price from friends who want to lose the cords. So, when shopping on a budget, it is good to first consider wired tools. That way, you will not spend so much and you will go home with quality and powerful tools.
3. Safety: Corded vs Cordless
Between corded tools and cordless, cordless tools are safer! They do not have a mess of cables that create trip hazards at the job site or electric hazards. Cabled power tools also require extra caution such as having to inspect the cords for defects. Some common defects you may encounter include cracking of the power cord, fraying, signs of wear, and faults in the insulation. The plugs and prongs may also be faulty or loose thus creating a potential electrical hazard. You must also test the grounding of the wired tool before putting it to use to ensure that you are safe from potential electrocution. For cordless tools, there is not much to worry about safety. You only need to use the tool appropriately and keep the lithium batteries safe to prevent fire hazards.
4. Nature of work
Batteries devices quit in the middle of a job whereas corded electric tools work continuously unless the tool or cord is broken or there is a power outage. Overheating can also cause your electric tool to stop, although this seldom happens. So, for big projects where time is money, corded tools are the best good choice. These tools ensure that you put every minute into good use. However, you must ensure that there is a reliable power source before starting the job.
5. Place of Work
In the garage, shop or at home, power outlets are not a problem. In such places, corded tools are useful. This does not mean cordless tools cannot be used. On the other hand, when you are working outside your garage, say at the back of your truck, where there is no external source, battery tools are exclusively useful.
The temperature of where you work from matters also just as much as the availability of a power source. If you live in a very cold region with subzero temperatures, your batteries might degrade faster than if you were in a terrestrial environment. Cold temperatures suck the power from batteries and diminish battery life. So, if you live in polar regions, you might want to go corded. Alternatively, you can find a way to maintain room temperature to extend the life of your lithium-ion batteries.
When choosing between a cordless tool and a corded one, it is important to consider reliability. This refers to the ability of a tool to perform consistently well. Generally, electric tools are more reliable than battery tools because they are difficult to be outdated. Over time, the batteries will degrade. You know these things do not last forever. This will require replacing and battery replacement is not cheap. In fact, the main reason cordless electric tools are expensive is because of the batteries and charger. For instance, a 2.0Ah Milwaukee M12 battery and charger cost a third of Milwaukee cordless ratchet baretool. Assuming that you replace the battery twice in the lifetime of the tool, you will have spent money equivalent to another bare tool. This prohibitive This need for replacement of battery makes cordless tools fairly unreliable comparatively.
Each type of tool gives you freedom. However, the definition of this freedom is different for both tools. A cordless tool kit gives you freedom from cords so that you can work from anywhere. You do not need to locate power outlets when you have a battery tool and a couple of fully charged lithium batteries. However, when it comes to shopping for other tools, cordless tools deny you the freedom of choice. You have to stick with one brand unless you want to end up with millions of batteries and chargers. In contrast, the usefulness of wired electric tools is limited by the length of the power cord and the availability of a reliable power outlet.
Nevertheless, a corded tool gives you a lot of freedom when it comes to stocking your toolbox. You do not have to stick to one brand. You can buy any electric tool that meets your needs irrespective of brand. This is what I like most about electric tools. I never have to compromise performance for batteries. That how I ended up with Milwaukee, Dewalt, Ingersol rand, and Makita corded power tools all on one toolbox without breaking the bank.
8. Portability and Convenience
Corded tools cannot beat cordless tool kits for portability and convenience. Cordless tools are easy to stow and quick to use. When you get to the job site, you only need to grab and go. No wasting time detangling cords and looking for wall sockets. These battery-powered tools are also extremely useful where power sources are not available or are very far from the job site. Otherwise, you might have to haul a generator to the worksite to power your tools or have a very long extension cord that plugs onto the wall socket.
9. Type of material
The type of material you are working with might also determine whether you will use a corded or cordless tool. This factor is particularly important in woodworking. For instance, if your work involves working mostly with hardwood, a corded cutting tool is the best bet and it won’t disappoint. On the other hand, if you work with softwood most of the time, cordless tools will get the work done without a problem.
Both corded and cordless electric tools can last long but corded tools tend to last longer in most cases. So if you are looking for a tool that will last more than a decade and still be relevant, a tethered electric tool is the way to go. My DeWalt corded drill is already five years and counting and still looks and works great. On the contrary, my cordless ratchet is on the second battery after three years of use. I also recall carpenter in a woodworking forum testify that his corded drill outlasted 4 cordless drills and still had more power than all four. This tells you how long a good corded tool can last you compared to a cordless alternative.
As you have seen, each type of tool has its own set of pros and cons. As such, you must know what to compromise when deciding between corded and cordless power hand tools. If you choose to go cordless, you must be willing to pay dearly for the quality and convenience of cordless tools. Alternatively, you must be ready to give up on mobility if you decide to go corded. However, if you are a professional handyman, I would recommend having both of the two worlds of tools. The method I use that might work for you as well is to start corded then cordless.
Some important questions you might ask yourself when shopping for tools especially cordless ones are: is it worth it? How often are you going to use the battery power tool where there is no power supply? Do you have the budget? Are you working on a big project? These questions and a consideration of the eight factors will help address the elephant in the room; whether to go cordless or corded. If you have some tricks you would want to share on how you go about the corded or cordless business, please feel free to post in the comment section.