Last Updated on April 12, 2023 by Barry Gray
When it comes to power tools, you have two options when it comes to how they are powered: corded and cordless. Now, I know you will have heard of each option, but I’m going to provide you with a lot more information to help you decide which option is best for you.
You see, I’m not an advocate for one over the other. Sure, I can have my preference, which tends to be cordless, but I do see times when a corded power tool works out better.
But that’s something I intend to explore over the course of the next few minutes. By the end, I aim to get you into a better position to understand which tool is the best for you.
My Own Personal Preference
My own preference is for cordless power tools wherever possible. I love the feeling of being able to move around and not have to look for that power supply or worry about the cable getting in the way. I feel a cordless tool offers greater versatility when compared to the corded version, and that’s the key thing for me.
I admit, though, that I always ensure I have more than one battery fully charged. If I didn’t, then I know I would run into several problems with projects half-finished, which would stress me out.
That’s the main area I need to look at when comparing corded and cordless power tools. You get the same bits for each tool, so that’s not something to worry about. However, I have this fantastic habit of finding myself working in more challenging situations. As long as I plan ahead regarding the charge aspect, then I don’t generally run into too many problems.
Are Corded or Cordless Power Tools Better?
If I’m trying to weigh things up, I consider several things. You see, I own both corded and cordless tools, which I feel is common with any individual with several power tools, and I do genuinely like both.
However, these are the points I think about when trying to determine which option is best.
Where Will You Work?
You must always think about where you will work. Are you going to be on a job site? If so, remember that PAT testing requirement or even the ability to get to a power source.
I feel this is the primary concern when it comes to deciding between corded or cordless. If you know it’s difficult to constantly be hooked up to a mains supply, then you don’t really have a decision to make.
Does the Tool Deliver Enough Power?
Another critical thing to contemplate is whether or not the tool has ample power. In the past, it was accepted that cordless power tools came with less power, and while that’s still the case, the gap has closed dramatically.
Honestly, when it comes to the power aspect, I would say the average home DIY’er would not have to worry about this. The difference between corded and cordless will not be something that really influences your end result for that average home project.
Even though the price difference that exists between corded and cordless power tools is now less than before, it is still the case that cordless power tools cost more money. So, if you are on a budget, corded power tools will generally be the better option.
But if the price is not an issue, then you need to look at the tool’s individual performance to help you make your decision.
The latest editions of cordless power tools certainly come with better general performance than their predecessors. So, I would always look at trying to get the most modern version of a tool rather than going back even three or four years.
I find the power/torque ratios are now superior with modern cordless tools, and while you may discover corded tools coming with a bit more speed, I do once again find that your general DIY’er will not notice too much of a difference here. If all you ever need a power tool for is to finish simple projects, then the general performance difference may not be too noticeable.
But overall, I think any individual should look at the tool itself when determining which one is best for the job at hand. The actual power supply is one thing you may pay attention to once you are fully aware of what it is you need the tool to do.
Some Corded Tools are Required
You can see the advantages and disadvantages of both corded and cordless power tools. However, let me get one thing straight, some power tools just simply need to be powered by the mains.
Take a table saw or planer as an example. Large machines need that main source because they would burn through batteries. Also, you aren’t moving them around as you do with impact drivers or circular saws, so it becomes less of a hassle or problem when it comes to the cable.
Corded Power Tools
Clearly, corded power tools have been around longer than their cordless counterparts, but that’s not an advantage or a pivotal reason to go ahead and purchase one. However, corded power tools offer some differences compared to cordless versions that I feel are worth exploring.
The Advantages of Corded Power Tools
I think it’s important to point out the different advantages of corded power tools for any individual who is perhaps thinking about buying one at some point in the future.
Thanks to it being connected to the mains, you never have to worry about running out of power. This clearly helps in a number of ways, but if you have a big project to work through, then knowing your tool won’t simply stop in the middle is a huge bonus.
But this consistent power will also bring with it another advantage: consistent performance. You never get a drop in the power being sent through to the saw or bit, which can happen with cordless tools, so it does give you more confidence when working on your projects.
Corded power tools will generally be significantly lighter than cordless tools. This is all thanks to one thing, corded power tools do not come with a battery which adds to the overall weight.
If the idea of holding a heavy power tool for some time does not appeal or will make life harder for you, then I would certainly consider this when deciding which tool to purchase. It could very quickly be the case that a corded power tool is lighter by more than a pound or two in weight, which will also mean less fatigue when used over an extended period.
Corded power tools will also generally be less expensive than cordless versions. Once again, this is primarily due to the battery and slight changes in technology that allows the battery to then work and power the tool.
The price difference can sometimes prove pretty substantial, so if you want to build your collection of power tools on a budget, then this may be the best way to do it. Now, I know some cordless power tools can still be pretty inexpensive, but there are times when you may be sacrificing some power and quality, and it’s not always going to be the best decision.
Talking of price, there’s also the fact you are not required to buy additional batteries in the future when your existing battery starts to struggle with holding the charge. That means a corded version will continue to save you money in that respect, as modern corded power tools will last for years without needing to change anything.
