Updated on November 16, 2022
Buying a drill today is a lesson in technology. From cordless models to hard-wired powerhouses, these drills have many features that may or may not suit your needs at home.
One comparison you’ll encounter is the brushless vs brushed drill choice. Selecting between these two designs means that you need to understand the science behind them.
In the end, the brushless drill will usually be worth the extra money based on several factors and assuming the tool is actually used more than once a week.
What is a Brushless Drill?
A brushless cordless drill consists of a motor that doesn’t have any physical connections between moving parts, reports Popular Mechanics. Old-fashioned, brushed motors have brushes and commutators that require physical connections during their operations.
Brushless models don’t require connections because there are circuit boards that control the entire, spinning scenario as you power up the drill.
From a casual glance, there’s no difference between a brushed and brushless motor. The operational differences are apparent, however. You simply need to use the drill for a few sessions to really appreciate it.
Less Friction = Longer Runtime and Cooler Operation
When using your normal cordless (brushed) drill and a job requires extra torque, you’ll notice the drill become warm and even hot to the touch. This is because standard motors in cordless drills contain carbon brushes which create friction as the motor spins.
The more power is needed, the more friction is created. This friction is simply wasted energy that can quickly drain a battery (especially when a lot of torque is needed).
With a brushless motor, you essentially eliminate this wasted energy since there is no friction between moving parts. Because the energy is all being used for the task at hand, you’re maximizing the power stored in the battery.
An added benefit is that the tool runs much cooler making it more comfortable to use.
Brushless types of drills are worth the extra money because you’ll get a better torque value in a smaller design compared to brushed models. The circuit board within the motor dictates the power outage.
There’s no friction to take away from the motor’s torque so the circuitry puts out as much power as possible to the work at hand.
A small motor can do the job of a larger model without the weight, excessive power draw and noise associated with brushed designs.
Lasts Longer than Brushed-Motor Drills
According to SGS Engineering, brushless motors last longer than brushed designs because of the friction-free design. Regardless of its operational frequency, brushless drills seem to work for years without any issues.
The lack of friction means that less heat is generated by the internal components. Heat is a typical catalyst for early breakdowns among power tools. By keeping the components cool at almost any RPM, the motor remains stable enough for years of service.
The fact that the drill lasts longer than brushed models equates to money savings. You’ll probably pay less for the drill when you look at its purchase as a long-term investment.
If a brushed model was part of the equation, a brand-new purchase would be necessary during the time that you could be using a reliable, brushless product.
Smart Technology Embedded in Brushless Designs
Because there are circuit boards within brushless designs, there’s a higher level of complexity to the unit’s operation. Some models can sense the material being drilled.
The circuitry alters the torque and other aspects of the drill, which creates better efficiency through the entire project. The alterations also reduce strain on the internal parts. You’ll have an efficient, power tool that lasts through almost any drilling project.
Brushed motors require some space for movement between the parts. Brushless motors are entirely different. They have the ability to be housed in a smaller housing because of the friction-free environment.
This smaller housing makes the drill lighter and easier to use by anyone in the household.
Achieving a Quiet Environment
A feature that’s often a selling point is the quiet operation of the brushless models. Your home may be in the middle of a project, but it’s not necessary to drown out the entire household with power-tool sounds.
According to Eureka Magazine, quiet motors don’t compromise their power levels. Use the drill for the most difficult work around the home, but keep the noise pollution to a minimum. The lack of friction contributes to the quiet operation.
11 thoughts on “Is a Brushless Drill Worth the Extra Money?”
Will an AVERAGE homeowner benefit from a brushless model?
It depends. If you use a drill once a month to hang up a picture, then probably no. But, if you’re the type who uses it a few times a month or not afraid of some projects, then I’d say sure. Think long term when you’re factoring upfront cost.
Except you’re more likely to suffer a driver failure from a brushless tool before you’d suffer a brush failure from a brushed tool, so generally brushless are both more expensive and shorter lived.
It’s fairly amazing all of the misinformation being spread about brushless tools. Yes they are usually a “little” more efficient, and since they don’t arc, more performance can be put into a smaller tool cavity, but the rest is pretty much nonsense that has nothing to do with whether a tool is brushed or brushless.
Looking at brushless so concerned with your comment. Why are they more prone to failure? Thanks for any input.
I think Dave is saying that brushless has more electronic components which can be prone to failure and if they fail it might not be worth getting the drill repaired.
A lot of the reviews about the advantages of brushless seem a bit gushing to me (or marketing hype to get people to replace something that works for them). Sure in theory sounds good, but I’ll accept a little less efficiently if the tool is more reliable long term. Dave is clearly suggesting that brushed is a more proven design.
What do you define as long term?
e.g. Bosch Blue products carry a 6 year warranty on tool and battery. So if the motor fails within 6 years I’m covered.
Looks like the 6-year warranty only applies to Australia (US is only 1-year; UK is 3-year). That said, make sure you check out the terms of the warranty. From what I read here (AU specific), it wouldn’t cover something like the motor failing after a couple years. “The guarantee does not cover: Components that are subject to wear caused by use or other natural wear and defects on the tool caused by use or other natural wear.”
Here is an added thought…..
On a brushed motor if you wear the brushes out those can be replaced relatively easy(if your the type to know about such things)
With a brushless motor who knows???
I m just sayin
not getting where all this friction is in a brushed motor? Brushes rub against the commutator and can wear the commutator as well as getting drag of the commutator shorting between copper, but there is no more friction at higher torques than low torques. Yes I prefer brushless but i feel there is a certain level of misinformation being given to big up a brushless. Saying that, brushless everytime for me.
I can really feel the difference between brushed and brushless. The power delivery of the brushless is much better, and there is also a huge difference in battery life. If one has the money it is better to go with brushless. That said, I often build furniture, so I use my tools often.
I have to go with brushless as well. I appreciate the cooler operation, lower energy consumption and greater efficiency overall ,and I say that as a fan of old school technology like brushed motors. As someone mentioned, however, if you don’t use a cordless drill much or use it only lightly, then you likely wouldn’t need a brushless drill. But they are indispensable for people who use drills regularly and heavily.
I’m not sure about “misinformation” everyone keeps taking about. I don’t see that. The writers just spell out the differences between one and the other and leave it to the consumer to choose based on how they use a drill. I do appreciate the argument regarding serviceability and reliability of old school mechanical designs, despite apparently lower efficiency, vs electronic designs which might “fail”. I don’t see that as a real issue in a quality drill, however.