The range of corded power tools is impressive. You should have no problem finding the perfect tool for that job and the price range you have set yourself. However, this is more of a general advantage that appears with both corded and cordless power tools, so you shouldn’t lose out when it comes to your options, no matter the power source you opt for.
The Disadvantages of Corded Power Tools
But even though corded power tools have some undeniable advantages, they also come with some clear disadvantages.
First, that cord has the ability to get under your feet with surprising ease. That means a corded power tool can become a trip hazard, and you must pay close attention to where the cord is located at all times.
While this is important with any cord, I feel it takes on even greater importance when dealing with potentially dangerous tools. If working in a tight space, you can see how this could make life harder for you, in which case a cordless power tool becomes the safer option.
Another disadvantage is you can only work within reach of the power supply. I know you can get extensions to expand the distance, but that then only increases the trip hazard as you have another cable and power source taking up more space.
Also, if you need to work outside on a project, then everything becomes tricky with getting power to you, so a cordless power tool is also the better option in this type of situation.
They Need Testing For a Job Site
If you are using power tools on a job site, then they need PAT tested before you can take them on there for safety reasons. That is something that will hold you back, and while it makes sense that things need to be checked, it’s something you can avoid if you then switch over to a cordless power tool.
Cables Become Damaged
Finally, cables can be easily damaged; at that point, your entire power tool is out of action. It’s not like a cordless tool where you just swap one battery for another, and you can then get back to work. You basically need to go and get a completely new tool in order to carry on from where you left off.
And this issue of damaging the cable can happen to anyone, no matter how careful you have been. Sure the different companies seek to offer some protection to the cables to reduce the possibility of this happening. Still, you then stand on them, cut them by accident, and all sorts of accidents can then occur.
The Rise in Popularity of Cordless Power Tools
I think it’s fair to say that cordless power tools are perhaps now the most popular type of tool out there. This is largely thanks to major advancements in the battery quality that accompany these tools, with better charges lasting for longer than ever before.
If I look back, this rise in popularity coincided with the development of tools from the likes of Makita, Milwaukee, and DeWalt to develop batteries that could work across tools and not just be linked to one.
The Advantages of Cordless Power Tools
Cordless power tools undoubtedly have a number of major advantages, and it’s worth running over them to ensure you have a better idea of why you may feel drawn to purchasing a cordless tool in the first place.
The first advantage is the obvious one: portability. When it’s cordless, you can go anywhere you want and have no restrictions linked to the length of the cord. For me, that’s the key right there because it’s not always possible to link up to the mains power supply without cables extending out all over the place.
Another advantage people don’t tend to think about is storage. One of the issues with corded power tools is people never know what to do with the cord itself. Do you wrap it around the tool or somehow keep it together and wind it around something while hoping it doesn’t damage a wire?
This doesn’t happen with cordless power tools. You simply pack it away, and there’s no need to worry about that plug.
I mentioned the potential safety issues of corded power tools thanks to that cord becoming a trip hazard, so it’s obvious to then say cordless power tools are safer to use. Gone is the risk of becoming entangled in a cable, so you can just get on with your project without always being aware of everything happening around you.
I feel that companies are guilty of spending more time working on developing technology for cordless tools than they are with corded versions. This is clearly due to more people turning to cordless technology as they see improvements in battery life.
As a result, some of the differences that existed with the performance of the tools are no longer there, or the gap between them has been reduced. Better power/torque ratios exist, and the motors on cordless power tools will often be brushless, leading to better use of that power and also less maintenance.
Overall, I’m impressed with cordless power tools and what they can offer.
The Disadvantages of Cordless Power Tools
But as with corded power tools, the cordless versions do also have some disadvantages. So, it’s only fair I point them out to help you with your decision.
Cordless power tools are typically more expensive than corded tools, and even though that price difference is coming down in size, it still exists.
At times, the difference is highly noticeable, and it means cordless power tools are not always best for people working on a tight budget.
While corded power tools never suffer when it comes to power drops, that’s not true for their cordless counterparts. As the battery starts to lose charge, you will notice a decrease in how well your power tool can then perform.
Some manufacturers, such as DeWalt and Milwaukee, have developed technology that means you get a consistent level of performance in their cordless tools, but you will still run out of charge at some point.
This does mean you either need to have more than one battery fully charged at any given time, or you can only use cordless power tools on smaller projects where you know you can complete the task on one single charge.
I do see these two areas as being the main issues with cordless power tools. I know it’s only two different disadvantages, but they are pretty significant things to consider.
Of the two, I prefer cordless power tools, but as I said at the beginning, I understand why some people would opt for corded versions instead. At the end of the day, you need to consider the tool, the actions you want, and whether you have a power source close to where you will be working.
But I think one important thing to consider is that either tool will actually get the job done. However, it’s the way it gets you to that end result that is clearly important.
Ultimately, does the idea of having to plug something into a power source annoy you, or is the annoying thing the thought of having to constantly remember to charge a battery? If one upsets you more than the other, then I think you have your own answer about which one you prefer between a corded or cordless power tool.